In September 2013, Rochelle started an online petition asking DENR-PAWB to order the immediate release of a sea turtle that was being exploited by locals on Turtle Island in Guimaras for tourism purposes (view the full text at //chn.ge/154pIaa). PAWB promptly addressed it just a couple of weeks later. When we told Rochelle that we’ve nominated her to be a Hero of the Sea, she said she felt strange about being called a “hero”, saying that she initiated the petition out of a sense of responsibility. We told her that being a hero is not about responsibility, but about courage.
1. Which 3 words would you use to describe yourself?
Wife, mother, writer
2. What do you do to help save the seas?
The starting point is always my household. What may seem as mundane habits like minimizing waste, reusing, recycling, and constantly carrying a canvas grocery bag inside my shoulder bag wherever I go are examples of little things that go a long way. When done conscientiously day after day, they become big enough to make a difference.
My husband used to be involved in a lot of marine research, including clam seeding, as a diver. A lot of things about marine life and preserving it I learned from him. When we dive, it doesn’t stop with appreciating what we see, but extends to understanding marine life in the context of the current times – the state of the environment, climate change, even the political and cultural climate all contribute to its degradation or preservation. Learning how sources of livelihood affect the condition of the waters in a locality, for example, gives us a deeper understanding and a wider perspective. Continuously learning about these, I think, allows us to make more reasonable and purposeful decisions in our day to day activities when choosing what to eat, what to throw away, what to purchase, what to patronize, where to go, etc.
As a family, we travel a lot. Traveling is always an opportunity to help – whether it be to pick up trash we see randomly along the coastline, to actively participate in a coastal or underwater clean-up, or to decide NOT to participate in the Whaleshark watching in Oslob even when we are already in the vicinity. The children are aware of this and it speaks volumes that they themselves say they would rather discover sea creatures in their natural habitat than see them kept in captivity in an artificial environment. If only for that, I know I have helped.
3. Why do you want to help save the seas?
The sea is part of our home, and a lot of times it is taken for granted when strangely, it occupies a larger part of our world. Whatever happens to our seas inevitably affects us.
4. What do you find most challenging about helping save the seas?
Most challenging is breaking away from old habits that might be more convenient and exerting more effort to do things differently. Sometimes, when something seems acceptable because everyone is doing it and no one is complaining, it is difficult to be the dissenting voice. When people start moving out of their comfort zones to listen to different points of view and find alternative ways to conserve and preserve the seas, then the toughest hurdle has been overcome.
5. What is the most rewarding part of helping save the seas?
I am most rewarded when I inspire others positively. My children give me my utmost fulfillment. My job right now as a mother of three young kids is to ensure that they grow up to be caring and compassionate individuals who believe that being given a crayon can be as empowering as cleaning oil spills with a boom or a shovel. I am continuously witnessing how they are becoming more and more aware of their role as stewards of the environment. The best part is seeing them willing to pitch in in any way they can and knowing when to ask others for help realizing they are not alone in this. When it catches on and triggers others to do their part, it is doubly gratifying.
6. What would you advise Filipinos do to save the seas? Why should they help save our seas?
Let’s keep learning about our seas and understanding its current condition. Our country is blessed with one of the richest and most diverse marine life in the world. Every single organism from the tiniest critter to the Pawikan to the Butanding is crucial in maintaining its ecological balance. Domestic tourism is now a booming industry, so there is easy access to many of our beautiful beaches in different parts of the country. There is a higher risk of exploiting the seas, intentionally or unintentionally, leading to destruction of coral reefs, pollution, and threatened species. Let’s stay vigilant and conscientious. Let us adapt best practices and voice out our concern over negative practices. Saving the seas doesn’t require you to have a job in environmental resource, but it does require a sense of responsibility and acknowledgment of the impact you can make as an individual. What we do at home is a reflection of ourselves and what we value.
Why should every Filipino help save our seas? Simple – because it is ours.
(Interviewed by Nix Nicolas)