Benjamin Jack BSc
Field Base Manager
Ben has been working on research, conservation and community engagement projects for over 8 years and is really excited to be part of the Coral Cay team! Ben’s been passionate about the marine environment since he learnt to dive as a 17-year-old and has been fortunate enough to work on lots of projects in this field, including exploring coral resilience in the Seychelles, mangrove ecosystem services in Kenya and shark habitat requirements in Belize. His professional background is based in Oxford in the UK, developing and delivering international programmes for a non-profit organisation which supports scientific field research. This role includes responsibilities for field safety and incident management, and Ben holds a number of relevant qualifications including Explorer and Exploration Medicine, Offsite Safety Management and Scuba Technician. Ben’s academic background mixes social sciences and environmental conservation, and he is really interested in how strong science and people come together to deliver meaningful conservation action. Ben can’t wait to meet you in the Philippines!
Nelson Espinas (‘Tata’)
Tata began his work with Coral Cay by providing lunch to volunteers visiting his hometown restaurant in Malitbog. Coral Cay loved his cooking so much that he was offered a position full time and has now been with us for over a decade, cooking up a splendour twice a day! He will introduce you to all the Filipino classics like pork adobo, chicken halang halang, tuna kinalaw (caught by local fishermen), fresh squid from the local market, fried aubergine, and many more! He has no problem cooking a grand feast. Look out for his mango floats the richest most indulgent treat you will ever encounter! You can catch him singing Bon Jovi 'Always' and Bryan Adams classics in the kitchen. Tata also loves a good gossip, and will tell you all sorts of fascinating stories about the past adventures of previous volunteers. He is also a great person to talk to about local fiestas, as he loves to join the volunteers when we are invited out to discos. He can whip up spring rolls for 30 people in ten minutes and his pancakes are simply to die for!
Richard Bongot ('Bok Bok')
Boat Captain, Carpenter & Handyman
Bok Bok has been with us since 2003; his nickname means 'termite pulp'. Bok Bok mans our boat Banakun and keeps her shipshape; he is also a carpenter extraordinaire. He worked as a painter in Manila for some years before moving back to Thomas Oppus, Southern Leyte with his wife and children, and began working with Coral Cay. With an absolutely winning smile, and a hilarious personality he keeps the local staff chuckling all the time. If you get involved in the basketball games on site, you'll want him on your team, he is dynamite!
Jesse Lou Tinapay
Community Liaison Officer
Jesse is our Community Liaison Office which means he is our gateway into the local communities around Sogod Bay as well as the schools where he runs our Sea Star programme, educating the kids on Coral Reefs, their resident lifeforms and the importance of protecting them. He is also a qualified Dive Instructor completing over 2800 dives with the vast majority on the Napantao House Reef right on the site’s door step. This means he provides an invaluable wealth of knowledge to everyone who dives with us here. If you want to see the elusive Mandarin fish then Jesse is your man as he always manages to spot them! Furthermore, if you like nudibranchs then Jesse will find you a 2mm Hypselodoris and will have the full species name written on his slate in Latin before you have even realised it’s not a piece of algae!
Ricky joined us in May 2010 and has quickly made himself invaluable. He is our official deck hand on the boat, but you’ll often find him helping in the kitchen too, as well as being able to replace doors, windows, and sort out electrical problems. He is a PADI Rescue diver and uses his skills regularly to dive off the boat, with flip flops and no mask, to rescue items that people have dropped over the side! He can also fix most things just by looking at them!
Jose Ydel (Dudong)
Compressor Operator and groundsman
Jose "Dudong" Ydel is our compressor operator and general groundsman. He has been a local snorkel guide in the area of Napantao for many years now, and has a keen interest in conservation of the local marine environment. He is currently a PADI Divemaster. In his spare time he enjoys artisan coconut wood carving, and is responsible for many of the necklasses and wooden hangings seen on base.
Jamie’s lifelong passion for marine biology was established during his early travels to the Seychelles, snorkelling in the tropical waters whilst visiting his Seychelloise grandmother. Since completing his MSc in Tropical Marine Biology, Jamie has worked with a UK anti-shark finning organisation leading the promotional components for the charity’s campaigns and the first ever UK Sharkfest in 2016. His academic research focused on the resilience and acclimatory characteristics of hard coral species, an area he feels will become increasingly important when constructing conservation plans for the world’s coral reefs in the future.
As a qualified Divemaster, Jamie has been involved in extended research excursions to Cambodia and Sulawesi, where he developed his understanding for a wide range of marine survey techniques and furthered his identification skills.
Felipé was born in Venezuela, where he spent most of his childhood enjoying the waters of the Caribbean and its marine life. Later, he moved to Spain and started studying a degree on Environmental Science, his passion for marine life made him move to Scotland and start an MSc in Marine Systems and Policies. During Felipe’s career he had the opportunity to work in stunning places like Barcelona, Menorca or Maldives, and his academic research was focused on the impact of eco-tourism on whale sharks. After completing his MSc thesis he was able to go back to the Maldives again and spend some time helping with a whale shark research program, where he was able to learn about different underwater surveying techniques.
Andrea, or Drei to most people at the Napantao base, first joined CCC as a Filipino scholar in 2016. Finding great interest in marine conservation, she has been working on local scale community-based projects in her hometown that could range from basic education on marine ecology up to developing proposals for marine conservation initiatives. As an avid tropical mountaineer and backpacker, Drei has always found a sense of comfort and connection to natural environments and has been an advocate of responsible tourism in terrestrial and marine destinations in the Philippines. Her most recent developmental work in Haiyan affected communities in the eastern part of the country has exposed her to a lot of ground work including local community engagements, training organization and facilitation, and putting the issue of climate change as an utter importance to an archipelagic country like the Philippines.
Marco has been a swimmer since he was a child, and in his teenage years he started volunteering with kids and teaching them canoeing during their summer camps. He worked as a pool attendant and a swimming instructor teaching children and adults before graduating as a mechanical engineer, then he started diving because of his inborn passion for the underwater environment and wild life. He dived into seas and oceans from the Mediterranean to the Pacific and got valuable gratification while taking care of animals in organic farms. Protection and conservation of every kind of wildlife became his goal, so he quitted his job with a diesel engines company and started to put it into practice. As a Master Scuba Diver Trainer he fulfilled his purpose, keen to spread the message of respect for the underwater environment and still open-eyed in wonder when spotting anything from the tiniest creature to the largest water mammal.
Steven's had a passion for diving and marine life since watching ‘ The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau -the Sleeping Sharks of Yucatan’ when he was in his teens. He was always telling others that he was going to be the one doing ‘that’ someday. In between he obtained a degree in Mental Health Counseling, worked as a psychologist office administrator, and became a martial arts instructor.
‘That’ someday finally came and he has been living his passion for teaching scuba diving, and talking about it with anyone who would listen.
Steven feels fortunate to have been exposed to some great mentors and instructors from both the recreational and tech world of diving, who have introduced him to many phenomenal experiences that ranged from cold water diving, to the wrecks off the Carolinas coast, the Florida Keys, Haiti, the cenotes and reefs of the Dominican Republic and Mexico, while sharing their skills and teaching what they have learned. Things you can’t learn in a book. These things and the passion for diving and the marine world that he too hopes to bring to his scuba students.
Shrimp (aka King Prawn)
Shrimp arrived here in the middle of 2015, and serves as the base guard dog. He takes his job very seriously and has been known to bark at leaves and coconuts that venture too close to the building. What he lacks intelligence, he makes up for in charisma and is well loved by the staff and volunteers on site.
Coral (aka Corallimorph, Coral the Destroyer, Coral the Vacuum)
Coral arrived on base at the end of last year. She was originally from Tacloban, where she heard about a position for an assistant guard dog. She applied for it by urinating on the Field Base Manager as he was interviewing other potential puppies for the position. The FBM admired her confidence and offered her the job. Her duties include either destroying or eating anything found within her boundary of the base (depending on the nutritional value of the item in question).