Tell us about yourself.
I was born and raised in the Philippines. My mom is an entrepreneur and my dad is considered the first environmental lawyer in the country. I grew up thinking that there were only two job options – lawyer or doctor. But I really wanted to be a theatre performer or writer.
In college, I majored in English Studies, and had many side gigs as a performer, speaker, teacher, and writer. Then I started volunteering for my dad’s NGO, which exposed me to different environmental issues and inspiring advocates. In 2011, I learnt of an illegal wildlife trade case, which led me to co-found Save Philippine Seas (SPS). SPS started as a social media campaign, and it eventually became a non-profit organization in 2013.
For the last nine years I’ve been at the forefront of SPS, leading waste management, shark conservation, and environmental education projects. In 2016 I obtained an MSc in Conservation Science from Imperial College, London, and I have been a Marine Conservation Fellow at Duke University in the USA.
What comes to your mind when you think of the ocean?
When I think of the ocean, I think of life. The ocean provides millions of jobs, protein sources, is a source of oxygen, regulates our climate, and contributes to our happiness and wellbeing.
I also think of possibilities. How much we’re doing, and how much more we could be doing. And when I think of the ocean, I ultimately think of home. Earth is not called the Blue Planet for nothing!
What do you see as the biggest challenges facing our oceans in 2020?
Apathy. Apathy has led to marine pollution, climate change, overfishing, and other illegal activities. COVID-19 has brought new challenges, including an increase in disposables, and loss of funding and jobs for NGOs and scientists.
What does this year’s World Oceans Day theme, ‘Innovation for a Sustainable Ocean’, mean to you?
The theme feels more urgent now than ever before. Innovation for me isn’t just thinking out-of-the-box but thinking that there is no box and asking fundamental questions, like who hasn’t been involved in marine conservation that should be? How do we bring players from different fields to integrate ocean health into their operations? How can different industries complement one another? We need to innovate not just in terms of technology, but in the way we relate with one another as stakeholders.