Chris Carvajal: Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW) amateur fossils collector


       On April 8, 2011, with the support of the Obaldo family (Jojo and Jamile), I was able to get to the Edge of the World in Huraimla National Park, a remote town in the province of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia for photography purposes.   A breathtaking 360 degrees panoramic view of a serene and untouched wilderness lies an ancient seabed million years ago.   I never thought that I would meet an Overseas Filipino Worker  whose passion is collecting prehistoric life remains of ancient plants and animals commonly known as fossils.     

       Let’s have a peep on the success story of our Kababayan in Riyadh in the field of Paleontology.

 Born, raised and grew up in Pasig  and spent his vacation time at their ancestral home in Arayat, Pampanga.  After years of hard work he was able to invest a house of his own in Antipolo City developed by Robinson’s Land Inc.  Arrived and employed  in Al Khobar, Saudi Arabia in 1991. In 1997,  fate turned on his side and was lucky to land a job in one of the biggest financial company in the world, The American Express brand, a leading quality card lending products as Senior Card Fraud analyst. Dedication paired with hard work was his ladder to his being the current Deputy  Head – Fraud Prevention under the  Credit Risk Group of American Express Saudi Arabia Ltd.

     Keen analytical mind, passion, curiosity over things, imagination and lots and lots of patience in visiting sites, scientific knowledge of the fossils, time period and the familiarization of the fossils that he is studying are the qualities  found in Chris M. Carvajal,  a Filipino paleontologist in the making.

He visits his hometown and house in the Philippines once or twice a year but lately, his passion for fossil hunting made him stay more in this desert, oil rich country, Saudi Arabia.  Chris got fascinated and engrossed in fossil hunting way back  in 2005.  He lay low for some reasons but passion and interest brought him back to searching more of this million years prehistoric life  in the winter of 2010.        

Currently, he is an online member of  Paleontology Club, Fosiles…entree amigos (discussed in Spanish) and the World fossil forum.  He created a Facebook page called Fossils of Huraymila National Park which discusses about the abundance of ancient marine life in the area and the latest page was called “Tethys Ocean” which aims to get a share of audience worldwide promoting Saudi Arabia as one of the world’s important site on Geologic time of the Paleozoic ERa during the Permain period 299-251 million years ago.

Inside his tool box you will find  simple but expensive gadgets like a branded ax, chisel, steel hand crawler, magnifying glass, brushes, plastic goggles, hard hat, GPS, tape measure, small notebook and a pen.   These equipments helped him posses the rarest find a paleontologist desires and dreamt of.                                                                                                         A chitchat with Tong Zhi.

Cebuanawithlove:  What inspired you in this hobby of collecting  fossils?

Tong Zhi:  It was when I went to Rumah, a small town 80 km.  east of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.  I saw black stones and was fascinated with this ancient volcano igneous rock thing.  Then, I saw sandy corals. At first I laughed at it and said “there’s a crazy person who threw this coral here” and I threw it back to the ground but to my surprise I saw an array of sand corals.  I started asking myself, why are these corals in the desert?

Cebuanawithlove:  Is  your hobby worth all the hard work and effort?

Tong zhi: Yes, I get relaxed and find fulfillment in my hobby.  I am inspired to off-road every weekend just to hunt for fossils, rocks and minerals.

Cebuanawithlove:  Is it worth the time and money considering you have to spend and shell out money from your own pocket  for this, I may say, expensive hobby?

Tong Zhi: Yap, it’s all worth it but still aiming for more and better collections.  I may trade my collections with my fellow enthusiasts and  collectors across the world and possibility of buying collector’s item too just to fill my collections.

Cebuanawithlove: What places have you been to just to hunt for fossils?

Tong Zhi: So far, I have been to old times Riyadh provinces only but in different places like Edge of the world in Al Barrah, Huraimla National Park, Jebel Beloum in Al Faisaliah town Nissah,  Khurai, Rawdat Al Khuraim, Rumah, Al Muzzamiyah and Al Hair.

Cebuanawithlove: From your collections, which one is your favorite?   

Tong Zhi:  My favorite among my collections are the pre-historic plant stem called Archimedes – a micro fossil Bryozoans from Carboniferous to Permian period – 350 – 270 million years ago under the Paleozoic era.

Cebuanawithlove: Your rarest collection?

Tong Zhi:  The family of Brachiopods dated 299 million years old.

Cebuanawithlove:  As a Filipino amateur paleontologist, what practical advice and encouragement can you give  the Filipino fossil enthusiasts specifically the youth and the world as well?

Tong Zhi:  The schools in the Philippines doesn’t take it seriously in teaching prehistoric life and fossils and if they do, they don’t go into details.  The children in the US were taught to value simple stones, the historical development of life as evidenced by fossil specimens.   I hope that the new generation of Filipinos will  have time to find out more of our natural resources,  pre-historic life  that we can share the world because somewhere somehow, there are fossils in our country that we can find, it’s just a matter of time and effort.   This calling extends to all the youth from all continents who are fascinated by fossils that they may share their interest and collections to the whole world too.

Chris has done intensive research to properly document his collections.

Chris also known as Tong Zhi on Facebook is more than willing to share his collections to everyone who are interested to know more about prehistoric life and fossils thru his Facebook account.

Tidbits:

Chris’ collections is featured in a documentary about OFWs in the middle east by an OFW filmmaker.

Collection was featured in Oks na Oks segment of  Balitang Middle East entitled Edge of the World by ABS-CBN correspondent, Roland Blanco.  Please click on the link to view the segment on YouTube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JnY0cdwLjW0

Note: The Obaldo family (Jojo, the first to be  interviewed in the segment is the leader of the group, an off-road enthusiast and adventurer) and the off-roaders of Riyadh were also featured in this segment of Balitang Middle East.

(Huraimla National Park also written as Huraymila National Park is the same)

Photography by Cebuanawithlove

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9 comments on “Chris Carvajal: Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW) amateur fossils collector

  1. Hello Weng,

    Thanks so much for featuring me to your blog page, I thought it was just a joke and here you are, sharing my oddest way to entertain and live life here in Saudi Arabia.

    I must admit that I was holding myself to blame, If why it takes a long time for me to let go of my real passion and that is all about caring for our nature and environment and learning from the past of prehistoric life on earth.

    Theres so much to learn and but with just a little time and effort, all this fantasies of mine slowly becoming a reality. And I hope by this blog of yours, Every individual who patiently read this article will start to give importance and learn to realized that each and every single part of this earth has an important contribution to all mankind.

    And I thank you again for having interest to post my hobby as a subject that I guess will ecouraged some of your readers, if not to do the same, to look for other alternative to enjoy life while staying away from your love ones back home.

    Good luck to you and more power…

    Tong Zhi

  2. more news and features about Tong Zhi , a Filipino -kababayan paleontologist in the making, please ! Good luck and more power, Cebuanawithlove;very nice interview. To Tong Zhi, keep it coming, brother!

  3. Hi guys,
    I am coming to Al Khobar with my husband for 9 days.Hope to do some fossil hunting.Can you contact me and be a guidepossibly ? Is it safe for foreigners now? Thanks Adrienne

  4. Greetings from a Filipino from Canada!!
    I find it very interesting to know that there are other Filipinos out there who are interested in fossils. Too bad fossil hunting isn’t popular in the Philippines. When I came here to live in Canada my dreams came true because here in Canada there are many fossils to be found, nearly everywhere, including here in my city, Toronto. Here in Canada we have one of the best dinosaur graveyards in the whole world, which is the Dinosaur Provincial Park in the province of Alberta. Many provinces here in Canada also hosts a lot of dinosaur and other prehistoric creature fossils like mammoths. When I was a kid, I first red about fossils in the Philippines and I was really disappointed to learn that in the Philippines they are rare and that the hobby of fossil hunting isn’t popular. Here in Canada many people are interested in the hobby of fossil hunting and I am among those people who regularly trek the stratas. So far here in the stratas of Toronto I found a lot of very interesting Ordovician period fossils, ranging from the most common brachiopods to the most unusual and rare trilobites. I find it very interesting indeed to know that I am not the only Filipino who is interested in fossils and I really appreciate this post because it shows me that there are many ordinary common Filipino folks out there who share the same passion for this hobby as I do. 🙂
    Peace out!!

  5. Hi, Is there any paleontologist in the Philippines that can check this out?

    Fossils of Giant Clam Shell – Evidence of that Philippines is once Underwater
    philippineblog.com/fossilized-giant-clam-shell-found-in-mountains-of-san-fernando/

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