We interviewed environmental officer, Elaine la Madrid Tagudando, at El Nido Resorts for an insiders’ perspective on the Philippines. Here’s what she had to say…
Tell us a bit about yourself
I was born and raised in Isabela – a Province in the northeastern part of the Philippines, but I’ve lived here in Palawan since last year. I am… feeling weird talking about myself… but I have a great sense of adventure.
What do you do as the Environmental Officer (EO) at El Nido?
Essential duties of an EO include training guides to help guests learn about the flora and fauna of El Nido; I teach the local community how to Be G.R.E.E.N. (Guard, Respect, Educate, El Nido); I organize regular coastal cleanups; share our green initiatives. A big focus is on sustainability of our organic farm, and of local fishermen and women weavers, as well as using solar panels, managing our wastewater and treating water to make it potable.
The interesting thing about my job is that, tasks are ever evolving and I get to wear many hats. I can be a teacher, guide, gardener, development worker, photographer, and sometimes, the police!
How did you get into this job?
I’ve always been interested in how tourism can be utilized as a tool for conservation and sustainable development. This became my passion, and has been the core of my work since 2009.
In 2014, after serving as a volunteer in Zimbabwe, I had to make a choice – go back to the government and plan for tourism, or work for El Nido Resorts and be involved in how sustainable tourism is practiced.
What gets you up in the mornings?
The opportunity to share with others how we can do our bit for the environment. It takes heart, creativity, and a whole lot of patience to be an EO. And everyday, I also look forward to wildlife sightings – sea turtles, endemic hornbills and mouse deer, among others.
Why should people visit the Philippines?
Whether you like scaling mountains or plumbing depths of the waters, you’d definitely have a hard time in choosing which part of the Philippines to visit. We have just about everything – rich heritage, tasty food, and… still I can’t think of a single word to describe our beaches! There are 7,107 islands to choose from. You just have to explore to know which island suits you.
The reason I am most proud of our country, is the trademark Filipino hospitality. We love pleasing our guests and we probably are the most fun-loving people in the world.
If we had just 24 hours to spend on Palawan, what would you suggest we did?
You have to plan your day. I would start by going on a sunrise kayak from Miniloc Island. Head to the big and small lagoons and bask in its tranquillity and beauty while having the place all to yourself. Head back to have a hearty breakfast. Snorkel with the huge jackfish, or maybe if you feel a little bit adventurous, with the black tips. Explore the islands, go island hopping, go snorkelling or maybe sneak in a dive and greet the underwater life in El Nido. Have a picnic lunch. Take the afternoon off, and get a tan on the fine white sand beach of Entalula Island. Then head to Pangulasian Island to relax, and enjoy the sunset. Really, Bacuit Bay in El Nido, Palawan will leave you speechless.
What is your favorite place on Palawan to escape?
For some alone time, I take a sunrise kayak to the iconic Big Lagoon in El Nido. It is one of those places you think only exists in the past – pristine waters, majestic limestone cliffs, and tranquil surroundings.
If you had to describe the Philippines in 3 words, what would they be?
Warm, exciting, and vibrant!