Before he became the Project Manager of the Sea and Earth Advocates (SEA) Camp and the Tuki Gypsea of Save Philippine Seas (SPS), Bryan Madera was an events coordinator for Boracay Weddings. "The skills I learned [in Boracay Weddings] helped me land work in SPS. I volunteered to help with logistical work for 2015 SEA Camps (Visayas, Mindanao and Coron). Towards the end of 2015, there was an opportunity to organize a SEA Camp in Boracay, and Anna, the Chief Mermaid, offered me the job as Project Manager."
He’s now been with SPS for two and a half years, managing the last six SEA Camps and fondly called "Tito B" by the merkids, the YSEALI SEA Camp Summit, and the 2016. Shark Summit, and leading the Plastic Battle campaign.
“When I was young, I wanted to save lives, so I enrolled in a pre-medicine course,” Bryan remembers. “I ended up working to save the only life-support system of all the living organisms.”
Tell us about what led you to do your work.
When I was living in Boracay, I saw how tourism could be an economic driver and compromise the environment at the same time, particularly the coastal resources. Our environment is the very resource and asset we have that provides aesthetic services for tourism. There were many questions on my mind on how to intervene. I wanted to be part of the solution and be the voice of the voiceless (i.e., the environment). From there, I enrolled in Environmental and Natural Resources Management, majoring in Coastal Resources Management to become an Environmental and Natural Resources Manager. I volunteered for different NGOs like LaMaVe, Coral Cay, and SPS. I started out as the Social Media Mola-Mola of SPS, volunteering to curate daily posts for the Facebook account, in December 2014.
Tell us about your current work. What do you do for SPS?
I’ve been managing the SEA Camps since October 2015, so we’ve done six SEA Camps and the YSEALI SEA Camp Summit since then. As the Project Manager, my output-based work is mostly logistical: exchanging emails with participants, suppliers, and speakers; plotting and booking the travel routes of everyone involved considering the allocated budgets and the carbon footprint; monitoring the application process (we received over 2,500 applications for 2018 SEA Camp in Bohol!); and providing feedback to project grant recipients, among others.
Since we’re output-based, we work anywhere and everywhere: I’ve worked while on board a ferry; a common area of a hostel trying to ignore everyone having fun; the Marine Wildlife Watch of the Philippines office; a coffee shop in Boracay; a friend’s house; and ports.
The liberty of working remotely is that I’m able to work on extra projects: I joined a whale shark research project with LAMAVE in Northern Mindanao and Cebu; I helped manage eco-tour guiding workshops in El Nido and Siargao Island; and set up and lead the Plastic Battle campaign.
We work anytime of the week. Sometimes we work as late as 1AM or early as 6AM or because Anna is in a different time zone.
What’s the best and worst parts about your job?
The best part of my work is the SEA Camp week. That means being with the team: Anna, Project Director; myself, Project Manager; Gab, Creative Director; volunteers a.k.a. the Faseas/SEA Camp alumni; and the documentation team. We’re also with the SEA Campers, resource speakers, and U.S. Embassy staff. This is where the actual work will be done.
The worst part of the SEA Camp is that I can’t live in the ideal world that we talk about during the camp. The work to achieve that starts after the SEA Camp for the Campers.
What pointers would you provide for people who'd like to start seriously pursuing an environmental lifestyle?
Our lifestyle affects our environment.
Educate yourself first of the basics and the importance of our natural resources to humanity, the economy, society, and to other living organism, then educate yourself about the impacts of what humans do to our natural resource. You don’t have to read scientific papers to learn – there are already concise articles posted on Facebook pages of NGOs and governments agencies that talk about the impact of our actions to the environment.
Begin to change one habit at a time. Make a list of the practices you might be unconsciously doing that is harming the environment (e.g., use of bottled water, plastic straws, take-away containers, unsustainable food sources, food waste, etc.) and find alternatives or ways you can minimize your consumption. Join Facebook groups or online forums that is giving alternative to single-use items. Enroll in a free online course.
What lifestyle changes have you made for the environment? Was it hard/easy? What convinced you to make these changes?
I limit my consumption of chips and instant noodles that are packed in plastic packaging -- for environmental and health reasons.
What are your eco-friendly finds that you always have with you? (e.g., reusable bag, reusable straw, chopsticks, etc.)
Reusable water container and lunch box. The lunch box serves as container of my charger and cords and turns into food container when I need to store bread during a long journey.
What for you is the biggest accomplishment of SPS?
The collective impact of every SEA Camp to the youth and the actions taken by the SEA Campers to their community and fellow youth.
What are three of the most personally moving moments you’ve had in your time with SPS?
1. To see the capacity of youth who are never too young to lead in taking action in marine conservation or community development work.
2. Meeting people who are working for the environment and hearing their stories – success stories and how they overcome challenges.
3. That I am given the opportunity to practice what I really am passionate about.
Where do you see SPS in five years?
A leading organization working with community-based conservation work in fisheries, species conservation and tourism, and empowerment of youth and education sectors.
How do you feel about the gains of marine conservation in the Philippines? What has the community been successful at addressing and what do you have to continue working on?
Daniel Gilbert once said that the world is so slow to act on climate change because the danger it poses isn't intentional, immoral, imminent, or instantaneous. When the video of a straw stuck in a turtle’s nose went viral, people felt the need to take action in reducing single-use plastic consumption. But that’s just the just the tip of the iceberg.
We have a long way to go for marine conservation in the Philippines, specifically for the marine litter issues. The level of awareness has been increasing, and we are ready for the next step. This can be strengthened by policy that is oriented towards a circular economy.
What is your why - why you do what you do?
We only have one planet Earth, which is our only life support system and we are all dependent on it to live but we are destroying it.
Follow Bryan on Instagram and Twitter @bryansmadera.