#TaalEruption2020: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

It is when disaster strikes that we often reveal our true colors. This becomes even more so apparent with social media.

After Taal Volcano’s eruption, related posts also exploded on Facebook. There were warnings and updates provided. There were prayers offered and an emergence of more religious people – those seeing this as a sign of the end of days or a punishment of our evils ways. Some would go to the extent of attributing this to the “Tala” dance craze, I hope as a joke, but in this age of stupidity, I don’t know anymore.

True to Pinoy’s so-called resilience and fun-loving personality, some managed to come up with memes and jokes, ang hugot, to other people’s dismay claiming that disasters should not be taken lightly.

And then there are stories of kindness and bayanihan. Of those offering their cars for evacuation. Heroes cleaning windshield of fleeing vehicles. Selfless souls offering free masks, and free food, and shelter (even for animals). Groups mobilizing themselves to provide donation and much-needed support to those greatly affected by the eruption. Thankfully, these overshadow the greed of capitalists jacking up the price of face masks, of panic-stricken folks hoarding the said masks, of fear mongering fake news, and of inaction from those who should have been doing more.

As expected, in times like this, online bickering will almost always arise. We use social media as source of information, means of communication, and a platform of self-expression. Our online persona has become an extension of ourselves. The difference to in person encounter, however, is we don’t have any social cues warning us that we may be going overboard with our pronouncements leading to misunderstanding and worse, bullying or hate speech.

Social media divides us but I want to believe it’s a powerful tool that unites us, too. At the end of the day, we are all humans seeking connection, validation, and love. And I for one, am glad, that I still see humanity despite it all.

My Top 10 Posts for 2019

Writing, or blogging for that matter, takes a lot of commitment. Despite busy schedules, I try to keep at it because it’s my way of documenting my life, I guess, lest I forget. But I also hope that through this little space, I could somehow inform, entertain, and inspire you, my constant readers. Thank you for sticking with me.

Sharing here a list of my top posts for the year.

  1. Buhay Maynila – An old post from 2015 reborn, thanks to ‘Yorme’ Isko.
  2. Humans of the World: Juan, Hernando, and Alejandra from Colombia – First of a series of stories highlighting the stories of friends I have met from around the world.
  3. Pelikulang Pinoy – Another old post about my musings on Filipino films.
  4. Pagbabago– And yet another resurrected 15-year old piece where I rant about the hopelessness of this poor country.
  5. Film Rebyu: ‘Parasite’ – A review of the best film of the year!
  6. Humans of the World: Silja from Germany – Silja is the only blind teacher in Germany.
  7. Musings on Whatever: ‘Toy Design and Inclusive Play’ – Early this year, I was given the opportunity to be part of this amazing creative workshop.
  8. Humans of the World: Molly from India– This features Molly and her work with Timbaktu Collective.
  9. Humans of the World: Sandrine of France – Sandrine shares her thoughts on inclusive education.
  10. Humans of the World: Stephen from Kenya – Stephen stresses that disability is not inability.

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Let’s Plant Trees!

The Conference of the Parties (COP) is happening in Spain discussing how to fight climate change. Young people and the civil society march to the streets demanding governments to declare climate emergency and take action. Others decide to plant trees.

Last month, I was able to organize a mangrove tree planting activity at Subic Bay Freeport Zone done in partnership with Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA). The cool thing about SBMA’s tree growing project is they work with indigenous people in the community who helped our group of eight plant 200 seedlings of mangrove trees of different varieties. They were surprised to learn that we wanted to plant that many. It’s a shame that some find plunging in mud icky and end up planting just one or two seedlings. I was glad my colleagues were all game and actually enjoyed the whole experience.

Photo Credit: Christian Tanora

Now just over the weekend, I joined a “Holiday Nature Immersion” at Mount Purro Nature Reserve (MPNR) spearheaded by makesense which involved a short hike and sowing of ipil-ipil seeds as support to MPNR’s reforestation effort. Being in a natural environment is the best way of finding one’s connection to the earth. And what’s best to do that but to literally get your hands dirty. I can’t help wondering though why touching soil is something a lot of people wouldn’t want to do. Apparently, this could lead to weaker immune system and emergence of allergies, especially among growing kids.

Photo Credit: Pepper Limpoco

Planting trees is one of the easiest climate acts we can do. However, it also requires thorough planning and execution. I think partnering with communities and organizations can lead to more successful reforestation activities as trees planted are taken cared of and are monitored. This also ensures that the right species of trees, ideally native trees, are planted.

So for those wanting to contribute to climate action, come on and let’s plant more trees. It’s easy to do, it’s a cheap climate solution, and it’s good for your soul and the environment.

‘Sweeney Todd,’ a rather pleasant musical experience

“Sweeney Todd” would have been a perfect musical for the Halloween. But it lacked the gore and grit, and messiness, I was hoping to see. Or maybe that’s just the horror freak in me expecting for a blood bath.

I did enjoy the impeccable singing of the cast which I think is the strength of the Manila production of the play. The clear vocals almost sound like they are pre-recorded. That’s how good it was.

Jett Pangan, though failing to project the tormented mad man character of the demon barber, showed off his effortless singing. “Prince Ballad” Gerald Santos’ sweet voice was a perfect fit for the love-struck character of Anthony Hope. Nyoy Volante as the hilarious Adolfo Pirelli was a joy to watch. I also liked listening to Baritone Andrew Fernando’s deep voice playing Judge Turpin.

Lea Salonga as Mrs. Lovett was, as expected, spectacular. I’ve always been a big fan of Lea so I was ecstatic to get to finally see her live and revel in her lovely voice. I thought her quirky characterization of Mrs. Lovett was spot on. Loved the Cockney accent, too.  

“Sweeney Todd” is about murder and cannibalism but the musical was anything but dark. It was however a showcase of world class talent – of Pinoys who sing damn well and I for one, certainly can’t get enough of that!



Green Minded Peeps: Zero Waste Advocates

For lunch, I would normally bring with me a container as I buy food from Jollijeep, a kind of a food cart, in Makati. If I see someone doing the same, I can’t help but smile, stopping myself from giving the person a hug. The vendors appreciate this effort and as a reward, I sometimes get a free banana! Yey!

Of course I also refuse the paper bag and use my own tote bag. Disposables made from paper is considered a lesser evil because it is compostable, but it’s still evil as it’s made from dead trees (gasp)! And its production entails the use of a lot of water. Reusables is still the best option.

My reusable starter kit.

I bought coffee from 7-11 and used my own cup instead of paper cup. The cashier wished more people would do the same. Well, the good news is, awareness about the issue of single-use plastic and pollution is growing, together with individuals and organizations promoting the zero waste movement.

Robin Lewis of Japan co-founded MyMizu, a water refill app that points you to places where you can refill your bottle for free. So cool! Good-bye bottled water. Those evil bottled water companies are shaking, haha!

Still in Japan, Akira Sakano, heads the Zero Waste Academy in Kamikatsu where garbage is segregated into 45 categories!

Low Impact Filipina, Angel Mata, a teacher raises awareness about the low purchase, low waste, and low impact lifestyle through her blog.

Zero waste shops are popping up like the Wala Usik: Tiangge + Kapehan in Bacolod offering local, natural, or package free options.

We do have to make corporations accountable for the waste problem caused by their plastic packaging but our individual actions contribute to the solution, too. Consumer pressure can drive business directions. And our individual choices can mean one less trash to deal with.

The Youth in Action

Greta Thunberg, today’s face of the climate movement, is angry. And we should be furious with her because those in power dilly dally in addressing this very complicated problem we now call as climate emergency.

Admittedly, change, a systemic one at that, would take time. But that’s something we’re running out of. And this should move us all into action. To be honest, this blatant disregard and apathy from the government and corporations is frustrating. So I’ve decided to draw encouragement from empowered individuals and young people giving their all, making their voices heard, and fighting for their future and their now.

The Global Climate Strike gained a lot of support worldwide and the Philippines, despite being one of the countries with least greenhouse gas emission, joined this national mobilization for climate action. Jefferson Estela, founder of Youth Strike 4 Climate Philippines outlined the demands of the group during a dialogue with Climate Change Commission on September 18, 2019. This include the phase out of coal and other fossil fuels, transition to renewable energy, and declaration of climate emergency in the country, among others.

#IAmHampasLupa together with Youth Strike 4 Climate Philippines had a dialogue with Secretary Emmanuel M. De Guzman, Atty. Efren Bascos, and Ludwig O. Federigan of the Climate Change Commission PH. The discussion revolved around the campaign for ecological agriculture and #DietforClimate, and the Climate Strike.

Foundation University in Dumaguete hosted the event “Entrepreneurship and My Future” focusing on social innovation on September 20. During the event, MakeSense, a community of citizens, social entrepreneurs, and organizations working for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, facilitated a start-up creation workshop for students in the city.

“Entrepreneurship and My Future” at Foundation University, Dumaguete.

In time for the International Coastal Clean-up Day on September 21, Bacolod CORE (Children Optimization for the Revitalization of the Environment), a youth-led group, gathered more than five hundred volunteers at Purok Crossing Otso, Barangay Tangub for a clean-up and waste auditing. Part of the day’s activities was a creative Disaster Risk Reduction Management (DRRM) Workshop for kids in the community.

Operation Kawayan Creative DRRM Workshop with children of Barangay Tangub.

The youth is often branded as selfish and are simply concerned of their social media image. But on the contrary, they are passionate, proactive, and brave. They are hopeful, they are angry, and they use all that energy to make a change.

Eat Veggies and Save the Amazon Forest – Ha?!

Nasusunog or should I say sinusunog ang Amazon forest. Ngunit hindi lang ang tinaguriang lungs of the earth or largest tropical rainforest of the world and biktima. Marami sa ating mga kagubatan ang sinisira dahil sa pagtotroso, pagmimina, at pagsasaka.

Gusto mong tumulong beyond social media? Kumain ng gulay at prutas. Anong connect, you ask. Well, isang dahilan ng pagkasira ng ating mga gubat ang pagsasaka. At huwag ka, ang mga pananim na iyan ay hindi para sa tao – pagkain iyan ng mga baka na pagkarami-rami upang mapunan ang demand for hamburger, corned beef, at iba pang karne.

Kapag nagbawas ka ng pagkonsumo ng karne, malaking tulong na iyan upang di lalong lumala ang deforestation.

Obviously, okay din ito sa kalusugan nang hindi dumagdag sa statistics ng namamatay sa heart attack, stroke, diabetes, at iba pang lifestyle diseases.

Ngunit masarap ang bawal. O kailangan ko ng protein for my muscles. O ayoko ng gulay. Kung gusto, maraming paraan. Kung ayaw, maraming dahilan.

Hindi naman kailangang itakwil ng tuluyan ang karne. Kapag nag-decide kang maging vegan o vegetarian, eh di ayos. Ngunit maski flexitarian (occasional meat-eater) lang, “meatless Mondays,” o sahug-sahog na karne sa ulam, o hinay-hinay sa unli-samgyeup, magandang simula na iyan. Hindi naman siguro isang malaking sakripisyo ito ano.

Kaya’t ano pang hinihintay mo. Mag-#lessismore na! Less karne, more gulay! Nakatulong ka na sa kalikasan, okay pa sa katawan!

Learn more about the campaign here.

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Credit: Greenpeace