Kuro-kuro dala ng maulang panahon

Madalas maulan o mabagyo ang Agusto, ang aking birth month. Marahil tanda ito ng buhos ng grasya ng kalangitan sa aking pagkasilang. Ngunit ito’y hagulgol ng dalamhati para sa marami, lalo na kung ika’y nasa Metro Manila. Paano’y lalong lumalala ang malala ng kalagayan ng trapiko na kasalanan di umano ng mga pampublikong sasakyan at provincial buses. Dagdag pa diyan ang pagbaha na hindi na pinagtataka ng karamihan dahil epekto ito ng kawalan ng disiplina at pagpapahalaga sa kalikasan, pagkakalat lalo na ng mga plastik, pagputol sa mga puno, at di maayos na pagpaplano ng siyudad.

Normal na ang dating hindi. Ang daluyong ng malalakas na bagyo dahil sa climate change. Isang climate emergency na kung tutuusin. Ngunit walang pakundangan sa patuloy na panggagahaman ang maraming pulitiko’t korporasyon. Ang mga kabataa’y nagra-rally, umaasa ng aksiyon mula sa mga makapangyarihan. At sila’y babansagang rebelde. Papatahimikin. Papatayin. Silang lumalaban para sa kapakanan ng kalikasan.

Sa Hong Kong naman patuloy ang welga bilang pagtutol sa mga panukala ng Tsina, na tila ay may planong sakupin ang buong mundo. Maging ang teritoryo ng Pilipinas ay inaangkin. Kaya’t kagulat-gulat ang pagdami ng mga Chinese National sa bansa. Probinsiya na nga yata tayo ng Tsina na mukhang hindi naman inaalmahan ni Digong.

Sadyang masalimuot ang kalagayan ng pulitika ngayon sa Pilipinas na pinakomplikado pa ng sagutang “dilawan” at “DDS.” Kung kaya’t love life nalang ng mga artista ang pinagtutuunan ng mga mahilig sa tsismis. Samantalang isang buntong hininga na lamang ang magagawa ng marami habang patuloy na magtitiis. Tatanggapin na lang ang realidad ng trapik, ng ulan at bagyo, ng baha, ng patayan, ng mga corrupt – na iraraos nalang sa walang kakupas-kupas na hugot.



‘Ang Huling El Bimbo’ – Bittersweet Nostalgia


There’s something about the 90s fashion of grunge, bulky and oversized clothes. It would make you spin right back to the past when life was, well, simpler. And music from the same period would make you embrace nostalgia even more as the feelings sink deeper through your veins.

This is what I felt when I watched “Ang Huling El Bimbo,” a musical inspired by the songs of the Filipino rock band Eraserheads. The 90s kid in me came to life. I quietly sang along to these all too familiar tunes. It’s a surprise how songs of the past are still retained in memory while I can barely remember the words of current songs on Spotify. Sign of aging? Let’s just admit that music then was much better. I would even dare say that the 90s was the golden era for OPM (Original Pinoy Music).

The first half of the musical was brimming with life and energy relaying the story of carefree college life, friendship, and just plain fun. The revolving stage made seamless transitions between scenes and the beautiful choreography was a feast to the eyes that you won’t know where to look.

And then it gets dark. The song “Ang Huling El Bimbo” itself after all is not rainbows and butterflies. Growing up could mean losing yourself. A social commentary on the war on drugs and the face of poverty in the Philippines became the backdrop of the personal struggles of the characters in the story. That’s how life is. It can be messy.

I liked how the live band gave a fresh take on the songs. Who would have thought “With A Smile,” a song of hope, can be haunting. I also envied the effortless singing of the actors hitting high notes like it’s nothing. And the acting, too, was very natural and believable.

“Ang Huling El Bimbo” brought me back to the 90s. It made me smile. It made me sing. It made me frown in agreement to the wrongs of this world. It made me appreciate Pinoy talent. It made me want to watch more Filipino theater shows. I’ll definitely be coming back for more.




Musings on Whatever: The Water Crisis

Our home back in Baguio is not connected to the city’s water supply network so we would always have water delivered. This naturally made my family very mindful of our water consumption. We collect rain water which is used to water plants, wash the laundry, and clean floors. A basin for dish washing and a bucket for bathing are always available to conserve water. Wastewater can be reused to flush the toilet.

So it does bother me sometimes when I see people who would just keep water running from the faucet or mindlessly waste water. Yes, water is a renewable natural resource but it can also be depleted. The earth is mostly covered in water but only 3% is freshwater. More than half of that is frozen in ice caps so we’re basically left with around 1% for our water needs.

A growing population entails an ever increasing demand for water. But rapid urban development, pollution, deforestation, and climate change are leading to water scarcity everywhere like Cape Town in South Africa; several cities in India; and even in Metro Manila in the Philippines.

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As of 6:00 AM today, the water level in Angat Dam, Metro Manila’s major water source already went down to 159.93 meters (below the 160-meter critical level). 
Without any significant rainfall (100 mm/24 hr) expected this week, the water level is expected to continue going down and might even reach its historical lowest level of 157.56 meters (July 2010). Credit: Earth Shaker

Clean drinking water is a human right. But what are we doing to uphold this right? It’s sad how we don’t put too much value on what nature offers. It’s practically free. But in return, we destroy the very thing we need for survival.

Post-apocalyptic scenarios come to mind – of dessert landscapes; of riots, and power play, and killings over water; of water everywhere but not a drop to drink…

Well, we could resort to drinking treated poo water, like what is being done in Namibia; or maybe consume desalinated water if we could afford the technology. But for now, what we can actually do is to conserve water, plant a tree or two, and keep water bodies clean. Is this too much to ask?


Just Eat Your Veggies

We know that eating fruits and veggies is good for the health. We were told that in school and at home since we were young. This must be true as we see people reaching the age of 90 or even 100 claiming that a plant-rich diet is the secret to long life.

We’re discovering how our meat-heavy diet is killing the planet and us, too. And yet we find it hard to diet for climate or say good-bye to bacon.

We rely on fad diets where we starve ourselves, or get rid of carbs, or binge-eat on meat and fat, when simply reducing one’s meat intake and eating more plants would have been easier.

Or maybe it’s not as easy as it seems. Colorful and tasty artificial treats are served in schools. Home-cooked meals are replaced by convenient fastfood. Powerful ads have brainwashed us to keep on consuming these so-called healthy products spewed by evil corporations. Local crops are disappearing. And we’re starting to forget what real food tastes like.

On June 17-23, we celebrated the World Meat Free Week and July is the National Nutrition Month in the Philippines. These events put a spotlight on food and how it affects our health and the environment. These are opportunities for us to make changes in our eating habits. That means as much as we hate veggies or don’t like the taste of it, we have to train our tongues. It takes a bit of self discipline and though we can’t really tell people what they’re supposed to eat, eating right is common sense.

Batman Slapping Robin Meme | EWW BROCCOLI EAT YOUR VEGGIES!!! | image tagged in memes,batman slapping robin | made w/ Imgflip meme maker
Photo from: https://imgflip.com/i/1wrf0n

Green Steps You Can Do this Environment Month

The end is nigh. Climate emergency, plastic pollution, deforestation, food and water crises. The problems seem daunting like the white walkers of the “Game of Thrones.” But there are solutions and they can be done. It takes a little bit of effort and it can be inconvenient at times. But no matter how trivial, it’s better to do something than wallow in apathy. Here’s what you can do for the earth since it’s the Philippine Environment Month and all.

Be a better consumer. Adopt a minimalist or zero waste lifestyle if you can. That means buying just the essentials or buying second-hand or not buying at all. Consider having broken things repaired or borrow from people instead. Reduce, re-use, recycle. Reduce comes first because if you can avoid generating waste in the first place, then do just that. Refuse unnecessary single-use plastic. Bring your water tumbler, a reusable container, a reusable bag, and even your cutlery everywhere. Paper may be a lesser evil but going for reusable stuff is still your best bet. And no, you don’t have to buy metal/bamboo straws and eco bags to prove a point. The key is to lessen one’s consumption.

Speaking of consumption, you may want to lessen your meat intake and adopt a more plant-based diet. And say no to food waste. These are definitely doable climate acts.

Demand change from corporations and the government. Individual efforts matter and so does putting pressure on corporations and the government. So sign petitions. Write letters. Attend town hall meetings.  Policy and corporate support could speed up the change that we want to see.

Raise awareness on environmental issues through social media. The reality is this is still one of the easiest ways to reach people within one’s circle of influence. Posting or sharing environment-related posts may generate conversation and may even cause people to change mindsets and behaviors. And it’ll be more effective if you pair your online advocacy work with offline activities. 

Be involved. Volunteer. Participate in clean ups and tree-planting. Give talks and and education sessions. To reiterate what Annie Leonard of Greenpeace said, civic engagement is the real source of power to make a difference.

There are many ways to be involved. Here’s a picture of me volunteering to help paint a marine-themed mural to give life and bring in nature to an underpass (Photo by JM Sagum).

This Environment Month and beyond, a green mind is what we need. To rephrase what Edward Everett Hale said, you are only one, but you are one. You cannot do everything, but you can do something. And you should not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.

Humans of the World: Lailone from Myanmar

Lailone believes he could “design” people’s mindset to promote a new way of thinking. This can be done through art and for Lailone, he uses cartoons as it’s easy to make and doesn’t require effort from a team or a group of people. It’s also easier to share in this age of social media.

Being a political cartoonist was more straightforward when Myanmar was still under Military rule. But now that the country is democratic, Lailone practices a sort of self censorship, being careful with the message and the words that he uses in his cartoon drawings, because unlike before, what they have now is what is considered as the people’s government.

Lailone believes in the power of cartoons where a short message can be expressed through a drawing or illustration. He also likes the fact that this gives him the chance to develop himself as he gets to read political history, observe many things, and learn different lessons. Creating cartoons is Lailone’s hobby, work, and art.

Aside from being a freelance cartoonist, Lailone also works for an environmental NGO where he’s involved in training, implementation, and production of nature-related IEC materials for children.


Some of Lailone’s cartoons can be found here: https://www.cartoonmovement.com/p/7295.








Humans of the World: Ken from Japan

Ken’s design background helps him raise awareness about social issues he cares deeply about. One of which is on refugees. He’s currently working on producing a photo documentary book about the plight of refugees in different places. So far he’s been to Jordan and Pakistan.

“I want to save people’s lives, especially children, from the war, but I don’t have the power to stop the war,” Ken explains. “If I was a doctor, I could help people who are injured. If I was an architect, I could rebuild their broken houses. But I can’t do these things so as a designer and photographer, what I can do is spread the message.”

Ken takes photos of these refugees trying to show what their normal life looks like. He wants more people to know about refugees especially in Japan which accepts so few refugees. 

“I thought it’s a good start to introduce refugees in the world using photos and my personal story with them,” Ken further explains. “Visiting a Syrian refugee camp changed my mind a lot. I was not so serious before that experience. Young refugees and I became good friends. They are innocent, but they have to live in a tiny tent or container house with their large family. Some have the experience of losing their brother or sister.”

Check out Ken’s work here: http://kenichi-photography.com/