My Climate Story

2005 – I visited Mindanao for the first time. I was told that they don’t really experience typhoons at all. For Luzon, Baguio in particular, it gets its fair share of typhoons but I remember them not being too extreme.

2012 – I joined a group of volunteers who traveled to Iligan in Mindanao to conduct play activities for children affected by typhoon Sendong. We went to two evacuation centers and had storytelling, did origami, and sang some songs for the children there.

We visited the areas where houses used to stand, those by the river. They’re all gone. It was surreal how tragedy sneers right at your face. We walked through the city. The funny thing was everything seemed normal. Business was on a buzz, as usual. People walked by as if nothing happened.

2014 – Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda, the strongest typhoon to make landfall ravaged Tacloban and other areas of Visayas and Mindanao. I was living in Manila at that time but the super typhoon’s strength was felt even at this part of the country. Haiyan claimed countless lives and destroyed several homes and properties.

The following year, some of my friends and I organized an outreach for children of Barangay Paglaum in Tacloban. We introduced the hygiene 5 through breakout sessions. The kids were also given basic hygiene kits. Aside from this, we helped coordinate a magic show for two Child Friendly Space areas in the community.

It was sad to see the devastation first hand. And for most Filipinos, this was a confirmation that climate change is real.

2020 – Addressing the COVID-19 crisis is, understandably, the immediate priority but we should also give equal attention to climate change and the destruction of natural environment, which come to think of it has led to this pandemic. The Philippines, according to the 2020 Global Climate Risk Index Report, is ranked second among climate-vulnerable countries. It is, therefore, in our best interest to aspire for a regenerative, resilient, and equitable future.

On July 18, the Climate Reality Project Global Training commenced with the objective of empowering 14,000 Climate Reality Leaders. I was trained back in 2016 in Manila and now is a mentor to some trainees. It gives me hope to feel the enthusiasm of these individuals towards climate action. It’s a long way to go and there would be a lot of challenges and disappointments that we’ll be encountering but we should press on and do what we can. That’s the only way to go. There’s no planet B after all and it’s up to us to work together for our survival.



The New Normal

Damn, when will this virus die? I wish to wake up one morning and find this COVID-19 gone. But we know it will be here much longer. So what now? Two key things that countries like South Korea, Taiwan, and Vietnam have done to successfully stop the chain of infection and flatten the curve are aggressive contact-tracing and mass testing.

We can’t help but compare these to how our country is dealing with the crisis. Malcolm Gladwell in his book, “The Tipping Point” explains that human behavior is sensitive to and strongly influenced by its environment. So maybe we shouldn’t be comparing because we have a different context? I do want to believe that the government is doing its best despite challenges. Unfortunately, what I’m seeing is slow response, misplaced priorities, and incompetence from these leaders who don’t seem to know what they’re doing! I mean, seriously?!

But there’s still hope thanks to young leaders like Vico Sotto demonstrating excellent crisis response. Contrary to that Ok Boomer’s claim that the young are pretty stupid. Look who’s talking!

I read Thomas Friedman’s “The World is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century” which analyzes globalization and emphasizes the inevitability of the rapid pace of change affecting the way we do things. I think a “flatter,” more accessible world led to the fast spread of the virus. And a “flatter,” more connected world, plus this crisis, is speeding up our transition to a mostly online lifestyle from business, to entertainment, to socialization. Businesses, in particular, would have to adapt quickly if they want to survive.

It’s fascinating and sometimes scary how things change fast. Yahoo used to be the preferred search engine but we’ve been “Googled” and we’re like, “Yahoo, what?” Angkas was a savior in Manila’s horrendous traffic situation but is currently cannot be the transport option due to physical distancing measures. In place of that, bikes are in. Who would have thought that working from home could apply to most of us and that Zoom meetings are now a regular part of our lives. This could mean that there’s really no need for offices. Feeling like a germophobe? It’s okay, that’s completely acceptable, to the delight of hygiene-related commerce. The virus has practically affected every aspect of our lives, harshly on the marginalized, as always.

I remember someone remarking that there’s nothing normal about the situation we are in right now. But we have to adapt and try to thrive in this so-called new normal. This can actually be an opportunity to build a greener and more inclusive future. We should all read “Small is Beautiful: A Study of Economics as if People Mattered” by economist E.F Schumacher (yes, I’ve been reading a lot of books, lately). Because it’s not all about the money. It’s should be about people. Isn’t that the kind of economy we should aspire for?

There’s also a lot of ongoing conversation on school opening and accessible education, and all that. Since we’re realizing what’s truly important, it would probably best for education to focus more on connecting to nature, and being kind, and becoming decent human beings. So we don’t end up with insensitive, privileged idiots running the world.




On Plastic Pollution (again)

It’s so freakin’ hot! Yep, climate change is real. In case you’ve forgotten, increasing temperatures is one impacts of the changing climate. If only we had more trees which can have a cooling effect in cities. But no, these are obstructions to wider roads and malls and buildings you want to put up. With this heat, it would have been nice to take a dip in a pool or go to the beach. Nicki Minaj’s “Let’s go to the beach, each, let’s go get a wave…” is inviting. That, unfortunately, could not happen anytime soon.

May is the “Month of the Ocean.” But with this COVID-19 crisis, I can’t help but wonder how we are to deal with all the plastic from PPE to food packaging, and relief goods placed in plastic bags which sadly could end up in our oceans.

The campaign against single-use plastic has been gaining momentum in the past years but with the current situation, it seems like we have to deal yet again with the issue of plastic pollution.

I would not discount the fact that plastic is useful, convenient, and cheap. But impacts to health and the environment are as always not captured in the price. Who pays for the real price? Oceans choking in plastic, wildlife dying, and possible health impacts due to toxicity (though more studies have yet to be done on this).

So where does that leave us? Well, at least for me, I do my best to avoid single-use or unnecessary plastic (plastic PPE is acceptable, I suppose, but I hope better alternatives can be created soon). Sometimes, it irks me when I say, “No plastic, please” or “No need for the paper bag,” and out of habit, they’d just do the opposite. I force a smile and take a deep breath. There is still a lot of raising awareness that has to be done (plus, let’s not forget government and corporate action!).

No, you’re not saving the environment when you keep on buying the reusable bags in the supermarket which you forget to bring the next time you go shopping.

A common question, “Is paper any better, it has a huge carbon footprint?” That’s true but it’s not as toxic and as persistent in the environment so maybe it’s a lesser evil? Re-usables is still the best bet.

But hey, I also recognize that options at the moment are limited. The important thing is we try to do what we can to reduce plastic use so that the next time we go to the beach, it won’t be plastic we would be swimming with.

Dear Earth (2020 Edition)

Dear Earth,

Happy birth of the environmental movement day! Yey!

The COVID-19 crisis is allowing you to heal but I do know you don’t subscribe to ecofascism or extremist views of environmentalism where people have to die to prove a point that we have actually brought this upon ourselves. I share your view that we have to protect wildlife and take a closer look at how the meat industry is contributing to pandemics. Sadly, we would rather talk about conspiracy theories.

Understandably, beating this virus is the priority now but I hope we also realize the urgency of solving climate change and other environmental issues which are taking countless lives, too.

Have you seen “Honeyland”? This documentary that puts a spotlight on Hatidze, one of Europe’s last wild beekeepers. I think you’ll like it. While watching, I wondered if I could actually live like Hatidze; a life devoid of technology, electricity, and the conveniences of city-living.

Hatidze’s mantra of “Half for me and half for you” whenever she collects honeycombs from beehives she tends is a reflection of sustainability. Something we have forgotten. Something we are realizing at the moment as we wonder if things will be going back to so-called “normal.” Of fast-paced lives chasing after opportunities of consuming more or trashing the planet. Yet we’re not any happier.

But hey, this is also an opportunity of building a “new normal.” A future that is more mindful, more regenerative, and more equitable.

Here’s to our collective healing!


Green Guy


Of Capitalism, Corporations, and Conscience

Science has warned us of these seemingly apocalyptic impacts brought about by climate change such as the occurrence of forest fires, flooding, and strong typhoons. But the COP 25 in Madrid was a failure. The fossil fuel industry spends millions to lobby against climate laws. Instead of divesting from fossil fuels, Google, Amazon, and Microsoft are now in the oil business!

Eric Schlosser’s book “Fast Food Nation” revealed the dark side of fast food particularly employing unfair labor practices, marketing cheap unhealthy food to kids, and creating irresistibly tasty treats through manufactured and artificial flavors.

Multinational companies create tons of garbage from all their packaging and blame it on consumers, calling them litter bugs. Essentially, they’re passing on the responsibility of dealing with this trash to individuals and governments.

These companies speak of sustainability efforts and innovation but it’s all green washing. The bottom line is still to stay profitable.

Corporations have no  conscience, to the advantage of a capitalist, money-driven society. In an ideal world, success of economy is not based on money but on the common good, like what is being practiced in Bhutan which uses Gross National Happiness as a measure of development. In reality, morality is not even an issue as long you keep the money coming.

So with climate change and these myriad of environmental problems, and these evil corporations, is there hope? Thankfully, there still is. We don’t know what the future holds. We have an idea of how it will turn out but this continuum of futures and continuum of possibilities could mean we still have the chance to make things right.  

Corporate and government action is crucial but individual actions still matter. And we can actually hit these corporations where it hurts. When we demand for sustainable and eco-friendly products and services, they listen. Consumer behavior directs the market economy. They change their ways not because they’re suddenly developing green conscience but they have to uphold the purpose of their existence – the protection and increase of capital.  

Becoming “green” consumers is only the beginning of our journey to restoring our relationship to the earth, to other people, and our selves, eventually turning us from consumers to humans.


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.

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

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?