#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.

‘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!



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.


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?


Musings on Whatever: ‘Toy Design and Inclusive Play’

A friend referred to me a call for application for a Creativity Workshop dubbed, “Toy Design and Inclusive Play.”

I know how creativity and the element of fun are instrumental in education and advocacy work so I thought the workshop would be very relevant to me especially so that I’m exploring how to further use creativity as a tool for my advocacy for the environment. Plus, this friend mentioned it’s one of the best workshops she has attended so you can imagine how ecstatic I was when I learned that I would be part of it.

After 20+ hours of travel time, including layover, I reached freezing Berlin which was the venue of the workshop. I was brave to just bring with me a thin piece of coat which thankfully helped me survive the cold. Aside from the temperature, a rice-eating Asian like me, and that sounds stereotypical but yeah, I had to get used to a lot of bread and cheese as the staple. I, surprisingly, adjusted quite well.

The event started with a symposium where we had resource speakers who talked about inclusion, fairness and sustainability, toy-free time, and education without prejudice, all in the context of toy design.

The participants were also given a chance to talk a bit about ourselves and the work that we do. I was inspired to hear the stories of every one. I thought we were a bunch of passionate and creative people and I was excited to see what games and toys we would create as an output of the workshop.

The workshop participants with the mentors and organizers. (Photo Credit: Surabhi Khanna)

We had to visit different institutions that cater to people with special needs. I went to Helene Haeusler School, a special school with the main focus on mental development.

It was an impressive facility with small-size classes and sufficient teachers. The curriculum is child-based and is adapted to the learners. There’s a pool, a recreational hall, a kitchen (where students can learn how to cook), a sleeping room, and so much more.

Seeing all these made me realize how it’s miles apart compared to the Philippines but it also made me appreciate the little steps we are taking and the efforts we are putting as a nation into being more inclusive.

Everyone then started coming up with ideas and toy designs based on the respective visits that we had. It took us almost a week to work on our masterpieces and it was amazing to see all our creation come to life.

I paired up with Cinzia, a designer from Italy, and the collaboration made life easier for me. I was intimidated at the beginning considering that I didn’t have any design background but I was happy to be able to keep up. Cinzia and I built on each other’s ideas that resulted to two toys – “LeafBall” and “Koordi.”

“LeafBall” is a tactile toy that promotes communication skills, focus and group interaction. It’s like story dice but in place of the dice, figures to be used in the story are hidden in pockets of leaf-shaped fabric to be folded on each other to form a ball. The ball is passed, the leaf pealed, and a
figure that will form part of a collective story will be revealed.

“LeafBall” (Photo Credit: Cinzia Damonte)

“Koordi” (coordination), on the other hand, is a collaborative game where players hold the strings and move the board together to slide wooden rings into slots, one after the other, to form words.

“Koordi” (Photo Credit: Cinzia Damonte)

The UNESCO Creativity Workshop, organized by Fördern durch Spielmittel, was on its 18th installment and through the years has been spearheaded by Siegfried Zoels, who has done several initiatives related to people with disabilities.

A Dr. Seuss quote goes, “Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.” I’m definitely smiling now thinking about how I’ve learned a lot about disability or rather how it should be seen not as inability; I got to work with a brilliant group of creative people; and as a bonus, gained friends for keeps! It was one of the best workshops, indeed.

Minimalist Me: Books

I collect Stephen King books. I used to collect those of Dean Koontz, too but I decided I’m more of a Stephen King guy (sorry, Dean).

In my previous post on minimalism, I’ve made it quite clear how I’m not a big shopper. But buying books is a different story. That’s something I wouldn’t mind spending money on. For the record though, stingy as I am, I buy from secondhand bookstores. It’s an awesome feeling when you discover a really nice book at a very cheap price. But after reading them, I’ve decided to give these books away.

I’ve kept a few for myself (can’t let go of Stephen King just yet) especially those that I would want to re-read but we have to be honest here, most of the time, they remain in the bookshelves collecting dust.


I have bookworm friends who have book collections and that’s totally fine. If keeping these books add value to your life, then by all means, collect all the books you can get your hands on.

As for me, finally deciding to be part of the horde, buying my first smartphone, had a perk in terms of allowing me to read e-books. I still prefer holding an actual book, turning the pages and smelling the book paper, and all, but with free e-books available online, I save a lot. Plus, fewer stuff. But borrowing books from friends (hello, friends) and the library (if there’s still one) could be an option.

So yeah, I have minimized buying books. But I genuinely feel happy when I see people going gaga over books fairs and book sales. And in case you’re wondering, I still accept books as presents.

Note to Self

When are you going to die? Ten years from now? Tomorrow? Today? Who knows? The point is, death will eventually come so carpe diem! Seize the day! Make the most of every moment.

Makes you want to not sweat the small stuff because in the grand scheme of things, these inconveniences, and annoyances, and feelings of sadness, even joy, are transient. This too shall pass.

Most of the stuff you fuss about wouldn’t really matter a year from now. So focus on what matters. Be happy where you are. Think of what you already have rather than those that you don’t. After all, this desire to want to have this and that will never be satisfied.

Choose kindness and compassion. Be more understanding. Be patient. Walk a mile in someone else’s shoes. Everyone is fighting their own battle.

Be at peace with the fact that life is imperfect and unfair. And there are circumstances beyond your control. Let go and dwell on what you can change, your sphere of influence. Choose your battles wisely.

Here’s to a fruitful and awesome 2018!

Read “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff… and it’s all small stuff” by Richard Carlson for more simple ways to keep little things from taking over your life.

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