Rainbow Warrior sets sail in Manila

I last sailed with the Rainbow Warrior in the Philippines in December 2010.  She arrived in the Philippines on the last leg of the “Turn the Tide” tour, where she challenged then President Benigno Aquino III to commit to a 50% renewable energy target by 2020. She was also on her last tour before being decommissioned; a few weeks immediately after her Philippine visit, she was retired as Greenpeace’s flagship, cleaned up, painted over and converted into a floating hospital that was eventually donated to a Bangladeshi non-profit organization.

Our parting was bittersweet. After many years at sea serving as a campaigning platform for the organisation and the communities we worked with, it was time to let her rest. I knew the inevitability of it, but found myself not ready to let go. I knew she was retiring, but at the risk of romanticizing this ship, it really felt like she left a void. My only real consolation at that time was I also knew that a reincarnation of her was in the making.  This time, a powerful, more efficient, environmentally-friendly, custom-designed ship built for the sole purpose of environmental campaigning. She came into operation in October 2011.

It was only a matter of time before I would see her again in the Philippines.

On February 14, the Rainbow Warrior arrived in Manila. My heart filled with anticipation as I and many others waited for her to receive her port clearance. A port clearance is the signal that we can go up to meet her while on anchor at bay. This is her very first Climate Justice and Liability tour, and she is in the Philippines on a 20-day journey in the name of countless communities who are fighting for climate justice.

Day 1 of the Rainbow Warrior in Manila ©Noel Guevara/Greenpeace

While at anchor, hundreds of guests, composed of community representatives from different sectors, media guests, Greenpeace staff and volunteers, went up to meet her. The opening press conference was led by the sectoral representatives, our Executive Director Yeb Saño, and Hettie Geenen, a woman captain who started her career as a Greenpeace sailor in the Philippines when she embarked as a 3rd mate in 2000. In the afternoon, petitioners of the climate change and human rights petition from Bataan and Alabat also came to share their stories of hope, resilience and rising up.

Press conference aboard the Rainbow Warrior © Noel Guevara/Greenpeace

The Rainbow Warrior also served as the platform for the Diet for Climate program, which showcased presentations that showed not only how climate change threatens our food security, but how the food we eat contributes to a larger carbon footprint due to unsustainable ways of production, consumption and distribution. There were also cooking demonstrations of best practices towards ways of improving our eating habits by shifting to an ecological food system.

Diet for Climate aboard the Rainbow Warrior ©Noel Guevara/Greenpeace

Subsequently, the Rainbow Warrior also hosted a roundtable discussion with marine science experts and journalists on the status of coral reefs in the country where they sounded a loud clarion call. The Philippines has lost all its ‘excellent’-classified reef cover amidst climate change impacts and other man-made threats. The groups involved called on countries and governments to urgently act to stop further deterioration of the coral reefs and our oceans.

The state of Philippine coral reefs roundtable discussion ©Noel Guevara/Greenpeace

The Manila visit ended with two open boat days where the ship was made open to the public. Hundreds of people came to visit, to hear the stories that have been told so far and to listen to more of the stories being shared while on board.

Open boat day ©Noel Guevara/Greenpeace

It has been a challenging week, but it has also been the most rewarding. I’ve waited this long to see her again in Philippine waters and the Rainbow Warrior did not disappoint. She is still the same ship that millions of people love, proud of her long history of campaigning.

Those who follow the work of Greenpeace is familiar with this native American prophecy.

“There will come a time when the Earth grows sick, and when it does a tribe will gather from all the cultures of the world who believe in deeds and not words. They will work to heal it… they will be known as “Warriors of the Rainbow.”

What is not known to many is that this prophecy goes on to say:

“The Rainbow Warriors will be strong in their love and powerful in their compassion.  They will be imbued with the willpower to save the voiceless ones, the plants and the animals, because they understand our earthly relationship. They will impart the values of life, not death, of relationship, not violence, of peace, not war.

“Dance with the Rainbow Warriors with their hearts in the clouds and their feet on the ground, the believers, the dreamers, the healers, the cheerful and the Earth Carers. Let their spirit ignite a fire within you to make this world better than the way you find it.”

The Rainbow Warrior is now on her way to Guimaras and Tacloban, offering herself as platform for more voices and stories, that you, too, may be ignited by a fire that will leave you inspired to take action. I invite you to visit her there and hope that you, too, will join us as we journey together with her in our quest for climate justice.

Standing Up to Big Oil and Gas on Wall Street in New York. © Michael Nagle / Greenpeace
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Filipinos are enduring the worst impacts of climate change, caused by greedy corporations. It’s time to hold them to account!



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