Observing wild animals in their natural habitat is always a joy. It must be so memorable to see these lovely creatures thriving where they belong.
It can also be quite an elusive sight: Not everyone gets the opportunity to see these rare moments. It’s rare for anyone to go to these wonderful places without accidentally being disruptive to the resident animals.
One couple, however, has made it a part of their lifestyle.
Celine and Dennis Murillo have been living in a camper van and traveling around the Philippines, all while documenting the wonderful animals they have encountered. After a brief yet eye-opening interview with Celine, we have been given an intimate look into how they have been going about this lifelong journey of theirs.
For her documentation processes, Celine mentions that she tries to capture the animals in their most natural state instead of trying to capture their attention using artificial means, such as bait or audio. She “relies only on the power of observation and familiarity.”
Majority of the time, she remains outside doing her work. “I just really spend a lot of time on the field, which is where our mobile home, our camper van, comes in handy,” she says. “We often wake up early and always stay for months in a place, so having our home with us or nearby during our fieldwork is such a huge benefit.”
One of Celine’s favorite fascinations is Birds. She has documented many Birds over the years, her absolute favorite being the Philippine Eagle.
“My photo of the newly-fledged Pamarayeg III was hard-won,” she explains, “It was two months in the making and required seven trips to leech-infested trails, muddy trenches, and rock- strewn paths. A journey worthy of the King of Birds.”
DECOLONIZING THEIR LIVES
An important aspect of why Celine chooses to live this lifestyle goes far beyond the need for animal documentation. It is a part of her journey toward self-actualization. She uses the terms “decolonizing” and “re-indigenizing” because she is doing her best to bring herself closer to her roots as a Filipino.
She explains that foreign depictions of wildlife are most common and we don’t often get to see coverage on the fascinating creatures we can find all over our country.
“There’s always Kangaroos, Elephants, and Tigers. Where are the Tamaraws, the Tarsiers, and the Dugong?”
A big part of her mission is to re-introduce the wildlife that we share our country with to the general public. She says, “We protect what we love, and how can we love something that we’re not familiar with?”
INTERTWINING OF NATURE AND CULTURE
Celine always makes sure to give credit where credit is due. She garners plenty of knowledge and inspiration from the indigenous peoples of the Philippines.
She gives an example of something she’s learned from their practices: “For example, indigenous farming practices treat soil as a living being (which it is), and the way they plant is not just about nourishing themselves but also the earth and others. “
Celine uses their knowledge not only because it is very important culturally, but also because they deserve to be included in bigger conversations regarding the state of our country’s environment.
“Many conservationists see them as solutions-bearers, and it is unfortunate that they are often sidelined or not even included in conversations on the climate crisis, biodiversity loss, and the policies that are supposed to address these.”
WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE
Celine and Dennis are a couple of wild souls with vast knowledge on the animals that make up our history. They use their influence to educate and assist people, adding to our Philippine sense of nationality. They point the lens toward our uniqueness and individuality, showing us Filipinos that our culture is extraordinarily rich.
For more information on the couple, you can find them on YouTube under the channel name @ CelineAndDennisMurrilo. Here, they post vlogs where they give you an intimate look into their #VanLife as well as their interesting day to day processes. It’s fun, educational, and inspirational.
Ultimately, this couple is doing more than just sharing their own personal story. They have established themselves as an impactful puzzle piece within the picture of our nation.
Celine is also a creator of “visual poetry.” Her film K5, short for Katutubong Kahoy Kontra Krisis sa Klima, showcases the different trees that are native to our country and how they benefit us.
“This film emphasizes the benefits of native trees: that there are fast-growing ones, ones that are perfect as windbreakers and for flood and erosion controls, and that there is a whole network of advocates cultivating them and are more than willing to share their resources to anyone.”
K5 is one of the five finalists for the Department of Science and Technology-Science Education Institute’s Indie-Siyensya Film Festival, which showcases films communicating science. The theme for this year is climate actions and solutions.
Celine makes sure to use Tagalog or Bisaya terms for wildlife in her portfolio because for her, knowing the names of these animals in our local tongue can contribute to more cultural appreciation down the line.
“Words are powerful, and they depict our values. I want Filipinos to know about Kidagaw, Tagmaya, Talugkos, Saluksok, and many others,” she says.