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An interview with Anna Oposa: Chief Mermaid of Save Philippine Seas

Who is Anna Oposa? As stated in her website’s biography:

“Anna R. Oposa is a multi-hyphenate changemaker, being a writer, speaker, and project manager, though she is best known as the co-founder and “Chief Mermaid” of “Save Philippine Seas (SPS)”. SPS is a movement to protect the country’s coastal and marine resources through information, communication, and education campaigns and community-based projects.”

anna Oposa

We were fortunate enough to meet Anna Oposa when she came to dive with us at Quo Vadis Dive Resort, here in Moalboal. She is a momentous inspiration to us all with her resolute devotion to ocean conservation. Through creating a website/petition (savephilippineseas.org) in an attempt to raise awareness of the atrocities occurring to the environment due to ignorance and negligence, it was not long before it turned into a movement as a result of being fueled by members sharing equal passion. With such drive it is unsurprising what she has achieved, playing a key part in getting the thresher shark listed as a protected species in the CITES convention which took place in October 2016.  In addition, through educating children and adults alike in the long term effects their direct actions cause and suggesting alternatives so that a harmonious relationship with nature may one day become a reality.

As divers we too share in Anna’s love of the ocean and is something we aim to convey to whomever may walk into our centre. Through a collective understanding and respect towards nature in general it’s almost unfathomable what together we can accomplish in terms of preservation and even growth!

Anna and Quo Vadis Vice president Pernilla Sjöö on one of our boat trip to Pescador Island.

Anna and Quo Vadis Vice president Pernilla Sjöö on one of our boat trip to Pescador Island.

 

Here is what Anna Oposa had to say in response to the questions we asked:

May you explain a little what your company is about?

“Save Philippine Seas (SPS) started in 2011 in response to an illegal wildlife trade case called the ‘Rape of the Philippine Seas,’ in which tons of protected species such as turtles and corals were seized. A handful of people who did not know each other, but met online because of this issue, decided to start a social media campaign called SPS. I was the youngest one in the group, just fresh out of college – only graduating a month before. When the issue died down, I continued with the advocacy, but first as a passion project. In 2013, we decided to register it as an NGO out of necessity—we were getting more and more donations and sponsorships and needed to be a legal entity.

This year, we celebrated our 5th anniversary. Half a decade! I still can’t believe it sometimes. We have two major projects, Shark Shelter, which is based in Daanbantayan, Cebu, to conserve and protect the country’s first shark and ray sanctuary; and the Sea and Earth Advocates Camp, which is an environmental education and leadership program for Filipino youth in partnership with the U.S. government and the U.S. Embassy in the Philippines.”

 

What motivates you?

There are many motivations, and it depends on the situation that I’m in. Sometimes, I am motivated because I am angry that the people who are supposed to be doing their job to protect our seas are not doing it. Other times, I’m motivated because I’m inspired by the people I work with, or the progress that we’re making.

My constant motivation is this: marine conservation makes sense for an archipelago with the richest marine life in the world, where millions of people depend on the sea for their livelihood and food. We take care of our sea, it takes care of us.

 

What is your favourite sea creature and why this specific one?

Oooh… For sentimental reasons, of course the thresher shark is the love of my life because I have spent so much blood, sweat, and tears trying to conserve them and elevate their status in the Philippines. They are beautiful, graceful creatures.

I also really, really love seeing soft corals. It feels like I’m in an underwater meadow.

Anna and her friend the Thresher shark

Anna and her friend the Thresher shark

 

What can we do to help save the Philippine seas?

Step one is understanding how our daily choices are connected to the Philippine seas. That shampoo sachet and straw you’re using could end up in the sea. The sunblock you’re using could contribute to coral bleaching. By being able to connect that, you’re able to change your daily lifestyle choices, specifically reducing use of plastic or buying more eco-friendly personal care products.

 

Who or what is your source of inspiration?

I never run out of inspiration. There are so many people I look up to in this field, and I’m lucky that I not only get to work with them but call them some of my closest friends. When the going gets tough, it is so important to have your core group of friends to give you advice and encourage you to keep going. I am also constantly inspired by the communities and youth we’ve trained the last five years, and how they’ve grown and taken on so much.

 

Where do you see yourself and your company in 5 years?

This is an extremely difficult question that I don’t know the answer to. Haha! You see, five years ago, I would have never imagined myself running an NGO called Save Philippine Seas, raising funds to implement projects, and speaking front of hundreds of people and government officials to advocate for the protection of our seas. And yet here I am.

I don’t know where SPS will be in five years. I don’t even know if I’ll still be part of SPS in five years. I hope someone from the SEA Camp network becomes the next Executive Director of Save Philippine Seas. It would be such a big success indicator if someone we trained took over. I also dream about a sustainable funding source for SPS and to continue our two projects, just in a bigger scale and scope.

 

What is/are your goal(s)?

I have many, and my dreams for myself are all tied to my dreams for the Philippines. I want every single Filipino to love and care for the Philippine seas. I want the shark sanctuary we established in Daanbantayan to be a model for community-based eco-tourism. I want marine conservation to be part of the national curriculum. These are big dreams, I know, and they’re probably not going to be accomplished in my lifetime. But I’m sure going to die trying.

 

What is the proudest moment you feel you’ve achieved with your organization?

I am most proud that SPS serves as an enabling environment for empowerment to many people, especially young people. When I see the people we’ve worked with gain more interest and passion for this advocacy, and start initiatives of their own, I feel like such a stage mom! My job as the Chief Mermaid is to make sure the people we work with become better than me, and I’m sure they will be in no time J

Chief Mermaid and Little Mermaid soon to dive into the waters surrounding Pescador Island

Chief Mermaid and Little Mermaid soon to dive into the waters surrounding Pescador Island

 

Pescador island

Pescador Island is a small uninhabited island set in the Tanon Strait. The whole island above and below water is riddled with caverns and caves providing homes and cover for a wide variety of creatures like lion fish, octopus, sweet lips and moray eels. Spear fishing and all other illegal fishing methods are prohibited, so the inhabitants below and above water have some peace. The shelf, surrounding the island, 5 to 20 meters wide, can be seen from a boat and on calm days the scene is tantalizing.

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A sea turtle slowly passing

In the blue water surrounding Pescador you can sometimes spot turtles, trevally, small barracudas, mackerel and tuna that sometimes dart in like rockets to get some dinner, this is a very impressive sight!  Pescador Island translate to Fishermen Island. The reason behind is due to the massive sardine school that before were surrounding the Island and all the small fishing boats they attracted. A couple of years ago a typhoon hit the island and the sardines decided to move and today you can find them at Panagsama reef. Pescador is only one island but offers three very different dive sites

Entrance: Reached by a 15 min boat ride in a south-westerly direction. Boat entry.
Conditions: Depending on the wind, flat to strong waves. Often a medium to strong current in a south-north direction.
Depth: 0 to 50 Meters
Visibility: 15 to 40 Meters

Pescador Cathedral

Cathedral at Pescador Island

Cathedral at Pescador Island

The largest cave is “The Cathedral and starts at 18 meters and goes down to 40 meters. The scenery is breathtaking. There is a buttress at the top of the cave creating the impression of a church spire. Inside the cave we can spot nudibranchs, lion fish and sometimes scorpion fish. After the Cathedral the wall is not as colourful as the east and west side but its full of inverted walls and smaller caves to check out, where we can spot octopus and moray eels hiding in their holes.The wall contains scorpionfish, banded seakrait, sweetlips and you can also spot a frogfish or two hiding around the sponge corals.

Pescador East

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A yawning frogfish is showing his good side

Pescador East is just as beautiful dive site as the west side but very different. The wall dropping to 50 meters, and the sloping wall is dressed in big hard corals, here you can often see schools of inquisitive violet fusiliers and many other colourful reef fishes. You will start the dive at the south end where the famous coral garden is located. The dive will continue north and here we can see camouflaged giant frogfish pressing against a sponge coral. If you are even luckier you can catch them yawning. Devil-, leaf & bearded scorpionfish are also found at the wall. You can also find a lot of other life like sea moths, clown trigger fish, reef octopus, nudibranches and lots more. Don’t forget to take a look out in the blue and you might spot schools of big eye trevally’s, sardines, butterfly fish and red tooth triggerfish.

Pescador West 

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Beautiful soft corals decorating the wall at the west side of Pescador Island

When you do Pescador west, you will jump at the south coral garden and after that you will continue north direction with the reef on your right side. At 15 meters and deeper you find colonies of soft corals in all different colours on the steep wall and if you shallow up you can see large hard corals, surrounded by reef dwellers attract an incredible variety of marine life. The wall is filled with spectacular crevasses, over hangs and caves, inside them we can find sweetlips and groupers. Quite simply it is a paradise for divers. You can set your eyes on creatures like frog fish, clown trigger fish, stone fish, devil scorpion fish and a different nudibranchs and in the end of the dive you might get a glimpse of the cathedral.

Quo Vadis Dive Clean-Up 2016

grupp-quoWhat a success our Dive Cleanup turned out to be! Quo Vadis Dive Resort manage to raise 1204 USD to Project Aware and with help of other passionate divers we also removed 118 kg of trash from the ocean bed during our Dive Cleanup at the 11th of October this year. We were 23 divers doing 2 dives and let me just say, our bags was overfilled. It’s such a good feeling picking plastic after plastic, fishing lines, cans and bottles from the reef knowing we are doing this for our ocean, together.

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Together with PADI, Project aware and all happy volunteer divers we made this happen and we are more than proud. The theme word of this day is just that: together, because we could never have done it alone. To talk, clean and share all this with people that is just as dedicated as we are is inspiring.

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The sardines was the first dive site we cleaned up and the site was overfilled with fishing lines, hooks, lines and ropes. While collecting the trash we were monitored by the enormous school of millions sardines, hovering over our heads making the day turn dark as they covered the sun. Not a bad clean-up dive.

simmar

The second dive was just by White beach where the white sand slopes down in the ocean turning into a colourful reef.  Between sea anemones, hard- and soft corals we could find everything from diapers, plastic and tires, to clothes, cans and bottles which all followed us up to White Beach to get weighted.

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At White beach we all enjoyed a nice BBQ together followed by some volleyball and the competition was fierce. There was also a trash competition and the winner got a nice price, but even more important, he alone removed over 39 kg of trash from the ocean.

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Picture from Edgar Alan Zeta-Yap

Due to the big success we decided to make this a annual event. There is plenty of garbage in the ocean waiting to get picked up and more money to be dedicated into project gaining our ocean, our planet. Go into http://www.projectaware.org to learn more about what you can do to help and also to read about their projects.

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Over and out and see you next year!

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We have the best house reef in Moalboal

From Quo Vadis Dive Center you follow the stair down to the turquoise ocean, now when your feets is touching the 29 degrees warm water you put on your mask and fins and you start to swim out. After 50 m the rocky bottom will transfer to a shallow coral garden and you have now set eyes on Quo Vadis House Reef. The corals beneath you is a wonderful mix of lobed pore-, brain-, funnel-, table-, tube-, whip-, mushroom-, bubble-, maze-, staghorn- and green cup corals, just to mention a few. The reef is in excellent condition surrounded by a lot of colorful fishes. When putting your head in the water you will see thousands of damsels and other small reef fishes swimming along puffer fishes, trumpet fishes, lion fishes,

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Painted Frogfish

With a drop of going down as deep as 60 m you have plenty of options. Suitable for both beginner divers to more advanced diving and not to forget for snorkelers and free divers.

Sometimes you will find some of the uglier inhabitants of the reef, such as, different spices of frog fish, scorpion fish and devil scorpion fish. If you are not a fan of the ugly critters of our house reef you can also enjoy big turtles swimming past, almost on a daily basis. You can find two different turtles; the hawksbill and green turtle.  You notice the difference since the hawksbill never clean themselves and therefore it grows a lot of algae’s on their shell. The green turtle is the opposite way around, very tidy and love to scratch its back against a sponge- or fan coral.

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Nudibranch

If you get really excited about small critters, such as, nudibranch, whip coral shrimp, ornate ghost pipe-fish, Popcorn shrimp and bubble coral shrimp you will also enjoy our House Reef. And when lights are out the Mandarin fish are coming out for the sunset dance.

Let’s just say there is something for everyone!

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Ornate Ghost Pipefish

 

 

 

How to get from Cebu city to Moalboal

The Philippines has through the years been a very hard place to get around, but since tourism has exploded the last few year’s this has started to change. But we still have to remember that the Philippines is a archipelago with over 7000 islands so you need to plan your traveling well not to waste your time. Cebu is one of the biggest tourist destinations with tons of ways to spend your valuable time.

Now let’s talk about how to get from Cebu city to the waterfront of Moalboal and its pristine coral reefs.

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Backpacker Option
From the airport you can take a comfortable taxi with a meter to the south bus terminal. When you arrive in the bus terminal just ask for Moalboal and people will point you to the right bus. Put your own bag in the bus and carry your own luggage if you don’t want to pay for the service.

You can choose between air-con bus and non-air con bus the price difference is almost none existing so I would go with the air-con one if the wait is not to long. The price is approximately; non air-con – Php107 and air-con – Php137 . To avoid traffic congestion the best time to go is weekdays before 4pm.

Ask the bus driver to stop in Moalboal 360 Pharmacy because there are not really any bus stops. When at last in Moalboal you might think; is this it? No this isn’t it! This is where you do your shopping, where you have the pharmacy and where you can find really cheap restaurants, but Panagsama is the place you want to go if you can’t wait to splash down in the colorful water.

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Now it’s time to find a tricycle (or they will find you.) A tricycle is a motorbike with a side carriage and a very local way of traveling. A tricycle should not cost you more than PHP100 – 200 depending how many people there are in your group,  now it’s only a ten minute ride down to our five-star PADI Dive center. From Quo Vadis Dive Resort there is just a few steps down to our colorful house reef and all the amazing creatures living there.

Comfortable Option
If you don’t mind paying a little bit more you can get a taxi direct from the Mactan airport to Moalboal. The drive takes you around 3 hour without traffic , but the total travel time will be much less than taking a bus since you don’t have to wait in line for buses and tricycles. Are you staying with us? Quo Vadis Dive Resort can provide you with a comfortable and safe transportation with our new resort car with air-con and WiFi together with our very friendly driver Loyd who can tell you almost everything worth knowing about this country. Price is Php2900. If you are staying with us, email pieter@quovadisresort.com to arrange your transportation with Loyd.

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13620858_1122436231171820_6783655080334997673_nWelcome to Quo Vadis Dive Resort!

/Caroline and Charlie

 

Why I became a Scuba Diving Instructor

Caroline-Padi
Just next to our house is the ocean. This never ending deep blue that used to give me the shills now makes me feel like nothing else. To submerge myself in this salty home of a thousand of marine creatures makes my heart beat. When I was six years old all I wanted to be was a dentist (for some unfamiliar reason,) then when I was older I wanted to save the orangutans (I still want to save them,) I wanted to be a dolphin trainer (before I discovered all cruelty that comes with it,) built a shelter for rescue dogs (and someday I will,) I wanted to travel the world and I wanted to be a dive instructor. The dreams I had always differed a lot from my friends but my parents have always encourage me telling me it’s all possible. They believed in me and let me tell you, that means the world for a little girl. I will always love them for that.

To do something out of the ordinary
As long as I remembered I wanted to do a difference, I wanted to do something I believed to be important. To share the oceans with others, to tell my students why not to eat shark fin soup, where all our plastic ends up, why not to eat certain fish and why not to pay to see animal in prisons. I feel like I can do a difference, how small it might be I’m making an effort. I try with all of my heart.

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Respect
I’m very lucky to be able to do just that. Every time I take people diving that never before have seen the underwater world I feel good about myself. If you thought it was hard to show expression behind a dive mask on your face and a regulator in your mouth, think twice. I can hear them laugh, “wow” and “aaah” of excitement. Sometimes people smile so much they constantly have to clear their mask from water and it makes me do the same.

Every time I tell my students not to touch, not to collect, not to harass the marine creatures and I tell them why, I always get surprised by the respect they show. How people barely in controlled of themselves trying with all they have not to get to close to the reef not to kick anything. When we are back up again some of you thank me for showing you something you didn’t known to exist and telling me how much you tried not to hurt any corals while under water and I can tell that you will dive for the rest of your life and that you will be bloody good at it as well.

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We are so scared of the unknown
I have to explain to some of the people why the sharks will not attack them, that the poisonous fish will not come after them and the ocean is not some black hole that just swallows people. It fascinates me how many people that are scared of the ocean before the actually splash in. Into the unknown. And how easy it is to take this fear away. We humans will always fear the unknown, but it will always be something stronger than fear and that is curiosity. What we don’t know so much about scares us but it also fascinates us. That is how we work and that is why I’m so happy to do what I do. To enlighten people, to show them the magnificent about the ocean and to be able to replace what before was scary with something exciting and warm.

 

/Caroline #353983

Who can change the world?

An ocean of plasticGreenpeace? Sea Shepard? PADI Project Aware? Oceana? Ocean Defender? You? Me? Even the smallest action can do a great impact on our future. That is, if we do it together. 

Did you know that 9.1 million tons of plastic will end up in the ocean every year? And that all this plastic contributes to habitat destruction which entangles and kills tens of thousands of marine animals each year? It´s estimated that in 2025 it will rise up to 150 million metric tons. I cannot even grasp that number.

Here are a few things you can do to help:

Support the organisation that fights for the future of the oceans
All people behind the organisations mentioned above are true heroes. Its people like you, like me who got tired of us destroying our planet and decided to take action. We can talk about their actions, we can like it, share it, spread it encourage and join them, but don’t forget to volunteer, to help out and also consider to give financial support. Find your local organisation and ask them how you can help.

Reduce your plastic usage
To limit your impact, carry a reusable water bottle, store food in non-disposable containers, bring your own bag when shopping, and recycle whenever possible. And never forget: everything we through away will eventually end up in the ocean. Plastic dissolves in the water and will then wander from the smallest creature to the ocean giants and yes it will end up in the food we eat as well.

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Clean up after yourself and others
Imaging if every human would spend 5 minutes per day to pick up garbage and recycle. We are approximately 7.4 billion people, now multiple that by five and we would have 37 billion minutes every day of erasing all the trash in our world. That is what I call a big change for the better, right?

Never stop fighting. Wherever we are we can always clean the nature and spread the green message. Soon Quo Vadis Dive Resort will arrange a beach clean-up here in Moalboal and if you happen to be around you are more than welcome to join. More information will follow, stay tuned!

/Charlie and Caroline

 

 

Meet Caroline

13445776_10154314896642430_3164609797173540346_nMy name is Caroline Sandstedt and I will also be blogging here together with Charlie, so I want to give you a chance to get to know me a little. So who am I? I’m the girl who got addicted to scuba diving, I’m always the one with the loudest laugh and the largest suit case. I grew up in Sweden but since I have been old enough to travel I have not stayed put since. I have tried a lot of different jobs in my 26 years; I’ve been working as a waitress, barista, copywriter, art hostess, nanny, telemarketer and saleswomen. But it turned out all I ever wanted to do was to work with scuba diving.

I started diving 11 years ago but it took a little bit longer for me to fall in love with this world and lifestyle. When I was 22 I travelled to Thailand and there the underwater beauty got to me and I quickly worked my way up from Open Water diver to Advanced Open Water then to Rescue Diver and then I was stuck. Like really, really stuck. Have you ever heard about the dive virus? Whatever it is, I caught it and now I work as an instructor and dive center manager at Quo Vadis Dive Resort and my life is complete. 11264860_10153376111792430_4036510932369688699_n

I always tell my friends: if you want to be really good at something you have to truly love what you do. And I live as I learn. Going from an office job in Sweden to practice my passion in the warm tropics was a life changer and a life saver.

I’m in love with the ocean and being an Dive Instructor was the most obvious choice, giving me the chance to spend countless hours in the place I love the most, teaching people how to enjoy the colourful life under water and to show them how to take care of it so we can enjoy it’s magnificent beauty in the future.13510961_10154314891402430_40901198977813199_n

So if you want to learn how to dive and if you want to be inspired, I’m definitely up for the task. Make you holiday stand out and I can promise you an experience you will always remember. I’m hoping to see you underwater soon!