Racing the King Tide

Philippine Islanders Adapting to Sea level Rise

By United Nations Climate Change Conference COP26

Racing the King Tide

The Earthquake

In October 2013, a 7.2-magnitude earthquake struck the province of Bohol, Philippines, causing land subsidence in some of its small island communities. Now, the islands of Batasan, Pangapasan, Ubay and Bilangbilangan in the municipality of Tubigon experience partial or complete flooding even during normal spring tides.

Coming face-to-face with a hundred years’ worth of sea level rise, the island communities have demonstrated great resilience.

Pangapasan Classrooms (2017) by @RTKTUnited Nations Climate Change Conference COP26

Underwater classrooms

During the King Tide the classrooms on the islands are submerged in up to 1.5 metres of water. The islanders' boats come right up to the windows of the classroom. 

Children visit the shop in breaktime (2017) by @RTKTUnited Nations Climate Change Conference COP26

School children visit a local shop at break time in the submerged waters of Pangapasan. 

The four low-lying atoll islands of Ubay (Population: 223), Pangapasan (Population: 623), Bilangbilangan (Population: 529) and Batasan (Population: 1,046) now all experience severe tidal flooding. During the spring ‘King’ tides (June, July & August), the islands are completely flooded and partially flooded throughout the rest of the year. Batasan and Ubay experience 135 flood days per year, while Pangapasan and Bilangbilangan typically endure 44 flood days per year.

Collapsed buildings after the earthquake (2017) by @RTKTUnited Nations Climate Change Conference COP26

Sunken

A municipal building collapsed and is a stark reminder of the earthquake and the power of nature. 

Ubay's Submerged Primary School (2017) by @RTKTUnited Nations Climate Change Conference COP26

The classrooms of Ubay primary school are submerged in the King Tides. 

Child Playing in the Water (2017) by @RTKTUnited Nations Climate Change Conference COP26

A child plays with an empty watercan in the King Tides. 

The Islanders Adapting to Sea Level Rise

In 2017 the Racing the King Tide research team filmed a series of micro documentaries which were played to the Local Government Unit in Tubigon in 2018.

Raised Roads on the islands (2017) by @RTKTUnited Nations Climate Change Conference COP26

The films show how the islanders are adapting to sea level rise through ‘in situ-adaptation’. Funding was directed by the Local Government Unit to raise the roads on the islands and raise the classroom floors.

Racing the King Tide (2017) by @RTKTUnited Nations Climate Change Conference COP26

Racing the King Tide

The Racing the King Tide documentary documents how the islanders have tackled sea level rise and rather than abandon their homes and communities, they choose to stay through effective in-situ adaptation rather than migrate.

As research shows that it is unlikely that dense coastal settlements will be abandoned in the face of sea level rise, ‘in-situ adaptation’ will play an increasing role in the fight against climate change.

Boy Playing the 360 film on a VR Headset (2020) by @RTKTUnited Nations Climate Change Conference COP26

Moving Forward

The island communities had the chance to watch the 360 degree documentaries on VR headsets at a number of events on the islands. Some of them had never been to the other islands and enjoyed looking at how they lived in a similar way. 

360 Presentation to Local Government (2020) by @RTKTUnited Nations Climate Change Conference COP26

The Vice Mayor, Governors and local government unit were able to experience what it is like to live on the islands by watching the 360 degree documentary on the VR headsets. 

The communities on the islands of Pangapasan, Bilangbilangan, Batasan and Ubay continue to live happily on their islands and have shown us how they have adapted to sea-level rise through ‘in-situ’ community adaptation, eco adaptation with the planting of mangroves to act as a natural barrier to the sea and engineering adaptation through the raising of the classrooms and roads with the help of the local government and NGOs.

Children at Low Tide as the Sun Goes Down (2020) by @RTKTUnited Nations Climate Change Conference COP26

Approximately 300 families have now managed to get funding from national government agencies and re-location is finally happening. 

Racing the King Tide is an international research project that re-frames the approach to adaptation to sea-level rise. The Tubigon islanders, the Philippine Local Government Unit, Liverpool John Moores University, the University of Tokyo, Waseda University, the Manila Observatory and Hatch are involved in this ongoing research project.

Credits: Story

The Racing the King Tide team would like to thank the island communities for sharing their stories of resilience. Thank you to all the people involved and the work of the Local Government Unit in Tubigon, Philippines. 



The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views and opinions of the UN Climate Change Conference COP26. The mere appearance of the story on this website does not constitute an endorsement by the UN Climate Change Conference COP26. The UN Climate Change Conference COP26 does not make any representation or warranties with respect to the accuracy, applicability, fitness or completeness of third party material included in the story featured.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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