Wednesday, December 23, 2015

may the force be with you

There is something inherently manipulative about J. J. Abrams’ “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” (although not explicitly mentioned in its title, it is Episode 7 of the franchise). It smothers you with nostalgia on all fronts, and almost every scene works like an ex-lover trying to worm its way back into your life. I’ve seen it twice in 2D and 3D, and it works. It works really well. (The movie, not the ex-lover). It made me remember my elementary years, around Grade 4, wherein I saved up money just to get this boxed set of the original Star Wars trilogy (Episodes 4 to 6) at downtown Plaza Marcela’s music and video store. P599 was huge for my budget back then, especially for a ten-year-old, but I managed with all the prize winnings I got from poster-making competitions, my daily baon, and the coins that I could find in every corner of the house. After class one afternoon, I went back to the store and bought that big black box. Yes, all the effort was worth it. And this is the same special feeling I got after watching the latest installment. Abrams’ reverence to the past and levity are ingredients missing and desperately needed in the trilogy of prequels, which comes as a surprise because George Lucas, the mastermind of the Star Wars universe, is at the helm of those films (Episodes 1 to 3). Even the actors chosen for the new characters look classic, particularly Daisy Ridley’s Rey (such a magnificent face!). It’s as if they belong to the same film that is first released in 1977. There is no dull exposition of politics here, just the good old tale of The Force and both ends of its spectrum. Adam Driver’s Kylo Ren is effective enough as a baddie in this space opera, too, and even if he has yet to match the iconic stature of Darth Vader in the original trilogy, his character make it up with menacing tantrums. You really shouldn’t be on his bad side. A lot happens in this movie, and to avoid spoiling anyone I believe I’d just have to leave some important questions here: 1) Is it just me or is some of the notes in John Williams’ fantastic musical score sound a bit like his work in “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone”? 2) Am I the only one who thinks BB-8 is like an adorable, needy cat? 3) What can Oscar Isaac not do?

[ photo borrowed from this site ]

Sunday, December 13, 2015

The A-Z Guide to the Bohol Climate Walk 2015

There are days when one needs to break away from routine—rush hour, school, job, our petty primetime news. And for three days and three nights, I wrenched myself out of anything familiar and magnified my support for a call that is close to my heart: Preserving the beauty of my province and its people.

Last November 27 to 30, I took part in the Bohol Climate Walk 2015, a journey on foot from the city of Tagbilaran to the municipality of Anda and an activity that is in sync with many other walks from around the world. Part of the challenge was to answer the questions, What is climate change and how is this walk relevant in addressing it? My answers would probably reach the same distance as the miles we have covered, so I have here the A-Z guide to our advocacy and this special event in Bohol.


A – Anda. We, the Climate Walkers, chose the municipality of Anda because its distance from Tagbilaran closely covers the symbolic mark we want to achieve, which was close to a hundred kilometers. It doesn’t hurt that its beach, with long stretches of powdery white sand, was perfect for our feet that endured a seemingly endless hike.

One of the few breaks during our first walk at night in Albur, 12 km from Tagbilaran.
B – Bohol. It is just one of the many island provinces around the world that is vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. If conditions would worsen, such as sea levels rising due to the melting of the icecaps, it will end up sinking along with Maldives or the Marshall Islands.

Day 2 begins in Loay, 18 km from Tagbilaran.
C – Climate change. The walk was done to raise awareness on climate change and its immediate preventive measures. This include, among others, eradicating bio-fuel and coal as energy sources in Bohol. After all, there is no such thing as “clean coal.”

Rest stop in Lila, 28 km from Tagbilaran.

D – Distance. Whether the distance we covered is an Olympian feat or not, that we made it through kilometers of concrete, asphalt, and rough roads is a sign that our conviction to our advocacy is as strong as our bodies. “Mind over matter” truly shined.

Last minute reminders in Dimiao.
E – Education. It all begins here and now, no matter the age of its audience. In fact, climate change awareness should not be confined only in classrooms, laboratories, conference rooms, and plenary halls. It should be ingrained in our daily lives.

Everyone's pumped up for the hike to Garcia Hernandez.
F – Future generations. Our efforts to mitigate climate change are all for the next batch of thinkers and doers. Without a habitable world to live in, we are putting our children and their children at risk.

On our way to Valencia, 42 km from Tagbilaran.
G – Greenhouse gas. The thicker it gets in our atmosphere, the more heat is trapped in our planet. This leads to erratic weather conditions and stronger typhoons. Even the ordinary act of burning our garbage is a source of greenhouse gases.

H – Hashtag. Today would be perfect chance to make good use of your social media. Check out these hashtags on Facebook to learn more about our advocacy: #boholclimatewalkers #boholclimatewalk2015 #cleanenergybohol #climatemarch #climatejustice and #climaterevolution

I – Idea. Everything starts with this. That is why the recently concluded Climate Change Conference in Paris, attended by most of the world’s leaders, was a landmark event where ideas to solve the consequences of an abused environment were shared. I is also for Invest. Although clean and alternative sources of energy are undeniably expensive at face value, the benefits we could reap from them outweighs every peso spent. Instead of banking our tax money (and our lives) on limited energy sources like coal and oil, it is high time that we invest in the sustainable solar and wind power.

J – Justice. Climate justice is an extension of basic human rights. This is a call for all powerful first-world countries to reduce their carbon emissions since countries that are defenseless and less fortunate, like the Philippines, are those that face the consequences of their neglectful acts.

Day 3 begins in Garcia Hernandez, 53 kilometers from Tagbilaran.

K – Knowledge. You know what they say about it, right? Knowledge is power. With the right arsenal or learning, we can combat the destructive effects of climate change. (See “Education”).

L – Love. There is no force purer and stronger than this. Everything that we do, we do for the love of all things good, our brothers and sisters, our nation, and our Earth.

Cool down in Jagna, 63 km from Tagbilaran.

M – Music. During our breaks in the hike, we listened not just to Christmas songs, but also to the sounds of birds chirping, tree leaves rustling, and the crashing of sea waves against cliffs that lifted our spirits. These are the unique melodies of life that are indeed hard to replace once our environment is wrecked. Let’s keep Mother Nature singing.

Living on the edge.

N – Nature. This is where all of mankind’s resources come from. Therefore, if it is laid to waste, I guess we need to start looking for new ways of living.

O – Organizations. The event was a success because of other organizations like the Bohol Outdoor Adventure Team and Bohol Goodwill Volunteers, Inc., and the private citizens who made the climate walk smooth and bearable.

At the public park in Duero, 73 km from Tagbilaran.
P – Preparedness. If you want to take a 99-kilometer walk (or any distance, for that matter), plan ahead and condition your mind, body, and spirit weeks before the big day. Make a complete list of the things you need and limit it to the necessities to keep your load light.

Q – Quality of life. This should be more than just about eating three meals in a day or having a comfortable bed to sleep at night. As responsible citizens, we should think and act on climate change today, not only for ourselves but also for the rest of humankind.

R – Reality. Climate change is not some future event that we must prevent. Unfortunately, it is already happening, and we must do our best to prevent it from worsening. There are deniers out there, so be careful what you read and hear.

S – Sustainability and solid waste management. The former speaks of a capacity to be productive for a long time. This term fits Bohol’s need for better energy sources because coal and fossil fuel do not last. The latter, on the other hand, refers to safe, efficient, and cost-wise disposal and recycling of our wastes. This has been circulated to the public again and again, yet most of us fail to implement this.

T – Tagbilaran City. This is where the walk began. At Plaza Rizal on November 27 at around 2PM, people from various walks of life converged to take the first step of the Bohol Climate Walk and to rally for a more livable Bohol.

All set for the last push in Guindulman, 83 km from Tagbilaran. 
U – Understatement. After the Bohol Climate Walk, every complaint about the pains of going to somewhere like the market or bank has become something of an exaggeration. Because if we have survived almost a hundred of kilometers of walking from point A to point B, then going to the nearest café should not be a problem. U is also for unity. Solving a problem such as climate change is not a job for a singular person. In fact, it requires all units of society to work together.

The Climate Walkers found a pile of garbage along a major street in Valencia.
V – Valencia. During our walk, it broke our hearts to see a huge pile of non-biodegradable garbage on the street a few meters away from the municipal hall and across the Mayor Pablo Lim Memorial Astrodome. It was also near a church. So what happened to cleanliness is next to godliness?

W – Walking city. Tagbilaran City has the potential to become like Venice or Barcelona, where one can walk around the streets to revel in its rich history and rustic beauty. Upon learning about the walk, my mentor, the poet Marjorie Evasco said, “This is a good example of what one can do every day for the environment and health. Walk at least 30 minutes to an hour. Walking should become again our favorite mode of transportation.”

Still standing tall in Anda after a long, long walk. 99 km covered.
X – Extinct, almost. For the first time, Bohol’s enduring icon, the tarsier, is now in the world’s most endangered list. The numbers of this gentle primate have dwindled due to habitat destruction. Losing this species, like many others that have gone extinct, would irrevocably shift the natural balance of nature.

With April, a participant and friend since college who is from Negros Island Region.
Y – Youth. The Philippines is a country with a massive youth demographic. Their strength in numbers, once tapped into a cause like Climate Justice, provides endless possibilities.

Packed and ready to return to Tagbilaran.
Z – Zero to hundred kilometers. We may have made our marks, having participated in the longest climate walk in the Philippines, but our climate actions do not end in Anda. We will keep on walking the talk.

The Bohol Climate Walkers of 2015 with Coco Loco's Robin Gurney.

Monday, December 07, 2015

for our country, for our planet

After enduring the Climate Walk last week, a 99-kilometer journey on foot (more on to that in another post), I’ve received news that made all the effort even sweeter. My poem “Poetry as a Lesson in Botany” will be published in the landmark book, Sustaining the Archipelago: An Anthology of Philippine Ecopoetry, to be edited by Rina Garcia Chua. My piece will be in the company of many others from here and abroad, and the anthology's foreword will be written by Dr. Greg Garrard of the University of British Columbia, author of books such as The Ecocriticism Reader and The Oxford Handbook of Ecocriticism. Thank you, universe! There are those who question and criticize what I do and what I love to do in relation to my choices, passion, and advocacy, but here’s the thing: This is not only for me. Although a piece of literature is but a clump of words, it is the message that I hope would transcend all forms of constraint, either from the page or from a narrow mind. Carry on, guys!