In 2013, when Typhoon Yolanda hit the Philippines, it made its first landfall in a small island called Sulu-an, a few kilometers off the coast of Guiuan, Eastern Samar.
While most people know of Yolanda’s destruction in Tacloban and other major cities in the Visayas, most Filipinos have not heard of the island-barangay of Sulu-an. The small-island community faced the same wind and rain that wreaked havoc on nearby cities on the mainland. Fortunately, Sulu-an survived Yolanda with zero casualties.
Salikhain Kolektib, an art and research group focusing on environmental action, created “Sanga Pulo: Sampung Sanga-sangang Kwentong Klima ng mga Pulo,” a media campaign highlighting the plight and stories of resilience from small-island communities in the Philippines like Sulu-an.
“Sanga Pulo” is a 10-episode short animation series that follows the diary of a teenager who lives on a small island. This fictional story revolves around Tala, who is at a crossroads as she faces the question of leaving their island if she wants to go to college. Through Tala’s eyes, we learn about her home island, their daily realities, and how the changing climate is already affecting their community.
Salikhain Kolektib created the story based on research, media publications, and interviews from their friends from Sulu-an Island.
Of the 7,600 islands that make up the Philippines, many are classified as small islands. This definition considers physical dimension, population density, and number of social services and resources. These places are already experiencing the effects of climate change, such as sea-level rise and extreme weather patterns, just like Typhoon Yolanda. And while some environmental scientists and climate researchers have their eye on these island communities, our national consciousness and the media attention on the risks these places face are still lacking.
The “Sanga Pulo” media campaign highlights the importance of listening to the voices of small-island communities not only because they are one of the most vulnerable communities to the risks of climate change, but also because they have a wealth of knowledge when it comes to being resilient.
Many small-island communities are considered to be geographically isolated, which means they lack access to many public and private social services, such as large stores and markets, tertiary education, hospitals, the internet, and sometimes even telecommunication, television networks, electricity, and potable water. Because of this, small-island communities adapt differently from communities on the mainland. They rely on what is available to them—their local knowledge, the limited natural resources that they have, and other materials found in their islands.
Because small-island communities rely on fishing for their food and livelihood, access to high-quality ropes is ubiquitous. They do not only use ropes for their small boats and vessels but also for tying roofs of houses to the ground to help fend against strong typhoons. These small-island communities’ resourcefulness and resilience on disasters are featured in the “Sanga Pulo” series.
As a collective that is interested in science communication through art, Salikhain Kolektib emphasizes the role of creativity in communicating complex issues, such as climate change and disasters. They use what they call ABCDE, or art-based communication for development and education, in their projects to make them engaging and understandable to the communities that they partner with, whether onsite or online. They hope that “Sanga Pulo” can become a learning experience for people to be more aware of the impacts of climate change in small islands, and also an inspiration for small-island communities in amplifying their voices for climate justice.
The “Sanga Pulo” media campaign ended with an online multi-stakeholder forum where the collective invited speakers Dr. Emma Porio and Engr. Khim Cathleen Saddi from Coastal Cities at Risk Philippines, and Ma. Christita ‘Babie’ Abulencia-Alido, a resident of Sulu-an Island.
The forum, which took place on Nov. 8, 2021, started with the premiere of the last episode of “Sanga Pulo.” Afterward, the speakers gave their responses to the media campaign and gave presentations on small islands based on their research and experiences. The forum was also attended by members from small-island and coastal communities, including Sulu-an Island, Bantayan Islands, and Dingalan, Aurora. The video recording of the online forum can be accessed through Salikhain Kolektib’s Facebook page.
Salikhain Kolektib is one of the recipients of the Umalohokan Fellowship to the Climate Media Labs and Umalohokan Grants under the Oscar M. Lopez Center’s Balangay Media Project, a program designed to support local media practitioners and climate change advocates by building their capacities for science-based reporting and utilizing traditional, new, and out-of-home media to promote climate change adaptation and resilience-building of communities.
The Climate Reality Project Philippines is a media partner of the 2021 Balangay Media Project.
About the author
Ralph C. Lumbres is an interdisciplinary artist. His works transect disciplines, from visual arts (sculpture, installation, and video), design, performance, education, and community-engaged projects. He is the founder and a managing member of Salikhain Kolektib (formerly Prodjx Artist Community), an interdisciplinary collective that creates participatory art and research projects in communities in the Philippines. He was an artist-in-residence for Koganecho Bazaar 2020, and PARADISE AIR Longstay Program 2021.
Juan Miguel Torres is a freelance researcher focused on studies about disaster risk reduction and the environment. A freelance photographer and communications consultant for humanitarian organizations, he specializes in designing and conducting photovoice projects—a participatory action research approach that empowers communities to document their own realities using still cameras. He is the current project manager of the Lahat Dapat: Toolkit for Inclusive DRR innovation project, an initiative funded by ELHRA and Humanitarian Innovation Fund.
Eric Sister is a freelance Filipino videographer, video editor, and community worker with extensive experience on interacting with people of diverse culture and social background. He has recently worked for the University of the Philippines Resilience Institute (UPRI). Along with the group Sine Sanyata, his work ‘Kontrol’ was among the videos showcased in the feature exhibition in 2020 Gawad Alternatibo event held by the Cultural Center of the Philippines. His work ‘Obrero’ won first prize in the animation category of the University of the Philippines’ ‘PAG-AALAY webXHIBITION & FESTIVAL’ in 2021.
Ness Roque is a theater and film actor, performance-maker, dramaturg, and educator. She was a core member of Manila-based contemporary performance company, Sipat Lawin Ensemble (2009–2018) and was a learning experience designer of the education startup, Habi Education Lab (2017-2019). She is a co-founder of Salikhain Kolektib.
Maricon Montajes is a video editor and freelance filmmaker. She is the video designer for Huni at Pakpak, a stage play for the CCP’S Festival of Women’ s Plays 2020. She is also the video editor and director of Salugpongan and Sining Sandata, which both won 1st prize in the 1st UP PAG-AALAY webXHIBITION & FESTIVAL. Her recent work, Sanib Lakas, also won Top 2 Judges’ Choice in Year 2 of CNN Reel Filipina: A Digital Shorts Competition (2021).
Astrid Sister is an independent writer and researcher, with almost a decade of experience in quantitative and qualitative research for various organizations in the development sector. Most of her research experience falls under education, disaster risk reduction and management, gender, and children’s rights. She is a co-founder and currently serves as the Program Development Director of Strategic Development Research Institute, Inc., a non-profit organization focused on providing policy research, capacity building, and technical assistance in various social and economic development areas.
Rye Tipay is a graphic designer for more than 10 years now. After moving to Dingalan, Aurora in 2016, he became part of Aurora Artists Residency Program and Space (AARPS) as one of the local organizers. In 2018, he was the workshop scholar of the Photojournalist Center of the Philippines’ 13th Professional Documentary Photography and Photojournalism workshop. He has been part of community-based art projects done by ProdJx Artist Community funded by Tuklas Innovations and Japan Foundation and recent graphic design work for NGOs.