Storytellers in the Philippines

  • Sep
  • 7

Photo by Masungi Georeserve, Orland Glovasa and Mugshot.

Explorer Encounters:
Conservationists and Storytellers
in the Philippines

Over 100 conservationists, National Geographic Explorers, industry experts, and storytellers from all over the Philippines and beyond gathered in Manila House in Bonifacio Global City last Saturday.

“Why don’t we have more of this?” —that’s a commonly asked question after the successful first ever Explorer Encounters held last 1 September 2018.

Participants ranging from advocates of marine life in Anilao and Negros, to champions of endemic species conservation in Isabela and Davao, to researchers studying limestones and cave systems in Rizal, enjoyed a half-day of workshops, networking, and talks.

Everyone came home with amazing stories, lively conversations and a reinvigorated community dedicated to advancing the conservation agenda in the Philippines.



In a country that’s blessed with abundant natural resources and one of the most amazing biodiversity on earth, it’s a wonder why nature often takes a backseat in national issues.

For decision-makers, the public, and the next generation to take action against climate change, plastic pollution, disappearing species and rapid deforestation, conservationists need to tell stories that touch the hearts and minds of their audience.

Ann Dumaliang, the Project Manager of Masungi Georeserve, opened the event with passionate remarks about these and the crucial role of storytelling in their conservation efforts.

“Storytelling has always been an important part of Masungi, from the way we have designed our trails and experiences to how we have advanced our conservation causes. In the digital age, it has helped us communicate the challenges and solutions we have faced—and continue to face—which is crucial in taking care of the land and all the species inside it,” Dumaliang notes as she spoke of the conference’s theme of Conservation Storytelling in the Digital Age.

Following that up, Dr. Yannick Kuehl, who serves as the Senior Director for National Geographic Society – Asia, encouraged everyone in attendance to apply for National Geographic Society – Grants Program, to help develop their projects and increase their impact in society. Kuehl hopes that NatGeo can help empower bold people with transformational ideas.



Participants joined in four curated workshops designed to help them improve their conservation work through different storytelling methods and platforms.

Issa Tobias, an industry manager for Google Philippines, talked about practical tools and strategies to make conservation messages seamless and relevant in a fast-digitizing world.

Vince Cinches, Oceans Campaigner for Greenpeace Southeast Asia, shared how change movements need a grand narrative and careful analysis of stakeholder dynamics in order to succeed.

Pia Faustino of Thinking Machines gave tips on how to tell make data insights intuitive and compelling through visualization, comparing, concretizing and providing context.

Sally Snow of marine research institute LAMAVE showed participants to how to create visual conservation content and collaborations even with limited resources.



Photo by Masungi Georeserve, Orland Glovasa and Mugshot.

Prasenjeet Yadav, talked about his journey to becoming a NatGeo Explorer. Yadav, in his works, such as documenting the peculiar animals in the Sky Islands of India, shows how he is bridging the gap between the scientific and non-scientific community–much like how he combines being a molecular biologist and photographer.

Talking about our complicated relationship with sharks, Dr. Alessandro Ponzo stressed the importance of marine life balance. Dr. Ponzo encourages us to create a network of areas dedicated to protecting large marine animal vertebrates as most of the shark populations in the world are gone or dwindling in number.


Photo by Masungi Georeserve, Orland Glovasa and Mugshot.

Rounding off the talks is international photographer Hannah Reyes-Morales. She delivered a powerful talk on the notion home. In one of her assignments, her captivating photos showed how women in some areas of the Philippines are driven to the sex trade after a calamity–one of the many complicated shifts in our ideas of home.

“It was an amazing pleasure to join the #ExplorerEncounters event last night in Manila. Lots of good friends and lots of new friends. It is truly inspiring to see how many people are working and tackling conservation in the Philippines from so many different angles,” Dr. Ponzo wrote in an Instagram post after the event.



The last speaker for the event was Department of Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat, who stressed the importance of protecting tourist sites around the Philippines. She reiterated the commitment of department to seeing environmental standards and safeguards executed and calls for all the industry players to join this effort in order to make our destinations more sustainable.



Conservation has to be united, hopeful and made relevant—these are the main takeaways of many attendees and speakers of what has been an encouraging and engaging Explorer Encounters.

“I spent 6 1/2 hours of my Saturday at the Explorer Encounters event of NatGeo Asia, Masungi Georeserve and Forest Foundation Philippines, and I must say that it was so worth it. Not only was this a dream come true – to be up close and personal with actual NatGeo explorers and learn how I can become one someday – but to be in a room with like-minded individuals, the who’s who of Philippine conservation, was such a humbling experience,” Pam Luber of World Wildlife Fund writes of the event.

She adds, “To be included in this group has always been my dream and I am now extra pumped to work for the environment.”

For workshop facilitator Sally Snow, it the new connections and stronger network that made Explorer Encounters special.

“The main highlight has to be meeting and forming new friendships with, conservationist, changemakers and media professionals. After all, we are #strongertogether and I can’t wait to see this network in the Philippines continue to grow into the future.”

Explorer Encounters was brought to life by Masungi Georeserve, supported by National Geographic Society-Asia and the Forest Foundation Philippines.

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