Hanggang sa Muli: A Parting Letter to El Nido Resorts

Dear El Nido Resorts,

It’s strange to think that I’ll miss a place in which I’ve never stepped foot before.

For the past ten weeks, I have immersed myself in your crystal blue waters and lush green forests, all from my desk chair in my study room in North Carolina. While I have endlessly desired to teleport myself to you (evidenced by the number of times sana all has fallen from my lips) and experience your sublime beauty in person, you’ve still imparted so much knowledge to me about sustainability, business, biodiversity, innovation, relationships, and life from a distance. So it’s only right to thank everyone who and everything that has been a part of this journey.

To the island resorts, thank you for demystifying corporate social responsibility and allowing me to see this abstract concept in practice. From virtually exploring your four picturesque locations, I have a clearer understanding of what it means to balance sustainability and financial profit in a meaningful way.

To Lio Tourism Estate, thank you for demonstrating how to cultivate a culture of sustainability amongst different actors and the power of partnerships in sustainable operations.

To the Ten Knots resort staff, thank you for your immense hospitality, which I easily felt through the screen on our tours, that allowed me to learn so much about El Nido from afar. I hope to meet the non-pixelated versions of you all one day!

To the Management Committee, thank you for taking a chance on two American students, thousands of miles away, and giving us the extraordinary opportunity to witness and participate in local community development.

To the El Nido fishing communities, Banca Boys, and local fish suppliers, thank you for being so vulnerable with two students you just met and allowing us to tell your stories, as protectors of the environment, jovial guides, and so much more. I so enjoyed meeting each one of you and learning about your lived experiences as integral parts of the resorts’ operations. I hope to learn how to fish from you all, go on one of your boat tours, and eat your freshly caught fish one day!

To the women of KimiNANAY, I hope the world will see you as trustworthy, happy, and loving in everything that you do. I thought I had a fair idea of what resilience was, until I met you all—the cornerstones of your community. I can’t wait to witness your accomplishments as sewers for sustainability and am eagerly following your progress as a cheerleader from afar.

To Jamie, thank you for all your assistance with our projects, whether through reading multiple drafts of our blog posts, reviewing our waste management infographics, editing the waste management brief, or translating for our interviews! I always looked forward to hearing your feedback or insights on our projects, which expanded my understanding of whatever we were working on. Without a doubt, one of my highlights of this internship was learning how to identify different turtle species in El Nido from you during our coffee chat that left me eager afterwards for more scientific knowledge.

To Marga, thank you also for being another consistent resource to turn to for our projects, especially for our social media content as we navigated a Canva learning curve; your patience and kind guidance were always appreciated! I so enjoyed getting to know more about you and your career in sustainability through our coffee chat and check-in meetings with Han and always appreciated your humor and levity during our early morning meetings. 

To Estefania, thank you for your endless support and guidance throughout our internship, all from a completely different continent! I was constantly in awe of how willing you were to assist us with our work, despite not working for El Nido anymore. I hope to meet you one day in El Nido!

To Ms. Marigs, thank you for spending several late evenings passing down your years of wisdom to our eager ears. I left every conversation inspired by you and your realistic yet optimistic approach to sustainability and to relationships and more curious about whatever we discussed. Like everyone else, I eagerly await the day we can safely meet in person!

To Han, our fearless leader, thank you for everything! Every step of the way, I felt your love and care for us and our intellectual, professional, personal, and emotional growth; I never felt more supported as an intern than I did during these past 10 weeks. It’s difficult to fully express the impact working under you has had on me, but the fact that I am leaving more confident in myself and my abilities and more eager to learn about sustainable development, I think, speaks to your strength as a leader. I look forward to the day that I can see you in person, (at Lagen, of course!).

To anyone/anything else I may have forgotten, a sincere thank you from the bottom of my heart!

When the world opens up again, the first ticket I will be booking is to you and your sandy beaches and blue lagoons, El Nido Resorts, to meet your people and see your places that I have left an indelible impact on me.

Until then, no matter where I go or what I do, I will take you with me—in my mind and my heart. 

Hanggang sa Muli,

Elizabeth “Izzy” George


Dear El Nido,

You are called one of the most beautiful locations in the world for your beautiful beaches and tall cliffs, fauna and wildlife.  I have not seen these with my own eyes, only through the screen of my computer.  Yet, I would still assert that El Nido is one of the most beautiful places on earth, not for the landscapes, although no one could deny that they look breathtaking even in pictures and over video calls, but for the people there.  What can make or break a virtual internship are the people you interact with, because without the typical pre-covid outings and adventures, that is all that is left besides the work you do.

The people of El Nido did not disappoint.  The Philippine ability to converse and joke about anything within minutes of meeting someone amazed me.  I was told by a wise man that Filipinos are known for their hospitality and I think it might be a symptom of this.  Hospitality is there to make guests feel at home when they are away and even though I was sitting in the comfort of my own home for most meetings and workdays, I still felt that I was accessing a home away from home.  How can you feel at home in a country so far away without even being there? Don’t ask me, I interned with the department of El Nido Resorts responsible for sustainability, not hospitality!  Joke lang 🙂

That really is only a joke because it is easy to see how hospitality and sustainability intertwine at El Nido Resorts.  Working with Ten Knots’ Environmental Team has shown me how corporate social responsibility can be something that truly benefits the greater organization if a holistic approach is used within the framework of sustainability.  For CSR to truly have an impact, it must be long-lasting.  True change comes through more than a one time donation or short program.  True change comes from giving a disadvantaged people a new stream of income or raising awareness to raise money for a community to enforce legal protections on their livelihood.  Those last sentences were abstractions, but they both relate to two different projects I worked on over the summer.  If you are interested, you can read more on the other blog posts on this website in the same place where you found this one.

I have learned a lot over the past months, but the greatest gain I have achieved is not in the area of skills or experience, even though I made great strides in both of these areas.  Instead, the greatest gain I have made is hope.  Hope that one day we will solve the problems we face as a collective people living together on this earth.  This hope does not come from ideas or theories, but from seeing the frameworks that could change this world for the better laid out in front of me and implemented.  Change is needed more every day that passes, and now I have learned that while a pessimistic outlook on life may be more realistic, there is hope for all of us.  And because there is hope, I will never stop working for our future.  I pledge this to El Nido and the women of Sitio Kiminawit, to Han, Jamie, Marga, and Ms. Marigs, to the banca boys, the fishermen of El Nido, and everyone else who has been a part of my journey.

For now, hanggang sa muli, and may our next meeting come soon.

Carsten


Izzy George is a rising junior at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. majoring in Science, Technology, and International Affairs. Originally from North Carolina, USA, she enjoys hiking, kayaking, and backpacking in her free time. In the future, she hopes to unlock the synergies between sustainable resource management and economic development to address challenges surrounding food security, gender equity, and climate change.

Carsten Schoer is an International Business and Finance major at the McDonough School of Business at Georgetown University. On campus, he is part of Zeeba Investment Fund and the Compass Fellowship among other organizations. With a passion for social impact, DEI, corporate social responsibility, and sustainability, Carsten strives to improve any environment he finds himself in.


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