Gaea Cabico

Published: May 10, 2024

Climate Tracker Asia celebrated this year’s World Press Freedom Day on May 3 with the graduation of its #NextGen Climate Bootcamp fellows, young Filipino storytellers who are the future of climate journalism.

Fellows from across the Philippines completed an immersive program, facilitated in collaboration with the US Embassy in Manila, that combined months of hands-on training in climate storytelling with the resources they needed to create impactful stories. 

The graduation program emphasized the critical role of journalism and freedom of expression in the context of the climate crisis and other environmental problems. 

Glenda Wallace, US Embassy Deputy Press Attaché, stressed that a “free, independent and vibrant press” is key to informed citizenry and strong democracy. 

“We believe that critical, fact-based, and science-based reporting is essential in facing the climate crisis,” Wallace said. 

Stories from the frontlines

The graduating fellows discussed the stories they pursued, mostly narratives from their own communities, and reflected on their experiences. 

Jerson Danao’s stories, for example, focused on Baguio’s transformation into a walkable city, and the effects of rising temperatures and shifting weather patterns on Cordillera’s flower industry

Andrea Ebdane explored how socialized housing in the Philippines fails to address poverty and climate change

“It really made me realize how for these people being safe from climate disasters is not much of comfort for them because they don’t have proper jobs, they can’t feed themselves,” Ebdane said. 

Ivy Marie Mangadlao produced a story on how climate change and other threats disrupt the way of life of Manobo indigenous peoples in Agusan Marsh

Jag Castamero documented the threats faced by Candaba Swamp, Central Luzon’s biggest “flood sponge,” while Nigel Tan made a comprehensive fact sheet on Philippine marine ecosystems. 

Zarena Hermogeno wrote about the need for better conditions for waste workers helping the country reach its clean energy goals, while Siegfred Aldous Lacerna exposed the ecological and social impacts of a massive floating solar panel project on the Philippines’ largest lake.

Fellows AC Tupas, Joshua Mendoza and Elle Guison focused on the intersection of climate change and agriculture. Tupas explored how changing weather patterns destroy sugarcane fields in Negros, Mendoza featured a technology that transforms pig waste into biogas, and Guison highlighted climate-smart technologies.

“There are many climate stories that are waiting to be told in the agriculture sector and as a Novo Ecijano from the rice granary of the Philippines, I believe I carry the responsibility to tell these stories and amplify the voices of those affected,” Mendoza said.  

Aidan Bernales discussed the importance of creativity as a tool in the climate fight, saying that “creativity will allow us to penetrate our insights and ideas into the mind of people.” 

Ann Gabrielle Domingo, who reported on how climate change makes museums vulnerable, called for more stories on the intersection of climate change and culture. 

“Climate change is in the process of erasing our cultural identity. It’s threatening our arts industry. It’s important we highlight stories like this so audiences are aware how our beloved landmarks are affected,” she said. 

Meanwhile, Abby Gayle Repontente wrote a story about climate education, and Edmar Delos Santos shed light on the hurdles faced by youth councils in engaging young people in climate action.

New chapter

National Union of Journalists of the Philippines Chairperson Jonathan de Santos urged fellows to not only inform but also inspire solutions. He challenged the young storytellers to highlight how communities are coping and advocating for sustainable solutions, and steer conversations on better policies for the planet and its people. 

Biena Magbitang, director of Climate Tracker Asia, expressed her gratitude and pride in the graduating class. 

“I want to thank you for your tireless efforts, your willingness to learn, and your unwavering commitment to making a difference,” Magbitang said. 

“You are the #NextGen of climate journalism and I hope that the spark we ignited in you continues to grow, fueling your efforts to create and produce more stories that matter—stories that will make a meaningful difference in your communities,” she added. 

This marks a new beginning for these young journalists. Armed with knowledge, skills, and a passion for storytelling, they are ready to tell climate narratives that matter.