“What is Diwa to do with no seagrass to chew?”
Diwa is a dugong. She lives in the shallow seas of the Philippine islands, feasting on seagrass: the only food that dugongs eat. When trees are felled on a nearby hillside, soil washes into the sea and kills the seagrass. Diwa must swim away from the place she knows and find somewhere new to live. On her journey she encounters many perils but also receives help from strangers who tell of a place with bountiful seagrass.
Royalties from the sale of this book will support the work of Community Centred Conservation (C3) saving dugongs in Busuanga in the Philippines.
Written and illustrated by Rachel Shaw, translated into Filipino by Reynante Ramilo.
Diwa the Dugong is published by Bookmark in the Philippines to raise awareness of dugongs. I’ve been working with Reynante ‘Rey’ Ramilo from Community Centred Conservation (C3); an NGO working on dugong conservation in Busuanga, Palawan in the Philippines.
Dugongs are also known as sea cows because their diet consists mainly of seagrass. They once grazed in their thousands on the seagrass meadows of the Philippines including in Manila Bay. But numbers have declined and Palawan is one of their last strongholds in the country. They still face many hazards including entanglement in fishing nets and in the ropes used to farm seaweed. Rey told me that dugongs have no safe haven at the moment and that C3 are advocating the establishment of a dugong sanctuary.
Rey shared with me a legend about dugongs from Busuanga. It’s a bleak and disturbing story but the description of the place inspired my thoughts of a sanctuary area for dugongs:
Once upon a time, there was a poor family that lived in a faraway place on a beach, located at the foot of the mountain, where the forest was wild with the tallest trees, crawling vines and shrubs covering the forest floor. Birds would sing the entire day, and when the day turned to night, the crickets would come out to serenade them.
Printable colouring pages
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