#SeastainableStories – Rhyn Esolana, Project Balod

#SeastainableStories is a series by Seastainable to feature amazing ocean conservationists and advocates! We believe that everyone can play a part in contributing to healthier and happier oceans.
For the second blog this year, we are featuring Rhyn Anthony Nique Esolana, the Project Manager of Project Balod in the Philippines. Rhyn’s project has been funded by your seapport since its first wave last year. Project Balod is a conservation workshop held in Dumaguete City, Philippines, 
designed to educate and inspire individuals on marine conservation, environmental stewardship and leadership, and establish pro-environmental behavior.
Interested to learn more about Rhyn’s initiative? Read more below.
What sparked your interest in conservation?
My conservation story was sparked through a conversation with a Seabling (fellow SEA Camp Alumni). It then led me to volunteer at coastal cleanups that lined up with my knowledge on the state of the Philippine seas. At that time, I knew I needed to know more about conservation. My love for the seas brought me to the Sea and Earth Advocates (SEA) Camp, a marine conservation boot camp, that strengthened my love for conservation. It taught me to be value-laden, grounded, and true to my advocasea.
What do you think is important in pursuing conservation?
Values are important in conservation. Your outlook towards conservation differs in the values that you have found to yourself from the day you committed to being part of the conservation circle. The values that you share with the people who will help you clean the last public beach in your city are the same set of values that will get you to lobby for its protection. The stories that you encounter along the way will strengthen your values as a person to do more, to be more.
What/Who inspired you to start your project?
Anna Oposa of Save Philippine Seas (SPS) sealed the deal for me to finally make my own waves that can positively impact my community. My experience with Tita A in the SEA Camp has changed me and continues to until today. Dave Albao of the Philippine Reef and Rainforest Conservation Foundation Inc. (PPRCFI) has helped me to sustain all the efforts that I have in pursuit of my goals toward conservation. Tito Dave helped me sustain my waves. Lastly, Samantha Thian of Seastainable Co. has been my gift in this journey. From a little conversation on conservation to the Project Balod that makes waves and changes lives now, Sam has been very supportive in all our endeavors. If it weren’t for Sam, Project Balod wouldn’t be able to make waves that have changed the lives of many in Dumaguete City and beyond.
How did you meet the members of your team?
As a university town and as a coastal community, Dumaguete City has never fallen short of people with a cause. The members of my team are the same people I go on weekend road trips or free-time food trips. My friends have been really supportive of the causes that are close to my heart, especially on my love for the seas. They have lent their fins to help Project Balod and everything that it has in between.
Give us a fun fact about yourself!
First, my first snorkeling experience was with the Save Sharks Network Team and it happened in Apo Island. My parents didn’t allow me to go (at first) because they were certain that waves would be strong around the island and it would be dangerous. I may have used all arguments that I could, and my last straw was “I wanted to see a turtle”. After all the defenses I had to make like “I’m with diving experts or we’ll have guides”, it didn’t matter. At that point, only turtles were the only ones that mattered. 
Second, the only sport that I can thrive in is swimming. Anything that does not involve the water is no good for me. 
Lastly, it was only recently when I discovered that I am not a first in conservation in the family. My grandfather died protecting the seas, I have an uncle named Shark, and both of my parents’ families live near the beach.
What is your advice to people who want to pursue a career in conservation, but may not have the ‘conservation’ e.g. science/research related background?
Being part of the conservation circle does not require a science/research related background. Stories about the state of the Philippine environment and the crises it faces come in multi-faceted platforms. We are all responsible to protect it for our survival and beyond. I do not hold a science/research related background but I am here. One of the few ways that keep me grounded in the circle is to read. I know that I don't have the knowledge and the skills as to scientists and researchers but I know I'm doing my part. To move forward, we must all do our own share in protecting our environment.
A piece of advice you would like to give to our readers about the future of our planet?
Environmental Principle #6 would tell us that our earth and everything it holds will all be used up. Just like our relationships, there will be a point where we feel like there is nothing to fight for anymore; that we should give up. But just like what we all did, we go through the struggles to save and protect it in the hopes of its salvation. We may endure because of love or growth, or plain and simple, we just want it to thrive. That's how I want you to see the future of our planet. It needs to be fought for until you feel like you're not the only one fighting for it anymore.
What are the next steps that you want to take to save our ocean?
The next step that I want to take to save our ocean is to help the little ripples in the lives of the people Project Balod has changed for the past years. Awareness without action allows for the cause to die down. Graduates of Project Balod need to continue and springboard the efforts for the environment. Moreover, I want to venture back to and old advocacy. I want to bring it back from the ocean and make it work again, for healthier seas.’

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