Water Warriors

Photos by Ben Chan of Black Sheep Photography
Makeup by Kristine Samaniego & Jinky Ureta of MAKE UP FOR EVER

There’s no better way to take a break from the concrete jungle than by heading off to one of our awesome tropical beaches. However, while you’re about to immortalize the moment by taking that postcard-esque Instagram shot, you realize that the scenery is rudely interrupted by empty beer cans, plastic bags and other trashy flotsam. Did someone mistake this place for a garbage bin?

In case you’re not particularly fond of the ocean, there’s no way of avoiding it - the world is made up of approximately 70% water. As a general don’t-be-a-douchebag responsibility, we know that we have to keep our seas clean, but how much do we really know about what’s going on down there?

maricris annamaricris anna

This month puts the spotlight on Maricris Sarino and Anna Oposa, two women who kick ass at diving into the heart of marine conservation issues that need some urgent TLC.


Maricris is an advocate of Filipino pride movement Yabang Pinoy and founder of the Children’s Environmental Awareness Action & Foundation (CEEAF), which was established in 2005. Belonging to a family who spends quality time diving around the Philippines, she was inspired to promote CEEAF’s mission in raising consciousness and encouraging young people to help protect the country’s rich biodiversity. “Experiencing the beauty and richness of biodiversity in our country motivated me to educate Filipinos on the rich biodiversity of the Philippines and inspire them to play an active role in its conservation and protection,” she says.

Anna, who is also a scuba diving enthusiast, is one of the brains behind Save Philippine Seas (SPS) – an independent movement formed last year to protect the world’s richest marine resources by using the power of social media and by lobbying for the strict enforcement of environmental laws. At 24, Anna is the youngest and only Filipino recipient of the Future for Nature award. The 50,000-euro prize money she received will be funding the Thresher Shark Shelter in Cebu. She is also part of the Eco-Town Demonstration in San Vicente, Palawan, and co-wrote a workbook specifically written in the Filipino context titled “An Introduction to Climate Change for Filipinos”, for grades 5 to 6 public school students.


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Both ladies are actively pushing their respective organizations’ goals forward via various programs. CEAAF has “Yamang Dagat”, a marine educational program targeted towards coastal schools and “Save the Bag”, where people are encouraged to donate old tarpaulins that could be turned into useful eco-bags. SPS is currently nominated in the “The Advocate” and “#Thought-Mover” categories in the 2012 Globe Tatt Awards, for continuing to use popular social media such as Facebook and Twitter to help spread awareness in simple but creatively effective means.


Maricris and Anna seem to have their paths cleared for them, but not without the occasional obstacle course. Maricris stresses the importance of educating people on eco-tourism and providing livelihood to people living near marine reserves. She gives Ticao Island as an example, where Ticao Pass has an abundance of marine life and has the largest concentration of plankton in the world. “People in Ticao Pass kill the whale sharks, manta rays and thresher sharks for food. It is important to educate the people in Ticao Island on how much more they will earn from eco-tourism. On the other hand, livelihood must be provided to the people of Ticao,” she says.


Anna, on the other hand, aside from encountering the usual obstacles – lack of funds and bureaucracy – has to deal with people who are skeptical about her capability because of her young age. However, this doesn’t stop her from believing that people would care more if they actually knew more. “The world doesn't need preachers; it needs examples. I want to be an example of someone who is walking the talk for the protection of our seas. I don't want to have to "convince" people to care. I just wanna do my thing and if people start to notice, cool. If not, I'll still keep going.”


To these women’s words and actions, we say Amen. Not only do we applaud them, but we’re encouraged to actually get up and start paying more attention to mother nature – she deserves it.

(Among the list of the best getaways are beaches and islands. Check them out on your next vacation.)


What do you think are the most commonly unknown facts about the ocean and marine conservation that you think will surprise people?

M: An estimated 50-80% of all life on earth is found under the ocean surface. The underwater landscape and underwater life forms are amazing!

A: That the Philippines is the center of marine biodiversity in the world. We have more species of corals than the entire US and Great Barrier Reef. We have 5/6 species of marine turtles. We're home to the golden south sea pearl, the biggest fish in the world (the whale shark), and some of the most endangered species around, like the Irrawaddy dolphin (only 70 left in the country), dugong, etc. Unfortunately, only less than 1% of our coral reefs remain in excellent condition. We're home to (and inventors of) illegal and destructive fishing methods too. We're a major source of marine wildlife in the black market. It also surprises ME that 6,000 Filipino children drown every year, and that 80-90% of Filipinos don't know how to swim.

Are there certain activities that you can recommend to people who have the same desire to help save our seas, but don’t have a lot of time or means to be as hands-on?

M: Plastics are not good for our seas. Let's stop using plastics.

A: Saving the seas is about making better choices for yourself and the planet. It's not about being, say, anti-plastic but being pro-recycling. I wrote this for WWF before.

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