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Ushering the Green Path

September 4, 2009 8 comments

The short repose from blogging was an utter blessing on my part to ponder on the things that needed much attention. My officemate told me that I should focus on something relevant rather than speculate on unnecessary subjects such as faith and politics which seem like rigmaroles to her ears. Somehow, I thought that she doesn’t understand my endeavor. But after reflecting on what she said, I was impelled by an idea of defining where I should immerse my self with.

In the vast arena of knowledge, I know I have to choose a subject to embrace, to live and to contribute to its growth.  And in this case I opted to pry on environmental studies which is I deem far alarming than Mar giving up his political aspiration to pave way for the Cory Magic.

Of course, I don’t want to be a member of a stringent environmental cult that would die for death of a fly slapped by President Obama but just a simple advocate that would help the environment in my own simple ways. I would still write about other things that interest me for sure. It is just that environmental problem is prevalent and the obligation to save it confronts us in many ways. And in a wider sense, I cannot really separate myself from the things around me.Celebrate the World

Looking back to a past decade, one would see the abject deterioration of the environment. In my personal experience, I once enjoyed sight of the dragon flies lingering in the field and catching the harmful pest feasting on the rice stalks. Then all of a sudden-Poof! These little creatures were nowhere to be found and most have been eradicated by pesticides. Even the crickets and cicadas were obliterated in rice fields. Just exactly as what Rachel Carlson had claimed, man is so desperate to re-engineer the scheme of nature all for the glory of monoculture and high harvest yields. She added that men have become self-centered that they forgot to acknowledge the biodiversity co-existing with them.

Meanwhile, climate change is starting to wreak havoc in our planet. Heat became unbearable and would likely to soar rapidly in the coming days if carbon emission is not curtailed. And if ever we became altruistic of these things, the effect would only be felt in the long future. Dr. Jessica Salas, an advocate against climate change, said the collective effort of people around the world to cut carbon produce can only be felt by 2040. By that time the aqua alta have already submerged some part of the Philippines including the City of Iloilo. So here is the point: Let’s save the planet, in whatever way we can, by not letting it reach 2040 when the rising sea level could possibly destroy most of our coastal communities.

Moreover, the population would never recede in time but would perpetually grow in years. This has a critical effect to the environment as the law of demand and supply ascends with it. Taking the example of water supply versus the water consumption per person, one could logically deduct that water will become scarce by 2015. You do the math based on population projection and you’ll get a horrible picture of the situation of our planet. And if you still need more proof, I urge you to check on the remaining watershed around the country and you will be shocked of its improbability to manage the demand of the booming population by 2020.

So with all these formidable insights, one can never shoo the condition of our environment today as done by pact scientists who claimed that global warming is absolutely hearsay. I know that this have been bugging us all along yet we continue to be unmindful to do something about it. We know that saving this planet lies not in the mercy of God but on the commitment of the people to rebuild it.

Lastly, we are the cause that this planet is dying and this is the right moment that we should also be the cause for its living. Saving this planet is everybody’s concern simply because we owe our lives to its graces.

Losing Letters

August 12, 2009 15 comments

loveletters2I have this undying fascination for reading old documented letters compiled in books especially when it speaks of human affinities that usually begins in courting. Elegant scribbles of blotters, which are mostly portrayed in sepia, create a portal of the past of how men addressed their inamoratas with clandestine penmanship and poetic embellishments. Their age was very different then when SMS was not yet available for use. They only had the paper, inkwell and the blotter to send messages to their beloved (disregarding the case of distance), which are in turn carried by messengers, usually friends or relatives, who most of the time were intrigued and tempted to sneak into the content of letters. I haven’t really been a good letter writer, but I have a vivid memory, and making some that paved well while also being nosy of their outcomes.

Back in highschool when I was much enamored to the classic writings like that of Shakespeare’s addressing a sonnet to a beautiful lady of May, I also took the chances of conversing them through love letters. However I was not writing for my sake but for the bully classmates that sought my assistance to furnish them a beautiful rendition to some lady they met on the street. Thinking of crushes is a part of teenage years where one’s face is invaded with zits only to add a more challenging world in courting. What can be more interesting is the fact that there is always a way to compensate for somebody’s shortcomings – and no other act can compete with writing a good letter; and the bully boys had figured that out well. It even made me more convinced of the power of words, how it can blur any imperfection and create an alluring persona to adore. Apparently, it is the words that transform man – too good to be a tool for inveigling.

Now, letter writing is becoming extinct as the Gen-X succumbed to practically new adventures that technology is offering. The age of text and twitter may all be good at one point creating an avenue for social networking yet miss the point of “sentimentality.” Its social cohesion shapes not just how the people behave but also fashions an easy way to start off with relationships. And unlike letters which are done laboriously and are mostly consulted before venturing into the receiver’s hand, this savvy age lost the very essence of proximity as perfect ingredients to pursue a long working relationship. The danger is even greater now that emotions are becoming unruly and are hardly validated like a water vapor that exists in reality but not tangible to human touch.

Although I have not been raised in the days of letters, I know then that the words they expressed, regardless of its authenticity, can all be validated by the receiver. After all letters are easily tracked back to where it comes from. I admit that it will never be gone for our age given the existence of cyber mails or emails (mostly are too formal or plain notifications), yet the question of content’s intention will all be at stake. I am not saying that this technology doesn’t work for relationships, what I am trying to point out is the danger that lurks behind. Can you imagine how many broken hymens SMS have caused by deceit? Those are all possible in texting. Yet, unlike text messages that easily forgotten once the SIM is blocked or the phone is lost, letters, which are fashioned delicately by human hands, may be kept under the pillow, lovingly regarded and truly felt by the lover. Alas, that day is fading.

Photo Credit: Sara Remington

Categories: education, letters, philosophy

Traveling: My Mental Escapade

July 27, 2009 14 comments

drivingLiving 30 kms. outside the city of Iloilo, I have to get used to traveling everyday. That means if I want to be in the office at 8, I have to get ready before the sun rises to catch a transport bus to Tagbak Terminal at 6:30. Since it usually takes an hour of bus ride from our place to Tagbak Terminal, I usually disembark the bus at 7:30 and have to board a jeepney right away for the office. Sometimes it takes more than 30 minutes before I reach my destination depending on the speed of a jeepney. Presumptuously, my travel is far longer than the SONA that President Arroyo will be delivering this afternoon – for if you sum it all up, you will notice that I travel one and a half hours for just going to the office. Actually I really don’t mind because this seems to me a natural routine and I have been used to transporting myself to at least 76 kms (to the city and back) daily excluding the distance traveled during my field works. In short, I am a traveler by my own rights.

But the distance doesn’t matter to me.  As you might notice, I even enjoy it. The farthest my destination is, the better it becomes. Let alone the problem of fares for I have the way to abate it by showing my UP ID which will expire on 2012 pa (hehehe). Anyway, traveling is such a leisure for me despite trudging the same route everyday. Why? Because when I travel, my mind travels with me and I couldn’t help but to think deeply on some things that crosses my attention. Let me share some of the most apparent things that I noticed today:

UNO: While looking outside the bus, you could see that the election is steaming up. This might be the same with other places around the country where electric posts and school façades are awfully ornamented by smiles of the prospective presidentiables. In particular, have you noticed Villar’s visage is becoming ubiquitous? From congratulating the graduates to welcoming the freshmen, from greetings of Mother’s day to that of Father’s day, from simple punch lines of Sipag at Tiyaga to Murang Pabahay, from Iloilo, Banwa Ko to Villards-tulong sa pagsulong ng Philippine sports, you could see his smiling face  in every corner through tarpaulins and streamers. Quack! If you notice, he is actually standing for his motto Sipag at Tiyaga – that is why he is campaigning as early as now. But if you think deeply, it’s about Pera at Tiyaga. Remember that politics connotes a big-shot money game, and whoever has the biggest pocket coupled by publicity and Tiyaga will definitely triumph; and Villar knows that very well. Don’t be fooled brethren! I just hope when you look at his picture, you would also think of the price of his smile or what’s at stake behind his smile. It is only by that that we come to think of other prospects who possess characters like integrity, intelligence, managerial skills, etc; or try to turn our gaze to other candidates that doesn’t speak but has engraved remarkable accomplishments like Bayani and Gibo Teodoro. Just think wise.

DOS: Who cannot notice of garbage in our surroundings? It flies, it rolls, and it happily crosses the street when blown by the wind. Although it provides opportunities for the poor to make money out of it, it nevertheless remains an eyesore. Let’s accept it: there is no such thing as waste. When man creates something, I am sure he creates it out of necessity. Whatever man created surely has use and possesses potentiality for other uses. Take the example of a plastic bag: aside from using it as a basket, it could also serve several uses such as container for other things at home. What is more interesting about a plastic bag is the fact that it can be recycled. And this is not just about plastic: all non-living things especially non-biodegradable are all recyclable.  And when you come to think of it, cleaning our planet is always in our reach and all you have to do is to think that “there is no such thing as waste”. So, when necessity is the mother of all inventions, waste is the most foolish invention a man has ever had – and it is not created out of necessity but lavishness and lethargy.

TRES: From 2008-2009, Real Estate developments in Iloilo increased by more than 50%.  This is quite amazing in so far as real property tax is concerned but may endanger the agricultural production over the year. At about 30% of some agricultural lands are converted if not declared as idle lands for further residential developments. The result is the appearance of streamers and ads on “House for Sale” or “Lots for Sale” that competes with the face of Manny Villar. Because the market in Iloilo is big, streamers doubled up in a matter of just one month. Tsk tsk tsk….Oh, Lord what happened? You gave us the land for free but were subjected into the enterprising elements of some. First, the land was divided into continent (Fine). Then by country (still fine). Then by administrative areas (ok, still fine). But this was divided again into small pieces down to a basic square meter which costs more than an average annual income of the poor (very bad!). Please have pity, oh God.

CUATRO: From Tagbak Terminal to office, I had a funny time counting the many Purified Water and Refill stations. In a matter of 7 kms.interval between the bus terminal and my office, I counted 13 stations. The number is believed to be unlucky by popular culture. Of course, it is unlucky since it will be doubled in a year because the demand for mineral water is constantly increasing. And surely there will come a time that when you speak of water, it automatically entails money. It is just amusing that big cities as New York, calls for the residents to take underground water because it’s clean and free. But that’s not the case in the Philippines. Whew!

CINCO: Last but not the least: When you are riding a jeepney, who wouldn’t notice a sexy lady sitting in front of you? In my case, she wore a green spaghetti dress with a very short skirt that will make you wonder if there is a shortage of textile in global market.

You know, it’s a big irony that amidst the global warming, clothes are becoming shorter and skimpier when in fact they should be made to hide our skin against UV rays. I guess the trend had turned a total opposite now. Today, nakedness becomes a trend where minimal clothing will suffice (hahaha). However, it could also be seen in a different way. Since we are sweating like hell due to extreme heat, I guess the picture below has a very good point.

global-warming-underwear

Anyway, that’s all for my travel amusement. Got to watch GMA SONA pa…hope something good will come out of it.

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P.S. 1. President’s SONA is done. Superb! If there is one thing that can attest to her accomplishments – it is the statistics. Numbers just dont lie.

2. How would you imagine our country being managed by Estrada and Villar, or by rhetorical Legarda and Escudero amidst the global crisis?  I just couldn’t imagine. What we definitely need is a managerial president who knows every nook and crook of governance and have strategies to keep it working. With all conviction, backed by my experience economic research and urban planning job, GMA has provided that well.

3. “Too much for  Cory’s matter. Let’s shift our attention to her hacienda,” says an uring anakpawis.

In the Land of Praying Mantis

July 4, 2009 18 comments

war_prayerThe first day of April begins. The once lush nara trees are stripped of its green canopies as the wind blows warm against the thick picket of the jungle. The new sprout will come out soon in a month where the praying mantises will be feeding on the soft saps of the trees that offer them a juicy delight after a long sleepless night of prayers. They remember that the past few days were like living hell where machines and humans with gritting teeth were hungry for living blood that it was such an honor to see their own kind fall to the ground as cadavers. All of these are happening just for the thirst of fulfilling their man’s belief. How terrible! In the tribe of the faithful, where prayer is the arche of existence, it is such a horrible sight, especially for the young, to continue praying with all this crackling and strafing in the jungle that result to mats of lifeless bodies and dissected guts, laid un-honored by men who blindly believe in the pragmatic sense of killing. Their machines, which a long time ago had never intruded the mantises in their night of prayers, have now morphed into indestructible and ferocious monsters that end all life that cross its way. Yes, all mantises witnessed these and how they loathed every sight of it. What is more horrible is to see men, who were once the herald of protection and the steward of nature have become the slaves of machines and as a result, killing his own kind without qualms. Such a blunder for human race to make machines and turn them into deities! Yet their belief has paved off well – to think of fighting to achieve a greater good in bid of a few lives that do not adhere by means of these machines. Not just that, even the young ones, the mothers, the elders, the natives, pay the price for all of these. Woe!

These mantises had been praying night and day asking nothing in vast cycles of life but a nourishment of soul where all creatures would live in harmony to praise heaven for its gifts. Yet no matter how they shout their lauds, nothing happens for it is impossible now for fools’ souls who have been devoured by the devil of warfare to change. Isn’t it an irony that amidst the cross constellation and the bright crescent moon, a herd of praying mantises are flinching to pray for peace yet given a raining bullet of destruction in return? Trapped in between two camps of fools, they feel abandoned, oppressed, and doomed. Such a pity that even yesterday, another young mantis was shut to death while reciting his morning matins…and how many more mantises will be knocked off in the coming days all for the sake of ideal peace? Woe!

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P.S. South, what has become of you?

Categories: education, philosophy Tags: ,

Reading and Poverty: A Re-post

June 25, 2009 9 comments

SalvaRobertoBy Roberto S. Salva

I began to read prodigiously when I was around 17 years old. I was trying to make it on my own in the big city and found myself diving into abject poverty. If one of the priest-speechwriters of Jaime Cardinal Sin had not hired me as his research assistant, I would have been a janitor.

I applied as a janitor. I already had a plan. I would mop floors and clean rooms, and at the end of the day, I would come home, turn my lamp on and read. I could not have wished for a more comfortable arrangement.

I did research, instead, and read for work until late in the evening. But I still found time to come home and read for myself.

I had not probed into the reasons why I read and why reading seemed to iron out all the wrinkles at the end of my everyday life then. It is only now that I am able to ponder on reading after seeing the results of the Reading Surveys done by the Social Weather Stations in early 2003 and late 2007.

According to the surveys, around 91 percent of Filipinos in 2003 and 85 percent in 2007 read non-school books to gain knowledge and more information. As a statistician, I feel that something is amiss in the crafting of that category. Or, many of the readers may not have captured perfectly the reason why they read. (The next consistent reason given is “enjoyment.”)

It is hard to nail down the one reason why we read, much like falling in love. If we do give reasons, they do not give justice at all to the act. Yet, we continue to read, just as we continue to love.

The reasons given also seem inconsistent with the books read by most. The list is topped by the Bible (67 percent in 2007), followed by romance or love novels (33 percent), cookbooks (28 percent), comic books (26 percent), and religious or inspirational books (20 percent).

Except for cookbooks, the books on the list are not the best books to read if we want to gain knowledge or more information. We do attain certain knowledge and get information from these books but if we are reading toward these ends, we are being inefficient. Enjoyment as the primary objective for reading would have made more sense, given that list.

But it would have been awkward for the survey respondents to give more emphasis on “enjoyment” rather than the more ideal reason of gaining knowledge as the reason for reading. We are a predominantly Catholic country after all, and we abhor any trace of pleasure in our bones.

Given also our education and our country’s poverty, reading for pleasure seems to be an impractical reason. And this is not the time to be impractical.

readerPerhaps reading is really not practical, especially if we are living in poverty. When I was 17 and poor, I did not read for some pragmatic results that reading would have in my life. But with my every reading, I was able to struggle with the imagination, rationality and ideas of Dickens, Chesterton, Camus, Kafka, Buber, Augustine, Marcel, Levinas, Chaim Potok, Fr. Roque J. Ferriols—some of the authors on my reading list then. (And yes, I am bragging a little.)

I found compassion and camaraderie in these authors. My own imagination and my own ideas surfaced and they were strengthened by being rubbed against their works. I had no illusions whatsoever that I was in their league. (But that is another one good thing about reading books: we rub elbows with the authors, even the big ones.)

Reading made me acknowledge the existence of my own imagination, my own ideas, and my own visions. My own mind. These were strengthened with every reading.

If you are poor and marginalized, you need to have your own mind for important discourses are taking place with every step you take toward development—every single step.

Being poor and marginalized—as I have observed in myself, in the urban poor I worked with before and among the people I am working with now—is like being stuck as a teenager. You do not seem to have control over your life. You don’t have your own money. Nobody seems to understand you. You hear a lot of voices telling you that you do not belong, how you should be, how you should live your life, how far you can go and what your limits are. The loudest voices come from within.

It is easy to be defeated by these voices when you do not have your own mind. It is easy to accept that you are poor because you are supposed to be lazy. You are a criminal because you live in the squatters’ area. You deserve to be ridiculed and treated badly because you are deaf or poor. You do not have to go to college because higher education is only for those who are “normal.” You do not have a future because you were born to a hopeless situation. You do not read because reading is only for the educated and the well-placed.

Most of the development initiatives do not touch upon the discourses going on in the mind of the poor and the sidelined. There may be livelihood projects, but do you know that many urban poor are paralyzed when they are asked to fill up a bio-data form or to take a personality test? Gawad Kalinga may build you a house, the microfinance institute may give you access to credit, and your community organization may give you a voice, but what happens when you have your house, money or voice?

Read.

[From the Philippine Daily Inquirer]

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P.S. 1. In regard to learning, poverty is seen as the tallest bulwark to conquer. But hey, this boy proved that wrong by falling in love with books.  You know, it always saddens me to realize that we have a novelist as a national hero and yet we lack the love for books – books that are piling in the libraries that mingle with the dust of disinterest.  If books could  walk and speak, surely they’ll come knocking at our doorstep and urge us to make use of them. Alas, that will never happen.

2. My special thanks again to Mira for sharing this. Still, nobody beats her better with books. Should you like to take a peek, here’s a link to her blog : ஐ Les Fleurs d’un Livre ஐ.

On Creativity and Education

June 4, 2009 16 comments

School days have finally commenced. Students and teachers are once again lining up the gates and swarming like ants to catch the 7:30 flag ceremony. I could draw from their faces the excitement for another school-year adventure and the longing for further learning among the few. Others were pouting because the comfortable summer vacation is over and the teacher looked threatened for their comfort zones may be wrecked once again by the opening of classes. The contrast – which I find very amusing – is very apparent in their faces but the question of “education” which revolves around the teacher-student affinity seemed like a ghost hanging around intangibly. Do they really think of “education” upon stepping on the school premises? Do students and teachers alike think of essential education apart from the daily ordeal in school? Or do they simply want to go to school because education is a pre-requisite to a better future? And are teachers really chaste in their vocation to provide quality instructions as mandated by decree, or are they merely after a stable salary that the government is giving them without minding the thirsty souls of children that confront them five days a week? I really don’t know the answer. All I know is both student and teacher have the responsibility to make education a way of life and not just a ladder for achievement. Yet the heavier part lies much on the mentors whose purpose is to establish concrete learning among young minds and to orchestrate the students to understand the importance of education. As of now, let’s hope for the better days when we can answer these questions with certainty and conviction.

The other day, my officemate was complaining that her daughter was enrolled back to the regular class after a couple years in the special science program of Leon Elementary School. I didn’t give much attention to that. What really shocked me was when she mentioned the effacement of special science classes on all public schools. I really don’t know the reason why DepEd would eradicate such useful programs among public institutions now that it’s started to pick up some fruitful academic results and provided a huge progress on the demarcation of Philippine education. If ever there is a flaw in the current program, total effacement is not the answer but a simple modification on some of the basic management. But whatever their reason I hope that they have a better alternative that would not end up as another white elephant. Again let’s hope for the better.

This morning one of my most beloved brilliant bloggers, Meewa, shared a very brilliant video clip from Youtube. It speaks of education and creativity which I really find very educational and hilarious. Since knowledge is meant to be shared, I posted this video for interested pals. Since it took us more than a decade to finish proper schooling, we should be able to spare a moment for a 20-minute video clip on education and creativity. I promise you will love it.  Please bear with the British accent though.

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P. S. 1. Mir, thanks for this educational and entertaining lecture. Had he been my professor, I would have turned out to be a lecturer too. Hahaha! We’re free to dream, di ba? I think my little super kulit tots, S____ Paz and Christian, will be home schooled too. I also wish them to be part of TED too.

2. Another admired brilliant blogger, Gabi, posted this question: “What does it mean to be educated?” I finally picked an answer: It means creatively imparting your education to others.

Categories: arts, education