‘Water Touches Us Daily and Everywhere’💧

We’re sharing bits of creative inspiration from the water world, as well as behind-the-scenes looks of what it takes to bring you the news you rely on from Circle of Blue. What inspires you? We’d love to hear from you. Email your videography, photography, or other water art to us here.

– Jane Johnston, Stream Editor

Jo Bacallo, a self-proclaimed “water storyteller,” teaches children in the Philippines about hygiene and sanitation. Photo © Kethley Uy.

Jo Bacallo has lived many lives.

A native of the Philippines, Bacallo was raised in Pateros, a municipality of metropolitan Manila.

After studying at San Beda University in the country’s capital city, Bacallo made her way to London where she received an MBA in Aviation Management.

Her career as a flight attendant supervisor offered the chance to immerse herself in different cultures. Some of her adventures were picturesque, she said in a video for the 2019 Women Deliver conference. But many others opened her eyes to communities struggling with severe poverty. It was the people she met during those experiences, she told me, that led to her current occupation as what she calls a “water storyteller.”

“Some people tell stories about our human history, some people tell stories to children and some are like me,” she said, “who believe that telling stories about water should be a reflection of one’s daily life.”

Her curiosities about water access drew her back to the Philippines, where she has since connected with schools in Indigenous communities to teach children about sanitation and hygiene. She learned early on that people process information easily if it is conveyed creatively.


This was especially true in Indigenous communities, where traditional knowledge was historically passed down through different art forms.

Bacallo teaches children at an Indigenous school in the Philippines basic handwashing skills. Photo © Kethley Uy.

“Because the school is the center of the town, through art creation, we enabled multi-disciplinary and intergenerational talks in an approach to problem solving,” she said. “If water protection sits at the heart of the community, their tradition thrives and the families are healthy.”

Women and girls generally bear the brunt of water challenges in remote villages, and Bacallo’s work often focuses on their stories.

“(Women) advocate in protecting their water resource and support their children to continue going to school,” she said. “The women are the first network to guard the community’s health and tradition.”

Jo Bacallo. Photo courtesy Jo Bacallo.

Bacallo also advocates for more women like her driving change in the water sector. “The water community should rally even more to increase female participation in water decision-making,” she said. “Women, regardless of age and lived experiences in the community, hold compassionate insights and empathy in their ideas.”

The water storyteller’s latest adventure isn’t coming to a close any time soon.

“Water touches us daily and everywhere,” she said. “Stories shape who we are and I want to amplify that.”

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