Category Archives: Environment and Social Development

The image of EDSA, used as “backdrop,” is courtesy of Richard Reyes/Philippine Daily Inquirer. The modified version of the same image—where an image of a prospective elevated bike lane is super-imposed—is courtesy of Anders Berensson Architects of Sweden. The bike lanes envisioned by this author will have protective roofs and railings for added security. A future work will calculate if putting solar panels on the roofs will be viable.

Sky bike lanes to reduce private cars on the road by 24 to 33%

Majority of Metro Manila residents favor sky bike lanes

[Note: This is a repost of my article, which was also published in Linkedin. This article is based on (with many portions directly lifted from) my thesis (special problem) for the Master of Environment and Natural Resources Management program of the UP Open University.]

The image of EDSA, used as “backdrop,” is courtesy of Richard Reyes/Philippine Daily Inquirer. The modified version of the same image—where an image of a prospective elevated bike lane is super-imposed—is courtesy of Anders Berensson Architects of Sweden. The bike lanes envisioned by this author will have protective roofs and railings for added security. A future work will calculate if putting solar panels on the roofs will be viable.

The image of EDSA, used as “backdrop,” is courtesy of Richard Reyes/Philippine Daily Inquirer. The modified version of the same image—where an image of a prospective elevated bike lane is super-imposed—is courtesy of Anders Berensson Architects of Sweden. The bike lanes envisioned by this author will have protective roofs and railings for added security. A future work will calculate if putting solar panels on the roofs will be viable.

Metro Manila is indeed among the most congested cities in the world. A study made by Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica) has estimated that losses from traffic congestion in Manila could reach up to P6 billion per day in the next fifteen years (Jica, 2014).

Meanwhile, a World Bank study in 2004 estimated that PhP 910 million was spent on hospitalization and medical expenses for the treatment of non-communicable diseases that include acute lower respiratory infection/pneumonia, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and cardiovascular diseases.

Dealing with traffic congestion entails interventions in several fronts, particularly, in policy, infrastructural, and behavioral dimensions. This study is focused on the infrastructural dimension with the caveat that the other dimensions should also be equally addressed if Metro Manilans are to effectively address the issue.

A simple policy-based solution to the traffic condition is to lessen the number of vehicles on the road particularly given that the road network is not catching up significantly with the increase in vehicle and population. This is already being addressed by policies such as the number-coding scheme. This helps but other solutions are clearly required.

A preliminary study had been undertaken and considers an infrastructural approach as a support mechanism for policy- and behavior-based interventions. It looks at the construction of sky (elevated) bicycle (bike) lanes in Metro Manila, with the assumption that it can help reduce the number of motorized vehicles on the road, and, consequently, reduce congestion and carbon emissions, thereby contribute to climate change mitigation.

This initial work—envisioned to contribute to future pre-feasibility and feasibility studies—considers the likely impacts of this intervention, estimating the impacts through reduction of motorized vehicles and carbon emissions. The results of the preliminary study—based on a survey with 250 respondents and complemented by relevant work all over the world—support the case for the construction of a well-integrated network of bicycle lanes (with most of them elevated) as this will likely result to the 24 to 33.37% reduction of private motor vehicles on the road, leading to the potential decrease in greenhouse gas emissions of about 2.23 to 4.46 millionmetric tons CO2e annually by year 2030. This is roughly the same amount of carbon that can be sequestered by 57.76 to 115.54 million tree seedlings grown for 10 years.

Majority of Metro Manila residents favor sky bike lanes 

The survey also revealed that there is an overwhelming support on the building of sky bike lanes in Metro Manila based on the number of respondents who said that they like the idea—221 people, representing 88% of the total respondents (n = 250). With the high number of supporters and potential bikers, the question that comes to mind is, “Why are there so many people not biking to work/school these days?” The question had been answered by the survey as well.

Safety as a major deterrent

For current non-bikers, safety concern is the top reason why they do not want to bike. In the question, “If you answered NO above (#4 in the questionnaire), what is the main reason why you don’t bike or don’t like biking?”, 57 persons (38%) said they are concerned about road safety. The next top concern is on possible health impact (e.g., poor air quality) (Figure 1).

Figure 1. NON-BIKERS: Reasons for Not Biking

Figure 1. NON-BIKERS: Reasons for Not Biking

These results are consistent with studies in other countries. In what could be among the most extensive studies on biking, Monsere et al. (2014) worked with the US National Institute for Transportation and Communities (NITC) and National Association of City Transportation Officials and considered the importance of segregated bike lanes.

They saw that safety concern is indeed a major deterrent toward the use of bicycles. Their studies, along with work of other experts in the field estimated that many (e.g., 60% of the US population) are “interested but concerned” but that 81% of this segment will likely feel “comfortable” on streets with a separate bike lane. Interestingly, if we will add 38% (concerned about road safety) and 24% (concerned about health impacts) from this survey (proposed Sky Bike Lanes for Metro Manila), they will add up to 62%–which is close to the result (60%) in the US. Certainly, there is another layer of complexity about safety concerns and a simple mathematical solution is not going to resolve that. Nevertheless, it is safe to say that there is a universal truth about feeling scared on the road if one is biking (unprotected) in busy roads.

Similarly, Fraser and Lock (2011), undertook a systematic review of literature, which analyzed the impact of built environment, for example, dedicated bicycle routes, toward increase in cycling in a given society or population. Their review of 11 studies showed that environmental factors indeed had a positive association with cycling. This means that factors such as presence of dedicated bicycle lanes, separation of cycling from other traffic, short distances (e.g., from home to school) contribute to people’s willingness and decision to bike.

Two to 4 car owners (out of 10) will leave cars behind if there are sky bike lanes

Based on the Metro Manila survey, 43 (42%) car owners indicated the desire to use the bike lanes “all the time or often (e.g., at least three times a week).” By adding those who indicated using them “occasionally (or at least once a week)” (13%) and “every now and then” (35%), there is a potential of 90% of car owners using the bike lanes in varying frequency.

Based on the study’s estimations (using projections undertaken by Jica in 2014), there is a reduction of volume by 24% by 2020. This means that 2-3 out of 10 persons who own cars will likely bike to work/destination by 2020 if there is already a good network of sky bike lanes by then.

Using a second set of scenario (where there will be more bikers), there will be a likely reduction of private car volume by 33.37%. Again, this means that that 3-4 out of 10 persons who own cars will likely bike to work/destination by 2030 if there is already a good network of sky bike lanes by then.

Meanwhile, the estimated reduction in greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) of about 2.23 to 4.46 millionmetric tons CO2e annually by year 2030 is better illustrated by using the US EPA online Greenhouse Gas Equivalencies Calculator (USEPA, 2017). Clearly, the estimated reduction of carbon emissions that the proposed sky bike lanes will likely contribute is significant. For example, the volume of reduction is the same as the amount of emissions that may be sequestered from roughly 57.76 to 115.54 million of tree seedlings grown for 10 years (Figure 2).

Figure 2. What does 2.23 and 4.46 million MT of CO2e mean?  [Source: US EPA, 2017]

Figure 2. What does 2.23 and 4.46 million MT of CO2e mean?
[Source: US EPA, 2017]

Sky bike lanes in other countries

The construction of sky (elevated) bike lanes is a fairly new intervention. There is no official count available online but there could be about ten (10) elevated bike lanes all over the world so far with about four (4) of them under construction or in the planning stage. Nevertheless, this preliminary study—despite its focus on a relatively novel idea—will, hopefully, contribute to continuing discourses and encourage more research work on the effectivity of segregated, specifically, elevated bike lanes, for cities like Metro Manila—where there is no longer much space on the ground for any massive infrastructural intervention.

One of the more popular sky bike lanes is the Cykelslangen (Bicycle Snake) in Copenhagen, Denmark. This is constructed over the Copenhagen Harbor, 4-meter wide (with two lanes) and 230-meter long. It is about 5.5 m in height from the quay and used by 12,500 bikers/day. It cost the Danish government about US$6.6 million to construct.

Cykelslangen (Bicycle Snake) in Copenhagen, Denmark. [Image courtesy of Dissing+Weitling Architecture]

Cykelslangen (Bicycle Snake) in Copenhagen, Denmark. [Image courtesy of Dissing+Weitling Architecture]

Meanwhile, the Bicycle Skyway in Xiamen, China, is probably the latest to be built, with the government opening it to public in early 2017 (Travers, 2017). The elevated bike lane—inspired by a concept by middle school students who won in a local science and technology competition—straddles over five residential areas and three business districts. The bike lane can be reached through 11 entrances, which also connect to the same number of bus stops and two underground rail stations (Johnston, 2017). It took safety considerations very seriously by installing 30,000 lights and automated gates that help monitor flow and capacity (Johnston, 2017).

The newly-build elevated bike lane in Xiamen (China)—at 8 km, it is touted to be the longest so far in the world. [Image courtesy of E. Johnston/]

The newly-build elevated bike lane in Xiamen (China)—at 8 km, it is touted to be the longest so far in the world. [Image courtesy of E. Johnston/]

Another good example is the 1-km shared bicycle lane and walkway that has transformed the urban landscape of this part of Auckland, New Zealand. Called,Te Ara I Whiti (Light Path), it is found in Nelson Street andhas received international recognition in the World Architecture Awards in 2015. Its name was inspired by the integration of LED mood lights that keep on changing colors.

Te Ara I Whiti (Light Path) in Auckland, New Zealand. [Image and data courtesy of GHD, Katz Maihi and Iwi, Monk Mackenzie Architects, LandLab, and Novare]

Te Ara I Whiti (Light Path) in Auckland, New Zealand. [Image and data courtesy of GHD, Katz Maihi and Iwi, Monk Mackenzie Architects, LandLab, and Novare]

The case for segregation

Ziemba, Mitra, and Hess (2012) looked at the important question on segregation and their study revealed that there was indeed an increase in the number of bikers when bike lanes are physically separated and improved. The improvement in the design of a bike lane in Sherbourne Street (downtown Toronto) led to an increase in the number of bikers, where almost 24% of the respondents who are newbikers shifted from driving. Meanwhile, Strauss and Moreno (2013) undertook a study in Montreal and found that 61% more cyclists are found in intersections that have segregated bike lanes than in street corners without.

A comprehensive study for the NSW Long Term Transport Master Plan(State of New South Wales through Transport for NSW, 2013) with over 1,200 submissions revealed that 70% of NSW residents indicated that they will likely bike more if it was safer and more convenient. The strategies outlined are evidence-based, indicating, for example, that comparing the number of vehicles and bicycles in a particular street with segregated bike lane during a peak hour (8:00 to 9:00 am), more number of people are traveling by bicycles.

The results of this study as well as other reports became bases for the strategy paper developed by the National Roads and Motorists Association of Australia (2015), which also favor the construction of separated or segregated bike lanes that are intelligently located and form a grid. This means that bike lanes should be continuous (as against disconnected). The Association emphasized that “more continuous separated routes will make cycling a more attractive option and reduce the safety risks associated with funneling cyclists onto roads where cycle paths suddenly end.

Meanwhile, a study by Teschke et al. (2012) compared roads with and without segregated bike lanes and the results showed a reduction in the risk of crashes by nine (9) times. Buehler and Dill (2015) undertook extensive literature review and came to the conclusion that many of existing research work do suggest that a high percentage of people favor “separate paths and/or lanes over cycling in roadways with motorized traffic — particularly with high volumes of fast-moving motorized traffic. Among bike facilities, cyclists and non-cyclists seem to prefer physically separated bike paths or cycle tracks to bike lanes or wide shoulders on roadways.”

Aside from safety considerations, impact on reduction of motorized vehicles (consequently, carbon emissions) is indeed very significant. Experiences in other countries show that biking (in some countries, along with walking) has a direct impact on the decrease of motorized vehicles on the road. In Netherlands—where biking registered a 30% share in total travel mode—car use is only at 45%. Compare this in a country like the US—where biking share is only at 1% (the lowest among the countries in the list)—car use is as high as 84%, generating the highest share. This was reiterated by Gosse and Clarens (2013) who highlighted that providing people with better bicycle facilities is an initiative that can increase share of non-motorized vehicles in the modal share without requiring huge investments.

Therefore, empirical data point to decline in motorized vehicle use where there are good systems and infrastructure such as segregated bike lanes, metro (subway), and sidewalks. While there is still a need to keep on analyzing experiences and validating data, such numbers should guide policymakers and decisionmakers in planning their cities particularly when it comes to transportation infrastructure.

There is no extensive study in the Philippines yet on the extent of biking although a study by Gozun and Guillen (2008) estimated that only around 2% of all trips in Metro Manila are made by bicycles. Latest statistics show a very high share of private cars at 71.3% by vehicle trips and 31% by modal share (Jica, 2014). The non-inclusion of biking in many transportation-related studies reflects that the extent of biking—while showing increasing trend in many countries and cities all over the world—is still low in the Philippines.

Study limitations

The survey is still currently open so as to ensure a robust analysis during the pre-feasibility and feasibility stages. Therefore, while diligent efforts had been exerted to cross-reference the initial results[1], assumptions, and analysis here with others’ work in the field, the calculations from the survey data shall be continuously enhanced in future work (and, at the current stage, should be used with caution).

No substantial data and analytical work are available on biking in the Philippines, much more, from peer-reviewed journals. Therefore, the author had to rely more on work in other countries. This poses limitations because conditions (e.g., climate) in other countries are very different. Nevertheless, this must be taken as a continuing challenge for researchers not just in the Philippines but all over the world.

This is an initial work on scenario development so focus is on preparing the ground work for better and more robust scenario building. As the sample size is smaller than the ideal, some data (e.g., anticipated distance to be covered by potential bikers) had not yet been utilized in anticipation of the more complete survey.

Paving the path toward urban renewal 

Clearly, the preliminary results and existing literature support the case for segregated bike lanes—where sky bike lanes fall under—and which are expected to encourage more bikers on the road (with many of them hoped as previous car owners). However, a robust feasibility study is crucial in order to ensure viability.

The traffic problem of Metro Manila requires multi-faceted solutions and the building of sky bike lanes alone will not solve it completely. Nevertheless, it is very crucial that the solution should include an intervention to lessen the number of motorized vehicles on the road—and increasing bikers on the road, along with effective and efficient mass transport systems, will help in ensuring this.

However, in the case of the Philippines, there is much to be done. The country has been “under-building” (e.g., mass transport systems) for the past decades but building too much in areas where they are aggravating congestion problems (e.g., shopping malls in central business districts).  The traffic problem (and the bigger part – urban decay) can only be addressed through multi-pronged interventions where both behavior and policies inter-weave.

More studies need to be to undertaken. It is ironical that with the gravity of the problem, substantial work and investigation still need to be done particularly with non-motorized transportation. The massive transportation challenges in Metro Manila can only be solved through a holistic approach where policy-, infrastructure- and behavior-based interventions are done comprehensively and systematically.

Constructing elevated bike lanes is an infrastructure-based intervention. It is not the end-all-be-all type of solution but the results of this study show a huge potential for reducing traffic gridlocks and massive congestion in Metro Manila—a reduction that will ultimately result to lasting socio-economic and environmental impacts including reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

While this is just a preliminary work for the bigger task ahead, it is hoped that this work becomes a basis for a more in-depth analysis of elevated bike lanes and a tool for policymaking, advocacy, and resource mobilization for the next stages.

[1] Based on 250 responses in the survey administered via Google forms (with cut-off date of 23 October 2017).


Buehler, R. and Dill, J. (2015). Bikeway networks: A review of effects on cycling. Retrieved   from

Dissing+Weitling Architecture. (n.d.). The Bicycle Snake. Retrieved from

Fraser, S. & Lock, K. (2011). Cycling for transport and public health: A systematic review of the effect of the environment on cycling. Retrieved from

Gosse, C. & Clarens, A. (2013). Quantifying the total cost of infrastructure to enable environmentally preferable decisions: The case of urban roadway design. Retrieved from 9326/8/1/015028;jsessionid=545D4ACFA221562D900B3D2EA3F800F3.ip-10- 40-1-105

Gozun, B. & Guillen, M.D. (2008). Towards a Sustainable Transportation Environment: The Case of “Pedicabs” and Cycling in the Philippines, Thirteenth CODATU Conference of Urban Transport (CODATU XIII), Vietnam, 12-14 November 2008.Retrieved from

Japan International Cooperation Agency. (2014). JICA transport study lists strategies for congestion-free MM by 2030 [Press Release]. Retrieved from

Johnston, E. (2017). Longest elevated cycle path opens in China [Blog Post]. Retrieved from

Monsere, C., Dill, J., McNeil, N., Clifton, K., Foster, N., Goddard, T.,…Parks, J. (2014). Lessons from the green lanes: Evaluating protected bike lanes in the US(through Portland University, commissioned by the US National Institute for Transportation and Communities). Retrieved from

National Roads and Motorists Association. (2015, March). Cycling strategy: A new vision for cycling in NSW.Retrieved from

State of New South Wales through Transport for NSW. (2013, December). Sydney’s cycling future– Cycling for everyday transport. Retrieved from

Teschke, K., Harris, A. Reynolds, C., Winters, M., Babul, S. Chipman, …Cripton, P. (2012). Route Infrastructure and the Risk of Injuries to Bicyclists: A Case-Crossover Study Retrieved from

Travers, J. (2017). World’s longer aerial bike path inspired by middle school students. Retrieved from

US Environmental Protection Agency. (2017). Greenhouse gas equivalencies calculator. Retrieved from

World Bank. (2004). Philippine Environment Monitor 2006. Retrieved from

Ziemba, R., Mitra, R., and Hess, P. (2012). Mode substitution effect of urban cycle tracks: Case study of a downtown street in Toronto, Canada. Toronto: Ryerson University. Retrieved from

Save the date: 2-4 June 2019!

8th International Symposium & Exhibition on the Redevelopment of Manufactured Gas Plant Sites

Hello friends and visitors!

I am happy to announce the 8th International Symposium & Exhibition on the Redevelopment of Manufactured Gas Plant Sites (MGP 2019). It will be held on June 2-4, 2019 at the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa in Atlantic City, New Jersey, USA.

Save the date: 2-4 June 2019!

Save the date: 2-4 June 2019!

The Symposium Steering Committee is now inviting potential speakers and poster presenters. If you want to be involved in this important meeting through a paper or poster presentation, the deadline for submission of proposal is on 30 November 2018.

For more information, please visit

Deepest appreciation for the wonderful sponsors of MGP 2019! [If you want to support MGP 2019, too, please contact Gene or INSTEP directly!]

Deepest appreciation for the wonderful sponsors of MGP 2019! [If you want to support MGP 2019, too, please contact Gene or INSTEP directly!]

For submissions, please go to the following links:

Call for Speakers

Call for Sponsors

Call for Exhibitors

For more information contact Gene Jones

1-850-558-0617 or by email at

International Society of Technological and Environmental Professionals (INSTEP)

Telephone 850 558 0617




Full disclosure: This is a non-monetary sponsored blog (I am a supporter and non-paying member of INSTEP).

Let us contribute to the re-creation of our cities into more liveable  ones--let's bike or walk to work/school! [Image by JR Suarin]

Thanks, Pasig City for the protected bike lane in Julia Vargas!

This is my first post for 2018 so I want this to be about something that is close to one of my advocacies. :)

As many people close to me know, I promote biking as an alternative mode of transportation for urban areas like Metro Manila and that is why my graduate thesis is about it, particularly about sky (elevated) bike lanes. We are not yet “there” in terms of creating a truly world-class city for both drivers and bikers/walkers but every vision starts with small steps, right?

Therefore, it brought so much joys when I discovered that the previously unprotected/non-segregated bike lane in Julia Vargas Avenue in Pasig City is now protected (well, at least the CBD-bound side)!

Finally, protected bike lane at Julia Vargas in Pasig City [Image by JR Suarin]

Finally, protected bike lane at Julia Vargas in Pasig City [Image by JR Suarin]

While the barricades are not really permanent, this is already a good step, which will hopefully encourage more people to bike especially that Ortigas CBD’s traffic is getting worse each day. (Photos above and below were taken at around 5:30 pm so the traffic was heavier on the other side of the road, with more people driving out of the CBD.)

Let us contribute to the re-creation of our cities into more liveable ones--let's bike or walk to work/school! [Image by JR Suarin]

Let us contribute to the re-creation of our cities into more liveable ones–let’s bike or walk to work/school! [Image by JR Suarin]

The results of an online survey that I had done for my thesis showed that, indeed, many people are particularly concerned about their safety on the road when it comes to biking. (I will blog about the results of my study in one of my future posts.) Therefore, the creation of protected/segregated bike lanes addresses this safety issue.

One thing that the Pasig City government should address though is the perennial congestion in Julia Vargas. I reside in the area so I am very familiar with the horrendous traffic there almost everyday so that we usually simply walk  or take Ortigas Avenue instead if we need to go to the CBD. The provision of the barricades will really be good for bikers but may already be causing some frustration (or exasperation?) to many motorists especially that we also noticed that one lane is now or will be soon devoted to car-pooling (i.e., exclusive for vehicles with 4 or more passengers).

While the car-pooling policy has good intents and must be applauded, the LGU should revisit it because Julia Vargas is a narrow road to begin with. Previously, it was three-laned on each side but with the new policy, it becomes a two-lane road on each side (excluding the bike lane). Here is an image, which I lifted from

Illustration for the new carpool policy along Julia Vargas Avenue in Pasig City  [Image by Rio Hondo; with thanks to also for the article.]

Illustration for the new carpool policy along Julia Vargas Avenue in Pasig City [Image by Rio Hondo; with thanks to also for the article.]

As you can imagine, a previously three-lane road now reduced to a two-lane one (with restrictions on the 2nd lane) will likely aggravate or is already aggravating the traffic situation in the area. (The non-apprehension phase of the policy began on 28 February.) There are also compounding issues since the policy will affect those who needed to turn right or left and are in the ‘wrong’ lane because of their occupancy. (Pasig City may want to “listen” to public sentiments through online forums such as those in so as to come to the best proposition for the sake of public good.)

Nevertheless, one good thing with this policy is that it encourages people to really re-evaluate their decisions to bring their cars (especially if the trip is not very far) and if bringing a car is indeed essential, find alternative routes.

As to the bike lanes, my next question is on why the bike lane on other side of Julia Vargas is not protected/segregated. If safety-conscious bikers will now use their bikes to work to Ortigas CBD, then, how can they bike back to their homes (or cars that are parked somewhere) when the other bike lane still feels unsafe?

Speaking of drivers/motivators, a good business model that can be driven by this bike lane policy is the emergence of parking areas in the outer-vicinity of CBDs. For example, the city government together with the private sector can build parking areas–to be rented at affordable fees–near or in the Tiendesitas side so that drivers from outside Pasig City (and those who cannot really leave their cars at home) can simply park their cars there and then bike to work into the CBD.

However, such willingness to bike to work or at least park their cars somewhere outside the CBDs and continue the journey through biking will be encouraged if both policy and structural dimensions are resolved. Therefore, I continue to look forward to more action and innovation from our government (both local and national) and private sector so that, together, we can rebuild our cities into more liveable and healthier ones!

While we and our authorities continue to find ways toward this end, should not we enjoy this protected bike lane even with all its limitations?

Suffer in traffic or... simply bike or carpool? The choice is yours to make! [Image by JR Suarin]

Suffer in traffic or… simply bike or carpool? The choice is yours to make! [Image by JR Suarin]

Come on, bike with me along Julia Vargas! 


This is not a paid blog. I do not request for donation to maintain this blog but I appeal for your kind love to our fellow earth-stewards and Mother Earth by planting a tree (or trees!) on your birthday/s! :) Namaste!

The PDP tackles what could be a long-neglected value: pagmamalasakit. Let is shine again, in our hearts, beloved Filipinos!

At the heart of the Philippine Development Plan 2017-2022 is MALASAKIT

MALASAKIT. A beautiful Filipino word that, at first, seems so simple enough for translation to English.

However, the more I think about it, the more it becomes difficult to find the correct English word for it. Is it concern for others? Is it a combination of regard and compassion? Whatever the most appropriate translation might be, it may inspire us, Filipino citizens, that the Philippine Development Plan (PDP) 2017-2022, the blueprint for our future as a nation, upholds the value of PAGMAMALASAKIT.

The PDP tackles what could be a long-neglected value: pagmamalasakit. Let is shine again, in our hearts, beloved Filipinos!

The PDP tackles what could be a long-neglected value: pagmamalasakit. Let it shine again, in our hearts, beloved Filipinos! (Note: There is significant distortion in image quality so I enjoin you to download the PDP file from NEDA’s website. Believe me, it is a worthy and inspiring read!) [Image courtesy of NEDA, 2017]

For how long ago did we, as a nation, think about our country first more than and beyond our political affiliations and loyalty? If we truly love our country, couldn’t we, for once, stop bickering and complaining and just do something good for our society–one that desperately needs healing?

For the people have already spoken through the ballots and they had chosen a President to whom they entrusted their faith. Let him govern. Let him fulfil his mandate. Let the sanctity of the ballot prevail.

For whichever part of the political spectrum do we come from,  there is no escaping the fact that the President’s downfall will eventually be this country’s as well.

We do not have to agree with him all the time–an authentic democracy allows opposing discourses–but  we cannot also act as if our voice is the only true voice. Here lies the true essence of democracy. Democracy is not just about exercising our freedom to voice out our dissent. Democracy is, more than anything, the capacity to respect, celebrate, and uphold the COMMON GOOD.


Democracy, more than anything, is about the capacity to respect, celebrate, and uphold the COMMON GOOD.


Pagmamalasakit and the common good

Undermining and attempting to destroy the chances of our country to move forward is contrary to the common good. When one talks about human rights but forgets the rights of the victims of crime and drug menace, he fails to discern on the meaning of the common good.

The PDP 2017-2022 then takes off from the need to reflect on how can we, as Filipino citizens, create a society where there is true regard and concern (pagmamalasakit) for others. This is the essence of the common good–when we (both as individuals and society) reflect deeply on how will our speech, decision, and action impact on others.

The PDP 2017-2022 could be a unifying document and, hopefully, be a good reason for all of us to work together (despite our political differences). The Plan appeals to our sense of nationhood–an important value (as part of cultural asset) that allowed countries like Japan and South Korea to recover and embark on nation-building from the horrors and destruction of wars and calamities.

The Plan should be read by every Filipino completely but here are key take-aways from the Plan (directly lifted, NEDA, 2017):

1. The Plan aims to lay a stronger foundation for inclusive growth, a high-trust society, and a globally-competitive economy toward realizing the vision by 2040.

2. The target is to reduce poverty incidence from 21.6 percent in 2015 to 14.0 percent by 2022. This is equivalent to lifting about 6 million people out of poverty.

3. Individuals and communities will also be made more resilient by reducing their exposure to risks, mitigating the impact of risks, and accelerating recovery when the risk materializes.

4. Innovation will be encouraged as the country sets its eyes on graduating to a knowledge economy in order to accelerate growth in the future.

5. The strategies to achieve the targets cited above are grouped under three pillars: Malasakit or enhancing the social fabric, Pagbabago or reducing inequality, and Patuloy na Pag-unlad or increasing growth potential.

6. On the kind of life they want for themselves, Filipinos want a life that is strongly- rooted, comfortable, and secure: matatag, maginhawa, at panatag.

7. The terms “strongly-rooted, comfortable, and secure” used to describe the life envisioned by Filipinos by 2040 reveal middle-class aspirations. They include home ownership, a steady source of income to support family and self, college education for the children, a motor vehicle, stable finances to cover daily needs and contingencies, savings for retirement, and time for vacation and travel.

8. To make the people’s aspirations a reality, government must use the various policy instruments in its arsenal to accomplish the following:

(a) investment in human capital so that Filipinos are equipped to learn and adapt to new technology and the changing pro le of society;

(b) investment in high-quality infrastructure to make the cost of moving people, goods, and services competitive;

(c) sound urban development that takes advantage of scale and agglomeration economies to make the cities more competitive and livable; and

(d) adequate and inclusive nance to enable households to build up savings and to provide capital for MSMEs and households considering the desire of many to run their own businesses.  (Source: PDP 2017-2022, NEDA; directly lifted.)

What are we willing to give?

Our country needs us now, more than ever. True pagmamalasakit entails giving up some parts of our selves, for some, even power that we used to hold. Let us not aggravate the mess nor contribute to the noise. In the quiet, there is true discernment.

More importantly, let us have faith in the good men and women of our government–that despite the lingering ills of corruption and deceit there are STILL many good public servants out there, those who are always  doing their best, ready to protect our institutions, constitution, and people – whoever the president may be. Kahit anupaman ang kulay ng pulitika natin–yellow, red, or blue–our veins carry one blood only. That of a Filipino.

Let pagmamalasakit reside fervently in our hearts again.


This is not a paid blog. I do not request for any donation but I hope you can plant a tree/s on your birthday(s). Namaste!

The Jose Rizal Monument – sharing the line of sight with Torre de Manila [Image taken by this author in September 2014. The Torre de Manila is now significantly taller than this.]

Cultural heritage: When tourism intersects with culture

Reflections on cultural heritage and sustainable tourism

[Note: This is a paper that I had submitted in ENRM 257 – Sustainable Tourism Development, through FIC Ivan Anthony Henares, in my Master of Environment and Natural Resources Management program.]

Cultural heritage – a link from the past, a bridge to the future

Who has not heard of Taj Mahal? It may be the only building in the world that is part of every wanderer’s and traveler’s bucket list.

The Taj Mahal in Agra, India: Beyond words. [Image courtesy of pcwallart(dot)com]

The Taj Mahal in Agra, India: Beyond words. [Image courtesy of pcwallart(dot)com]

  “…one solitary tear would hang on the cheek of time in the form of this white and gleaming Taj Mahal”, as the poet Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941) has described it, perhaps soulfully with a tinge of sadness (as cited in Government of Uttar Pradesh, India, 2014, with adaptation).”

This author has not (yet) been to this heritage site but she is already in awe of what it represents. The Taj Mahal symbolizes a love that never dies, of the beauty of tenderness, of the universal need for union, and for faith in eternity. Who cannot help but wax philosophical in the sight (whether in the flesh or in the imagination) of this grand beauty?

The Taj Mahal, a UNESCO heritage site (inscribed in 1983), is a mausoleum mostly made of white marble. It was built by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan to remember and in honor of his favorite wife, Mumtaz Mahal (UNESCO, n.d.). The Taj Mahal is described as “the jewel of Muslim art in India and one of the universally admired masterpieces of the world’s heritage” (UNESCO, n.d.). No wonder, many carry the dream of visiting it and those who have done so have never stopped being enthralled by it.

A discussion on cultural heritage and sustainable tourism perhaps becomes richer by taking off from a place like Taj Mahal. It makes serious learners appreciate the concept of sustainable tourism from a place or point of view where they can truly experience and appreciate history.

“Cultural heritage” as a concept must first be revisited. UNESCO (2016) has succinctly explained the concept, delineating between tangible and intangible cultural heritage.

What is cultural heritage?

 Cultural heritage

Tangible cultural heritage

  • movable cultural heritage (paintings, sculptures, coins, manuscripts)
  • immovable cultural heritage (monuments, archaeological sites, and so on)
  • underwater cultural heritage (shipwrecks, underwater ruins and cities)

Intangible cultural heritage: oral traditions, performing arts, rituals

Natural heritage

  • natural sites with cultural aspects such as cultural landscapes, physical, biological or geological formations

Source: UNESCO, 2016.

Heritage sites and experiences are, therefore, important in preserving a society’s rich culture and history. However, except in monumental places like Taj Mahal, efforts to preserve the integrity of such sites and traditions are not always consistent and/or successful.

The Philippines, for example is among the countries that need to learn more from best practices all over the world. There are many examples worthy of discussion but those that come to mind almost immediately are the historical buildings and monuments that are being torn down without regard to their significance, neglected, or allowed to be ‘defaced’ such as in the case of Jose Rizal’s monument in Rizal Park—now sharing a part of the magnificent sightline with Torre de Manila, a 49-storey condominium project of DMCI Homes, one of the Philippines’ top developers.

When the soul is weak, the flesh forgets – lessons and strategies in sustainable tourism

Tourism—both domestic and international—is deemed as crucial in allowing peoples and cultures to interact. It is considered as “the foremost vehicles for cultural exchange, providing a personal experience…” (ICOMOS, 2002). Who has not grown richer and fuller because of the experience of traveling? Human history has evolved because of constant wonderment, traveling, and exploration. Some even choose to stay. The meaning of any ‘exchange’ differs for each person—but what is universal is the experience of inner joy and sense of discovery that such an ‘interaction’ offers. “Touring” always goes beyond the physical—sure, the colors and textures of sites and places always give something to the senses—but what is more powerful are the feelings that are evoked, those that touch one to his deepest core.

Cultural and natural heritage sites speak to the soul and that is why they require a deeply-seated commitment. Why did our society allow Torre de Manila to become the “national photo bomber”? Is it plain forgetfulness or a lack of love for our history? Is it about greed? The Filipinos need to think about it really deeply.

The Jose Rizal Monument – sharing the line of sight with Torre de Manila [Image taken by this author in September 2014. The Torre de Manila is now significantly taller than this.]

The Jose Rizal Monument – sharing the line of sight with Torre de Manila [Image taken by this author in September 2014. The Torre de Manila is now significantly taller than this.]

It is almost shameful, disgusting even. One can only grieve at what became of the great man’s well-deserved spot in Manila’s skyline. We couldn’t leave him alone; what’s worse, even, is that we needed to go to the Supreme Court to protect a part of our history and heritage.

What have we become as a nation?

This touches at the crux of the dilemma. How does a society protect its culture and heritage while succumbing to the demands of survival and commerce? How can tourism be developed and managed without sacrificing our heritage and history?

Sustainable tourism then forces us to think beyond the colors and feasts for the eyes and the fullness of our stomach—it tells us to reaffirm our connection to the past, reclaim what was lost, and protect what is still here as we also optimize and share the economic benefits more equitably. Proponents of sustainable tourism prescribe strategies that can be adapted in tourism development and management, particularly in the context of cultural and natural heritage sites. [See Lindberg et al. (1999) for the list of strategies.]

A quick review of these strategies and best practices will reveal that many or all of these strategies and principles had been violated in most Philippine heritage cases such as the one on Torre de Manila. Clearly, our society does not or fails to adhere to similar standards and values. For one, policies are unclear and even wantonly violated. [This paper is rather limited in its scope but readers are encouraged to read an article by Marquez and Garcia (2015). The link is under suggested readings.]

While best practices elsewhere cannot be automatically adapted in other locations, there are a lot of lessons to be learned from the experiences of successful sites. The management and preservation of the Taj Mahal is worth mentioning here. The surrounding area of the monument (covering about 10,400 sq km) is clearly protected not just from obstruction and massive developments but also from pollution.

For example, the Supreme Court of India issued a policy (in December 1996) that banned the use of coal in industries within the Taj Trapezium Zone and mandated industries that use it to shift to natural gas or otherwise be relocated outside the zone (UNESCO, n.d.).

An air control monitoring station has been installed to allow managers to monitor air quality and prevent deterioration that can be caused by atmospheric pollutants (UNESCO, n.d.).

While such air quality measures may be unnecessary for historical monuments (which may be aesthetically ‘lesser’ in grandeur when compared with Taj Mahal) in other locations, the government and private sectors should still be guided by the same level of respect and importance that the people of India are giving their heritage sites, and ultimately, their history and common fiber as a nation. Perhaps inspired by the love of Emperor Shah Jahan to his wife, Mumtaz, there is even a stronger ‘love’ that binds them to the past, enabling their present and future action to be properly placed in the context of sustainable development.

Tourism that cares – valuing people and heritage, alleviating poverty

Sustainable tourism respects not just the physical manifestation of natural and cultural assets but also accords the highest regard for the development potential of people and their communities. It is not simply about giving jobs and employment but more about allowing socially-conscious and equitable exchange of payments and services and rich experiences between and among individuals, families, and communities.  When one visits a heritage site, he should not only think about deriving joys and fulfillment from the experience but also about leaving something valuable behind – whether it be in the form of payment, friendship, or genuine act of kindness and respect. On the other hand, the host should also embrace the experience not simply as another opportunity to earn but also as a chance to celebrate his heritage, history, and roots.

While there are ‘horror’ stories about tourism programs that turned sour (e.g., leading to neglect, losses, damage, and destruction of natural and heritage sites), there are also inspiring and beautiful stories of community development and empowerment. In fact, when planned for and managed well, cultural and natural heritage sites can help improve lives and alleviate poverty. [See World Tourism Organization (2006), for information on how sustainably-managed sites can contribute to poverty alleviation.]

These pathways and strategies have led to significant gains in specific communities all over the world. One of the cases taken up by the WTO (2006) study involved a community-supported project in Karsa District in Ethiopia. Called the Bishangari (“sweet water”) Lodge, it is located on the shore of Lake Langano in sub-Saharan Africa. The project has so far been benefiting the community through direct employment (96% of the staff are locally-hired), assistance to farmers (e.g., through provision of seeds and technical guidance in organic farming), piped water access to the community school, and gradual transfer of technology such as on the development of locally-designed and innovative stove that uses 60% less wood (WTO, 2006).

It is considered a pioneer in ecotourism in Ethiopia—leading the younger set of entrepreneurs toward more responsible tourism enterprises. It promotes an environmentally-friendly way of putting up a business, sparing no cost when it comes to incorporating sustainable energy and waste treatment plant (i.e., solar power and a bio-gas digester) in its over-all design. It is also inspiring because it did not receive any government grant, with owners relying on sound business principles and support from banks through loans. With about 39 local staff, it is estimated to be benefiting about 390 family members. It has also encouraged appreciation of the community’s local culture by forming a musical group that now regularly performs at the lodge (WTO, 2006).

It is also encouraging the community to supply   produce and crops for the consumption of   the   lodge. Meanwhile, local craft makers and artisans are being encouraged to produce handicrafts that could be sold at the lodge’s gift shop (WTO, 2006).

An important ‘credo’ that the owners carry with them as they manage the operations should inspire other entrepreneurs or project developers. They believe that “tourism should only be conducted when the environment, the culture and the nature are respected and preserved for future generations” (WTO, 2006).

Another similar project took place in Candirejo Village, near the Borobudur Temple in Central Java province in Indonesia. Being near a UNESCO-designated World heritage Site, (inscription in 1991) the assistance given to the community by a local NGO, United Nations Development Programme, and Japan International Cooperation Agency was instrumental in the community members’ stronger appreciation of the heritage site and their role as hosts. The project helped families to offer home-stay accommodation, rendered training activities, implemented handicraft-making activities, trained tour guides, assisted and formed catering enterprises, taught farmers in organic farming, and organized the provision of local transport services through andong (horse carts) and ojek (motor bikes) (WTO, 2006). Through the tourism cooperative, profits from the activities are shared and then used to organize and improve community activities such as those for the environment and cultural interaction (Silitonga, 2009).

Striking a balance, dealing with the negative social impacts

Dulnuan (2005) has written about the case of the people of Sagada, which used to be a quiet town in the Cordillera Administrative Region but is now slowly getting used to tourists and visitors. While there had been perceived negative impacts especially on the natural environment and the lives of the indigenous people, those who are engaged in tourism-related activities appreciate the generation of jobs and income that the industry has given them. Young people are directly benefited through rendering of services as tour guides. Local entrepreneurs are able to establish small inns and lodging houses, restaurants, handicraft stores, and transport services (Dulnuan, 2005). Arts and crafts have become sources of revenue as well because local weavers and artists now have the opportunity to produce and sell souvenir items such as friendship bracelets, hand-woven bags, and rattan baskets (Dulnuan, 2005). While the impact on food security and sustainability is not yet fully ascertained, some farmers have shifted from planting subsistence crops to market-oriented produce such as fruits and vegetables, which they now sell to lodging houses, inns, and restaurant (Dulnuan, 2005, with adaptation).

However, such positive outcomes come with a price. There had been accounts of perennial noise, vandalism and theft in the cave sites, crimes, and even drug use (Lapniten, 2016, and Dulnuan, 2005). The local residents had also begun complaining about low water supply particularly during tourism peak seasons. There had also been accounts of stalactites and stalagmites being chipped off by uncaring tourists and of significant amount of garbage (e.g., plastic and styrofoam containers, tin cans, etc.) being left behind. The local life and culture are also being affected with some important rituals being postponed, lessened, or unwittingly opened to guests (Dulnuan, 2005).

There had been gains but there is an over-all feeling of disenfranchisement with some expressing that the rewards are not really reaching the most marginalized. Understandably, only those who can afford to open businesses are the ones who profit significantly from the tourism boom. Project designers and implementers should, therefore, put the necessary mechanisms through which the benefits from tourism can really impact the lives of the people in the most positive way.

Therefore, it is important that communities and the government work hand-in-hand in putting these mechanisms in place. These recommendations may have already been expressed before or done in other locations but, nevertheless, they need to be revisited and implemented soon in the context of community-based engagement:

  • Review and amendment of existing laws and creation of new laws that will address the gaps in governance of heritage sites (e.g., ensuring that local ordinances carry the breathe and depth of national and international policies and declarations);
  • Reforming and enhancing education and values formation programs in both formal and informal settings, allowing us to deepen appreciation of our rich culture and heritage;
  • Creating and strengthening sustainable livelihood opportunities in communities where there are important heritage sites so that people are not unwittingly forced to choose between earning ‘quick bucks’ and the need to protect the integrity of our assets (when people are financially empowered, they are more motivated to act responsively);
  •  Enabling authentic public-private partnerships where profits and rewards are well placed in the pursuit of environmental and societal goals (environment and culture first before profits);
  •  Empowering communities to manage and benefit from tourism sites, practicing shared responsibility, decision-making, and enjoyment of rewards; and
  • Strictly enforcing code of conduct for, between, and among guests/visitors and hosts, deepening shared governance and mutual respect.

The future beckons – and the stories and love that are waiting to be shared

Pearce (1989) has highlighted an important factor when he said that “the social and cultural characteristics of a host community will influence its attractiveness to tourists, the process of development and the nature and extent of the impacts which occur” (as cited in Dulnuan, 2005).

As can be learned in the popularity of the Taj Mahal and places like Sagada and Borobudur Temple, tourists are naturally captivated by places that have deep cultural values. It is, therefore, necessary to respect, preserve, and protect the authenticity of our heritage sites not just because they will draw the tourists in but more importantly, they are our link to the past and bridge to the future.

As what our national hero, Jose Rizal, said “ang hindi marunong lumingon sa pinangalingan ay hindi makakarating sa makakarating sa paroroonan.”


Dulnuan, J. (2005). Perceived Tourism Impact on Indigenous Communities: A Case Study of Sagada in Mountain Province, Sustainable tourism – challenges for the Philippines. Retrieved from

Government of Uttar Pradesh, India. (2014). Taj visitors – Visitors’ perspectives. Retrieved from

International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS). (2002). Principles And Guidelines For Managing Tourism At Places Of Cultural And Heritage Significance. Retrieved from

Lapniten, K. (2016, January 12). Sagada asks visitors to respect sites. Retrieved from

Lindberg, K. & Molstad, A. Hawkins, & D. Jamieson, W. (1999). Sustainable Tourism and Cultural Heritage: A Review of Development Assistance and Its Potential to Promote Sustainability. Retrieved from

Silitonga, S. (2009). Candi Rejo Village – Community Based Tourism Project in Central Java, retrieved from—Community-Based-Tourism-Project-in-Central-Java&id=2043471

UNESCO. (n.d.). World Heritage List – Taj Mahal. Retrieved from

UNESCO b. (n.d.). Borobudur Temple Compounds. Retrieved from

UNESCO. (2016). What is meant by “cultural heritage”? Retrieved from

World Tourism Organization. (2006). Poverty alleviation through tourism – compilation of good practices. Retrieved from

For a legal opinion on the Jose Rizal monument and Torre de Manila controversy, you may go to this link:

Marquez, B., and Garcia, A., (2015, February). A soaring eyesore: Torre de Manila’s construction threatens Rizal Park’s skyline. Retrieved from


This is not paid blog. There is no request for donation but please plant tree/s on your birthday.

Book Tour of Gelber (Greenest Person on the Planet, 2008)!

Hello dear readers!

I met Matthias Gelber recently and pledged to help him promote his book, The GreenMan’s Guide to Green Living and Working.


Cover of Gelber's book, GreenMan's Guide to Green Living and Working. Get a copy for PhP500 only!

Cover of Gelber’s book, GreenMan’s Guide to Green Living and Working. Get a copy for PhP500 only!

Being able to listen to him or read his work offers lifetime opportunities particularly for companies that want to optimize efficiency. Matthias is a professional motivational speaker with experience in 41 countries and voted as the Greenest Person on the Planet in 2008 (3rd Whale, Canada). He has always enjoyed traveling to the Philippines and, in fact, served as Chief Judge of the Miss Earth Philippines Pageant in 2016.

I am helping him spread the word about energy efficiency and climate change mitigation so please contact me if you want Matthias to deliver a talk in your organization/university.  He is so generous with his time and talents that he is waiving his professional fees for the talk as long as you can order 60 pieces of the book at PhP30,000.*

If you want to read the book for your private reading pleasure, you can also purchase the book from me directly at PhP500 (exclusive of shipping cost). We can also arrange to meet in UP Diliman if you are buying a minimum of 3 books (just add PhP50 to cover my transportation).

The book offers practical tips on energy conservation and efficiency and carbon footprint reduction. This is a wise investment especially that the Philippines has among the highest cost of electricity in the world. I still encourage you to book Matthias as his talk is very inspiring. His talk will definitely motivate you, your employees/colleagues, and household members in practicing energy-efficient and environmentally-sensitive lifestyle.

What are you waiting for? Contact me (through the comments section below or the contact page here) if you want to benefit from his talk and this awesome offer.

*Offer is good for August-September 2016. Organizations outside Metro Manila are requested to cover his transportation and accommodation (if applicable) costs.


This is not a paid blog.  There is no request for donation but I hope you can plant tree/s on your birthday. (Full disclosure: While this is an unpaid blog post, I have a book deal with Mr. Gelber.)

One of the towers of the Pililla Wind Farm. May the winds bring you to your dreams! [Image by JR Suarin]

The winds brought me here – thoughts on clean energy (and why a Laguna + Rizal weekend is a must!)

[Note: This post is in three parts. The second and third parts are more personal in nature but the first part will be better contextualized in the second part while Part 3 will be useful for those who want to travel to Laguna and Rizal on a weekend. (In Part 2, you may also be interested to find out how I survived an emergency landing while riding a helicopter!)]

Part 1: Asia Clean Energy Forum 2016

Speakers for the Knowledge Networking event at the Asia Clean Energy Forum 2016 [Image courtesy of ACEF 2016 Organizers]

Speakers at the Knowledge Networking event of the Asia Clean Energy Forum 2016 [Image courtesy of ACEF 2016 Organizers]

I have attended the Asia Clean Energy Forum (ACEF) 2016 (6-10 June 2016) so the almost-impromptu weekend road trip (to Laguna and Rizal) was a perfect way of closing the week. [To know more about ACEF, please visit]

As many green energy advocates in the Philippines already know, Alternergy Wind One Corporation has recently built a 54 MW 27-tower wind farm in Pililla, Rizal Province. It was inaugurated in January 19 of this year although the commercial operation began in June 2015 (Saulon, 2016; Velasco, 2016). The technology supplier for the 125-meter tall towers is Spanish firm, GAMESA. (I will share later why I and my husband ended up in Rizal last weekend – particularly for those who are interested to embark a similar road trip).

This year’s Asia Clean Energy Forum, held at the Asian Development Bank, was attended by about 1,500 delegates. I had the privilege to be part of the Knowledge Networking (KN) event on the 1st day – where I was able to share a dream project (“Project: SKY BIKE LANES”), which envisions to build integrated elevated bicycle lanes (with solar energy system) in Metro Manila. As in any infrastructural intervention, it is always necessary to conduct a feasibility study so I am hopeful that through my participation in ACEF 2016, I was able to create the needed “ripples”, which will hopefully lead to supporters and fellow dream-pursuers who can finance the study.

Among other things, the study will calculate expected reduction in motorized traffic volume and GHG emissions as well as health and economic impacts that will hopefully be realized should the sky bike lanes are built. (You may visit for further information.)

The KN event was very engaging and interesting –it is not in the usual lecture-type format so it offered more chances for one-on-one interaction. It used a format similar to “speed dating”, where the participants are instructed to go around the room, “pick” resource speakers (with their different topics), stay with their chosen speaker for 10 minutes, and then move on to the next speaker. Since the session lasted for one and a half hours, I assume that I was able to meet and talk to about 60 delegates. (There were 8 chairs for each table/topic.) Moreover, this session ensured that almost everyone in the room will have a good chance of sharing his/her thoughts, albeit quickly, because smaller groups tend to allow more democratic and active participation.

Through this blog, I would like to send my deepest thanks for the organizers including the ADB, US Agency of International Development (USAID), Korea Energy Agency, and World Resources Institute. I also feel so blessed that I had the opportunity to meet the forum’s co-chair, Peter du Pont (USAID’s Climate Change Team Lead and Regional Development Mission Asia) and other renowned clean energy and climate change thought leaders such as Ralph Sims of Massey University, New Zealand and the Scientific and Technical Advisory Panel (STAP) of the Global Environment Facility. It was especially meaningful for me because Professor Sims joined my KN table and that he is a passionate biker! (I asked him to promise me that he will bike on the proposed sky bike lanes, if and when these are finally here!)

I have always been a believer of renewable energies, writing about it as early as 2001, when I was assigned as a consultant for the Philippine Climate Change Mitigation project of the Department of Energy (DoE), with support from the US Agency of International Development. One of the outputs of this project is the Guidebook for Developing Sustainable Rural Renewable Energy Services (available at

In 2004, while I was a consultant of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), I was invited to the International Conference on Renewable Energies in Germany. As far as I know, this was the first biggest international event on renewable energies. This year was a very memorable time for me because it was also then when the first-ever wind farm in the Philippines, the Bangui project (in Ilocos Norte), held its groundbreaking ceremony. Since I was among the few close-in-aides of the DENR Secretary back then, I was assigned to accompany her and the director of the Environmental Management Bureau.

Part 2: Of wind farms and emergency landings (and why angels must really exist)!

Now this is where it becomes more interesting. The Pililla Wind Farm is somehow “connected” to my personal history. It is almost like coming to a full circle because I also found out today that Alternergy, the company that built the Pililla Wind Farm, is headed by Vince Perez. In 2004, Sec Vince (as what we—the aides of the cabinet secretaries–often call him) was the DoE Secretary so he was among the invited guests in the groundbreaking ceremony in Bangui. To save on travel time, some of the government officials who attended the Bangui ceremony needed to take helicopters while another group took a government-chartered plane. The tree of us from DENR (the Secretary, the EMB director, and I), took a helicopter. It was excruciatingly hot that day but the ceremony went well and everyone was in high spirits.

Unfortunately, on the way back to Manila, our chopper experienced a serious technical problem. The battery lost power and since the engine has no more power to fly, we had to do an emergency landing via autorotation (similar to “gliding” in layman’s term). For ordinary mortals like me, it was a very scary experience although it was also the first time in my life that I faced the thought of dying with a very peaceful heart. In fact, I remember praying in my mind with words like, “Oh dear Lord, please…not on a house with people!” [Since you are still reading this, it means that I survived the emergency landing!]

Anyway, before I continue, let me comfort those who will be riding a helicopter soon: “Helicopters are designed specifically to allow pilots to have a reasonable chance of landing them safely in the case where the engine stops working during flight, often with no damage at all. They accomplish this via autorotation of the main rotor blades” (Hiskey, 2015). Therefore, I am a living proof that this autorotation mechanism is definitely crucial. According to Hiskey (2015), the tricky part in this emergency landing is ensuring that the rear of the helicopter will not hit the ground first (you can just imagine what will happen if it does).

To continue – I was normally awake during those chopper rides (it was almost like an unwritten rule) and, in fact, in one of our previous rides, the pilot would give me basic instructions on what to do in cases when either of the pilots (God forbid!) will have emergency situation (e.g., heart attack). Of course, I was not expected to fly the chopper myself but it was somehow ‘comforting’ that the pilots covered all “what if’s”, understanding that I would be flying with them often because of my job.

On the fateful day, when our chopper lost power, the pilot immediately talked to me over the sound system—through my headset–and explained the whole situation. I was instructed to wake the Secretary up–I cannot remember if the EMB director was also taking a quick nap during the flight–and ensure that we were all securely fastened to our seats. If you did not believe in angels, this is a good time to start believing in one.

At the most crucial moments, maybe seconds before we landed, the pilots found a perfect spot where to land—and it was definitely not a house nor a field with corn plants and people! That time of the year was harvest season for corn farmers of Ilocos region so a quick look below revealed a huge expanse of corn fields with farmers scattered all over. The pilots must have been praying hard too because just in the nick of time, they found a perfect spot—an almost spotlessly clean square patch of land, just big enough for a chopper and where the corn plants had already been uprooted. It was like God and all His angels prepared this empty patch in the middle of corn fields just for our chopper’s landing! It was very surreal.

I can imagine that it was also surreal for all the corn farmers who might have seen this ‘bird’ slowly descending from afar onto…their fields! Soon enough, they were all running to us, shaken but exhilaratingly happy! We told them our story. One of them fetched a barangay official, who kindly offered help. It turns out that the pilots (Air Force pilots, mind you) are very thorough and well trained and they only needed to be provided with two truck batteries, which can re-charge the chopper’s battery. (Yes, I also discovered that time that it is possible to charge a chopper’s battery from the batteries of trucks.)

However, there was a catch. They asked us (the three passengers) if we were ok with that solution because that kind of charging only guarantees ‘basic’ flying and one take-off and one landing. That means, the chopper will also not be able to run other navigational aids (and if I remember correctly, even the air-conditioning unit).

I first asked the Secretary and she asked me back the same question so we all ended up somehow asking one another with the same question and then finally deciding in the affirmative. Yes, we will still ride this chopper, we told the pilots. I don’t know why my co-passengers agreed but my key reason is that I have faith in our pilots (who must have been ‘powered’ by immense talents that only God can give). One thing I remember about those crucial minutes from the moment the pilot told me what was happening to the few minutes after we landed safely was sending a quick SMS to about three persons and one of them was…Sec Vince!

I think that the context of my message was, “We just survived an emergency landing, and taking the same chopper – please promise that you will continue building wind farms whatever happens!”, or something as idiotic as that one. He must have thought I had gone crazy but after checking on us and offering to work on finding a chopper to fetch us (instead of the same chopper with the recharged battery!), he sent me an assuring YES to the wind farm request. Therefore, you can imagine the joyful surprise that I had felt when I realized that Sec Vince is the President and CEO of Alternergy! He is keeping his promise! (I am thinking now that I should have made a screenshot of those text messages but realized that the phones back then didn’t have such a capability yet!)

I wish I had kept the flight manifest also so that I can thank our excellent pilots again! They had been very calm, professional, and focused all throughout those challenging moments. The memories still make me feel a little giddy but my gratitude is more empowering. Looking back, I also think that my co-passengers were a little shaken but strangely, perhaps, all of us had been more calm than panicked. It may have helped a lot that our pilots were totally in control of the aircraft and exuded much confidence.

It was big lesson in emergency situation: being scared is normal but keeping a part of our minds focused will surely save our lives! In our situation up there, going into a panic will not help at all and I guess everyone realized that. We were all quiet so I assume that the silence allowed the pilots to concentrate on whatever they needed to do rather than waste time and energies comforting panicked passengers. When the pilots told us to brace ourselves for a possibly ‘hard’ landing, we were all calm. And amazingly, the landing was not so bad. It was as if an imagined “air bubble” cushioned our chopper as it glided–remember, there was no more power so the chopper had to glide naturally–and landed.

Indeed, the winds brought me in ACEF; the winds that helped us land the chopper safely and the winds of those rotating blades in Pililla are the same winds that will bring our dreams to their fruition.

Claim your dreams!

[For a copy of my post, Solar energy for Filipino Households: Is it viable?, please go to this link.]

Part 3: Laguna and Rizal provinces – a fusion of culture, arts, and heritage…and some science!

Despite the very busy week, I did my best to catch the last hour of this semester’s closing ceremony of UP Open University’s non-formal education program last Saturday (June 11). Since we were traveling down south anyway, my husband (JR) and I decided to take this rare chance of going on a road trip. (For those who are not familiar with UP’s distance education system, the OU is part of the UP system, with headquarters in Los Baños, Laguna, near the International Rice Research Institute.) I even sent a quick email to Professor Sims (mentioned earlier), inviting him to the impromptu trip. Unfortunately, he was flying out of Manila that morning.

The road trip was mostly unplanned so we didn’t have time to check the internet for travel notes or even make reservations. Since it was an spontaneous trip, we relied mostly on the very helpful text messages from our good friend, Jay, as we were leaving UPOU. [She and her husband, Ned, are “smitten” with Laguna and after the road trip, JR and I understood why and became equally smitten.]  We decided that instead of going back to Manila via SLEX, we thought it is better to go further north of Laguna and use Manila East Road so we can visit Rizal province, where the Pililla Wind Farm is located.

The map below shows the route that JR and I took: Laguna and Rizal "Loop". The blue stars mark the places where we stopped. [Map courtesy of Google]

Laguna and Rizal “Loop”. The blue stars mark the places where we stopped. [Map courtesy of Google]

Here is a quick rundown of places we visited and things we did (I had numbered the events/places so that you can refer to the map above as you go along):

1-2. STARTING POINT (Home sweet home). From Quezon City, we proceeded to UP Open University (Los Baños, Laguna) through SLEX, stopping by somewhere in Santa Rosa for a quick drink.

3. VICTORIA, Laguna. After attending the closing ceremonies of the Continuing Education Program of UPOU (with hubby patiently waiting), we proceeded north, stopping by briefly in Victoria to buy the town’s famous delicacies—salted eggs and balut (a Filipino delicacy, which is an 18-day-old fertilized duck egg*). I am not a fan of balut but hubby can eat it so Victoria had been agreed upon as a required stop. (Victoria is known as the “Duck Raising Center of the Philippines.”) We were a little disappointed because the main branch of “Mr. Duck” or also known as “Itlog ni Kuya” (Jay and Ned’s favorite, too!) has finished its stock for the day, announcing it on the counter with, “Ubos na po ang itlog, bukas ulit!” (may be loosely translated as “Eggs are sold out, come back tomorrow!”) This made us laugh amid the frustration.

Not wanting to be defeated, we tried the store next door. Unfortunately, when we tried the goodies at home, the salted eggs and balut did not come as close to the ones from “Itlog ni Kuya”. (For expat /foreigner-readers, the translation of “Itlog ni Kuya” is infused with Filipino humor. You need to ask a Filipino friend for the translation and watch for his/her reaction.) Nevertheless, those with salt intake restriction may appreciate the salted eggs next door (right side of Itlog ni Kuya if you are facing the store) because they are not that salty. However, for those who are craving the distinct saltiness of salted eggs, it is better to buy the ones from Itlog ni Kuya. Its website, found at, has a listing of its outlets.

4. LILIW, Laguna. From Victoria, we then proceeded to Liliw, which is also known as the “Tsinelas (slippers) Capital of the Philippines.” We decided that this is where we will spend the night because it was already getting dark. From Jay’s recommendation, we went straight to Arabela’s Bakehaus & Coffee Shop (Rizal Street) and enjoyed a long lunch-cum-dinner of pasta and pizza. This place is surely a must-try– the food is delicious and priced reasonably.

It was challenging to find a place for the night because it was our first time here (Jay didn’t have any recommendation, too). Appreciating that this will be a “hit and miss”, we lowered our expectations and decided on Batis ng Liliw, which is a spring-water resort located at the foot of Mt. Banahaw in Brgy. Laguan. (For drivers, this is on the right side of the road enroute to Liliw, right after Nagcarlan.) The rooms here are very basic but you will love the owners, a nice old couple who graciously welcomed us and advised us about the schedule of the masses the next day, Sunday. (I googled for their names and they are Mr. and Mrs. Milagros and Carmelino Arrieta. Thank you, po, Ma’am Mila and Sir Carmelino, for welcoming us!) We were somehow “namahay” (the experience of finding it difficult to sleep when one is new to a place) but eventually lulled to sleep by the sounds of the flowing streams from Mt. Banahaw and the room’s air-conditioning unit.

The next morning, we said quick goodbyes to the owners and were able to reach St. John the Baptist Parish Church just as the 8:00 am mass was beginning. The Church is beautiful, with its red bricked façade and baroque style architecture. It was first built as a wooden church in 1620 (Huerta, 1865).

St. John the Baptist Parish Church in Liliw, Laguna [Image by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin]

St. John the Baptist Parish Church in Liliw, Laguna [Image by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin]

Of course, one should never leave Liliw without visiting the rows of slippers and shoe shops. The footwear products are reasonably-priced and looked durable enough. (I couldn’t attest to the quality yet but a quick Google search revealed happy customers who shared their satisfaction when it came to durability.) We liked the big slippers by the entrance doors of most of the shops so a souvenir photo is necessary!

Liliw is definitely a haven for footwear fanatics! [Image by JR Suarin]

Liliw is definitely a haven for footwear fanatics! [Image by JR Suarin]

5. MAGDALENA, Laguna. From Liliw (enroute to Paete), we decided to make a quick trip to Magdalena to visit another old church, which was built in 1829. (Trivia: Magdalena is also known as “The Little Hollywood of Laguna”, it being a favorite location for Filipino films. The local government even built a sort of replica of Hollywood’s “Walk of Fame.”) Here is a picture of the Santa Maria Magdalena Parish Church. (Note that all pictures in this post had been taken through an iPad only.) If you want to see more pictures of the Church, please go to Jay’s blog at

The Santa Maria Magdalena Parish Church in Magdalena, Laguna [Image by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin]

The Santa Maria Magdalena Parish Church in Magdalena, Laguna [Image by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin]

After our prayers at the Church and some more picture-taking, we decided to enjoy a cold and refreshing drink: chocolate-flavored carabao’s milk. You can grab this at a store near the church (left side if you are facing the park fronting the church). We reminded ourselves to bring a cooler full of ice if we want to bring home kesong puti (white cheese) and carabao’s milk on our next visit. (If you want to read more about the growing carabao milk industry in the Philippines, please visit

6. LUMBAN, Laguna. On the way, we cannot help but stop at a good vantage point in Lumban to enjoy a view of scenic Laguna de Bay. Lumban is considered as “The Embroidery Capital of the Philippines.” Here, you will find the works of Lumban’s artisans on fabrics such as jusi and cocoon. Textile and clothing are not among my expertise so I searched online and found a good read:

The LGU put up a marker (with gigantic letters to spell out the word “Lumban”) along the highway overlooking the bay so we were also enticed by it to stop briefly so we can appreciate the view. As we didn’t bring a DSLR, we can only take a picture with one of the big letters. B is for beautiful!

The Laguna de Bay from a ridge in Lumban, Laguna [Image by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin]

The Laguna de Bay from a ridge in Lumban, Laguna [Image by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin]

7. PAETE, Laguna. From Lumban, we then proceeded to Paete, which is “The Carving Capital of the Philippines.” If you are looking for authentic wooden art pieces, sculptures, and religious statues, Paete is the perfect place for you. I chanced upon this site where you can read more about its culture and history:  Meanwhile, a blogger had shared a lot of pictures so you can visit this link and have an idea on what to find in Paete:–that-custom-woodcraft-wundertown-hiding-in-laguna

JR and I did not linger here so much because we wanted to “reserve” the long exploration for our next visit.

8. PAKIL, Laguna. Enroute to Pililla, Rizal, we saw another beautiful church along the highway. We found out that this is called Saint Peter of Alcantara Parish Church, which is already in the municipality of Pakil. The original wooden structure was said to have been built in 1676. It is “home” to Nuestra Señora de los Dolores de Turumba (or simply “Virgen de Turumba”). Because of the faithful’s deep reverence, they have been giving Our Lady with embroidered gowns all through the years that it has reached 50,000 already! Because of this, Our Lady changes gowns every two weeks. The gowns are then cut up into pieces (after being worn by Our Lady) and then given to devotees. The source of these bits of history and where you can read a more detailed story is here:

The St. Peter of Alcantara Parish Church (Shrine of Nuestra Señora de los Dolores de Turumba)[Image by JR Suarin]

The St. Peter of Alcantara Parish Church (Shrine of Nuestra Señora de los Dolores de Turumba)[Image by JR Suarin]

Before reaching Pililla, one should also stop by the roadside stalls for the other bounties of Laguna—the sweetest bananas, mangoes and pineapples! I was pleasantly surprised that the mangoes of Laguna are as sweet as the ones I have tried in Guimaras (and they are as cheap, too)!

9. PILILLA, Rizal. On the way back home (in Quezon City), we passed by Pililla, Rizal, where you can find the 27-tower wind farm. With the other wind farms in the Philippines (including those in Bangui, Burgos, Caparispisan, and Puerto Galera), our installed capacity now reaches about 400 MW (SunStar Davao, 2016).

Pililla Wind Farm (by Alternergy Wind One Corporation) [Image by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin]

Pililla Wind Farm (by Alternergy Wind One Corporation) [Image by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin]

The brief visit to the wind farm inspired me further to continue working on the promotion of renewable energies. In fact, this is among the primary reasons why I am writing this post! I hope that by reading this, more Filipino companies and investors will be inspired to build more RE plants! I predict a future where fossil-based electricity will become less and less viable.

One of the towers of the Pililla Wind Farm. May the winds bring you to your dreams! [Image by JR Suarin]

One of the towers of the Pililla Wind Farm. May the winds bring you to your dreams! [Image by JR Suarin]

10. ANTIPOLO, Rizal. Of course, the best part of traveling via the Rizal route is the enjoyment of a delicious meal in one of the restaurants along Sumulong Highway. There are perfect spots there where one can have a good view of the Metropolis. As we didn’t have time to research prior to this trip and it was a challenge to simply stop every time we fancy a new place (Sumulong is not meant for tentative driving), we ended up in a familiar establishment, Padi’s Point. The owners really need to improve the place and the menu but this is still a very good spot for enjoying the urban scenery from afar.

This had been a very enjoyable albeit an impromptu weekend travel, filled with talks, arts, history, food, prayers, and yes – appreciation of clean energy! JR and I decided that a longer trip to Laguna and Rizal should be planned again! (And of course, we promised to do a better research next time!)


Hiskey, D. (2015). How helicopters are designed to land safely when engines fail. Retrieved from

Huerta, Felix de (1865). Estado geográfico, topográfico, estadístico, histórico-religioso. Binondo: Imprenta de M. Sanchez y Ca.

Saulon, V.V., (2016, January 20). Another wind farm eyed in Laguna-Rizal. Retrieved from

SunStar Davao. (2016, January 24). Philippines is top wind energy producer in ASEAN. Retrieved from

Velasco, M. (2016, January 22). Alternergy plans wind power project expansion. Retrieved from

For a videoclip on the Pililla Wind Farm, you may go to

*A good article about balut is at


This is not a paid blog. There is no request for donation but please do plant trees on your birthday/s.

By learning more, we can do more. [Text and concept by this author. Background image by Amenic181 at]

Responding to Climate Risks in Agriculture and Natural Resource Management: 16 Jul – 5 Nov 2016

This is somewhat a repost of previous blogs but I am glad to share with you the news that UP Open University is offering the non-formal online course, Responding to Climate Risks in Agriculture and Natural Resource Management (RCRANRM) again! Developed in partnership with the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA), the 6th run will begin on July 16 and end on November 5, 2016. Enrollment ends on July 9, 2016.

By learning more, we can do more. [Text and concept by this author. Background image by Amenic181 at]

By learning more, we can do more. [Text and concept by this author. Background image by Amenic181 at]

We are all blessed that this age of internet opens up a new world of learning–distance education (DE). This mode of learning allows busy professionals, students, and stay-at-home parents to pursue undergraduate, higher, and non-formal learning without the need to go to classrooms physically.

RCRANRM runs for 16 weeks (one semester) and is designed to introduce learners to the core concepts, methods, and tools in climate change mitigation and adaptation particularly in the context of food security, agriculture, and natural resource management. While this is a non-formal course, participants have to comply with specific requirements in order to complete the course and receive certificates.

I would highly recommend this course to those interested in climate change, professionals engaged or hope to be involved in environmental work, and students who would like to pursue a career in environmental management. It is also suitable for media practitioners and personnel of legislators and policymakers especially those who want to have deeper theoretical background in climate change issues and policies in the context of agriculture and natural resources management.

I had been one of the students of the course’s first run in October 2013 to January 2014 and can attest about how much the course helps busy professionals like us understand climate change more deeply.  I hope that you will find this course very timely and significant. We see the impacts of climate change everyday and attending this course will help us contextualize it in the national setting. Such contextualization is necessary when developing appropriate responses and action. Let me end this post with a simple reflection:

“Climate change forces us to think of it in terms of food security. When we eat rice today, let’s think of the farmers and our natural assets that make all these possible–the soil, the sunshine, and the rains–and reflect on our situation as creatures who need to survive and our role as citizens who need to be more responsible.”

Hope to meet you online soon!

UPOU FMDS Contact Details:

Mr. Larry N. Cruz | Faculty of Management and Development Studies, UPOU | Email | Telefax: (6349) 536-6010


This is not a paid blog. (I do not ask for any donation but I hope you can plant a tree on your birthday/s.) (Full disclosure: I am RCRANRM’s course coordinator.)