Profile: Manila Ocean Park’s Francis Low

At 8.30 am on Saturday, April 9, while many top executives would be enjoying a leisurely start to their holiday weekend, Francis Low, Manila Ocean Park’s EVP and COO, was already with his team of animal trainers and park staff, getting ready for the day’s activities. After all, weekends are the busiest days for the country’s first world-class marine theme park and premiere educational entertainment destination.

Animal lover

It’s hardly surprising that Low would be hands-on when it comes to park operations, especially animal training and handling, being a certified professional animal trainer himself.

In fact, before eventually taking on the leadership role in Manila Ocean Park, he was first hired as a consultant by the holding company, China Oceanis Philippines, Inc., to conceptualize and set up its Birds of Prey Exhibit and All-Star Bird Show in a bid to expand the park’s attractions.

Manila Ocean Park's Francis Low
Mr Low is a Certified Professional Animal Trainer in birds, birds of prey, mammals, marine mammals, etc
Manila Ocean Park's Francis Low
Mr. Low joins MOP VP for Sales & Marketing Joyce Tarroza in welcoming bloggers

When he started to helm the MOP team, he set about designing the park experience in a way that encourages the same love for animals that he and his team have.

“We designed our attractions in line with three key pillars,” he reveals. “They have to be educational, interactive and experiential.”

With today’s more well-traveled and knowledgeable market for entertainment facilities such as theme parks, Low feels that these pillars help to differentiate Manila Ocean Park from similar establishments. “We try to give park visitors experiences that they can only have here, so they have something to bring home and tell others about.”

One such attraction is the Sea Lion Encounter. While there are similar sea lion shows in other countries, Manila Ocean Park enables guests to interact with its highly trained sea lions as they perform stunts or exhibit their skills. “When guests get up close and personal with the sea lions, they realize they aren’t scary and can be quite fun. These are moments… memories that they will remember for a long time.”

MOP Summer
Yeni, one of MOP’s smartest sea lions
MOP Summer
Yeni going through hoops
MOP Summer
Water Ballet with Yeni
MOP Summer
Getting up close and personal with Yeni

Advocates conservation awareness

Manila Ocean Park’s attractions are also geared to promote animal conservation.

“In the Philippines, conservation awareness is very high,” Low observes. “People’s efforts in saving certain species, protecting marine life and saving the trees, some with the help of LGUs and international organizations, are very noticeable.”

He also notes that since conservation is not a one-off thing but requires continuous effort and resources over many years before results can be seen, a lot of people may not choose to commit to it. “What is important is to make people understand that conservation has long-term benefits for many generations down the line.”

MOP Bamboo Sharks
Photo credit: manilaoceanpark.com
MOP Bamboo Sharks 2
Photo credit: manilaoceanpark.com

One of the park’s conservation activities is its “Back to the Wild” program wherein juvenile white-spotted bamboo sharks are bred and raised safely in the park’s facilities, and then released back to the coasts in cooperation with government agencies such as the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, National Fisheries Research and Development Institute, and local government units.

“With the help of NGOs, we scope out areas and ensure that these are ideal for the bambo sharks to thrive, then we release them. We also tagged them to see how they are faring. We hope to hold another releasing this year.” shares Low.

Leads with heart

Low’s first few months after he took over the management of Manila Ocean Park in 2011 was all about getting a feel for the local culture. He shares, “I did not do a lot major changes. I blended in: I tried to understand Filipinos, Filipino culture and the way things are done here. By understanding these, it’s easier to put in certain ideas to my team and get them to support the strategies.”

He is proud of the park’s employees and the concern they demonstrated for the park and its animal charges during the height of the pandemic when the park was closed down and he was away in his home country of Singapore. “There was a time when two of the sea lions got sick but we couldn’t get medicine because all the pharmacies are closed. It was a very scary moment for us. I’m so glad that staff proved to be very caring: they went to the canals, sat beside the sea lions to coax them to eat. Because of their care, the two sea lions recovered.”

This care extended throughout the time when the park was closed down due to the community quarantine, but the trainers and staff simulated shows, despite the absence of audiences, so as not to stress the animals from the break from their routine.

Manila Ocean Park's Francis Low
Manila Ocean Park's Francis Low

He even boasts of how Manila Ocean Park’s security guards expanded their role beyond ensuring safety within the park by familiarizing themselves with the park’s various packages and pricing so that they can recommend attractions to the park visitors.

“I consider myself blessed that I have key leaders and key staff who go all out to make very good experiences for the guests, care for the park and the animals. These are things that money can not buy.”

By 6pm, activities within the park wind down but Mr. Low and his team are still seen up and about, assisting guests or overseeing operations. This routine plays out for six days every week as the park slowly but surely reopens attractions and dining establishments to cater to the public who are ready for new experiences after a long time spent indoors during quarantine.

Manila Ocean Park is located within Rizal Park, Ermita, Manila, open from 10am to 6pm, Tuesdays to Sundays (even during Public Holidays). For more details about the park or to book your tickets, visit its website.

Check out my previous posts about Manila Ocean Park:

New SKYcable kids channel ZooMoo hosts panel on animal conservation

Well, first there was IQ, and then there was EQ.  Today, we have another aspect of child development that we, as parents, would do well to address: our children’s animal quotient (AQ).

From the apex predators in the wild, the little critters in the fields, and our furry friends at home, all animals have their own important place in the world.

ZooMoo Launch Event

ZooMoo Launch Event

ZooMoo Launch Event

ZooMoo, the new English language-based learning channel on SKYcable, aims to help parents in honing their preschoolers’ AQ, as well as fostering a love for animals and nature.  The channel is a product of the collaboration among the world’s foremost wildlife filmmakers, early childhood educationalists and technology developers.  Its entertaining and engaging animal-centered programs are designed stimulate and develop kids’ innate emotional connection to the natural world.

Recently, ZooMoo hosted a panel discussion for parents and guardians at the aptly themed Zoo Coffee.  Here, the attendees were able to gain insights on the importance of teaching kids about animals and nature at an early age and how to further integrate technology into their kids’ early education.

ZooMoo Launch Event

The panel is composed of photojournalist and environmental advocate Gregg Yan, lifestyle television host and online influencer Kelly Misa-Fernandez and the marketing manager of ZooMoo’s parent network Blue Ant Media, Trippy Padilla.  Together, the panelists imparted tips and information on how to foster kids into becoming good caretakers of the planet, which include:

The benefits and challenges to parents of being in the digital age

With the ubiquitous influence of technology, parents do wonder whether access to these gadgets, apps and social media is beneficial or harmful to their kids.

The answer is: As with most things, technology is neutral. It can be both good or bad, depending on how you use it.

In his line of work, Gregg Yan has seen first-hand how technology helps in animal conservation. For example, conservationists can upload photos of the lieft fin of the whale sharks they encounter on the Wild Hook system which helps them identify individual sharks as patterns of spots are unique to each shark.

Furthermore, access to animal and nature-related content through digital media has grealty helped in disseminating conservation awareness, even among kids.

“With digital technology, you don’t have to carry a fifty-pound backpack and go up mountains,” he said. “All you have to do is watch ZooMoo and you’ll be able to see the animals in their natural habitat.”

ZooMoo’s programming is comprised of 1,500 self-contained shows that combine spectacular wildlife footage with a range of puppetry, animation and narrative techniques to create a unique viewing and learning experience for a very young audience. Centered around five themes – explore, create, play, puzzle and quiet – ZooMoo’s shows are geared towards helping kids develop appreciation and compassion towards other creatures.

Through the ZooMoo App, kids and parents will have a second screen to enjoy ZooMoo’s animal-centric content. Parents can allow their kids to immerse themselves in the world of ZooMoo through interactive games, music, puzzles and other fun activities. The app’s Parent Page also provides personalized support to parents to aid in their children’s learning.

How to develop good conservation habits among young children

To Kelly Misa-Fernandez, modelling good behavior is key to raising socially and environmentally responsible kids.

“At this age, kids will immitate what they see.” she shares. “I want my son to see the real situation and I want him to be empowered to know that he can do something about it. And it’s best to lead by example.”

Recently, for example, her family has started assembling eco-bricks, environmentally friendly bricks made of recycled plastics from home waste. They stuff plastics like wrappers and cellophane tightly into sturdy containers which can later be used in construction while keeping harmful plastics away from the ocean and sea life.

Through the talks with the panelists, it is easy to see that conservation awareness is becoming a more important issue for today’s kids. Fortunately, with ZooMoo, parents and kids can get their start in becoming environmentally aware and doing their share to protect nature and animals.

ZooMoo Launch Event

ZooMoo Launch Event

ZooMoo Launch Event

ZooMoo ‘s program line up is packaged in an easy to understand format that is fun for both parents and kids. Among ZooMoo’s well-loved shows are Dinosaur Train wherein young Tyrannosaurus Rex Buddy travel across the Land of Dinosaurs with his family and friends), and  ZooMoo Wild Friends which take kids on a journey to discover animals and the world around them.

gallery_DT_EP_04B_117A

Baby-O-shark-Diving-sm

SKYcable subscribers can choose to add zooMoo (channel 120 in Metro Manila, Cavite, Laguna, Bulacan and Lipa) to their channel line-up for only Php20 per month via SKYcable Select. For more details or to subscribe, visit mysky.com.ph or call +63 2 418 0000.

Disclosure: I work for SKY and part of my job is promoting its products and services, especially the content it provides to its subscribers. I consider being able to share my love for TV shows and movies and the experience of watching and talking about them with like-minded people some of the biggest perks of my job.