We need a new kind of army, the army of the kind and warriors for nature
My name is Vanela Grace Torres from Tambak, New Washington Aklan. I’m 24 years and I love the ocean. My lolo (grandfather) was once a hunter of sharks to make a living for his 8 children. No worries, the hunting days are over since the early 90's. The Philippine government forbidden the killing of sharks and selling their fins. I grew up with my grandfather and with his incredible ocean adventures stories inspired me to save it. From flying Mantas to colorful reefs and encounters with sharks. He was indeed a voyager!
Philippines, with its 7,700 and more islands, is indeed a fishing community. The country is part of the coral triangle which plays a vital role in the marine life of the whole planet. I could say that we Filipinos have terrible marine conservation practices from to fishing using dynamite to Moro ami (destroying the corals by rocks) as well as lack of waste segregation, education and poor implementation of regulations and law.
As a Filipina, educating and implementing best practices for use by the locals is very difficult especially if they are they can’t accept your suggestions because they don’t see any benefits. But with the right credibility, perseverance, and commitment, the people who love to join the call might create change.
A LITTLE BACKGROUND: WHY I FELL IN LOVE HELPING THE COMMUNITY
Last November 9 2013, Typhoon Haiyan devastated my country. I volunteered with the Red Cross to give assistance to the victims of the typhoon. The organization aims to put the communities back on their feet, teaching and training resiliency. We walked miles, climbed mountains and crossed rivers to deliver the assistance to the people. Exposure to the local community of farmers and the fishermen, the most affected and the most vulnerable after the typhoon, was life changing. It was also an eye opener on taking good care of the welfare of the people especially the children, the next generations. I learned the importance of the involvement of the local community in every aspects of nature, business, culture and politics. We completed the livelihood program last July 2016 with over nine community projects, 86 scholarship programs and over 10,000 cash transfer beneficiaries in our province. I became passionate about helping the local communities.Communicating with the poorest of the poor to international donors and political leaders molded me to be a better person and I’m encouraged to voice the concerns and issues and make actions towards change. A better life for all. The Red Cross' principles became my principles; Humanity, Impartiality, Neutrality, Independence, Voluntary Service, Unity and Universality.
Months passed and a friend of mine introduced me to diving. Diving has been a dream since I was a child due to the stories told by my grandfather. Philippines is a hot spot for tourism due to diverse natural treasures and warm people. The idea of teaching scuba diving not just to tourists but most especially to the local communities has bloomed in me. I want the train local Filipinos so they can see the importance of preserving nature through marine preservation and responsible practices.Hopes are up for the locals to see the beauty of the ocean below the surface. We could innovate alternative sources of income out from tourism that they will no longer focus on fishing and be responsible to their actions.
Since the Typhoon Haiyan Operation with Red Cross was finished, I want to start a new chapter of my life. I’ve decided to pursue my dream of becoming a dive instructor. I looked for a job to fund my other courses such as Rescue and Emergency Medical Technician and the basic equipment needed for diving. In January 2017, I went to Cebu together with my colleagues to completed the Advance Open Water course. Moving to Cebu was a difficult for me since I need to leave my grandparents for the dream.
I found a job with the government in the provincial tourism office as an adventure tourism coordinator with a job scope that evaluates the safety and risk assessments of developing tourism sites that government supports and will support.The office aspires to create responsible tourism and sustainable development by allowing communities to propose projects that are funded by the government. The provincial tourism office also has their own initiatives on educating about the importance of natural resources and creating exhibits that showcase Filipino culture and traditions to not only tourists from other parts of the world but to Filipinos who may only know their local culture and traditions.
While learning how everything worked in tourism industry and the need for climate change adaptation,the passion to become a dive instructor remained. I witnessed how some local communities committed their creativity,time and effort to come up innovations, but others could not be bothered. Government is indeed a different world. Coming from a non - government organization to government found it difficult to take action on my initiatives. Politicians and the government system are complicated. Left the job and promised myself that I will serve the community as soon as I will get the skills and the credibility that I need.
I’m now working with Sea Explorers Dauin as a dive guide. The company supported my dive master course and a two year contract. The shop has helped me to deepen my knowledge in the industry and fall more into diving. Meeting talking to people from across the world who are passionate about diving, seeing the battle with plastics in the ocean, and exploring human vs nature thematic issues has widened my knowledge and passion about protecting nature and encouraged me to live as a responsible human on the only planet that we have. It feels good that these divers and environmentalists are very passionate to protect the ocean. Many of them began diving years before me and have seen and shared with me the changes to the planet.
Since I finished my dive master course, I have time to participate in Marine Conservation Philippines' activities here in Dumaguete. This organization spreads awareness on conservation; initiates beach cleanups and presents clinics to the locals;I’m also working with Save the Philippine Seas and the World Wildlife Fund as an advocate and the Philippines Red Cross as volunteer Emergency Medical Technician.
The Sea Explorers Dauin is a Five Star Instructor Development Course Center and I want to take advantage of the opportunity to assist other instructors with their students and learn from them as the next step in advancing my career. Below is the schedule for the year classes for 2018 in Dumaguete. I'm planning to take Instructor Development Course in May but if it doesn’t work out because of finances, I still have the later courses I can take.
January 10 - 22 (Instructor Examination Jan 23 - 24 in Pura Vida Resort and Dive Shop)
February 28 - March 13 (Instructor Examination Mar 18 - 19 in Liquid Dive Resort)
May 9 - 23 (Instructor Examination May 24 - 25 in Atmosphere Dive Resort)
June 29 - July (Instructor Examination Jul 14 - 15 in Pura Vida Resort and Dive Shop)
Sept 21 - Oct 5 (Instructor Examination Oct 6 - 7 in Liquid Dive Resort)
Nov 23 - Dec 7 (Instructor Examination Dec 8 - 9 in Atmosphere Dive Resort)
To be honest scuba Diving in the Philippines is expensive for locals, I am asking your help to assist me in paying for the course and materials that I need. They include:
• PADI book & materials - $540
• PADI Instructor examination -$ 660
• Instructor application Fee - $190
• Emergency first Responder Instructor application Fee- $131
• Specialty Instructor application Fee - $75
The Dive shop has warned me about the sudden changes of the fees which is why I wanted to set a targeted date and extra allowance just in case. Every cent of the funds and what it is spent on will be posted on this site for the sake of transparency.
I want to pursue this calling and dream of spreading goodness before, during and after getting my instructor certification. Please join me in making the world a better place to live by starting locally in the Philippines.
- If you don't have any PayPal account and want to help through a money transfer, just inbox me and I will give you my details.