Humans of the World: Maya from Indonesia

In the beginning, Maya’s parents didn’t approve of her becoming a farmer. Like in the Philippines, farming is not a career option for young people in Indonesia.

Maya and her four other friends have always wanted to be farmers. As women, they thought of having their own business where they can have more flexible time allowing them to take care of their family. Farming is a good business as everyone needs food. Organic farming, in particular, produces healthy products while protecting the environment.

In 2012, Maya and her friends put up “Twelve’s Organic,” an organic farm in East Java which is also a demo farm for the young people they train to be organic farmers.

Maya admits that it is a challenge to encourage the youth to follow the path she is on but she says the best way she can do is to show them that organic farming can be a profitable career option.

Maya (far right) together with her fellow 2018 IFOAM-Asia Organic Youth Forum participants.



Humans of the World: Molly from India

“Everyone should be dispensable,” Molly stressed while talking about the enterprises she helped develop.

Molly is the Director for Enterprises of Timbaktu Collective. She promotes organic farming and supports the following initiatives: a weaving unit with young marginalized women who work on natural dyes; sale of handmade soap made by people with disabilities; and a small organic shop of local produce providing direct income to the community.

Timbaktu Collective is a non-profit organization working for sustainable development in the drought prone Anantapuramu district of Andhra Pradesh (A.P.) India. Through the years, they have empowered women who had no access to finance, put up a school, and transformed the area damaged by fire, overgrazing, and desertification into what it is now, a flourishing forest.

Molly feels privileged living a simple life in a place where there’s community, camaraderie, and good food. It is where she wants to spend more time on the land – growing, tilling, and harvesting.

Molly and advocates of the organic movement from the Philippines. (Photo Credit: Victoriano Tagupa)



Boracay 2.0

Boracay – a beach island with an abundance of water activities, foreign tourists, buffet dining, shishas, live band of different musical genres on almost every establishment, and environmental patrol men (an entourage of government staff, police, and military men complete with guns and all).

Since its re-opening after its rehabilitation, the locals have been very strict in making sure Boracay stays a paradise. A couple found to be drinking liquor at the beach was reprimanded and was asked to pay Php 1,500. Yes, that’s how strict they are now.

I would have to say Boracay has improved. It’s much cleaner and there are relatively fewer people. No more fire dancing, loud music, and parties that last till daybreak. The beach front has been pushed back from the water to comply with the 30-meter easement rule. They also limited the number of tourists coming in, around 19,000 at any given day (I’m not sure how that can be monitored, though).

I see the charm the island has. Why it’s still a sought after travel destination. You have the lovely beach with fine, white sand and the crystal clear turquoise water (no more green moss), complemented by the party vibe. Younger crowds may not like it as much since it’s tamer and less wild but titos (uncles) like me prefer this.

There are still a lot to be done like drainage and road works but this is a good start. Even affected locals agree that the Boracay closure was worth it. This also sets an example for other tourist sites to be mindful of the environment.

Nature has a way of healing itself if we allow it to. I just hope this won’t be a case of ningas cogon where we eventually revert back to how it was. In which case, we haven’t learned anything at all.

Sugoi Japan!

I started watching “Terrace House” and I’m hooked. This is a Japanese reality TV show about six strangers living in one house as we observe how they live their daily lives. It’s a peek to Japanese culture and an analysis of human dynamics as you get to eavesdrop on the conversations of the housemates. Yes, it’s like “Big Brother” only better.

When I went to Japan for Hopes and Dreams for Miyako, I asked my friends there about the show but it seems like it’s not as popular.

Japan and its people are fascinating. The maze-like train lines which are always on time; quiet and polite people almost dressed alike, keeping to themselves; bento boxes, ramen, and soba; vending machines on every corner; realistic looking fake food displays in front of restaurants; kawaii (cute) stuff and cool inventions only the Japanese could think of; minimalist and compact rooms; and the list just goes on.

We went to Shibuya which was teeming with tourists and locals alike. Finding your way around Tokyo can be overwhelming. It’s a good thing I could simply rely on my friends who did all the navigating.

We mainly had to be in Miyako, a refreshingly small city located in Iwate Prefecture of Tohoku. Those who are into fresh seafoods could eat all the sashimi they want. The place is famous for its salmon.

We stayed at Guest House 3710 (Minato), a hostel type of accommodation. I though it was cool that this is managed by a group of young friends who have been supporting Miyako after the 2011 tsunami.

A tour at Taro Kanko Hotel, a disaster memorial, made me realize how fleeting life can be and it was sad to learn how everything – homes, material possessions, even lives can easily be taken away by natural disasters like the tsunami. The tsunami reached the fourth floor of the six-floor hotel and only the structural foundation remains of the bottom two floors. Japan experiences a lot of natural disasters but I appreciate how resilient its people are.

I’ve been exposed to Japanese culture through exchange programs and opportunities of visiting the Land of the Rising Sun. And now I’m starting to understand the fascination. Whether brought about by the proliferation of anime, an influence of novelty-seeking experiences, or due to Japan’s version of Hallyu or Korean wave, Japanophile (appreciation and love of Japanese culture) will definitely grow. Japan is sugoi (amazing) after all!


Humans of the World: Akira from Japan

Meet Akira. A wife, a mom, and a zero waste warrior.

Akira heads the Zero Waste Academy, an organization promoting the zero waste movement in Kamikatsu. In this small town in Japan, wastes are segregated into 45 categories achieving a recycling rate of 81%.

During the World Economic Forum, she was one of the six young people selected to co-chair the conference in Davos.

To further promote the idea of circular economy, she created a zero waste card game which is meant to educate both children and adults.

An epitome of a strong, independent woman, Akira is driven by the mission to do something now for our generation’s sake and that of her daughter’s otherwise there won’t be any future to speak of.

Busy as she normally is, Akira admits it’s a challenge to juggle between work and family but she tries to stop working after 6PM and devote the time to her husband and child.

Photo Credit: Kel Almazan

HANDs!: Hopes and Dreams for Miyako

How can the element of fun be possibly be integrated to something serious like disaster education?

This is where Iza Kaeru Caravan comes in. A disaster drill comprising of games, storytelling, toy exchange, and other fun activities for kids.

The event organized by Japan Foundation Asia Center as part of Hopes and Dreams (HANDs)! Project and Sanriku International Arts Festival took place in Miyako, a coastal area of Iwate Prefecture, which was hit by a tsunami in 2011.

HANDs! Fellows from Japan, Philippines, Indonesia, and Thailand took part in the said event. Aside from the caravan, they also participated in the Miyako City Walk and Mapping, as well as a group discussion about creating a better future for Miyako.

In time for the anniversary of the Great East earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011, the fellows likewise learned more about the disaster through a tour and a Memorial Ceremony.

The local tour guide said reliving memories of the disaster can be painful but she stressed its importance in raising awareness so we become more prepared in case such disaster happens again.

She added that the sea can bring about nature’s wrath taking lives. But being a fishing area, residents acknowledge the providence of the “mother sea” as they call it. A demonstration of nature as a hazard, a blessing, and a tragedy.

One of the HANDs! Fellows, Makoto Sasaki who initiated this effort is committed to making her hometown, Miyako, a better place. For her, this is just the beginning of greater things to come for the city.

Photo Credit: Shinji Yoshida and Carlos Ortiz

Humans of the World: Lena of Germany

Lena doesn’t own a smartphone as she doesn’t want to replace a perfectly working mobile phone with a new smartphone. She thinks it would have been a waste and she usually uses her stuff till it is broken.

Not being part of the horde may have been a good thing for Lena as she has more time to work with her hands. “I like to draw and paint, to sew clothes for myself, to bake and cook, to play the guitar, to work in the garden, grow flowers and vegetables,” Lena says. “When doing it you have to be right in the moment. It is kind of meditative. I also like to read, write, travel, meet with friends and play, talk, laugh and discuss. To stretch your brain and share your thoughts with others opens your mind again.”

Lena sees the great possibilities of smartphones and social media but just standing outside this big social media party over the last years, she observed that some people are nearly addicted to it. Young people standing together, not talking, not laughing. Everybody just checking their phones not living the moment.

At some point, Lena thinks she would buy herself a smartphone, a fairphone at that. And she might have a social media account eventually. But for now, she manages to communicate with her friends and family through e-mail and her good old phone.