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The Online Magazine for Sustainable Seas
July, 2006, Vol. 8 No. 3

Participatory 3-dimensional modeling
in Talibon, Bohol, Philippines
A 3D Experience
By Asuncion Sia, IEC Specialist, FISH Project


major component of the information, education and communication (IEC) initiative of the FISH Project in Danajon Bank is the planned Talibon Fisheries and Coastal Resource Management Interpretive Center (FCRMIC), which we envision as an educational facility and information hub focused on Danajon Bank and its management, a central player in the effort to promote responsible resource use in the 10 municipalities bordering this important but critically threatened ecosystem. To kick off its operations, the Center will produce an exhibit, organized by the FISH Project as a training activity for the Talibon local government unit (LGU), which has agreed to finance and manage its operations.

3D is the way to go

Even as institutional preparations were still underway, we knew what the centerpiece display would be: a 3-dimensional model (3D) of Danajon Bank. To the outside world, Danajon is best known as the only double barrier reef in the Philippines, and one of only three such reefs in the Indo-Pacific region (Pichon 1977). This fact is not widely known among locals, and among those who do know, there is little appreciation of what a double barrier reef is. A 3D model would the best way to illustrate what Danajon Bank is and what it represents.

A computer-generated 3D model of Danajon Bank (R Martinez 2006)

We entertained the idea of commissioning scaled relief map makers to produce the model, but our bias for participatory approaches compelled us to explore the possibility of adopting a participatory 3D modeling (P3DM) method first introduced to us by the Asean Regional Centre for Biodiversity Conservation (ACRBC). The method was developed by the National Integrated Protected Area Programme (NIPAP), a special project implemented in 1996-2001 by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources-Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau with financial and technical assistance from the European Commission.

Our bias won, and it earned for us more than what we aimed for: not only a remarkable 3D centerpiece exhibit but also a teaching aid and practical tool for resource use planning and management that the Talibon LGU and other Danajon Bank stakeholders can use for many years.

About P3DM

The P3DM method is described in detail by Rambaldi and Callosa-Tarr (2002) in Participatory 3-Dimensional Modelling: Guiding Principles and Applications:

P3DM integrates participatory resource mapping (people’s knowledge) and spatial information (contour lines) to produce stand-alone scaled relief models that have proved to be user-friendly and relatively accurate data storage and analysis devices and at the same time excellent communication media. Relief models may also contain additional geo-referenced information obtained from field surveys, Global Positioning Systems (GPS) readings and secondary sources. The latter generally applies to virtual features like administrative boundaries, watershed classifications based on scientifically defined parameters, and others.
        P3DM is a relatively new communicative facilitation method used in innovation processes related mainly to resource use and tenure. The method has been conceived to support collaborative initiatives aimed at increasing public participation in problem analysis and decision-making. The process within which P3DM is used may unfold at different levels involving a variety of stakeholders and diverse strategies.
        In a practical context, the intervention phase wherein a 3-D model is manufactured leads participants through a collective learning process to the visualization of their economic and cultural domains in the form of a scaled and geo-referenced relief model, which can be used subsequently for different purposes…
        Among the different visualizing methods used to spatially reproduce people’s knowledge, P3DM is the one which – by adding the vertical dimension and using simple communication means like colours, shapes and dimensions – offers substantial advantages for depicting cognitive maps…

The authors outlined the following basic steps, which we have adapted to our requirements:

  1. Conducting preparatory work
  2. Assembling the blank model
  3. Preparing the map key
  4. Depicting information
  5. Handing over the model
  6. Extracting data
  7. Digitizing and manipulating data
  8. Cross-checking and validating

The following is an account of our experience with Steps 1-4, covering the period from March 1 to July 9, 2006. Another account, excerpted from a report submitted to us by the P3DM Lead Facilitator, can be viewed here. The full, original report can be downloaded here.

The making of the Danajon Bank 3D model

March 1-July 2, 2006: Preparing for P3DM

Our original to-do list contained only one item: Look for a facilitator experienced in P3DM. Several calls to DENR-PAWB led us to Fer M. Ramirez of the Foundation for the Philippine Environment (FPE), who has been involved in several P3DM initiatives in the Philippines and Asia. He agreed to help.

The P3DM workshop was first set for May, which is Month of the Ocean in the Philippines, but scheduling problems pushed it to July 3-9. As preparations got underway, more items were added to our to-do list. The size of the model was determined – it would be a 3m x 6m model made up of two modules measuring 1.5m x 6m each representing an area from 123deg 48’ 49.63” E to 124deg 40’ 37.69” E and from 9deg 57’ 45.01” N to 10deg 23’ 39.04” N covering approximately 481,000 hectares. The Talibon LGU agreed to provide a platform of appropriate size (3m x 6m) on which the model will be displayed.

Area covered by the 3D model (R Martinez 2006)

Working from the FISH Project office in Cebu and relying largely on the list provided on the Integrated Approaches to Participatory Development (IAPAD) web site, we purchased the materials needed in P3DM. It was a protracted process – the list was long and there is, inconveniently, no one-stop P3DM shop. All materials were procured from various suppliers in Cebu, except the water-based acrylic paints, which were purchased in Manila. The procurement was coordinated to ensure that the materials would arrive in Talibon a few days before the start of the workshop, while requiring the minimum storage time in Cebu.

Meanwhile, a customized topographic map – the base map -- had to be prepared using the Geographic Information System (GIS) software ArcGIS. Elevation data from the USGS web site were added to ArcGIS maps to generate contour lines. Bathymetric contour lines were also generated using data from digitized maps in the FISH Project’s library. Then the base map was printed in two parts at a horizontal scale of 1:16,000, each part measuring 1.5m x 6m, corresponding to the two modules of the planned 3D model.

Computer-generated contour lines (R Martinez 2006)

Preparations also included a meeting with Fer in the FPE office in Quezon City, and ocular inspection of the Talibon FCRMIC. The map should have ideally been manufactured where it will be permanently stored (i.e., the FCRMIC), but at the time of the workshop, the FCRMIC was still under renovation and did not offer enough space required by P3DM. As a compromise, we arranged for part of the workshop – mainly Step 2: Assembling the Blank Model – to be conducted in another venue, the covered basketball court of the Talibon Cultural Center.

Two days before we were scheduled to leave Cebu for Talibon, we received a phone call from our Site Manager for Danajon Bank informing us that the Talibon LGU had scheduled another event to be held at the Cultural Center on the morning we were supposed to open the P3DM workshop. This necessitated the use of a third venue, the function room of the Talibon Pension House, where we would hold the lecture presentations to explain the P3DM process (see Indicative Flow of P3DM Workshop). We were assured the Cultural Center would be vacated promptly at 10:00 to allow us to start the workshop in the afternoon.

We arrived in Talibon three days early to attend to on-site preparations. To minimize time lag in the construction of the model, we pre-cut and assembled a sufficient number of 1.5m x 6m corrugated carton boards. Also, using inputs from FISH Project community organizers, we prepared a preliminary list of map symbols to be used on our model. With help from Ricardo, a carpenter employed by the Talibon LGU, we constructed two boards made of marine plywood, each measuring 1.5m x 6m, on which the two 3D modules would be constructed.

Construction of marine plywood base for model (A Sia 2006)

Preparing base map (left) and P3DM supplies (A Sia 2006, V Orevillo 2006)

The P3DM tools and information available on the IAPAD web site proved invaluable. Indeed, this web site must be the first and primary reference of every P3DM initiative.

July 3-9, 2006:  The Workshop

Day 1 of the workshop was a rainy Monday. Participants were late arriving -- the last minute change in that morning’s venue caused confusion, with a number of participants going to the Cultural Center. It took an hour to sort out the confusion, and the program finally started at half past ten. The opening program consisted of lectures and presentations aimed primarily at orienting participants to the P3DM process.

As the presentations were underway, two members of the FISH Project team were at the Cultural Center to ensure that the venue was ready in time for that afternoon’s workshop.

The P3DM workshop began at 3:00. The groupings (Tracers, Cutters, and Gluers) had earlier been determined, but people were soon moving between tasks, trying their hands at assembling the carton boards to the right size, taping together pieces of carbon paper, tracing contour lines onto the carton boards, cutting the boards along the contour lines, and guided by a reference map, gluing them together. Amidst all this –despite our thorough preparations – some of our supplies ran short, and we had to comb the shops of Talibon for glue, masking tape and crepe paper. It was painstaking work, and we were not completely surprised that some participants failed to show up the next day.

Tracing contour lines onto carton boards (A Sia 2006)

Cutting carton boards along contour lines (A Sia 2006)

Building the model with layers of carton boards (A Sia 2006)

Fer called for adjustments, reassigning people to ensure that all tasks were completed on time. By the end of the Day 2, the final shape of one module was almost discernible. Day 3 hummed with activity, interrupted only by meal breaks, or by someone pointing out a missing island or peak (this meant going back to the reference map, finding the missing features on the base map, tracing, cutting, gluing). Before Day 4 was done, the blank relief model (both modules) was complete -- even in its blank (raw) form, the model was impressive, with the different elevations and depths clearly visible. The sight clearly energized the participants.

The blank model of Danajon bank. Measuring 18 square meters in two modules measuring 1.5m x 6m each, the model represents an area of nearly 4,810 square kilometers at a horizontal scale of 1:16,000. It has 71 layers, each layer representing 20m, with a maximum depth of 700m and a maximum terrestrial peak of 720masl (meters above sea level). Given the thickness of the carton boards we used (4mm), the model has a vertical scale of 1:5,000, or a the vertical exaggeration of 3.2X (1:16,000/1:5,000). (L Tinapay July 2006)

As the islands and other features took shape, participants gained a clearer mental image of what the model would – should – finally look like. On Day 5, guided by the facilitators, they color-coded each module of the blank model based on old topographic maps and their recollection of the resources found in the area in the 1950s.

First, different color yarns were used to guide the coloring of the depth ranges (0 to -10, <-10 to -20m; <-20m to -40m; <-40m to -700m), and of sea and land resources, such as forest areas, non-forested areas, mangrove areas, seagrass beds, coral reefs, grassland, etc. Once delineated, the features were differentiated with various colors and shades of water-based acrylic paint – for example, different shades of blue to show depth changes, dark green for mangroves, another shade of green for seagrass beds, etc.

Identifying and color-coding resource use in Danajon in the 1950s (L Tinapay July 2006)

Before painting was completed, the modules had to be transferred to the FCRMIC. About two dozen men showed up to carry each module from the Cultural Center to the FCRMIC, a distance of about 50 meters, their task made just a bit easier by the Talibon LGU’s decision to knock down part of a wall of the FCRMIC to widen the entrance to the exhibit area where the model would be permanently stored.

When painting was completed and the paints dried up, the yarns were carefully removed. Behold – we were looking at a 3D model of Danajon Bank as it might have appeared in the 1950s!

It was time to add current information, to show changes in resource use and topography in Danajon over the last 60 years. This was accomplished using push and map pins with different colors and head-shapes to show point data (houses, power plants, schools, etc.), and different color yarns to show linear and area data (roads, marine protected areas, mangrove plantations, etc.).

Adding information about current resource use in Danajon (L Tinapay July 2006)

There was much discussion among participants about what features would be added, and where the features should be. Discussions would sometimes become heated, especially when “official information” did not match the participants’ knowledge. Always, local knowledge, especially coming from participants from the islands, was given more credence. By the end of Day 6 (July 8), the model was teeming with colors and information – it was hard to imagine that only five days ago, we only had carton boards, paints, pins, and yarns.

On Day 7, the last day, the model was deemed complete, but only as of that day and until it is cross-checked and further validated. Fer gave a short talk to explain crucial next steps and how much farther the P3DM process could go. Then the model was endorsed to the Talibon LGU for safekeeping.

What’s next? -- Discussing actions needed to complete and fully utilize
3D model (L Tinapay July 2006)

A forward look: Planning our next steps

The workshop is over, but it is clear there is much left to do to ensure that the model would be put to good use and serve its purpose. To begin with, there is a small portion on the model depicting the Cebu side of Danajon that remains blank and we want to add more information to show changes in resource use in the upland areas of the 10 Bohol municipalities. We plan to tackle these tasks later using secondary data and inputs from a new set of informants.

We intend to complete the entire P3DM process over the next several months, alongside the development of the other components of the Talibon FCRMIC. Our plan includes training our partners in the LGU in the use, maintenance and updating of the model, to ensure that they will appreciate the model for its value not only as an exhibit display and educational tool, but also as a tool for resource use planning and management. If our plan holds, the model will be officially handed over to the Talibon LGU during the formal opening of the FCRMIC in January 2007.



This website was made possible through support provided by the USAID under the terms of Contract No. AID 492-C-00-03-00022-00. The opinions expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID. As long as proper reference is made to the source, articles may be quoted or reproduced in any form for non-commercial, non-profit purposes to advance the cause of marine environmental and fisheries management and conservation.