Freediving professional and marine conservationist Tara Abrina kick-started Kapit Sisid back in 2016 due to her love for the ocean. Since then she’s gained her AIDA instructor certificate and is currently pursuing her master’s whilst working as a research officer at the University of Philippines’ Marine Science Institute. We sat down with Tara to find out more about her efforts to save the Philippine seas and her thoughts on how other Filipino’s can help.
TA: It started when I went diving with a student organization called ISDA. My friends there were just so passionate about both protecting the marine environment and elevating the skills used for skindiving, that I decided that I wanted to pursue both aspects. I joined other similar efforts around the Philippines, got myself certified as a freediver, but ISDA still holds a special place in my heart.
So, when was it when you started freediving?
TA: After ISDA, I got myself certified with a bunch of other ISDA friends back in 2014.Back then there were no schools in Manila; you’d either have to get a course in Moalboal or Panglao. My boyfriend was already one of the best freedivers I knew when we started dating, so you could say that he had a big influence on my freediving career – still does up to this day.
Is this why you started Kapit Sisid?
TA: Although Kapit Sisid was intended to be only one project for a particular community I worked with before, it has grown into something much more because of my friends in both the conservation and the freediving fields. Kapit Sisid is now a venue where freediving professionals can connect to communities or conservation professionals that need the skills of freediving in order to enhance their conservation work for the ocean.
TA: Recently, I’ve been staying at home in Manila and loving every second of it. In the mornings, I would do chores while I reading/listening to some articles or books related to my work. I then dedicate the whole afternoon analysing some data or typing away on a manuscript. On some days I work out, but not too intensely and once 6 pm hits, it’s either I attend a graduate class, conduct a freediving class, or cook dinner and watch shows with my partner.
Being a scientist is tough, not because the things we do are overwhelming and extraordinary, but because they are small, slow, repetitive, and all-consuming. It’s like chipping away at a block of wood with a spoon. You really need to sit down and keep at it until it’s done. Can you imagine the mental fortitude you need to accomplish such a thing?
It’s all for a good cause! So, what are your thoughts on the current state of Philippine coasts and its surrounding seas?
TA: I think in the Philippines there are “pockets of hope”, as my bosses like to say. We talk about the areas in the Philippines that currently have a thriving community with a conservation mindset, strong leadership for marine issues, adequate technical support, and are well-endowed with marine resources. And we can see this only when we visit – how beautiful their coral reefs are, how lucrative their mangrove parks can be, how knowledgeable the people are about them.
These are the areas that rarely get televised, but they are the ones who silently feed my drive to continue my work. They teach me everyday what needs to be done in order to ensure the protection of the whole ocean. It’s nothing grand or spectacular what’s needed, but more small, repetitive efforts.
What can people do to educate themselves or help out?
TA: Everything we do in our cities and towns eventually finds its way into the ocean, especially here in the Philippines. Trust me, I swim in it every weekend. So, my best advice is to travel and see it for yourself. Talk to the people who manage the sanctuaries, but if you don’t have the resources to travel yourself, jump on the zero-waste lifestyle whole-heartedly. We find more and more businesses catering to this kind of mindset.
Where can people find you and follow your work?
TA: Follow me on Instagram @taraabrina!