Journey from the mountains to the sea

by Mark Steve Manzano

AG Saño’s story led me to be an environmental storyteller.

It’s a law of attraction. I often visit AG Saño in Quezon City, an environmental advocate and artist known for his whale and dolphin murals around the world. I admire this guy for his advocacy and how he uses art to tell stories, especially about peace and the environment. Before this fellowship, we often saw each other and I helped him with his building mural in Maginhawa Village, where I learned wall climbing and met new friends from his crew Art Atak.

One evening, I saw his Instagram story: a poster of a fellowship of Climate Tracker Asia content creators, and he was one of the mentors for the fellowship. I joined that fellowship, not knowing that this would lead to an extreme journey to the mountains and seas of the Philippines. My application was accepted, and I felt overwhelmed by the roster of fellows who were very diverse and known in their respective fields – journalists, fashionistas, advocates, conservationists, photographers, scientists, and more.

I was quite confused about how I could use my medium as a visual artist to tell environmental stories, but I pushed through this fellowship and utilized my fascination with mythology and ecology.

For the next four weeks and counting, the fellowship began online, and I finally met the fellows. It was very exciting and fun, as the online Zoom meetings were chill and we shared each other’s stories. Meeting our mentors was overwhelming, and I felt amazed that we were working with these amazing people in the journalism industry.

It was an opportunity for me to learn from the experts and explore how visual art can contribute to impactful storytelling. When AG Sano shared his story with the fellowship, I remembered how persistent he was in using visual art to tell the story of his good friend, a victim of Super Typhoon Yolanda. He always advised us that artists have a unique spirit that can connect with every person on any level.

I connected through his murals and finally got to meet the artist in person, now a very good friend who inspires me to paint more walls and share dreams.

I and AG ‘Whaleboy’ Sano create a mural in Maginhawa, Quezon City

AG “Whaleboy” Sano creates a mural in Maginhawa, Quezon City

Me during a wall climbing ascent

(I and AG “Whaleboy” Sano create a Mural in Dasmariñas, Cavite)

Mixed media, Social media and Digital storytelling…

I had no idea how to execute my works in a digital format. Besides digital art and augmented reality, I wondered how to communicate these shapes, lines, and colors effectively.

I would like to thank our mentors and my co-fellows, who helped me conceptualize my project. We were assigned three outputs in total: two individual projects and one collaborative work.

These challenges pushed me to think beyond my current tools and skill set, and I learned the importance of seeking collaboration with fellow artists. I can say my projects in this fellowship were a total collaboration and a platform for connection. During the fellowship mentoring, I learned the importance of establishing a connection with your target audience and story to communicate the message effectively.

Digital storytelling offers a lot of opportunities for exploring different mediums and presenting stories. It’s not just about posting, but understanding the content and aligning it with the target audience.

Becoming a good storyteller requires being a responsible individual. A human story is a narrative of the people — our people. We are the people.

I, Brendan, and Uncle Rozendo in Banaue Ifugao Philippines for the making of my first output titled “Ang Payao ng Ipugao” (The Rice Terraces of Ifugao People)

Photo by Michael Montalban shows fishing Boats in Naic, Cavite during the filming of the second story titled “Mga Tanaga ng Alon” (Haiku of the Wave)

Me doing a mural with kids in Sariaya, Quezon province during the production of Reimagining Spaces: Sining Luntian (Environmental Art)

We conducted environmental education during collaboration project in Barangay Mamala 2 Sariaya, Quezon province

We conducted environmental education during collaboration project in Barangay Mamala 2 Sariaya, Quezon province

It’s a never-ending story, but now we need a wrap-up…

It’s been a long journey from the mountains to the sea, filled with revisions and emails from our mentors. It marks unforgettable moments with people who align with my vision and advocacy.

Rice Terraces of Banaue in Ifugao

A coastal village in Naic, Cavite

Mamala Park in Sariaya, Quezon province

And let’s not forget the never-ending vegetarian meals during face-to-face training. The fellowship provides a very fun as well as healthy environment for every fellows.

As we wrap up this fellowship, words and laughter still linger in my journal. The memories will someday be shared with younger fellows and environmental storytellers who continue to tell stories in the hope of healing our environment.

This fellowship gathered different individuals who brought stories of hope, happiness, community, and wisdom from indigenous and environmental defenders.

Until the storyteller tells stories, the narrative of the people will thrive.

Bonding with mentors and Climate Tracker Fellows, Photo by Celine Murillo)

Bonding with mentors and Climate Tracker Fellows, Photo by Celine Murillo)