If only the trees can beg the people to stop cutting them young; if only the seas and the ocean can scream to stop throwing plastics and illegal fishing; if only the Earth can wail to protect itself from ceaseless death by its people, they could have done it long before. But they cannot speak for themselves, only the people can.
Fifteen students from five schools and universities in Dumaguete were trained in a workshop for effective environmental news and feature writing last Aug. 18 to 20.
Camp SEWI (Students Environmental Writing Initiative), aims to increase the conversation of the environment in community newspapers and social media by raising more environmental journalists.
The three-day camp featured distinguished speakers and community immersion for the “campers.”
Judy F. Partlow, one of the speakers, presented how city ordinances and laws of Dumaguete were being taken for granted by locals especially those relating to the environment.
The bureau chief of the Philippine News Agency Dumaguete said, “Not too many people care about the environment. We compete with other stories, but not all people understand why we should be supportive of the advocacies of the environment.”
Campers were from Silliman University (SU), Saint Paul University Dumaguete SPUD), Foundation University (FU), Negros Oriental State University (NORSU), and Metro Dumaguete College CMDC).
“We are a country of laws but not all laws are implemented. We don’t need any of that; we need more enforcement and implementation,” Partlow added.
Partlow, however, said that the journalists’ job doesn’t end in informing the public, but also to engage the readers to actively participate and to wake the local government from their many years of slumber.
Moreover, guest speaker Alex Rey Pal, publisher of MetroPost, shared advices on how to make environmental topics interesting for the public.
“Not everybody likes lechon and not everybody likes the way you angle your stories because they might be of another belief,” he started.
Pal explained that the same principle applies in writing the story: the news must be presented to the target audience in a way that corresponds to their interests.
Other speakers were speakers were Zephanie Repollo, Climate justice program associate of Ibon International; Dave Albao, executive director of the Philippine Reef and Rainforest Conservation Foundation; Elizabeth Giddens, Ph.D., professor for English at Kennesaw State University; and Dr. Hilconida Calumpong, director of Institute of Environmental and Marine Sciences.
On the last day, the campers were divided into three groups and were assigned to three places for their story, Candau-ay dumpsite, Escaño Beach and Puncak Tanawan in Sibulan.
Best output will get the chance to be published in SunStar Bacolod or MetroPost.
Donna Darantinao, features editor of The NORSUNIAN, NORSU’s weekly campus paper, said, “The camp really has its way of making the campers appreciate how valuable Mother Earth is.”
She added that Camp SEWI was “one of the best seminar workshops” she has ever attended that awakened her desires to write stories on the environment.
Fearn Anne Acibo, organizer, said, “Every angle of the story they have written was good.”
Camp SEWI may have ended but it is only a fresh beginning for the campers- their first step in being active advocates of the environment in the media. It reminds everyone of not just the urgency for the environment to be heard, but also the fact that not just communication majors can write and report on things that matter.
Val Vestil, CMC magna cum laude 2017, founded the workshop after being a fellow Spring Academic fellowship in Kennesaw State University in Georgia, USA last March as part of the YSEALI programs. He proposed this project and received a mini-grant fund to realize it.