This New Documentary Shows Us How This Quezon Town Learned to Live With Mangroves

Exploring the intersect between culture and nature during a time of rapid mangrove deterioration.

Much has been said about the deterioration of our mangroves, and how bad things have gotten since we've tracked the data. The Philippines happens to be the second-worst country for mangrove loses in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. We've seen a 10.5-percent decline of such between 1990 and 2010 alone. The only country that surpasses us is Myanmar, which suffered a staggering 27.6-percent loss between 2010 and 2014. It's a global issue that needs our support now more than ever.

Our local authorities have already raised the alarm over the dire situation. Officials from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, for instance, have began various planting programs for mangrove tress in Manila Bay and along other areas in Luzon and the Visayas.

Scientist-turned-filmmaker Dr. Lemnuel Aragones, a marine biologist and former director of the University of the Philippines-Diliman College of Science Institute of Environmental Science and Meteorology (IESM), says that lesser-heralded coastal communities in the Philippines have long stepped up to address the issue. We can learn a thing or two from them that way. One Quezon Province town, in particular, has fostered a new relationship with mangroves, which is the subject of Bakawan, a new documentary from the UP Film Institute. 


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“We are exploring ways to maximize the utility of cinema for education by promoting inclusive education in the Philippines,” Dr. Aragones explained of his collaboration with Film Institute Associate Professor and filmmaker Nick Deocampo. "Bakawan" is the Tagalog term for mangroves.


The film is part of IESM's 20th-anniversary celebration. It also happens to be the only science-oriented video among the ten entries to the UP Emerging Interdisciplinary Research Grant’s "Cinema for Education: Rationalizing the Philippine Audio-visual Industry to Promote Inclusive Education Through Film Literacy."

Funded by the UP Office of the Vice President for Academic Affairs, the Cinema for Education arm of the college looks for ways to improve audio-visual materials for Philippine schools. It seeks to integrate image-based learning, such as utilizing films and videos, and digital technologies into the current word-based Philippine education system.

A five-hour drive and an hour's ferry ride away from Manila lies Abalat Island, where we can observe an intersect between culture and nature. The people here have discovered how to adapt and take care of Alabat’s estuarian mangrove forest without damaging it.

The documentary showcases how these forests have been home to generations of Filipinos. Mangroves have protected coastlines and provided resources for Filipinos for centuries, after all. And for people on the coast, they stand to lose the heart not just of their food, fuel, shelter, and livelihood, but also of their very culture and identity. We can expect the cinema education research project to explore how these communities have lived with, thrived, and cultivated Philippine mangroves. And hopefully, it can show us how we can all contribute to its recovery.

The free public premiere of Bakawan will be on Monday, March 27, 2023 at 1:00 p.m. at the Institute of Biology Auditorium, UP Diliman.

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