When I attended the Pongo Awards in 2021, the Indonesian culture - singing, dancing, and food, was definitely my favorite part of the ceremony! What I was most impressed with was the Balinese dancing because they not only moved their bodies in such a unique way but their eyes too. After the ceremony, I went home and tried to replicate their dances, but I really couldn’t get my eyes to move with the music, never mind in sync with my body, and it added an extra layer of appreciation of the talent the performers truly have. There were also many traditional Indonesian instruments that were so interesting to listen to. Many of them reminded me of instruments I was already familiar with, but as I listened more and more, I realized just how unique they really were! As we listened to music, we ate. When I went to The Pongo Awards, it was my first time eating authentic Indonesian food. Everything from the appetizers to the main course to the desserts was delicious. Even if you don’t go to The Pongo Awards, you have to try Indonesian food, it is so very tasty. The Pongo Awards are a great time to learn and experience Indonesian culture.
At the core of The Pongo Awards is the people who make it special. I got to speak with Orang Utan Republik President and Co-founder Dr. Gary Shapiro for the first time in person. Dr. Shapiro had been a mentor and inspiration to me for a long time, and here I finally got to call him my friend. Also, I met important environmental advocates such as Anthony Porter, an American Ninja Warrior contestant known as “Outdoor Anthony” and 2021 Pongo Award winner, Dianna Cohen, co-founder of Plastic Pollution Coalition. Since then, we have remained in touch and collaborated on projects as well. In addition to amazing conservationists, I got to meet the General Consul of Indonesia, Suad Krisnawan who welcomed everyone into the Indonesian Consulate and awarded me with an official recognition for my work as an animal activist. He was, like so many others at the ceremony, kind, welcoming, and fun!
The 9th Annual Pongo Environmental Awards in 2023 are on October 14th, meaning Orang Utan Republik is currently getting ready for the awards, performances, and meals, and I couldn’t be more excited! This year’s theme is “Biodiversity Matters- Our LIVES Depend on It!” as a timely call to action because it matters now more than ever that we take steps to stop our world from collapsing. The honorees this year know this and did something about it. James Balog and his organization, Earth Vision Institute, Forum Konservasi Leuser, and their organizational leadership, and Heal the Bay, all have taken incredible steps towards helping our planet and will be recognized with a Pongo Environmental Award at the 2023 ceremony. The event will be hosted by meteorologist Dagmar Midcap, and actor and environmental activist, Ed Begley Jr. I encourage you to attend in person or online and join in the festivities and fun of this special occasion. If you can’t attend, I encourage you to donate to Orang Utan Republik, it helps the organization, the orangutans, and our planet. Tickets are on sale now at secure.givelively.org/event/orang-utan-republik-foundation-inc/9th-annual-pongo-environmental-awards .