Terror

Oo. I consider myself a terror teacher. Pati ako matatakot sa sarili ko.

Pagpasok palang ng classroom, animo’y mga ipis na ayaw sa ilaw ang mga estudyante kong balik kaagad sa mga upuan at todo pretend na behaved sila. Otherwise, makakatanggap sila ng death stare.

“Umupo nang matuwid, itikom ang bibig, kamay sa desk!” Parang military. Iyong mga boys, aliw na aliw kasi marami sa kanila ang pangarap ay maging pulis o sundalo. Don’t ask me why.

Nung minsang birthday ko, kinantahan ako ng mga estudyante. Hindi man lang ako ngumiti. Sabi ko lang, “Thank you, sit down,” sabay resume ang lesson. Cold-hearted, ano?

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Thank you, sit down!

Mabait naman ako sa totoong buhay pero kailangang maging super strict sa classroom kung hindi kakainin ka ng buhay ng mga batang hindi nauubusan ng energy.

I’m sure hindi ako iyong paborito ng mga estudyante ko. Pero may mga mangilan-ngilan na parang they could see through me. Iyong tipong mababasa mo sa kanilang mga mata ang pang-unawa. Na tila sinasabi, “Naiintindihan namin kung bakit kailangan mong maging istrikto.”

“Teacher, kokopyahin?” tanong ng mga tsikiting.

“Ay hindi, tititigan!” sagot ko.

May mga palihim na ngiti. Marunong pala akong magpatawa, sarcastic lang.

Siyempre, dahil Teacher’s Day ngayon may mga greetings at throwback pictures noong ako’y nagtuturo pa, three years ago.

Bigla kong na-miss ang ingay at gulo sa classroom.

Iyong pag-prepare ng lesson at pagtuturo in straight English na parang college students ang mga kausap (nganga iyong mga bata).

Iyong pagkanta at pagsayaw tuwing may program. Kapag teacher ka dapat kaya mong gawin lahat.

Iyong feeling na tipong may na-inspire o may natutunan sila sa iyo.

Maraming nagsasabing teacher nga ang aura ko maski hindi na ako nagtuturo. Marami rin ang naguudyok sa aking magturo muli.

Puwede naman, subalit marami rin kasi akong gustong gawin. Mahilig din akong maglakwatsa at pumunta kung saan-saan. Hindi lang para mamasyal kundi pati gumawa ng mga bagay na ikabubuti ng bansa, community work kung baga. Bilang guro, mahirap iyong madalas na wala ka sa classroom.

Hindi biro ang maging teacher kaya sobrang saludo ako sa mga indibidwal na pinili ang tahaking ito.

Sa lahat ng teachers, mabait man o terror, tulad ko, happy Teacher’s Day!

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Commune with Nature at Mount Purro

Go on a hike and enjoy the air’s freshness of the forest.

Savor the generous helpings of freshly prepared healthy dishes (you can request for vegan/vegetarian options, too!).

Sleep in cozy kubo-style cabins and let the sound of crickets and the flowing brook serve as your lullaby.

Take a dip in the pool.

Bond with your barkada in the game room.

Meditate and have your reflective moments in nicely decorated huts.

All these you can do at Mount Purro Nature Reserve.

If you’re looking for a quick getaway and escape the hustle and bustle of the city, then this place would be perfect. Sounds like a promotional campaign but really, if you’re into nature and trees, like me, you’ll appreciate Mount Purro which is located at Barangay Calawis, Antipolo City, and is about an hour and a half away drive from Quezon City. It started as a reforestation area now it boasts of facilities and activities suited for everyone.

Truly, we always go back to nature for healing and rejuvenation. I just wish we could bring more of nature, greeneries, and trees to the city so we don’t have to go somewhere else to escape the concrete jungle.

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Advocating for ecological agriculture and mindful consumption

Last year, I was inspired to learn about the positive side of technology in Rappler’s Innovation + Social Good event. This year, I got to actively participate in the Social Good Summit (SGS) as I was able to share the campaign of #IAmHampasLupa.

If you haven’t seen it yet, here’s the video:

Rappler also wrote about our story here. Thank you, Rappler!

The SGS with the theme, “#HackSociety 2017: Innovate with purpose, leave no one behind,” focused on media and democracy; environment and climate change; peace, governance, and local development; and public health and well-being. It featured innovative solutions to society’s real life problems. It was also an opportunity for different groups to showcase the projects and the work that they do contributing to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Speaking of SDGs, The 2030 Project organized “LEADERS Unite 2017: #OurGoals.” This is a youth initiative committed to supporting the attainment of the United Nation’s 17 SDGs Agenda by 2030. For this activity, I was invited as a Youth Champion for SDG#12: Responsible Consumption and Production where I discussed how our consumption behavior can contribute to climate change.

Both of these events were a reaffirmation of how this generation, branded as indifferent millennials, is actually doing its part to solve the problems of the world. So despite all the negativity these days, it’s nice to know that there are still a lot of good things happening around us.

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Art, culture and all that jazz

Yesterday was a very cultured day for me.

I got to attend Pierre de Vallombreuse’s talk on his photo exhibition, The Valley, that features Palawan’s indigenous group, Tau’t Batu, in black and white prints. Pierre shared his personal story of how his feet led him to Palawan 18 times, totaling to almost four years.

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Developing a close relationship with the Tau’t Batu, Pierre was able to capture special moments, some unexpected, that tell the story of this group of people that is able to maintain its unique cultural identity while integrating to modern society.

I asked Pierre for a tip for someone like me who is not a photographer but would want to create stories through pictures. His simple answer, to the amusement of everyone, take a photography class. Okay, let me add that to the growing list of things I want to learn.

One line that I really liked from his talk was when he said, “Each picture is not a statement, it’s a question mark.” Indeed, as I left the National Museum I asked myself, “How can cultural identity thrive in this modern world?” I also belong to an indigenous group but I can barely see any trace of Cordilleran in me.

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Ichiro Kataoka, a benshi. (Photo from Japan Foundation)

From the photo exhibit, I traveled through Manila traffic (of course!) and headed to Shangri-La Plaza for the screening of the Japanese film, “Dragnet Girl” which is part of the 11th International Silent Film Festival. The film is a love story of a gangster couple but what made it even more interesting is the live musical score by the Celso Espejo Rondalla and the presence of Ichiro Kataoka, a benshi or a silent film narrator.

The black and white film with English subtitles, the string accompaniment, and the animated voice of the benshi were a treat to all senses making this a one of a kind experience.

It’s amazing how there are numerous opportunities where one can appreciate art in all forms here in Manila. And a lot of these events are for free!

Speaking of art forms, let me add dance to my “to-learn list” as I’m a frustrated dancer. Last Sunday, I watched “KoryoLab 2017,” a showcase of the works of six dance choreographers. Two of the pieces had the issue of EJK as its theme and I found the performances powerful and emotional. Like Pierre’s photos being not statements but questions, the dance performances were certainly more than statements but evoked questions on relationships, life, and social issues.

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“Postcard” choreographed by Russ Ligtas. (Photo by Marveen Lozano)

From photos, to films, to dance, to this piece of writing. We all love telling stories. And we share them the best way we can.

 

 

 

Legazpi Weekend Getaway

“How can something so beautiful turn out to be destructive at the same time?”

This was what came to mind when I first saw a glimpse of Mayon Volcano as the plane descended at the Legazpi Airport. The volcano, completely visible except for a small patch of clouds covering the top, took my breath away.

According to Wikipedia, Mayon is the most active volcano in the Philippines erupting over 51 times in the past 400 years. The most destructive eruption was in 1814 that buried the town of Cagsawa. Aside from volcanic eruptions, Albay is also frequented by typhoons. But the province is a model for disaster resilience and zero casualty for their impressive disaster preparedness efforts.

Arriving so early in the morning, I got to walk around Legazpi, also known as the “New Albay,” which is reminiscent of a quiet, sleepy town but contrasted by a cluster of malls in the area. It was around 6 AM and all the shops were closed and most activities were centered in the market nearby. For me, Old Albay District had more charm with its old structures, quaint cafes, and hip and modern restaurants.

As a first timer in the place, having a perfect view of Mt. Mayon was the goal. For this attempt, we went to Daraga Church, Cagsawa Ruins, and Camalig (where Japanese war tunnels and the chocolate hills of Albay are located). Too bad, the volcano was not at all sociable and hid behind a veil of clouds the whole time.

Despite, this, we comforted ourselves with Albay’s one of a kind culinary offerings – traditional Bicolano dishes from Waway’s Restaurant which used to be a turo-turo (eatery); Bicolano fusion options from the famous Small Talk Café; and sili (chili) ice-cream from 1st Colonial Grill which also offers other interesting flavors like kalamansi (lime), malunggay (moringa), and tinutong na bigas (burnt rice).

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The following day, we got lucky as Mayon finally displayed a full view of it’s perfect cone, its unbelievably symmetrical conical shape. What better way to enjoy Mayon but through an ATV tour with Your Brother Travel & Tours. For someone who doesn’t drive and can’t even ride a bicycle for the life of me, riding the ATV was a lot of fun as we threaded through rocky slopes, a river, and long and winding roads.

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Legazpi is definitely a must-visit place. You get to go sightseeing and do fun activities, you’ll enjoy the food that will surely satisfy your palate, and you’ll revel in Mayon’s grandeur. How about that for a quick weekend getaway.

Making Zero Casualty a Reality

“We live life with the assumption we have time.”

I nodded in agreement as I was in the audience listening to Migel Estoque’s talk about the work that Philippine Disaster Resilience Foundation does and how getting connected; gathering essential, useful, and personal supplies; and making a plan could reduce disaster risk.

This was part of Rappler’s Agos Summit, held on July 7-8,2017, that highlighted best practices and innovations in Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) and Climate Change Adaptation (CCA).

 

Preparing for “The Big One”

I remember being fascinated while experiencing my first earthquake in Baguio back in 1990. As a young boy, I was oblivious to how deadly the disaster was.

These tremors have been happening more often these days with the latest one hitting Leyte. Makes Metro Manila residents even more paranoid over the magnitude 7.2 earthquake expected to be generated by the West Valley Fault.

Will it really happen? We don’t know for sure but Ramon Santiago of Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) said that the best we could do is to prepare people and to raise awareness. “It’s not the earthquake that kills, it’s the weak and old structures,” he added mentioning special concern over buildings built before 1990.

To further promote a culture of preparedness, a metro-wide earthquake drill (#MMShakeDrill) is scheduled on July 14-17, 2017. Regular drills build confidence helping residents to stay calm as panic causes more harm and even death in times of disaster.

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Baguio Hilltop Hotel during the 1990 earthquake (Photo from Phivolcs).

Nature can save lives

Situated along the Pacific Ocean (an incubator of storms) and the Ring of Fire (where volcanic eruptions and earthquakes occur), the Philippines has been ranked as the 3rd highest disaster risk nation (2016 World Risk Report), the 13th most climate-vulnerable state (2016 Climate Change Vulnerability Index), and the 1st most exposed to tropical storms (Climate Reality Project). As a country, it seems like we got it all, disaster-wise.

The risk we face from disasters is even more exacerbated by our actions. There’s no proper waste management which causes garbage to clog drainage systems resulting to flooding. Due to deforestation, water flow during heavy rain is intensified which could lead to erosion or landslide. Intensive agriculture makes the country defenseless against the impacts of El Nino and La Nina, making us food insecure.

Senator Loren Legarda in her keynote speech during the Agos Summit mentioned how logging caused the mudslide at Saint Bernard, Leyte in 2006. We remember residents saying that logging also worsened the damages of Typhoon Sendong in Cagayan de Oro. In contrast, a town was saved by mangroves from the wrath of Typhoon Yolanda.

Everything is interconnected. But we have lost our connection to nature. We have to be reminded that our best defense against climate change impacts, quite simply, is caring for our environment.

 

DRR education for children

Children are especially vulnerable to disasters. But children don’t have to be helpless if we provide them with the right Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) knowledge, skills, and attitude.

The Republic Act No. 10121 or the “Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act of 2010” mandates the Department of Education to integrate DRR education in the school curriculum. Every year, the department observes the month of July as the National Disaster Consciousness Month, which is now known as National Disaster Resilience Month.

Related activities, however, are typically limited to disaster response drills and exercises. While these efforts are a good start, they seem to limit students’ skills and knowledge needed in the overall approach of DRR. Moreover, efforts that primarily concentrate on disaster response tend to leave a gap between understanding the interrelation between environmental degradation, climate change, and disasters.

But there are efforts that try to further provide DRR education to different sectors of the society, especially children. One such program is HANDs! (Hope and Dreams) Project, a research trip organized by the Japan Foundation Asia Center, focusing on disaster and environmental education + creativity.

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HANDs Fellows conduct storytelling with children in Thailand (Photo by Kenichi Tanaka).

As a HANDs Fellow, I was able to learn about disaster resilience stories from Navotas, Metro Manila; Bali, Indonesia; Phuket, Thailand; and Kobe, Japan (Apply now to be a HANDs Fellows this year). As an offshoot of the program, we’ll be implementing our action plan focusing on training teachers on creative methodologies for DRR education.

 

Zero casualty during disaster may be difficult to achieve but it has been proven time and again that with adequate information and preparation, it can be achieved. And the best time to be informed and to prepare is now.

 

Also published on x.rappler.com.

SenseCampPH zeroes in on Sustainable and Livable Cities

According to World Health Organization, more than half of the world’s population live in urban areas. With this, city dwellers encounter a myriad of problems such as resource scarcity, energy and food insecurity, traffic congestion, pollution, and natural disasters made worse by climate change, among others. How then can we work towards sustainable and livable cities?

This is the challenge we explored during the first-ever SenseCamp in the Philippines, the MakeSense community’s signature unconference. A SenseCamp is a participatory and participant-led conference where you get to exchange ideas and take concrete action on a specific social issue.

Held last weekend at Kahariam Farms in Lipa, Batangas, the event featured sustainability-related initiatives of various resource persons. Abigail Mapua-Cabanilla, Director of Hub for Innovation for Inclusion, provided a different side of how we see Manila traffic through their human-centered innovation research. Manuel Bretaña IV, Chief Curator of Qubo PH, stressed about the importance of creating more green spaces. Wilhemina Garcia of JunkNot, shared how regular and everyday junk can be transformed into usable items. Phil Gray talked about how harnessing solar power through sunEtrike, an electric tricycle, can move riders in a cleaner, more comfortable, and more cost effective way. Aaron Salamat of RVA Design and Build expounded on green architecture.

Aside from breakout group learning sessions, there were start-up creation and crowd-sourced workshops. Participants were also treated to a panel discussion blended with live music from Benjamin Bernabela and Amalia Morante of Tunay Arts Movement. Benjamin and Amalia became part of the panel together with Manuel Bretaña IV and Zero Waste Advocate, Xavier Martin who gave their insights on creating better cities through individual action.

On top of all the learnings, those who took part of the SenseCamp enjoyed the organic meals, the farm tour, the fun games, and the interaction with social entrepreneurs and passionate, like-minded people.

It was an inspiring and memorable weekend and may all the meaningful conversations lead to collective efforts in truly building sustainable and livable cities.

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