Diving in headfirst

 

Bright and early the Flag of the Philippines raises on the municipal building to mark another Monday morning. The elaborate ritual which features symbolic songs, reinvigorating remarks from the Mayor, and patriotic processions signals the fresh start to a week in El Nido. But more importantly, these traditions remind all who are present of the shared opportunity to inch ever closer to El Nido’s goals of becoming a world-class destination with high standards of living for the entire community. At this week’s flag-raising ceremony, we were blessed not only with the opportunity to observe this phenomenon firsthand, but also with the privilege of being introduced to the audience consisting primarily of LGU officials. This set the pace for our week of engagement.

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For the remainder of Monday and the majority of Tuesday our cohort split up based on our assignments in order to gather information about the structure, scope, and concerns of the Protected Area Office and various LGU offices–especially with respect to communicating local ordinances. Samuel and Giorginna are assigned the broadest, most flexible focus area of tourism, and interns Ty and Job share the protected areas as their assignment; thus after gathering data from the Information office both of these groups spent most of their time at PAO learning more about the historical development and impact of El Nido’s bolstering tourism sector.

Lin, the two Annie’s, and I who are assigned with agriculture, waste management, and health (among a few others) spent our time getting to know the leaders of these corresponding offices such as Kuya Rex from MENRO, Kuya Vernie of the Licensing office, and Ate Kat from the Health Inspection Office. As an entire cohort, we enjoyed two worthwhile meetings with Ate Joan and Ate Carol who are both gracious enough to field our sporadic streams of questions. Looking ahead to future weeks we will be digesting all of this data and connecting the dots in order to establish clear lines of communication.

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The latter half of the week served to strengthen our collective ability to engage with the people of El Nido and accomplish our ultimate goal of promoting positive behaviors through communication. Experts in the field of behavioral science representing CCRES named Erik and Paula facilitated a two-day training program entitled My Future. My oceanswhich equipped our cohort and ENR partners with the necessary skills for administering a pre-survey, a robust training program, and a post survey to two separate Barangays: Bebeledan (experimental) and Teneguiban (control). Friday marked a successful Day 1 of the engagement, and we will gear up for Day 2 on Tuesday of this coming week.

It is worth noting that the guiding philosophy of My Future. My Oceans. is that “individual contributions are vital to global solutions.” In this internet age which places so much value on rapidly scaled approaches, it was refreshing to take part in a training which systematically focuses on micro-level adjustments to populations in hopes of creating individual village heroes to model positive behavior.

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In summary, all of us can agree that week two has served as the time to transition past surface-level introductions and develop a deeper understanding of, and appreciation for, El Nido. Engagements with LGU officials and ENR’s partners proved to be more insightful with respect to our broader mission; the My Future. My Oceans.training from CCRES and Phase 1 implementation have begun implanting in us the soft skills and critical thinking necessary to develop an effective communications platform for promoting positive behaviors; and to top it off, the PADI open-water diving course at Lagen Island is providing for a large portion of our cohort an out-of-body experience absent any traditional words to articulate its wonder–leaving only the silent hand gesture for “OK” to describe the way it makes us feel. Overall, it has been a week of removing our snorkels and diving into the work headfirst.

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