Text and photos by Hannah Pascua
The Philippine Rise photo exhibition titled “The Journey Towards the Protection of the Philippine Rise” is on display at the National Museum of Natural History at Rizal Park, Manila which permits the public to plunge into the hidden treasures of the fascinating marine biodiversity found at the Benham Bank.
The focal point of the exhibition is a 3D model of the Benham Bank that welcomes visitors who enter the room. It’s amazing how it presents the shallowest point of the Rise, the 40-70 meters and the 17,000 hectares entirety of Benham Bank which only consumes about 1% of the entire region where a variety of corals, algae, and different printed fishes inhabit.
These natural inhabitants of the Benham Bank were photographed and by a team of technical divers hired by Oceana Philippines, a marine advocacy group in the country. This group donated these images to the museum of Natural History in November 2018, in support of Filipino scientists and biologists exploring the beauty of the ocean.
Project Head, Marianne Pan-Saniano, a marine biologist said that she and the team made sure that the exhibition will be displayed in a no-entrance-fee-venue, in the hopes of encouraging the present generation to take interest in marine conservation. The goal of the exhibition is to let the public know of their conservation efforts through videos and photographs.
In fact, the exhibition holds about two decades (1993-2018) of history with a portion of timeline about the long journey the team took having chronicled the efforts of the past administrations in making the Philippine Rise a better place for the marine life and for the Filipinos, especially for the fishermen.
It would be remembered that President Rodrigo Duterte claimed that the Philippine Rise belongs to the Filipinos, signing the Executive No. 25 which proclaims the change in name of Benham Rise, which is named after the American surveyor, Andrew Ellicott Kennedy Benham to Philippine Rise.
This is also in line with the celebration of the group regarding the declaration of the Philippine Rise as a protected zone. Oceana Vice President, Gloria Estenzo Ramos calls for the Filipinos in protecting the area describing it as a very special and very significant place. “Benham would inspire us to do something for the Benham, for the country, and for the world,” she said in a video presentation that is on view inside the exhibit.
The exhibition is available for public viewing since the start of the year at the sixth floor of The National Museum of Natural History from Tuesday to Sunday (10:00AM-5:00PM).