My brand new picture book will be out in a few weeks. It’s published by Bookmark in the Philippines to raise awareness of dugongs. I’ve been working with Reynante ‘Rey’ Ramilo from Community Centred Conservation (C3); an NGO working on dugong conservation in Busuanga, Palawan in the Philippines.
Dugongs once grazed in their thousands on the seagrass meadows of the Philippines including in Manila Bay. But numbers have declined and Palawan is one of their last strongholds in the country. They still face many hazards including entanglement in fishing nets and in the ropes used to farm seaweed. Rey told me that dugongs have no safe haven at the moment and that C3 are advocating the establishment of a dugong sanctuary.
Dugongs are also known as sea cows because their diet consists mainly of seagrass. I’ve spent a lot of time planting seagrass to make collages for the book. Diwa’s story is about a dugong whose seagrass meadows are destroyed soil washes into the sea from nearby hillsides that have been cleared of trees.
Diwa must swim away from the place she knows and find somewhere new to live. On her journey she encounters many perils but also receives help from strangers who tell of a place with bountiful seagrasses… a place that would be a prefect sanctuary area for dugongs.
Rey shared with me a legend about dugongs from Busuanga. It’s a bleak and disturbing story but the description of the place inspired my thoughts of a sanctuary area for dugongs:
Once upon a time, there was a poor family that lived in a faraway place on a beach, located at the foot of the mountain, where the forest was wild with the tallest trees, crawling vines and shrubs covering the forest floor. Birds would sing the entire day, and when the day turned to night, the crickets would come out to serenade them.
Dual langauage in English and Filipino, thanks to Rey for the translation.
Coming out in a few weeks at Bookmark The Filipino Bookstore
For enquiries, email or call at 895-8061 to 65.