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Delikado: Fight for What is Left

By Keisiah Dawn T. Tiaoson | September 1, 2023

The seventh principle of nature states, “Nature is beautiful, and we are stewards of creations.” The sea, the mountains, and the plains are for the people to manage. The ground is home to creatures great and small, the seas are filled with wonders, and the plains are where people reside. But to what extent can a steward look after its scope? 

From Aug. 18  to 19, the Silliman University Student Government (SUSG) Environmental Committee along with the SUSG Advocacy Committee attempted to answer this question, through a film screening of Karl Malakunas’s Emmy-nominated documentary film, “Delikado.” 

Malakunas used film and art to seek help from those who truly care about the environment. In his film, he highlighted how Palawan is considered one of the Philippines’ major tourist destinations, yet its beauty is craved by the greedy. Indigenous peoples and rural communities witnessed the devastation of their livelihoods as palm oil plantations began to widen, and the natural forests were cleared for even more operations like mining. These devastating changes turned Palawan into a busy city with buildings rather than trees. It is no longer as majestic nor as green as it once was. It is no longer considered home for people who identify as one with the Earth and waters.

Into the darker sides masked by tourism and development, Malakunas started capturing the dangers that came with the enforcement of environmental laws. Trekking through the forest and catching illegal loggers was considered a manifestation of love and heroism, as it effectively laid out what environmental defenders really are doing—risking their lives for the sake of saving the planet. “Itong ginagawa namin, trabaho ito ng gobyerno. Bakit kami ang nagbubuwis ng buhay?” (What we’re doing is the government’s job. Why are we the ones risking our life?) “Kap” Ruben Arzaga, one of the land defenders, mentioned in the film. 

In partnership with Active Vista and Dakila’s Dumaguete Collective, three respected and well-versed environmental activists were also invited as panelists for a post-discussion. Mr. Leo Mamicpic was one of the panelists, and he mentioned, “If there’s any takeaway from the film, it is to become advocates, [to have] more Nieves [Cabunalda Rosento, former mayor and firm environmental activist in Palawan] in the Philippines.” 

As today’s youth are inclined to put their feet forward when it comes to the environment, Atty. Golda Benjamin, an environmental lawyer and another one of the panelists, mentioned how the youth doesn’t need encouragement anymore. “They already are involved and only need endurance and committed passion to keep on going,” she added. “It’s okay to have fear, there’s nothing wrong with that… it will [only] help you reassess why you do what you do.” 

The environmental crisis in Palawan is not the only one that is in need of action. When asked by a member of the audience about what they know of the environmental issues in the Philippines, Atty. Benjamin points to three: mining and massive logging, plastic waste, and conversion of agricultural land – the last, she states, is an advocacy very close to her heart. 

However, the response of the Philippine government to environmental issues, as described by Atty. Benjamin, is “very poor.” She further explained that it is unfortunate when “the greatest sphere of influence comes from those in power.” The film “Delikado” echoes this. Death threats, accusations, and red-tagging bombarded Bobby Chan, Nieves Rosento, and many more environmental activists left and right—and yet they remained steadfast in their quest. They prayed through the entrapment they were in, holding onto hope, for defending the lands and seas was their ultimate cause. 

On combating the expansion process of big establishments, as highlighted in the film, Professor Rochelle Remollo, another one of the panelists, brought up the need to support local businesses, tour guides, and food finds. A big issue lies in unsustainable tourism, she said, and how glamping [glamourous camping], merely for “clout” is an example of such. 

“Give business back to the locals,” she said.

The film’s conclusion left many in the audience teary-eyed as they witnessed real people slain for defending the resource most important for everyone. The characters’ lives were a testament that, no matter how impossible it is to win the fight against giants, there are still environmental stewards willing to give their lives because they believe the beauty that surrounds them is a mirror of their culture—and that the next generation deserves to experience nature at its best. 

There are still individuals who hold firm to their obligation and believe that the seas, the mountains, and everything in between are the responsibilities of humans. Yet, with the same principle upheld by the land defenders of Palawan, Remollo advised: “Save the community first, and save the world later.” Perhaps, as stewards, this is how we begin to look after our scope—to know to what extent we should go. All we can do is find the answer ourselves.

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