Do you remember when we talked about this gorgeous place called Danjugan Island in Negros Occidental? (If not, you can read about it here.) This month, we talked to artist Kaila Ledesma Trebol, a trustee of Philippine Reef and Rainforest Conservation Foundation, Inc., to learn about their conservation efforts.
Could you talk about Danjugan Island and how you got involved with it?
I call myself a Danjugan baby because my dad kept bringing us there when we were little. I kind of grew up with Danjugan as my playground. I remember exploring the island and snorkeling as a little girl and its beauty always fascinated me. It never got old.
My dad, Gerry Ledesma, and his group formed a conservation organization called Philippine Reef and Rainforest Conservation Foundation, Inc. They wanted to save Danjugan from destruction, which they saw first hand. So they managed to purchase Danjugan with the purpose of conserving it. Its main goals are: Biodiversity conservation, environmental education, poverty alleviation, and responsible nature tourism.
I was a volunteer in 1998, doing coral reef surveys for Danjugan. I was still in college then. After that, I volunteered with Marine and Wildlife Camps as organizer and resource speaker through the years. Today, I’m a trustee of the foundation. Our work is voluntary, helping raise funds, develop projects, network with other organizations, develop responsible tourism programs, and more. There is still so much to do for conservation. We don’t just work in Danjugan Island. We also work in Southern Negros to establish more marine protected areas.
What do you love most about the island?
I love Danjugan’s biodiversity. There is so much to see! Each visit is fascinating. It is so green and lush—so peaceful. It really is so special. It’s a small island with so much to offer.
What are the constant challenges you face with regards to protecting/maintaining the island?
The biggest challenge is getting the support of the local fishermen and local government. But we’re working towards that. We have those who understand the importance but many just view it as taking their fishing ground away from them. Conservation is a challenge.
How do you promote Danjugan Island through your art?
I’ve been doing seaglass jewelry for five years now (Cat and Kai Handmade Jewelry). From the seaglass I pick up from Danjugan, we make a piece and the proceeds go back to its conservation and projects. Our pieces are inspired by nature, mostly by the sea.
I also love nature photography. Danjugan is my muse. I always take a camera wherever I go. I’ve made mistakes before of not bringing a camera then something great shows up. So now I have to have it with me all the time!
Can you talk about the Danjugan Art Residency?
We love working with artists. We don’t really have a residency program, but we do have camps or retreats for artists. We are open to any artist that can contribute. All they need to do is write us and let us know where they can help. Right now, we are working with a great watercolor artist named Joanne Coruna. She is doing 100 paintings for Danjugan through our #100SignsofLifeinDanjugan project. Very exciting!
How can other people be involved with Danjugan Island?
We have a volunteer program. All you need to do is write us at email@example.com and send us your CV and letter of intent. We have lots of volunteer opportunities from documentation, to camp facilitation, to resource speakers.