President Fidel Ramos established the Presidential Task Force on Tubbataha Reefs in 1995, putting government and local agencies, the private sector and civil society to work together to protect the park. He would compare the work ahead of us to cooking the Filipino delicacy, Bibingka, which is cooked with fire on top and fire below. His marching orders to us in civil society was to work from the ground up and for the national agencies to work from the top to reach the bottom. That group he started is the same group that manages Tubbataha today.
During our 25th anniversary in 2013, he was one of those we wanted to honor for his significant contribution in building the foundation for the management of Tubbataha. He couldn’t make it to the event, but an opportunity to present him with this plaque arose during the launch of the coffee table book, Tubbataha: A National Treasure, four years later. We brought the plaque with us from Puerto Princesa to the Manila event, but at the time it felt like a trifling act, an insignificant gesture made worse by bad timing.
And so, we hold on to this plaque today, regretting not having expressed our gratitude to this man of great foresight. We will keep this to remind us never to miss another chance to honor those to whom honor is due. He teaches us another lesson in his passing.
We wish you fair winds, blue skies, and following seas, Mr. President, Sir!