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Celebrate the Sea Festival 2009 Manila Ocean Park

How inappropriate to call this planet 'Earth', when it is clearly 'Ocean'.
(Arthur C. Clarke)

The 8th Celebrate the Sea Festival opened on Friday, 12 June 2009 to renew our faith, at the Manila Ocean Park. Lynn Funkhouser, took the podium as its first presenter with a modest audience of divers and visitors, pleading her cause to protect the life and home of the innocent sea creatures growing on piers. The Welcome Party in the evening was graced by the Executive Director of the Philippine Commission of Sports Scuba Diving, Cynthia Carrion, as her team prepared and orchestrated the Mardi gras like parade for the nation’s official celebrate the sea day.

This year festival welcome two Rolex’s ambassadors David Doubilet, Dr Phil Nuytten along with some of the most celebrated underwater image makers Peter Scoones of BBC’s Blue Planet, Leandro Blanco, Mathieu Meur and the founder of the festival Michael Aw which enthralled the  audience with their unique style and presence sharing their arts, experience,  and wisdom. The ‘Shark Theatre’ which featured videos of the finalists and 15 awards winners from the World Underwater Pictures Festival (Antibes), received its fair share of enthused visitors. The mid-day Forums were well attended, keeping the panelists well engaged.  The contentious issue of Animals in Captivity began with Jennifer Hayes opening the forum. The strong views for and against, reflected the greater awareness and the need for effective international control and management. On the final day, during the forum on ‘Changing the Face of Terror’ a petite and rather demure looking local photographer named Leah, with the most innocent of faces, raised her hand to confess rather nonchalantly her sharks fin indulgence drawing instant  ‘oohs’ and aahs’ from the audience. Explaining how the discussion and debate shed light on the sharks’ fate, she then publicly vowed to discontinue this indulgence. This time the audience broke into spontaneous and rapturous applause and it has since been aptly termed, the Leah conversion!

Each year, for past eight years, the Celebrate the Sea Festival in its modest evolution, yearned and strived to be relevant in the relationship between humanity and our seas. It has come of age. After celebrating in three different Asian countries in the last eight years, the children’s Art Competition now has two ambassadors a year and is growing by leaps and bounds. Each participant causes an entourage of Leah conversions to the sharks fin cause, every year.

At the award ceremony, the deserving were duly honoured. From Hong Kong, Adrian Lau Tsun Yin, aged 9 and Coco Tin Chi Ting, aged 14, earned their Ambassadorship for the Sharks in the presence of their family and honourable guests for their outstanding works of art. John Scallett from the USA was named Ocean Geographic Underwater Photography Journalist of 2009 for his deep and meaningful photo montage of “Loving Sharks”.  Leandro Blanco’s Voices We Will Never Hear, won him the Outstanding Achievement in the Short Video Documentary, the Rolex’s Award for Excellence in Underwater Films and the President Gloria Arroyo’s Award for the Highest Achievement of the Festival. Dr. Phil Nuyten was named and honoured as the Hero of the Sea, 2009. The Celebrate the Sea Festival, for the first time in its eight-year history, presented the title and honour ‘Ambassador of the Sea’; this was most deservingly conferred upon Under Secretary, Cynthia Carrion for her passion and relentless effort to promote the wonders of the beautiful sea through her pivotal role in the world’s first nation-state’s Presidential Proclamation to officially declared a day in the year as a Celebrate the Sea day.

The growing enthusiasm in the presentations and forums is certainly indicative of a greater participative interest in conserving our oceans. This year’s Hero of the Sea, Dr. Phyll Nuytten sparked new hope and direction to not only help stem the indiscriminate destruction we have caused, but the possibilities to enrich the quality of living beings through technology. The President of the Festival, National Geographic Photographer, David Doubilet and Peter Scoones in the evolution of their photography, evidenced the technological influence over the years. ‘Perhaps it is now time to take brave new quantum leaps into the ocean with technology’ hinted Howard Shaw, the Executive Director of the Singapore Environment Council. Deep sea vents for potential clean energy and minerals,  deep sea submersibles to appreciate and study oceanic creatures freely without captivity – a wish that panelist Jaki Teo,  firmly echoed;  food and medicine harvesting, non-polluting oceanic cities, and the list of possibilities is endless. Celebrate the Sea, 2009 highlight the beauty of our ocean and the hope of a living blue planet.

The Celebrate the Sea Festival’s tenure in Manila may have ended this year, but the spirit now remains alive in the hearts and minds of the Filipino people.  Panelists and experts in their own fields, Dr. Perry Alino, Dr. Fernando Siringan and Jose Lorenzo more than amply reflected the dedication of the Philippines to protect the sea. Their President, Her Excellency, Gloria Arroyo, in 2008, proclaimed the month of June the Celebrate the Sea month and the 2nd Saturday of June to be the Celebrate the Sea day. The sea has proven time and again, that it is resilient and unconditional in its care for us. It beckons again for a rejuvenation of a collaborative and harmonious relationship. The Celebrate the Sea Festival, is but one of numerous possibilities. It has left an indelible mark on the Philippines, the Heart of the Coral Triangle and will indeed ripple through the region.  The organizer thanks all partners, competitors, sponsors, and everyone for participation and support. For it is not about tenures, but moments such as Leah conversions while we begin to celebrate the most important element that give us life on this blue ocean planet.  

Celebrate the Sea Festival is an OceanNEnvironment Ltd Australia production. The 2009 festival is jointly organized and supported by the Philippines Department of Tourism and PCSSD. Rolex is the principal sponsor for appearance of David Doubilet and Dr Phil Nuytten.


Mikael Jigmo - Ocean Geographic Photographer in Residence


Howard Shaw & Cynthia Carrion


The highlight of Celebrate the Sea - the Children Art Competition - over 80 kids - finalists from Hong Kong, India, Philippines, Taiwan and Indonesia


Adrian Lau - 9 yrs - CTS 09 Ambassador for Sharks with Lynn Funkhouser

USEC Cynthia Carrion official named Ambassador of the Sea


The WHO's WHO at CTS 2009 - Jennifer Hayes, David Doubilet, Anci Jigmo, Peter Scoones, Geogette, Leandro Blanco, Phil Nuytten, Michael AW with the official CTS 'limousine' Manila style!


David Doubilet chatting with Michael AW & Mathieu Meur


Michael AW and friends...Laura Goddard, Isabel Ender, Katrin Ender and Lynn Funkhouser

Christine Lee with Patrick Swartz (Scuba Seraya Resort) and Anci Jigmo


The CTS Climate Change Forum - chair by Howard Shaw, Dr Phil Nuytten, Lory Tan WWF, Dr Porfirio Aliño,  Dr Selingan


Chris Ng - recipient Honor of Distinction ; WOW Philippines with Michael AW


Award Gala evening - Leandro Blanco with Michael AW at entry of Manila Ocean Park