Empowering communicators to produce more climate stories in the Philippines

Another Christmas storm has hit the Philippines, this time, killing over 400 people and injuring over a thousand.

Millions have been affected and tens of thousands remain displaced after ‘one of the world’s strongest storms’ Typhoon Rai, locally known as Odette, barrelled through the country. 

While climate change has again made headlines in mainstream media, some stories remain confined to damage, casualties, and Filipino resilience.

But how do we break this narrative? For Perpi Tiongson, Associate Director of the Oscar M. Lopez Center (OML Center), storytelling is an effective tool to communicate the urgency and complexity of climate change. OML Center is a Philippine-based organization focusing on climate change awareness.

“After all, stories can evoke emotions that can empower us to act and visualize the possibilities of a brighter future that we can all create together,” Tiongson said. 

Climate Media Labs

With the help of Climate Tracker, the OML Center developed the Climate Media Labs, a specialized training program aimed to help Filipino communicators to produce climate stories in the country. 

“Communicating climate change and the potential for enabling action remain big challenges. The Climate Media Labs is one of the ways of helping provide context of the risks and impacts of climate change and of enabling action through documenting realities and surfacing stories of local experiences,” Tiongson added.

Through the Climate Media Labs, groups across the Philippines received fellowships and grants that helped them bring attention to underreported climate issues in their communities.

For Chris Wright, founder and executive director of Climate Tracker, there is a big focus on what the national government and the international community is doing but not enough to celebrate what small communities are able to achieve.

“The kind of stories that don’t get reported enough are probably the adaptation and mitigation efforts at the barangay (village) level.” 

Pitches submitted by the fellows range from narrating the stories of a women’s group working to protect coral reefs in Camiguin Island in Mindanao to the stories of residents living in small islands currently threatened by rising sea levels.

While all fellows received mentorship and support to pursue their campaigns, the final grant of P170,000 was awarded to a team of environmental advocates and researchers focusing on  Indigenous Knowledge Systems and Practices (IKSP) in local climate resiliency.

In a TV interview, Ritchel Cahilig of Team Bintuwak explained why they focused on IKSP.

“The main rationale of our campaign was to tap into the huge potential of IKSP holders of Nabaoynons in Malay, Aklan to bridge, co-produce and preserve the knowledge that is suited to enhance local socio-ecological, and climate adaptation and resilience,”

Cahilig added that the Climate Media Labs is just the start of their journey as they hope to replicate their campaign to other local communities across the Philippines.

The Climate Media Labs are part of the OML Center’s Balangay Media Project, which aims to surface underreported climate narratives from various regions of the Philippines.