Me with my first-ever nature tour guests

What does it take to be an Environmental Officer?

As Environmental Officers in El Nido, we’re in the unique (and very rewarding) position of bridging the gap between our guests and staff and Palawan’s environment. As the resident “environmental experts”, we conduct nature tours and staff training, give presentations on sustainable tourism, monitor our operations, interact with scientists, and write, produce, direct, star in, and edit our own nature videos, as well as write and design environmental collaterals like this website and the Eco-Checklist. Think you’re up for the challenge? Here’s our short list of must-haves for future Environmental Officers:

1. A degree or background in the natural sciences
As mentioned earlier, the Environmental Officers serve as the on-site “environmental experts” for the guests and staff (whether we actually are is up for debate). People have asked me to identify a fish they saw while snorkeling based only on the vaguest of descriptions (small, blue, swam in a group), not realizing that El Nido’s reefs are home to over 800 species of coral reef fish. They also expect you to know why jellyfish abound during a certain time of the year and the name of the bird they heard singing. We don’t know everything of course, but we have to be at least two steps ahead the non-science person.

EO Rima showcases the flowers of Rhizophora stylosa during Nature Interpretation training with the Marine Sports Guides

2. An open mind and the ability to put yourself in the other person’s shoes
As we interact with both visitors and local residents, we meet people from all walks of life and each one will have something to say on the environment and environmental issues. We may not necessarily agree with them but we do have to listen patiently and not interrupt. Should a debate arise, we must be calm and logical. I’ve met people who didn’t believe in climate change, who wanted to continue using DDT to kill mosquitoes, and who wanted to eradicate all jellyfish in the ocean. Knowing when to politely walk away is also an invaluable asset.

EO Mavic with her first-ever Nature Walk guests

3. A willingness to learn, both on your own and from others.
When we accepted the job offer, it hasn’t quite sunk in yet that an Environmental Officer was so much more than being a tour guide who knew a lot about nature. The words “Biology major”, “writer”, “artist”, “director”, and “editor” aren’t usually mentioned in the same breath, but that’s exactly what happened to us during the course of serving as EOs. Our main task is to increase our guests’ (and potential guests’) appreciation for Palawan’s unique flora and fauna and we do that by practically any means necessary. Luckily, we each had our own “special talents” and were game to learn more. Rima was our resident fiction writer and host, with a voice cool enough for radio work. Kring is our best nature walk leader and interpreter. Together, Rima and Kring are the Queens of Powerpoint, churning out beautiful and catchy presentations that showcase the critters of Palawan as well as our efforts in responsible tourism. Mavic is our artist, leading the polymer clay activities in Apulit where she teaches guests how to make keychains and brooches that look like starfish, sharks, and stork-billed kingfishers. I’m the behind-the-scenes person – writing scripts, guides, and feature articles (like this one!), editing the videos, and functioning as general Web Overlord. Since I started working here, I’ve had to learn how to use Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, Soundbooth, and Premiere Pro, Windows Movie Maker, and Microsoft Publisher to produce videos, short stories, kids’ activity sheets and coloring books, guidebooks, and other fun stuff that are not usually within the skill set of a Biology graduate. Did I mention that we also host the company Christmas parties?

EOs Kring, Mavic, and I with adopted EO Pat and our Earth Day artwork

4. A sincere love for what you do and where you work
As we’re based in Palawan and only go home to Manila once a month, it’s easy to get lonely and homesick. What we have in our favor is that we love what we do and the place we’re doing it in. Visiting El Nido is on a lot of people’s bucket lists and we get to actually live here. We see animals in their natural habitats that most people will only see in zoos, aquariums, or on TV. I’ve seen Irrawaddy dolphins and swum with a whale shark. I’ve held green sea turtles and hawksbill sea turtles, sometimes also releasing turtle hatchlings into the wild. I’ve saved a sick hawksbill sea turtle (YEAH!). I’ve chased critically endangered Philippine cockatoos with a pool net (it’s a long story). The best thing about all this is that we’re able to share our excitement and love for Palawan with people from all over the world.

There you go, our short guide to what it takes to be an Environmental Officer for El Nido Resorts. Still think you’re the best person for the job? You’re in luck because we’re hiring! Yes, you read that correctly. We’re currently looking for an Environmental Officer for Apulit Island Resort in Taytay to start in October. Interested parties should send their CV to jobs(at)elnidoresorts(dot)com, addressed to Ms. Jilden Bragado. We look forward to meeting our newest team member!

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Read all articles by Macy Anonuevo.

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