Hi, it’s your favorite (and only) El Nido graduate intern, Caitlyn! This past week at Miniloc Island Resort, I’ve finally started to settle into life in Palawan after the orientation period and newness of living in the Philippines is starting to fade. I grew up in a big family with three younger sisters and being part of a cohort that travels around as a pack feels natural to me. What I’m not used to after the last year of school is the peaceful feeling I have when I start my day here. I’ve been working for several years in a corporate job, which provided good working opportunities, but I’ve never been passionate about a project until I started to work at ENR. This switch has been drastic, in the best kind of way, and I’ve been very glad that I decided to have a quarter life crisis and go back to school for a career switch.
I arrived at Miniloc on Monday morning after a week away in Lagen (read here for info about our diving experience!) and jumped into project work with a visit to the purchasing office. The Miniloc staff has been working together for a long time, with folks like Jupiter in the same department for 13 years, so they have a lot of knowledge on the ins and outs of the island’s workings. I also began independent research on sustainable supply chains, island logistics, and optimization techniques. Because the environmental department has been around for almost the entirety of ENR’s existence, there are already a lot of sustainability initiatives baked into the logistics process. For example, when fresh fruits and veggies are delivered to the island, the come in plastic cartons which are able to be reused again and again, cutting down on the waste from standard shipping methods.
On Tuesday, my fellow intern Bayley was able to join us here on Miniloc, and after individual project work, we joined the staff for Nature Identification training. Bianca, the Environmental Officer at Miniloc, gave a great lesson on fish in the coral reef in the resort’s front yard before taking us on a snorkeling swim so we could identify the fish for ourselves. We saw some Ox-Eyed Skads, a Lion fish, parrot fish, and many other! After the swim, we dried off, had a delicious sweet potato snack (the food here at Miniloc is so good), and watched B’s Diver’s Night presentation, which goes over the history of the resort, starting from the time it was a dive camp, through the present 40th anniversary happening this year. The presentation also includes underwater footage shot by the resident dive master, Rommel, of the fish, sea turtles, and corals you could see if you choose to dive. B never rests, and so gave Bayley and I the first of our Be G.R.E.E.N. (Guard Respect Educate El Nido) trainings that evening. The Be G.R.E.E.N. trainings are a five-part series that all staff go through to educate us on why conservation in Palawan is so important and how we can help here at the resort and in our daily lives. I finished the day at the gym, which I went to for the first time since arriving ~2.5 weeks ago (my body is out of shape), and found out that the gym has some of the best wifi signal on the island so was able to watch some Grey’s Anatomy (Meredith’s got her finger on a bomb. It’s tense.) so the day finished on a high note.
Bianca’s presentation to the guests about Palawan wildlife
Wednesday was another day for the books. Bayley and I started off in our makeshift office in the Dive Shop (shout out to Rommel and Wilson, the dive team here, for letting us camp out) working on our projects, before B let us know we’d be joining an island hopping tour in the afternoon to familiarize ourselves with the operation! Our tour hit three areas: Cudugnon Cave, Snake Island, and the Small Lagoon. We literally rolled up to the cave first, since you have to roll through a small opening in the rock to get in, and we scrambled around in a medium-sized limestone cave hidden in the cliff side. Later, I looked up information about the cave and found out that it’s an important archaeological site.
Left: Bayley rolls into Cudugnon Cave; Right: We stand in the larger section of the cave
Our next stop was Snake Island, where we swam in crystal clear water for about 20 minutes before hopping back on the boat to head to the small lagoon. Bayley and I were a kayak team, with me in charge of steering, a clear error in judgement since I almost ran us into every wall in the lagoon. Regardless of our directionless paddling, we still saw everything, and appreciated how lovely it was. When we returned, we attended Green Night, a presentation by B about wildlife in Palawan. Informative and entertaining!
We’re getting the hang of paddling
Thursday started as another working day for us, we spent time doing project planning for the summer. It was extremely hot, and I appreciated the air conditioning in our office! After lunch, we went through the legislative portion of the Be G.R.E.E.N. training, where we learned about the respective laws that govern environmental conduct in El Nido from the national to the local level. We worked for a bit more before B took us out to the Big Lagoon, a huge calm area with a mixture of fresh and salt water with walls that make you feel like you’re in a Jurassic Park movie. The area is an environmental protection success story: after a visit from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, they saw that because of excessive tourist activity from outrigger boats, visitors swimming, and a surplus of kayaks, the lagoon’s natural beauty was being destroyed. They developed a monitoring system to ensure that only 80 people or 40 kayaks were able to enter the lagoon at a time, and the area is slowly starting to recover while allowing visitors to enjoy this beautiful area.
Now today, Friday, is our last day in Miniloc together this week. We’re headed to Lio Tourism Estate this afternoon to meet up with the rest of the Environmental Officers and the cohort to do a training on pollution control. The timing couldn’t be better, since we just went through our Be G.R.E.E.N. waste management training, a very critical part of the island’s sustainability methodology. We’re excited to see everyone later today, but I’m sad to leave MIR until next week!
This week has been a mixture of new and old routines, working hard to project plan and experiencing the guest tours. We’re getting more and more used to the way things work, but still have a long way to go before we reach full understanding of all systems. However, I’m optimistic that the time we have left this summer will be useful, collaborative, and enjoyable!