July 2008 Archives

Madagascar Delights


Royal Palace in TanaWow. The hype is not hype; Madagascar delivers on its promise of exotic animals, dramatic landscapes, rare botany and friendly people. This island lost in time keeps alive the dream of a faraway land with mystical creatures and magical landscapes.

Seacology's 15 person expedition began with a brief stint in the capital of Antananarivo ("Tana"), and the architecture did not disappoint. A bustling city of nearly two million people, its history is rich with dynasties boasting some of the longest names in the world. To the left is King Andrianampoinmerina's palace which sits on the highest of the capital's 12 hills, standing as a sentinel overlooking the city.

Madagascar Pitcher Plant We flew to the extreme south of the island to begin our trek to the project site, a Seacology supported nursery for rare and endangered plants at Ft. Dauphin. Riding for hours over seriously rugged roads, we shared the terrain with a constant chain of Malagasy people traveling on foot -- generally barefoot -- carrying their impossibly heavy wares from market to home and back. The indigenous plant nursery was thriving and we spotted a grove of Madagascar's unusual pitcher plants (right) and a small stand of critically endangered water palms along the way; only four remain in their original habitat.

Report from the Philippines

I recently returned from the Philippines, where I visited a total of five Seacology projects with our Philippines Field Representative Ferdie Marcelo.  Sadly, we missed one site visit - to the ram pump project and forest protection project at the Municipality of Murcia, Negros Occidental.  This was due to Typhoon Fengshun, which started as a tropical depression east of the islands then intensified.  It was the first time I had experienced the power of these storms that batter the Philippines so frequently.  My hotel in Manila never lost power, and it was strange to see coverage on cable TV of the wildfires ravaging parts of California while the Philippines was hit so hard by high winds and relentless rains. 

Our first site visit was to the community of San Pedro, on Biri Island in Samar Province.  Seacology has funded the construction of a community-managed medical dispensary in exchange for a 25-acre marine reserve, to be protected for a duration of 20 years. 

The community is accessible only by boat, and we we fortunate to visit during the barangay (community) fiesta.  The small dispensary is situated on the barangay's plaza, right next to the day care.  The structure is nearly complete; wiring will be completed soon. 

san_pedro.jpgShown in the photo is Jhoanne Culo of our local partner project organization Center for Empowerment and Resource Development, Inc. (second from left) and Seacology Philippines Field Representative Ferdie Marcelo (third from left), flanked by two local women who will serve as health care workers once the dispensary opens.  The community is respecting the marine protected area, where we snorkeled to observe the regenerating marine life.

Our second site visit was to Barangay Manamoc, Northern Palawan.  This village has a population of 1,900.  With the assistance of Seacology Germany, Seacology has funded a solar energy system to provide power to the community's schools, barangay hall and medical clinic in exchange for an agreement to protect a 267-acre marine area.
This week kicks off the 10th Pacific Arts Festival, this year hosted by American Samoa. Twenty-seven countries are expected to participate in the festival, bringing their talents, tastes, and tales to Pago Pago in American Samoa.

Pacific Arts Festival.jpg
The Pacific Arts Festival began in 1972 and is held every four years in a different host country. Previous host countries have been Fiji, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, French Polynesia, Australia, Cook Islands, Samoa, New Caledonia, and Palau. The festival includes workshops as well as performances and allows each participant country to share and learn from each other. Indeed, the theme of the festival is Su'iga'ula a le Atuvasa: Threading the Oceania 'Ula'.  Ula is the Samoan equivalent of lei and according to American Samoa's Governor, Togiola T. A. Tulafono, the theme represents the "coming together of Pacific people to share their values, traditions, and spirit on the soils of Samoa."

Own Your Own Island

Always wanted to own an island but never thought you could afford it? Then take a peak at the following blog entry:

10 Beautiful Private Islands for Sale (That You Could Actually Afford)

The article highlights 10 islands being sold or auctioned from different sellers that are from different climates, areas of the world and stages of development. Most are for sale for a *fraction* of the cost of buying a new home in, say, the San Francisco Bay Area.

It's a fabulous dream for many of us to have the chance to own an island - now that dream could come true!