Series of Unfortunate Events

There’s the suicide bombing at Manchester after Ariana Grande’s concert.
And then the Maute terrorist group attacks Marawi.
And then double bombing occurs in Jakarta.
And then another one in Kabul; and let’s not forget, this happened to Saint Petersburg, too.
And then Duterte declares Martial Law in Mindanao.
And then we have Mocha Uson’s symbolism hoopla.
And then online trolls, fake news, and mindless social media postings continue on.
And then Trump wants to pull out of the Paris Agreement.
And then we learn that the Nickelodeon theme park in Coron is pushing through.
And then a gunman wreaks havoc at Resorts World.
 
It’s a crazy, crazy, crazy world.
 
And yet we see a glimpse of hope and kindness, and beauty in humanity.
 
From the One Love Manchester benefit concert that would aid victims and families affected by the Manchester bombing.
From Muslims protecting Christians from the Maute terrorists.
From noble groups and individuals quietly doing their part to attend to the needs of Marawi evacuees.
From Indonesians defying terror with their, “we are not afraid” message.
From truth seekers, those making their stand for what is right, and citizens who are not afraid to question the government.
From 146 other countries which ratified the Paris Agreement.
From environmentalists defending our oceans and the planet.
 
From people who strive to be human.

Being Human

The security guard opened the door forcing a smile. “Good morning, ma’am/sir,” he said. People pass by not hearing nor seeing him. Not a word. Not a glance. Not an acknowledgement of his existence.

Inside the elevator, herds keep to themselves. No eye contact. Phones serving as blanket for the awkward silence. Well, not just in the elevator. Everywhere. While walking, in the restaurant, in conversations. Everyone bowed down, almost like praying or meditating.

Folks being helped never saying, “Thank you.” “Thanks,” “sorry” and “excuse me” have gone extinct, so it seems.

How about a smile? Beware, it can be taken suspiciously.

When eyes meet, both immediately have to look away. Stare longer and you might get a frown or a “What are you looking at?!”

I suppose it has always been like this. Minding your own business. Never talking to strangers. Practically keeping to yourself. But I find it odd being human these days.

My Top 10 Posts of 2016

1. I’m an Igorot and I don’t have a tail

Igorot, or Cordillerans, is the collective name of several Austronesian ethnic groups in the Philippines, who inhabit the mountains of Luzon (Wikipedia).

2. My HANDs! Project Experience

An account of a Fellowship Programme on disaster and environmental education + creativity.

3. Let’s talk about food

Raising more awareness and sparking conversations on food security, the food system, and food in general.

4. Of planting rice and the broken food system

A farm trip and rice planting experience.

5. Overrated Love 

Hurray to single-blessedness!

6. The Awesomeness that is Batanes

Batanes should be your next travel destination in the Philippines.

7. The Day I Died

Musings on death.

8. What happened to kindness?

Deep inside, we are actually kind people.

9. Being an environmentalist

Environmentalism, hopeless idealism and all.

10. 5 reasons why the next leader should prioritize climate change

Climate change is real. It’s one of the most urgent issues we should address.

 

 

 

 

A not so bad 2016

2016 is almost over and some claim it’s the worst year ever thanks to climate change, Brexit, Zika virus, Trump, Duterte, Syrian civil war, and terrorist attacks to name a few. Is this the reality? Or simply our perception?

I remember writing about how we actually live in a better world. Medium listed 99 reasons why 2016 is a good year – improvement of global health, political and economic progress, decline of violence, rise of sustainable living.

We usually ask, “What’s happening to humanity?” “What happened to kindness?” “Where is the love?” I suppose we haven’t really lost it. It’s just buried in the negativity perpetrated by social media and mass media, influencing our perception and thus it becoming our reality.

Well, 2016 for me has been great! I did a lot of environmental advocacy work which was awesome. I became part of Al Gore’s Climate Reality Project. I continued campaigning for ecological agriculture and got to discover the realities of the broken food system. I thus, started to be more conscious about the food I eat and got to appreciate food more especially when I experienced planting and harvesting rice. True to being an environmentalist, I decided to change my blog name to what it is now, “Green Minded” as we all should be. More green that is, and I mean the other kind of green.

2016 allowed me to travel to two of the best places in the Philippines, El Nido and Batanes. Plus, an overseas travel to Bali, Indonesia as part of a fellowship program.

Movies have been my constant companion from Pinoy classics to all-time favorites, to old reliable zombie flicks.

It has been a good year, after all. Take it from Max Ehrmann’s Desiderata, “With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world.” More than just a perception, I believe that is the reality.

Birthday Thoughts

A lot of people look forward to their birthdays because it’s that one day that you get to feel special. You receive presents. People are nice to you. And suddenly, everybody is your friend. I don’t fancy it that much and I dread it a bit. For one, if you’re in the Philippines, you have to treat your friends and family for dinner or something which sort of contradicts that notion that it’s supposed to be your special day in which case they should be the ones treating you. I also don’t like attracting too much attention. In the workplace, I would hope nobody knows about it. I should just take a leave of absence next time. AND for every “Happy Birthday!” greeting you receive, it’s like a taunt echoing at the back of your head saying, “You’re getting older!” Doesn’t bother me, really. Well, maybe just a little. It’s amusing how when we’re younger, we couldn’t wait to get older and now, all we want is for time to stop.

It does feel good when people show their love through messages of affirmation. And Facebook makes this so much easier. I received hundreds of FB notifications, genuine and generic ones. I’m also guilty of this obligatory greeting as FB claims we’re friends. I suppose it’s an attempt of maintaining a connection. We are very much connected, social media-wise but are so personally disconnected. It’s a shame when friendships are reduced to yearly birthday greetings until we stop communicating at all.

I realized my love language is quality time. According to Chapman, there are five types – words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service, and physical touch. So more than the kind words and deeds, the presents, the hug, just the time spent with me is enough to let me know that I’m loved.

I am in my early 30s and I feel like I’m settled at this point. Not in the material or achievement kind of way, but you know, as a person. I have a good understanding of who I am, what works for me, what I want in life. I’m more self-aware and I think I’m living a balanced life. But of course, there are still a lot of things to learn and experience, places to visit, and people to meet.

Nowadays, you see all these under 30 overachievers who already built a business empire, are famous, or are super successful. And you ask yourself, “What have I been doing with my life?” I guess celebrating one’s birthday is not so bad after all because it basically is a celebration of life. It’s the best time to look back and reflect on both the good and the bad things that happened to you.

I’ve been keeping a journal for a while now and as a response to the “100 Happy Days Challenge” I started writing things that made me happy in a day no matter how mundane they may seem. I continue doing this up to this time because it’s a great way of reminding me to be more mindful and be appreciative of everything.

So cheers to life and here’s to more birthdays to come!

Overrated Love

I don’t understand the appeal of romantic love. You always see movies about two people, finding each other, falling in love, and living happily ever after. You hear songs whining about unrequited love, unfaithfulness, and heartbreak. This so called love has such an impact on people that some are driven to insanity with others resorting to suicide.

It can be difficult to explain. It’s a spark. A funny feeling inside. Maybe like a drug that makes you high. Or destiny working its magic. But it’s all fantasy. A fairy tale far from reality. And it’s milked by the movie and music industries producing films and songs about, well, love. As if that’s the only emotion there is. Money-driven corporations take advantage of this and entice couples to buy chocolates, stuffed toys, and presents during Valentine’s Day and anniversaries. These continually fuel our desire for a happy ending. Feed us the idea that there’s a person meant only for you.

It is human nature to seek that connection. Props to those who find it realizing that it’s not about the perfect match but acceptance of the other person, flaws and all. I wouldn’t want to disregard successful, happy relationships. They, of course, exist. Almost rare, though. Those who weather through the ups and downs. And end up growing old together. Not resorting to irreconcilable differences as an excuse for escape.

I think we should focus more on the practical side of romantic love and not dwell too much on the kilig factor, the romantic excitement. “When we’re hungry, love will keep us alive” IS rubbish! It is a commitment which could eventually lead to babies being born, mouths to be fed, and bills that have to be paid. Add to that the reality that people change, feelings change, and the love of your life can transform into a living nightmare.

But who am I to talk? I haven’t been in a relationship. Friends tease that I might as well get married to a tree. Or they tell me I’m scared of commitments. I thought it’s fear of intimacy. But I realized I have so much love to give that I wouldn’t want to focus that to just a single person.

So while I still don’t get why people flock to the cinemas to watch another awkward meeting-drama in between-happy ending movie; or listen to another singer complaining of a bleeding heart; or post another hugot line (a statement drawn from a deep place); I have to admit that love is a powerful force. It does make the world go round, I just wish people don’t fuss over it too much.

Musical Tastes

Morrie said there’s nothing wrong with silence. And I agree with him. But I can’t get enough of music. My whole day in the office would always be filled with songs from a Spotify playlist. Not because I hate silence. It’s just that music relaxes me. It transports me back to a certain memory. It can bring nostalgia and it can be uplifting, at the same time.

We’ve heard of the healing powers of music. How it can apparently make babies smarter. Or make plants grow healthier. The point is, music is a cool thing!

I grew up with Alan Jackson, Shania Twain, and Garth Brooks singing in the background. True enough, Country music is a hit back in my hometown, Baguio, where you can still see men, especially the oldies sporting cowboy hats and boots.

The 90s exposed me to Bubble Gum Pop, Boy Bands, and Girl Bands; that time when Britney Spears was, well, still “innocent.” My older brother preferred Rock, Heavy Metal, and Grunge. We used to fight over it. He said it’s his lullaby. I would naively label it as demonic.

I eventually developed a liking to Alternative Rock and would always watch MTV as they proudly claim, “And we promise, no Boy Bands!”

My involvement with a local musical theater group made me a fan of Broadway songs and Lea Salonga, one of the best Broadway singers there is.

These days, I try to listen to diverse genre of music.

Music Background
Music Background With Different Genres and Types

Right now, I’m listening to songs of the 80s. So retro. This has to be my favorite era for music. The beat, the melody, and the lyrics are unique. We don’t really focus on lyrics, or the story, or the message of songs. But I have to say they were much more meaningful then. Unlike now where a lot of music is just about sex and gibberish expletives repeated over and over. It can such be a revelation when you try to dissect a song. Makes you want to go, “Really, that song’s about that?

You can pretty much create a song about anything and everything, and have all the artistic liberty in the world. It can be amusing, though, how today’s generation think their music is the bomb when in fact, it’s a cover. Reminds me of a React video on the collaboration of Rihanna, Kanye West, and Paul McCartney where younger people commented, “I don’t know who Paul McCartney is but Kanye’s gonna give this man a career with this new song”; “This is why I love Kanye, shining a light on new artists.” Sad. And not surprising. I have nothing against contemporary music but I hope we try to go back a bit in the past and listen to what it has to offer. It could surprise us. But then again, to each his own.

There’s nothing wrong with silence. And surely, there’s nothing wrong with filling silence with music. As Plato brilliantly puts it, “Music is a moral law. It gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to life and to everything.” Thank you for the music!