Meet 3 eco-warriors on a mission this Earth Day and beyond
By Christian Jay B. Quilo
OVERWHELMING amounts of trash have greatly affected our world. Some lay conspicuously on our own streets while the rest go farther and hidden into the depths of our oceans, affecting not just the quality of the water itself but the teeming marine life dwelling in them. It’s not news that our natural resources aren’t in the best conditions. While others remain insensitive and complacent, a brave few decided to take matters into their own hands and do something about this ceaseless problem. Meet these young eco warriors who champion efforts to save our Mother Earth.
Veronica Chiongbian, 27
Voice Over Artist / Online Marketing Manager
Before she could even stand on her own two feet, Veronica traveled frequently with her parents — this exposed her to nature and all its splendor at a young age. In elementary, she studied in an institution that had a strong thrust for the environment. It’s no surprise that at 27, Veronica imparts this deep appreciation for nature to her own daughter Charlie, whom she takes with her in outreach activities. Although she strives to help the environment as a whole, marine life holds a special place in her heart as she has always loved the open waters as an infant. “There is just so much wonder in the ocean — so much flora and fauna that we have yet to discover.” Veronica stresses that we have to know where our trash goes and what happens to them after disposal. “We have to do our best in protecting all types of terrain, from summit to sea. If one area is suffering from devastation, the effects of which will cascade down to another element.”
Veronica used to organize small, humble initiatives with friends such as Bangon Visayas and COCOtrails. “I never really volunteered for big organizations. I do my part by personally convincing people that this is something most of us should be genuinely worried about. It isn’t just a fad or something that you should act on only when the next big catastrophe hits.” Later on, she realized that the clean-ups she organized were band-aid solutions rather than permanent fixes. Veronica firmly believes it’s all about continuously educating locals and making sure they see the cause and effect of everything they do.
Seeing the efforts of today’s generation such as selling stainless straws and minimizing the use of plastic, Veronica sees a glimmer of hope for the environment’s future — but for her, this is only the tip of the iceberg. “I hope everyone will follow suit and continue from there.” Her plea to readers: “Please do a quick search on Carl Sagan’s Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future In Space. It won’t take a big chunk of your time, but I hope you take a colossal chunk from it.”
Marielle Felicio, 22
Graphic Designer / Illustrator
Growing up with a father who was conscious about plastic usage, it was only organic for Marielle to inherit the same sensibility. “While doing groceries, he always made sure that we purchase those with lesser plastic packaging so that our garbage wouldn’t pile up by the end of the week.”
Going to a high school with a strict implementation on proper segregation further strengthened this practice. “It’s the cleanest school I’ve been in, with or without sanitation engineers. They instilled in the students the importance of proper garbage disposal and CAYGO (Clean As You Go).”
Looking back, however, she thought of it as a means of convenience rather than an effort with long-term effects.
After learning more about plastic waste through the years, she realized that she no longer wanted to contribute to this never-ending problem.
“I believe we do not need any more plastic being produced in this world; and as an individual conscious of my own plastic waste, that would at least help the environment.”
Marielle has participated in clean-up drives by organizations such as Let’s Do It! Philippines and The Sun Crew Siargao. But aside from joining these activities, she sees every day as an opportunity to minimize and achieve zero waste through simple ways such as bringing her reusable drinking bottle, cutlery, straw and eco bags wherever she goes.
But Marielle’s not stopping there — she continues to learn and educate herself by attending seminars and workshops to widen her knowledge about the environment and what else she can do as an individual.
Marielle’s call to action: “We need to create more awareness in taking care of the well-being of the environment. We must always remember to practice what we preach. Little acts are starters but it is in these small gestures that we can make something big.”
Kirsten Sebastian, 26
It was during her time as an expat in Hong Kong and Shanghai when Kirsten realized how beautiful her homeland the Philippines is. She booked a one-way ticket back home in 2014. In an island hopping trip, she and her friends had a contest on who could reach the sea floor first. Although a newbie freediver at the time, she took the plunge without hesitation. Upon reaching the bottom, what she saw upset her — dead corals and dearth of marine life. “It broke my heart to see what we were doing to our ocean, to our planet.” In that moment, she realized her passion for marine conservation and she knew that she had to devote a huge part of her life to that advocacy.
Kirsten is particularly passionate about coral restoration, marine life protection and ocean pollution. She’s been involved with multiple organizations, including Marine Conservation Society, ORCA Foundation and several others. She is also currently working on forming an organization in Cebu called “Save Seabu.”
Aside from regular ocean clean-ups, she builds and restores coral reefs to protect marine life such as sea turtles and whale sharks. She also partners up with companies that can help spread her love for the ocean through a bigger platform, where she talks about trash segregation and how our daily habits impact our oceans.
What kind of oceans will we pass along to future generations of humans and other living things? — Kirsten urges us to ponder on this question. For her, it is the role of the youth to be aware of what the oceans provide us and how enormous its role is to our planet. “The precious resources the oceans provide us have been bountiful, but we see them diminishing. Saving the oceans shouldn’t just be a duty or responsibility, but a lifestyle.”