•Mangrove deforestation is a massive problem in the Philippines, one that deeply affects the lives of many coastal communities.
•”Bakawan,” a new documentary from marine biologist Dr. Lemnuel Aragones, seeks to draw attention to this issue by featuring the people of Alabat Island, Quezon Province and their relationship with the mangroves that they call home.
•The documentary, which was made possible via a UP project focusing on creating audio-visual educational content, will be shown for free to the public on March 27, 2023 at the UP Diliman Institute of Biology Auditorium.
Mangrove deforestation is a pressing global issue that threatens not only the environment, but also the culture and livelihoods of coastal communities. In the Philippines, experts have noted a staggering 10.5% decline in mangrove cover between 1990 and 2010, making it the second worst-hit country in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) — and a new documentary by marine biologist Dr. Lemnuel Aragones aims to raise awareness about this worsening problem by sharing the story of the people of Alabat Island, Quezon Province.
Man and mangrove
Shot during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown, “Bakawan” — which takes its name from the Tagalog term for “mangroves” — showcases the town’s deep connection with their mangroves, which provide not only food, fuel, shelter, and livelihood for them, but also the very essence of their culture. With the theme “Kahalagahan, isyus, at pagpapanumbalik,” “Bakawan” tells the human story of living in and with Alabat’s estuarine mangrove forest, and provides a glimpse into the lives of the people of Alabat Island and their struggle to protect their mangroves, their culture, and their way of life.
“Bakawan” is a collaborative effort between Dr. Aragones, the former director of the University of the Philippines – Diliman College of Science Institute of Environmental Science and Meteorology (UPD-CS IESM), and UP Film Institute Associate Professor and filmmaker Nick Deocampo. The creation and release of “Bakawan” — which is Dr. Aragones’ debut documentary — is part of the IESM’s 20th founding anniversary celebration this year. Through the film, Dr. Aragones and his team show how culture and nature can intersect and coexist in harmony.
Science education through creative cinema
Out of the ten entries to the UP Emerging Interdisciplinary Research Grant’s (EIDR’s) “Cinema for Education: Rationalizing the Philippine Audio-visual Industry to Promote Inclusive Education Through Film Literacy” project, Dr. Aragones’ “Bakawan” is the sole science-focused entry.
“Cinema for Education,” which is funded by the UP Office of the Vice President for Academic Affairs (OVPAA), aims to integrate image-based learning (e.g., utilizing films and videos) and digital technologies into the current word-based Philippine education system. The project explores ways to improve audio-visual materials for Philippine schools, such as using documentaries to supplement and augment existing teaching and learning methods.
“The COVID-19 pandemic emphasized the need to improve the traditional Philippine education system, with educators and students around the globe relying on technology to teach and learn,” Dr. Aragones explained. “We are exploring ways to maximize the utility of cinema for education by promoting inclusive education in the Philippines.”
The free premiere of “Bakawan” will take place on March 27, 2023 (Monday), at 1:00 PM at the Institute of Biology (IB) Auditorium, UP Diliman. This event is open to the general public. —MF