Beyond the hustle and bustle of Jakarta, the rich culture of Bali, the tranquil beaches of Lombok, and the historical ruins of Borobudur, Indonesia offers a very unique experience to visitors with its rich biodiversity. It’s home to various numbers of flora and fauna, as well as Southeast Asia’s largest wilderness, the Gunung Leuser National Park. This is exactly what Allan Jay Quesada experienced as the winner of the Selfie For Biodiversity Photo Contest, organized by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ Biodiversity Management Bureau (DENR-BMB), in cooperation with the Deustche Gessellschaft fur Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH.
The Selfie for Biodiversity Competition is an annual photo competition to help promote biodiversity to help sustain livelihood. Held in commemoration of the International Day for Biological Diversity (IDB) every May 22, the competition sought out the best entries that showcase how protecting biodiversity also helps livelihood, with Quesada gaining the top prize.
“I think that I have a part to play in helping preserve biodiversity. We all do. I’d like to think that by joining this competition, I helped make people more aware of the need to protect wildlife,” states Quesada.
Quesada admits that one of the biggest challenges for him was connecting the two components of the theme: biodiversity and livelihood.
“At first, I didn’t know how to relate biodiversity and livelihood, but I realized that yes, through well preserved and observed biodiversity, people will be able have greater choices to consume and to invest to whether for food production, raw materials, or tourism,” he adds.
For the Indonesia trip, Quesada was joined by Che (last name) and Dionne (last name from the ASEAN Center for Biodiversity. The group explored Gunung Leuser National Park, as well as the nearby city of Medan. The group also visited Halaban, a town near the national park where there is an ongoing restoration project of the jungle.
“It was really cool because we were seeing before our eyes how they’re converting these grass mountains into lush forest. We also learned about how the project’s leader balanced planting slow and fast growing trees to make sure none of the plants get choked,” adds Quesada.
His favorite part was visiting the elephant park on the visit’s third day. It was his first time encountering an elephant, so it was a treat to get up close.
“I find the elephant park visit very unforgettable. I even got to feed and bathe one. I think if we can replicate this up-close encounter with an animal, it would be good for our tourism industry,” he states.
Whilst there, Quesada was able to learn valuable lessons from the people of Sumatra, including strategies in forest building and issues in palm oil distribution. He also was able to take home some lessons he thinks the Philippine government should take note.
“Whilst I was there, I marveled at how well taken care of their wildlife parks are. The Indonesian government really puts so much effort into making sure their forests are well conserved for the people who visit. If only we can do the same for the Philippines,” he enthuses.
Over all, Quesada is grateful for this opportunity to explore Indonesia thanks to the Selfie for Biodiversity contest.
“Most of all, it’s an opportunity to learn. I’m very happy to have gone on this trip because I’ve gotten valuable lessons that I can apply here in the Philippines,” Quesada says.