Filipino environmentalist’s conservation efforts inspire Michelle Obama

April 23, 2021 - 6:11 PM
Carmela Bogum
Carmela Bogum in this photo shared by United States Former First Lady Michelle Obama on her Facebook on April 23, 2021. (Photo from Michelle Obama via Facebook)

Former United States First Lady Michelle Obama recognized a Filipina environmentalist for her conservation efforts as the world marked the Earth Day on Thursday.

In an Instagram post, Obama said that she is “celebrating changemakers” like Carmela Bagum, a 21-year-old fisheries technologist “committed to protecting our planet.”

“Carmela grew up in a fishing village, where her passion for marine life pushed her to become a licensed fisheries technologist—despite the floods and typhoons that often closed her school,” Obama wrote.

“She is one of millions of girls whose education has been disrupted by the climate crisis, but she is also part of the rising generation of leaders who are already taking charge as we confront it,” she added.

Bagum, according to a feature on Global Citizen website, had the opportunity to learn about conservation and sustainable development when she traveled to Danjugan island, a solar-powered wildlife sanctuary.

She then pursued fisheries program at the Carlos Hilado Memorial State University until she graduated in 2019 and began to work as a licensed fisheries technologist, developing sustainable solutions to local fish decline and other climate change issues.

“My education led me to where I am today. As a fisheries technologist working in an NGO [PRRCFI] that works for conservation and partners with the local government units, I was able to participate and become more involved in decision making for our community, drafting and implementing environmental policies,” Bagum said.

PRRCFI stands for the Philippine Reef and Rainforest Conservation Foundation, a group that spearheads environmental programs on biodiversity conservation, nature tourism, science and research, environmental education, solid waste management and zero-waste initiatives.

Apart from Bagum, Obama said she was also inspired by other young women from US, Kenya, India, and the Bahamas in their efforts to protect the planet.

More praises for Bagum

Fellow Filipinos also lauded Bagum following the recognition and hoped that she would similarly inspire others to be eco-conscious as well.

“We need more of you, Ma’am,” a Facebook user said in response to reports.

“Continue the good work, may your tribe increase,” another online user wrote.

“Wow! Congrats, Carmela Bagum. What a recognition from the respected former first lady. @MichelleObama! You’re an earth warrior. Keep it up. We love you from the Philippines. #EarthDay,” a social media user from Twitter wrote.

The world celebrated Earth Day on April 22 which commemorates the anniversary of the birth of the modern environmental movement in 1970. It gave a voice to the emerging public consciousness about the state of the planet.

Today, the movement is recognized as a day of action to change human behavior and create global, national and local policy changes in the environment.

This year, Filipinos are called to join efforts to combat climate change and environmental destruction.

Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu said there is a need for every Filipino to play an active role to collectively make a substantial impact in addressing climate change and other environmental issues, especially during a global health crisis.