Explorer Encounters: A Win for Conservationists and Storytellers in the Philippines

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — The Masungi Georeserve Foundation in partnership with National Geographic Society-Asia and Forest Foundation Philippines hosted the first-ever Explorer Encounters event last September 1, 2018 in Manila House, Bonifacio Global City. Over 100 conservationists, National Geographic Explorers, industry experts and storytellers conducted talks and workshops to help advance the conservation agenda in the country. This year, the conference went by the theme 'Conservation Storytelling in the Digital Age'.

Ann Dumaliang, the Project Manager of Masungi Georeserve, opened the event with an impassioned message about our country's biodiversity and the crucial role storytelling plays in their conservation efforts. She says that conservationists need to tell stories that touch hearts and minds to galvanize decision-makers, influencers and the general public to take action against climate change, pollution, disappearing species, and the like.  

Dr. Yannick Kuehl, the Senior Director for National Geographic Society-Asia, then encouraged the participants to apply for the National Geographic Society-Grants Program to help develop their projects and increase their impact in society.

Advancing Conservation Causes

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

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

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

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

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

Live Storytelling Sessions

The latter half of the conference focused on live storytelling sessions by three industry experts:

1. Prasenjeet Yadav, molecular biologist and now photographer shared his journey to becoming a NatGeo Explorer. Yadav shows how he is bridging the gap between the scientific and non-scientific community through his works.

2. Dr Alessandro Ponzo stressed the importance of marine life balance through our complicated relationship with sharks. 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 diminishing in number.

3. International photographer Hannah Reyes-Morales delivered a powerful talk on the notion of 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, which is one of the many complicated shifts in our ideas of home.

Highlighting Sustainable Tourism

The conference concluded with the Department of Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat, stressing the importance of protecting tourist sites around the Philippines. She called on all industry players to join in the department's commitment to uphold environmental standards to make our destinations more sustainable.