Category Archives: Environment and Social Development

Of love that never dies: 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.”

References

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 http://dirp4.pids.gov.ph/ris/books/pidsbk05-tourism.pdf

Government of Uttar Pradesh, India. (2014). Taj visitors – Visitors’ perspectives. Retrieved from http://www.tajmahal.gov.in/celebrities_visiting_taj_2.html

International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS). (2002). Principles And Guidelines For Managing Tourism At Places Of Cultural And Heritage Significance. Retrieved from  http://www.charts-interreg4c.eu/app/download/5796628919/ICOMOS+International+Cultural+Tourism+Charter+1999.pdf

Lapniten, K. (2016, January 12). Sagada asks visitors to respect sites. Retrieved from http://www.rappler.com/life-and-style/travel/ph-travel/118788-sagada-visitors-respect-tourist-sites

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 http://files.cargocollective.com/491146/Sustainable-Tourism.pdf

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

UNESCO. (n.d.). World Heritage List – Taj Mahal. Retrieved from http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/252

UNESCO b. (n.d.). Borobudur Temple Compounds. Retrieved from http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/592

UNESCO. (2016). What is meant by “cultural heritage”? Retrieved from http://www.unesco.org/new/en/culture/themes/illicit-trafficking-of-cultural-property/unesco-database-of-national-cultural-heritage-laws/frequently-asked-questions/definition-of-the-cultural-heritage/

World Tourism Organization. (2006). Poverty alleviation through tourism – compilation of good practices. Retrieved from http://www.e-unwto.org/doi/pdf/10.18111/9789284409204

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 http://thepalladium.ph/legal/soaring-eyesore-torre-de-manilas-construction-threatens-rizal-parks-skyline/

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

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2016 Mary Anne Velas-Suarin

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.

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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.)

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2016 Mary Anne Velas-Suarin
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 http://www.asiacleanenergyforum.org/]

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 https://projectskybikelanes.wordpress.com 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 http://www2.doe.gov.ph/Downloads/nre20guidebook.pdf).

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. http://meilbox.net/solar-energy-for-filipino-households-is-it-viable/]

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 http://www.itlognikuya.com/, 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 https://nakisnanay.blogspot.com/2011/04/magdalena-laguna.html

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 http://www.pcc.gov.ph/newsdisplay.php?sq=269&id1=1)

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: http://thestylishscholar.tumblr.com/post/41609376023/a-trip-to-lumban

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: http://www.paete.org/abtpaete/  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: http://www.reach-unlimited.com/p/713686412/amazing-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: https://marilil.wordpress.com/2013/03/10/pakil-laguna-a-church-for-every-juan-de-la-cruz/

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!)

References:

Hiskey, D. (2015). How helicopters are designed to land safely when engines fail. Retrieved from http://gizmodo.com/how-helicopters-are-designed-to-land-safely-when-their-1708128868

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 http://www.bworldonline.com/content.php?section=Corporate&title=another-wind-farm-eyed-in-laguna-rizal&id=121821

SunStar Davao. (2016, January 24). Philippines is top wind energy producer in ASEAN. Retrieved from http://www.sunstar.com.ph/davao/business/2016/01/24/philippines-top-wind-energy-producer-asean-453487

Velasco, M. (2016, January 22). Alternergy plans wind power project expansion. Retrieved from http://www.mb.com.ph/alternergy-plans-wind-power-project-expansion/

For a videoclip on the Pililla Wind Farm, you may go to www.getlinkyoutube.com/watch?v=k-0a0q7C1lo

*A good article about balut is at http://eatyourworld.com/destinations/asia/philippines/manila/what_to_eat/balut

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

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2016 Mary Anne Velas-Suarin
By learning more, we can do more. [Text and concept by this author. Background image by Amenic181 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net]

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 FreeDigitalPhotos.net]

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

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 fmds-cep@upou.edu.ph | 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.)

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2016 Mary Anne Velas-Suarin
Sunrise from Kamanbaneng Peak ("Marlboro Country"), Sagada [Image courtesy of Sagada LGU website]

MUST READ: General guidelines for Visitors of Sagada

NOTE: With the permission of Mr. Ivan Henares, our professor in ENRM 257: Sustainable Tourism Development course in UP Open University, I am reposting visitors’ guidelines developed by Steve Rogers and Tracey Santiago for Sagada. The translation in Filipino (courtesy of Tracey) is also shared below.

Let these important words be remembered  and applied not just in Sagada but in all other tourist and heritage sites that you intend to visit. Traveling is always a very precious and memorable gift so the least we can do is help protect and preserve the integrity of God’s and our people’s creations. 

Enjoy traveling through eyes that never tire of being amazed and a heart that never ceases to express joys and gratitude! Namaste!

Sunrise from Kamanbaneng Peak ("Marlboro Country"), Sagada [Image courtesy of Sagada LGU website]

Sunrise from Kamanbaneng Peak (“Marlboro Country”), Sagada [Image courtesy of Sagada LGU website]

GENERAL GUIDELINES FOR VISITORS OF SAGADA 
by Steve Rogers and Tracey Santiago

1. Please respect the culture. Keep a distance from rituals or any sites you are told are sacred. Do not touch or disturb coffins or burial sites. Do not attempt to join or film any ritual without direct permission from the presiding elders. Do not disturb mass in the church or shoot videos/photos in or around the church during mass.

2. Please respect the people. Sagadans are not exhibits in a museum or zoo. Ask permission before taking pictures or video of people, especially elders. Please don’t ask us “where are the Igorots”. We are the Igorots. We do dress in traditional clothing for special occasions, but please don’t expect any of us to pose in traditional clothing for pictures, because we don’t do that.

3. Please secure necessary permits. If you need to do field research, interviews in the community, conduct pictorials or film anyone and any place in Sagada, please go to the Office of the Mayor and make sure you secure a permit and pay any necessary fees. This permit will determine if your activity is allowed or not in the community. Guides are not allowed to secure any permit for such activities.

4. Please manage your expectations. Sagada is a community, not a museum. If you want to see the way we lived a century ago, there’s an excellent museum in Bontoc; please visit it. Don’t think, or say, that we have “lost our culture” because we no longer live in traditional houses or dress daily in wanes and tapis. We are indigenous people and we are deeply attached to our traditions and culture. We are also modern, well educated people who are comfortable in any living or professional environment the world offers.

5. Please walk whenever possible. Walking is an essential part of the Sagada experience. The air here is cool and clean; you won’t get all sweaty. The views are spectacular, and you’ll enjoy them more on foot than crammed into a metal box. Sagada is a small town and places are close together. If you are going out to browse the shops, walk. If you are going from a hotel to a restaurant, walk. If your hotel is outside the town, drive to the edge of town and walk. If you’re strong enough to walk through the caves, you’re strong enough to walk to the caves. Walk. It’s good for you, you’ll see and enjoy more, and you’ll help reduce our traffic problem.

6. Please conserve water. Sagada suffers from water shortages, especially during dry season and periods of peak tourist flow. This can lead to diversion of water from our farms and rice terraces, where it is desperately needed, to support tourism. If you are going hiking or caving, bathe after, not before. Please bathe quickly and with as little water as you can.

7. Please manage your garbage. Littering and tossing garbage outdoors are unacceptable and disgraceful: just don’t do it. Sagada has no municipal waste disposal system; every household and business has to manage its own waste output. Try to minimize the garbage you generate. As much as possible, what comes here with you should leave with you.

8. Please be kind to the people in our kitchens. Our restaurants are small kitchens that can only handle a few meals. When we say, we don’t have food anymore, it means the stock we bought during the market day have already run out. We don’t serve food frozen from weeks or months ago. To get better service, order your food at least 3 or 4 hours before your meal. That way, we have more time to prepare your food and serve it as soon as you arrive in the restaurant.

9. Please use your vehicle responsibly. Our streets are narrow, and on-street parking creates a serious traffic problem. Parking on the street is prohibited by local ordinance. Please follow the law, even when others don’t or if someone tells you it’s ok to park on the street. If you’re asked to back up or pull to the side of the road to allow passage of a bus or other oncoming vehicles, please cooperate. If you are parked in a way that obstructs traffic, move. Do not load/unload in the middle of a road. Pull to the side so that other vehicles can pass.

10. Please help us keep you safe. Sagada is a mountain town filled with caves, cliffs, canyons, streams and forests. They are beautiful but people can and do get hurt or lost. We do our best to keep you safe, but we need your help. Guides are required in the caves for your safety, not for our profit. Please hire accredited guides and respect the prescribed guide to guest ratio. We do not allow children to guide, for their safety and yours, so please do not hire children as guides. We strongly recommend guides for hiking or exploring. If you choose to hike without a guide, please be responsible and tell your guest house where you plan to go and what time you plan to be back. Bring a mobile phone and make note of emergency phone numbers. If you go missing we will look for you, at any time of the day or night and in any weather. Knowing where to start is a huge help. If you plan to sleep somewhere other than your guest house, get in touch and let them know, because they will report you missing and we will go out looking for you.

11. Please be modest. This is a small, conservative town, and we like it that way. Please save the revealing clothing for the beach, and save the displays of affection for your private space. We are not known for nightlife: business in Sagada closes at 10PM. If you like to party all night that’s fine, but you’ll have to do it somewhere else. There is no commercial sex here, so please don’t waste your time looking for it.

12. Please give your share to help us preserve our environment. All visitors (tourists, non-Sagada residents) must register at the Municipal Tourist Information Center and pay Php35.00 for the Environmental Fee. Your receipt will be checked upon entering caves and other tourist areas.

Below is the Tagalog translation:

Pupunta ka ba ng Sagada? Basahin muna ito!

Ito ay mga gabay para sa mga nais bumisita sa Sagada. Basahin at intindihin ang mga sumusunod bago tumungo doon:

1. Igalang ang lokal na kultura at pamumuhay ng komunidad. Panatilihin ang distansya mula sa mga ritwal o ano mang mga lugar na tinutukoy na sagrado. Huwag hawakan o buksan ang mga kabaong sa kuweba ng libingan. Huwag tatangkaing sumali o kunan ng litrato o bidyo ang ano mang ritwal na walang direktang pahintulot mula sa namumunong nakatatanda. Huwag abalahin ang Misa sa simbahan o kumuha ng mga bidyo o kaya litrato sa loob at paligid ng simbahan sa oras ng Misa.

2. Igalang ang bawat tao sa komunidad. Ang mga taga-Sagada ay hindi mga eksibit o palabas sa isang museo o zoo. Humingi ng pahintulot bago kumuha ng mga litrato o bidyo ng mga tao, lalo na ang mga nakatatanda. Huwag itanong kung “Nasaan ang mga Igorot?” Kami ang mga Igorot. Sinusuot namin ang mga tradisyunal na kasuotan para sa mga mahalagang okasyon. Huwag ninyo asahan na magpakuha kami ng litrato suot ang bahag o tapis para sa inyo, dahil hindi namin gawain iyon.

3. Kumuha ng mga kinakailangang permit o pahintulot para sa pagkuha ng litrato, pelikula, o panayam sa komunidad para sa pananaliksik. Makipag-ugnayan sa Office of the Mayor at siguraduhing ikaw ay kumuha ng permit at nagbayad ng ano mang mga kinakailangang bayarin. Ang permit na ito ang magtutukoy kung ang iyong aktibidad ay pinapayagan o hindi sa komunidad. Ang mga gabay (guide) ay hindi pinahihintulutan na kumuha ng permit para sa nasaad na mga gawain.

4. Pamahalaan ang iyong mga inaasahan (manage expectations). Ang Sagada ay isang komunidad, hindi isang museo. Kung gusto mong makita ang buhay namin noong unang panahon, may isang mahusay na museo sa Bontoc; bisitahin niyo ito. Huwag isipin o sabihin na “nawala na ang aming kultura” dahil lang sa hindi na kami nabubuhay sa mga tradisyunal na mga bahay o nagsusuot ng wanes at tapis para sa pang-araw-araw. Kami ay mga katutubo at malalim ang aming pagkakakabit sa aming mga tradisyon at kultura. Kami din ay moderno at may pinag-aralan, kumportable sa anumang buhay o propesyonal na kapaligiran na inaalok ng mundo.

5. Maglakad hangga’t maaari. Ang paglalakad ay isang mahalagang bahagi ng karanasan sa Sagada. Ang hangin dito ay sariwa at malinis; hindi ka gaanong pagpapawisan. Ang tanawin ay kamangha-mangha, at mas ikalulugod mo ang mga ito kung ikaw ay maglalakad kaysa sa nakasakay ka sa isang metal na kahon. Ang Sagada ay isang maliit na bayan at magkakalapit ang mga lugar dito. Kung ikaw ay lalabas para mamili sa mga tindahan, maglakad ka. Kung ikaw ay pupunta sa mga kainan galing sa hotel, maglakad ka. Kung ang iyong hotel ay nasa labas ng bayan, dalhin lamang ang sasakyan hanggang sa pasukan ng bayan at maglakad ka mula doon. Kung may sapat kang lakas para pumasok ng mga kuweba, mayroon ka din lakas para maglakad papunta sa mga kuweba. Maglakad ka. Mabuti ito para sa iyo, mas masaya, mas marami kang makikita, at makakabawas sa aming problema sa trapiko.

6. Huwag mag-aksaya ng tubig. May kakulangan ng tubig sa Sagada, lalo na sa panahon ng tag-init at mga panahong dagsa ang mga turista. Para matugunan ang mga pangangailang ng mga turista sa pag-konsumo ng tubig, ito ay maaaring humantong sa paggamit ng tubig mula sa aming mga bukid at palayan kung saan ito ay lubhang kinakailangan para sa aming mga pananim. Kung ikaw ay aakyat ng mga bundok o papasok sa mga kweba, mas mainam na maligo ka pagkatapos at hindi bago pumunta. Mangyaring maligo nang mabilis at magtipid ng tubig.

7. Huwag magkalat ng basura. Ang pagtapon ng basura sa daan o sa ano mang lugar ay kahiya-hiya, at hindi katanggap-tanggap: huwag kang pasaway. Sa kasalukuyan, ang Sagada ay walang municipal waste disposal system; bawat pamilya at negosyo ang nangangalaga ng sarili nitong basura. Kaya bawasan niyo ang basura niyo. Hangga’t maaari, kung ano ang dala ninyong basura ay dapat dalhin ito pag-alis para maitapon sa tamang lugar.

8. Maging mabait sa mga taong namamahala ng mga kainan. Maliliit ang mga kusina ng mga kainan namin, at hindi namin kaya magluto para sa marami. Kapag sinabi naming wala na kaming maihahain na pagkain, ito ay nangangahulugang naubos na ang pinamili namin noong araw ng palengke. Hindi kami naghahain ng mga pagkaing linggo o kaya buwan na nakatago sa freezer. Para makakuha ng mas mahusay na serbisyo, mag-order kayo ng pagkain ng hindi bababa sa 3 o 4 na oras bago kayo kumain. Sa ganoong paraan, mayroon kaming sapat na oras para ihanda ang iyong pagkain at maihain ito agad pagdating mo sa kainan.

9. Maging responsable sa paggamit ng sasakyan. Ang aming mga kalye ay makitid, at ang pagparada sa daan ay lumilikha ng malubhang problema sa trapiko. Sa katunayan, ang pagparada sa daan ay ipinagbabawal ng lokal na ordinansa. Sundin ang mga batas, kahit na hindi sumusunod and iba o kaya ay may magsabi sayo na maaari kang pumarada dahil pag bawal ay bawal. Kung sinabihan kang umatras o tumabi para makadaan ang ibang sasakyan, lalo na ang mga bus, makisama ka. Kung ang pagparada mo ay nakakaharang sa trapiko, umalis ka at ilipat mo ang sasakyan mo sa tamang paradahan. Huwag magsakay o magbaba sa gitna ng daan. Tumabi ka para makadaan ang ibang sasakyan.

10. Tulungan kaming mapanatili kang ligtas. Ang Sagada ay isang bayan sa kabundukan na puno ng mga yungib, bangin, kanyon, sapa at mga gubat. Ang mga ito ay magaganda, pero maari ka ring madisgrasya o kaya ay mawala. Ginagawa namin ang lahat ng aming makakaya para panatilihin kang ligtas, pero kailangan din namin ang tulong mo. Kailangan mong umupa ng gabay (guide) bago ka payagang pumasok sa kweba. Para ito sa kaligtasan mo, hindi para kumita kami. Mangyaring nakarehistrong gabay (accredited guide) lang ang upahan, at respetuhin ang nakatakdang bilang ng bisita sa bawat gabay (guide to guest ratio). Hindi namin pinapayagan ang mga bata o minor de edad na maging gabay, para sa kanilang kaligtasan at para na rin sa iyo. Mangyaring huwag umupa ng mga bata bilang gabay. Iniririkuminda din namin ang mga gabay para sa paglalakad o pamumundok. Kung talagang pinili mong maglakad nang walang gabay, maging responsable ka at sabihan mo ang mga tao sa guest house kung saan mo planong pumunta at kung anong oras mo planong bumalik. Magdala ka ng mobile phone at siguraduhing may listahan ka ng mga emergency number. Kung mangyari ang di inaasahan at mawala ka, hahanapin ka namin, anumang oras ng araw o gabi at sa anumang panahon. Pag-alam namin kung saan magsisimula, magiging malaki itong tulong sa amin. Kung balak mong matulog sa ibang lugar, makipag-ugnayan sa guest house mo at ipaalam sa kanila ang iyong balak, dahil sila ay magbibigay-ulat na nawawala ka at kami ay lalabas para hanapin ka.

11. Maging disente sa ano mang paraan. Ang Sagada ay isang maliit at konserbatibong bayan, at ito ang nais namin. Maaaring huwag magsuot ng mga damit na para sa pamamasyal sa dagat, at huwag rin magpapakita ng mga pisikal na ekspresyon na maaaring magpahayag ng malisya sa publiko. Hindi kami kilala para sa nightlife: sarado na ang mga tindahan sa Sagada ng alas-10 ng gabi. Kung gusto mong mag-party sa gabi, humanap ka nalang ng ibang lugar na pupuntahan. Walang commercial sex dito, kaya huwag nang mag-aksaya ng oras sa paghahanap nito.

12. Tumulong sa pagpapanatili ng ang ating kapaligiran. Lahat ng mga bisita (turista at hindi residente ng Sagada) ay dapat magrehistro sa Municipal Tourist Information Center at magbayad Php35.00 para sa Environmental Fee. Ang iyong resibo ay titignan bago ka pumasok sa mga kuweba at iba pang mga lugar na dinadayo ng turista.

Ang mga panuntunang ito ay inihanda ni Steve Rogers at Tracey Santiago, at isinalin namin ni Tracey sa Filipino.

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Source: Website of Ivan Henares. You can visit his site for more interesting reads on history, heritage, and travels. The link of this post is at: http://www.ivanhenares.com/2016/03/pupunta-ka-ba-ng-sagada-basahin-muna-ito.html

For comprehensive guide and tips on Sagada, this is a good source managed by the Sagada Genuine Guides Association: http://sagadagenuineguides.blogspot.com/

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

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2016 Mary Anne Velas-Suarin
Minamata City is certainly moving forward and learning from the past.
[Image credit: Act-B Recycling/Yunoko, retrieved from act-b.co.jp/eng/environment/rine.html]

Kazehozonkai’s acoustic music and a simple story of friendship across oceans

Where is the photo bomber? :) Seriously, this is my friend, Michikazu Iseri of Kazehozonkai. This was taken in Germany in 2004, where we met during the International Conference for Renewable Energies.

Where is the photo bomber? :) Seriously, this is my friend, Michikazu Iseri of Kazehozonkai. This was taken in Germany in 2004, where we met during the International Conference for Renewable Energies.

I had closed 2015 and begun 2016 by keeping in touch with old friends. I have traveled quite extensively and can say with gratitude that some of the ‘strangers’ I had met in those travels have eventually become long-time friends.

One of them is Michikazu Iseri. I met him in 2004, when I attended the International Conference for Renewable Energies in Germany. (As I typed this, it made me glad that Iseri and I had managed to be friends for more than a decade already, despite the distance. Thanks to modern technology indeed!)

Iseri (as how we fondly called him in Germany), is a visiting professor at Kumamoto University and a senior writer for the Kumamoto Daily News in Japan. He joined the newspaper after his studies in Keio University and the University of California at Berkley. He began his career in the daily newspaper as a reporter, eventually becoming political editor, cultural editor, and editorial writer. He was later seconded to the Kumamoto University and currently serves as a professor in journalism.

He has been covering mercury contamination and poisoning since 2001. This interest has  led him to study Minamata disease (M.d.) extensively. He then authored the book, Countries that learned from Minamata: Mercury control and management (in Japanese language) If I will recall our conversations during our Germany trip, I think this is a topic that somehow started our bond as friends (not mentioning, of course, Iseri’s light bantering and sense of humor). It was a sad topic, of course, but if I will look back at my own personal and professional journey, I would probably consider my trip to Minamata, Japan (many years ago) as a turning point.

It may be recalled that the methylmercury (MeHg) poisoning in Minamata is a result of one of the most serious environmental disasters in the world. It was caused by effluents containing the highly toxic methylmercury, which was released by the plant of Chisso, a chemical company. The discharge effluent contaminated the Minamata Bay and bio-accumulated in fish and seashells, which form a significant part of the diet of the local population (Allchin, n.d.). (This is a very serious environmental disaster that everyone must read about so I encourage you to read more about it. The article of Allchin is a good start.)

While I had really planned to be involved in social development and environment when I entered UP, the trip to Minamata was somehow a major point where my decision to build my career in these areas had somehow taken a more defined shape and clearer directions. In Minamata, I had seen the horrors of mercury poisoning, a likely consequence of a lack of or poor environmental management systems and negligence in pursuit of economic activities. I am sure no one wanted it to happen but, hopefully, the lessons will remind us constantly of the importance of appreciating (and respecting) the inextricable link between the environment and health. A positive outcome from this sad past is that Minamata is now seriously redeveloping the city based on sustainable and ‘eco-township’ principles (Minamata City Government, n.d.).

That was why meeting Iseri and then later becoming friends with him is somehow another meaningful synchronicity in my life. Iseri might have not realized it yet but I have always been a fan of Japan, its people, culture, arts, and history.  While there are sad realities in our shared history as warring nations, Japan and the Philippines share universal truths and values such as love for the arts and, among them, music. This is where this piece evolves from.

More than a decade later, Iseri and I still manage to keep in touch. My husband (JR) was the one who rummaged through our boxes and found this picture of me and Iseri taken 12 years ago outside a cafe in Germany. (I will welcome an email from anyone in Germany who can tell me the name of this nice cafe!) [I cannot remember it anymore but I have this feeling that this picture was actually sent by Iseri via post. I will ask him!]

More than a decade later, Iseri and I still manage to keep in touch. My husband (JR) was the one who rummaged through our boxes and found this picture of me and Iseri taken 12 years ago outside a cafe in Germany. [I cannot remember it anymore but I have this feeling that this picture was actually sent by Iseri via post. I will ask him!]

As I said earlier, I was in a bit of nostalgic mood a month ago so I sent Iseri (and my other friends) a Christmas-new year note with the announcement of my new email address. Bless his usual kind heart, he emailed back with a very nice update – he is part of an acoustic guitar duo called, Kazehozonkai!

Kazehozonkai (loosely translated as “Wind Preservation Society”) is based in Kumamoto, Japan. It plays and does its best to popularize the songs of Shozo Ise, a Japanese singer-songwriter,  to the next generations. Kazehozonkai, while inspired by the music of Shozo Ise, also plays other songs. Iseri is accompanied by Yuji Tsuyama.

Yuji is currently editor of the Newspaper in Education program of the Kumamoto Daily Newspaper. Born in 1958, he graduated from the Kumamoto University and joined the paper in 1981. He began his career in the newspaper as a reporter, later becoming a copy editor. He  enjoys listening to and playing folk and rock music.

Kazehozonkai is not a ‘big’ name (at least, not yet) but I think that the Japanese community and music lovers will enjoy listening to them (as much as I and my husband did!). I am not a music expert (so please forgive my bias) but listening to their songs made our breakfast that December morning more enjoyable and relaxing. Don’t expect much drama or rock-star-gyrating performance but expect to be serenaded and brought to a place where there are sweet notes of nostalgia, bittersweet memories, and heartfelt joys and awakenings.

Here are links to two of the duo’s performances. I have also asked Iseri to translate the songs into English.

Nijunisainowakare (“22-year-old farewell”)

Lyrics’ translation

That I can say “Good-bye” to you is only today. If I touch your warm hand tomorrow, probably I couldn’t say it. I could no longer wait for you and I have chosen the happiness, which appears in front of me.

You placed 22 candles on the cake on my birthday, and you said “Each candle was your life.”  From the 17th candle, we lit together.

This memory seems to me as if it were only yesterday. Now these 5 years may be called “Too long spring” for me, who is about to marry the man whom you don’t know. If you hear my wish, I hope you to remain you, of now, all the time, from now on. (Translated by M. Iseri)

Kaigandori (“Seaside Street”)

Lyrics’ translation

You have chosen a ship. Is it from your consideration for me?

Why didn’t I notice that a cord that links a person to a departing passenger, to see him off, was cut? The sun setting in the harbor is very beautiful, isn’t it?

 The ship you boarded is getting smaller.

 The sea of the daybreak is sad. It is seen from you by the seaside street.

I should have remained a ‘younger sister’, as you said. I did not want to hear, in your gentle arm, that you will leave this town someday.

The ship you boarded is getting smaller, leaving waves in the sea, just like yesterday. (Translated by M. Iseri)

These two songs really stirred my soul and when Iseri sent me the English translations, I fully understood why I felt some bittersweet kind of emotions when I listened to them the first time. :)

Kazehozonkai also performs pop and soft rock music and here is its rendition of Hotel California (by Eagles).

I hope that through this post, you will know more about Japan and find another reason to reconnect with old friends, near and far.  Someday soon, I will be traveling to Japan again (this time with a husband beside me!), reconnect with Iseri and my other friends there, and hopefully, stay longer.

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References:

Allchin, D. (n.d.) The poisoning of Minamata. Retrieved from https://www1.umn.edu/ships/ethics/minamata.htm

Minamata City Government. (n.d.). Minamata, Environmental City – Model Environmental City Manual. Retrieved from http://www.city.minamata.lg.jp/1000.html

Recommended reading: Lessons from Minamata Disease and Mercury Management in Japan, Ministry of the Environment (Japan). Retrieved from https://www.env.go.jp/chemi/tmms/pr-m/mat01/en_full.pdf

Image credits:

Minamata City image credit (top-most): Act-B Recycling Company (through “Yunoko”), retrieved from http://www.act-b.co.jp/eng/environment/rine.html

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This is not a paid blog. There is no request for donation but I hope you can plant a tree/s on your birthday/s. :)

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2016 Mary Anne Velas-Suarin
The proposed (commissioned) project, Klarastaden, a series of apartment structures and elevated sidewalks ("skyways"), planned to be built in downtown Stockholm.(Image credits: Anders Berensson Architects. This image also appeared in TechInsider.)

Of sky ways and serendipitous moments – envisioning sky bike lanes for Metro Manila

The proposed (commissioned) project, Klarastaden, a series of apartment structures and elevated sidewalks ("skyways"), planned to be built in downtown Stockholm.(Image credits: Anders Berensson Architects. This image also appeared in TechInsider.)

The proposed (commissioned) project, Klarastaden, a series of apartment structures and elevated sidewalks (“skyways”), planned to be built in downtown Stockholm.(Image credits: Anders Berensson Architects. This image also appeared in TechInsider.)

Note: This article first appeared in my Linked Pulse page. (Image credits: Anders Berensson Architects. This image also appeared in TechInsider.)

UPDATE: I am requesting feedback from Metro Manila residents. If you are from Metro Manila (or usually travel here), please answer a brief survey form here. You may also want to drop by the interim website for this dream project. Thank you!

 

Metro Manila’s traffic – why this idea came about

Sky bike lanes, anyone?

For a Metro Manila resident like me, this seems like a bright idea. The worsening traffic situation in Metro Manila has always been cited as among the most urgent problems that the country’s administrators should be dealing with. In fact, a study done by traffic and navigation app, Waze, revealed that Metro Manila has the “worst traffic on earth”, on a city level perspective (Waze, 2015). Through the Waze study, it was estimated that travel time here–from home to the work place–is about 45.5 minutes. The article did not indicate actual points of origin and destination but let us assume that the average is a good representation of the respondents’ daily commute. However, there may be some discrepancy if the respondents are mostly commuters who use public transportation. (I assume that Waze is mostly used by private car drivers and passengers at this stage.)

Clearly, the government and private sector need to put their acts together in order to come up with clear solutions. The traffic situation in Metro Manila can only be solved through a combination of policy, infrastructural, and behavior-based interventions. (For this article, let me focus on an infrastructural intervention as I also plan to discuss the other two in one of my future posts.)

One of the steps that we can consider is the building of bike lanes–not on the existing road networks but high up there, on elevated platforms. Obviously, Metro Manila’s roads can no longer accommodate new and separate bike lanes. However, is this idea of elevated bike lanes feasible? It has been lingering in my mind for the past couple of months.

The Klarasden’s sky way – can a bike-focused version be done?

They say that the universe “hears” us if we just verbalize our thoughts. I think what happened recently demonstrates that this saying is indeed true. You see, I came across a TechInsider article about the project, Klarastaden, through Linkedin just the other day. (I must thank my new online friend, Pia K Töre-Wallin, again for sharing the link!)

A bike-focused version of the Klarastaden’s sky way is something that crossed my mind a couple of months ago, as my husband and I were walking and discussing how the lives of Metro Manila urbanites are impacted negatively by the horrendous traffic situation. I told him about my dream to build floating or “sky bike lanes” as I called them. Back then, I was half-thinking it is a crazy idea. However, the other half of my brain is saying that the idea is very feasible.

Biking and the provision of bike lanes had always been proposed by environmental advocates but let us admit that Metro Manila can no longer afford to build separate roads for bike lanes (or even divide the existing roads to allow a portion for bike lanes).

Nowadays, there are brave souls who bike to work (how I admire their courage!), right alongside trucks, buses, jeepneys, and cars, so one can imagine the risks and dangers that these bikers are facing everyday (not to mention the health impacts of pollution). Marikina City was able to allot separate bike lanes, unfortunately, it is a small part of Metro Manila only. Nevertheless, we need to commend the city’s efforts and vision.

I have always envisioned a greener and more sustainable Metro Manila where bikers have their “own” roads and pathways and where they will feel safe and happy as they go to their offices and come home to their families.

I have always envisioned a greener and more sustainable Metro Manila where bikers have their “own” roads and pathways and where they will feel safe and happy as they go to their offices and come home to their families .Unfortunately, the city has no more extra space. And that is why I told my husband, “We should build sky bike lanes!”, in my most resolute voice.

“Fast forward” to Tuesday when I saw the article about Klarastaden - it dawned on me that, perhaps, my idea is not a crazy one! Yesterday, when I opened my Linkedin, I saw that two of my friends (one of them is Pia)  also found the idea cool! I eventually surmised that  I can probably work on this topic as my master’s thesis. (I am completing my course work, Master of Environment and Natural Resources Management, this year, at the University of the Philippines – Open University.) [UPDATE as of 16-Feb-16: I am glad to discover yesterday that two cities–Copenhagen and London–are actually thinking of building this type of bike lanes as well! In fact, as of this writing, Copenhagen has already completed  Cykelslangen (or “The Bicycle Snake”) and a bicycle and pedestrian bridge, which they call Bryggebroen. The London version called, SkyCycle, is still under consideration. These positive news certainly motivate me to continue building this idea on and, hopefully, we can also build similar bike lanes for Metro Manila!]

While the idea is beginning to take some shape, a feasibility study is still crucial. It is also important to know if the group of Mr. Berensson (and other stakeholders) will be willing to work with me on this gigantic project. [UPDATE as of 14-Jan-2016: I received a brief but positive and encouraging reply from Mr. Berensson. Nothing is final and no paper has been signed between us but he expressed his initial interest. If all goes well and there is no obstacle such as conflict in schedules, I am hopeful that his team will be on board.]

I propose the setting up of a team through which we can develop a feasibility study and gather support from partners and stakeholders. A sub-team will take care of the research requirements. For example, we will need traffic data, conduct market analysis  and scenario building, look at the demographics and health outcome, calculate GHG emission reduction, compare policy studies, and do other related tasks. Meanwhile, another sub-team can take care of the design part. A consortium may be established later on (e.g., during the construction phase).

This proposed project considers the thinking that, in an ideal world, commuters who use both motorized and non-motorized vehicles should co-exist and share the roads. In fact, in this kind of world, separate or even partially segregated bike lanes are not significantly necessary. In such a world, bikers have more confidence, knowing that they are respected on the road, in the same way that the bikers also know that they need to respect the rights of other drivers. However, it takes time to build this ideal world. Behavioral change evolves over a long time and sometimes, without the necessary impetus and public cooperation, it may not even be realized. In the meantime, the quality of life of Metro Manila dwellers is continuously deteriorating. Either we continue to work for and wait for the ideal world to happen–without any guarantee for success–or do something about our situation now.

The feasibility study will generate more data and insights, which will help us answer the question on viability in a more scientific and comprehensive manner.

Design features and considerations

Many features and considerations must be laid down on the drawing table as we envision such an infrastructure. Here are some of them:

1. To the extent possible, the sky bike lanes must be near or accessible to and from the existing MRT/LRT lines. (It will be better if they can be integrated.)

2. The primary sky bike lanes should pass through or built alongside EDSA and C5 (the city’s core road networks) but should have connecting lanes to other major roads nearest and within the key business districts like  Eastwood Business District, Ortigas Center, and Makati City.

3. This may be a far-fetched or nearly-impossible idea but industrial-sized air purifiers may be installed along the sky bike lanes. Eventually, with more people taking the bikes and leaving their cars at home, pollution level will hopefully go down – but of course, this assumes that the number of bikers will grow progressively as the population also grows. If this idea is really impossible or expansive to do, we can build natural/organic anti-air pollution systems. (See no. 4 below.)

4. To make the design greener and healthier, we can put up small sky gardens or simple plant boxes along or hanging from the inner and outer walls.

5. We can also put solar panels along the outer walls (or roofs). This will depend on many factors, of course, but we can also look at its feasibility.

Structural soundness

We also need to look at issues related to structural soundness. Two aspects should be at the top of the list.

1. The system should apply a forward-looking design. The bike lanes will most likely become very popular that an increasing number of people would want to use it over the years. How can we ensure a stable design? Of course, we cannot build very wide bike lanes but our design should be wide enough that they can accommodate more bikers in the long term.

2. The design should also consider locational and environmental challenges (e.g., natural disasters or “acts of God” like earthquake, strong typhoons, etc.).

Financing considerations

Moreover, the idea, if indeed viable, requires massive inputs and resources. The following are potential entry points for resource mobilization and financing.

1. Foremost in mind (as well as suggested by a friend and former project colleague, Abby Catucod) is a public-private partnership (PPP) structure that may be established for this undertaking. Development agencies may likewise be tapped.

2. There should be private sector “buy-in” to distribute and share some of the costs. For example, malls and shopping centers can fund the lanes near them but they may be allowed to build small side cafes or drink kiosks–these will be useful for thirsty/hungry bikers; to encourage more bikers, banks may be requested or required to offer loans for the purchase of bicycles (particularly for those who need them).

3. We must ensure sustainable upkeep and maintenance. For example, should the use be totally free for the public? Or should there be minimal users’ fees similar to the practice of toll fees? Will a payment scheme make the people use it less? Are people willing to pay? A market study may be able to help us answer these questions.

Policy scenarios and climate change

Finally, we also need to look at the implication and contribution to the over-arching goals on climate change mitigation and adaptation and sustainable development. For one, it must be stressed that the construction of sky bike lanes should happen alongside other transportation-related policies and interventions such as improvement of mass transport systems, use of cleaner fuels, and better transportation demand management.

I have been part of a study called, Integrated Environmental Strategies, in 2004 and through the project, our team looked at different transport-related policy scenarios and their combination. The analysis– which involved modeling (to estimate emissions reduction), health effects estimation, and economic valuation–predicted a significant improvement in air quality if all or most of the different policies are implemented. While the study team did not see any significant reduction in the level of particulate matter (PM) through the use of bike lanes alone, “applying the combination of measures…is forecast to cause a dramatic improvement in PM levels” (McNamara, et al., 2005).

Our 2004 study did not focus significantly on the impact to traffic reduction so the future team must look at this area. Some of the IES approach may actually be useful. (For those interested to read our Final Report, you may get a copy from this link. The material is also listed in the References below.)

I hope that this exploratory material will excite many potential stakeholders and, together, we can ponder on this further, and hopefully, make it possible. This is rather brief so I hope to keep on updating it in the course of the next few weeks or possibly write new updates.

I would appreciate it if you can respond to a quick/informal survey, which I had developed for this idea. Please go to this link. You may also want to drop by the interim website for this dream project. Thank you!

References:

McNamara, D., Subida, R., Velas, M.A., Andres, F., Vergel, K., Anglo E.,…Ibay, A.C. (2005). Integrated Environmental Strategies – Philippines Project Report Metropolitan Manila (Focus on the Transport Sector), Manila Observatory. Available at http://pdf.usaid.gov/pdf_docs/pnadj320.pdf

Waze. (2015). Global Driver Satisfaction Index. Available at http://wazeblogs-en.blogspot.ie/2015_09_01_archive.html

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

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2016 Mary Anne Velas-Suarin

The National Greening Program and climate action

Mangrove trees need to be protected and planted. They offer multiple uses and benefits. (Photo courtesy of Science Nutshell/M. Berry/S. Karstens/M. Lukas)

Mangrove trees need to be protected and planted. They offer multiple uses and benefits. (Photo courtesy of Science Nutshell/M. Berry/S. Karstens/M. Lukas)

(Note: This is a copy of a paper that I had submitted in ENRM 236: Governance of Upland Ecosystems, in November 2014. I am currently enrolled in the course, Master of Environment and Natural Resources Management in UPOU.)

I. Introduction

The horrors of super typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) may probably linger in our minds for as long as we live. Many wondered and are still puzzled as to how a country that is so used to strong typhoons and cyclones seems to be still unprepared to the magnitude of strong typhoons like Yolanda, which caused the loss of more than 6,300 lives and more than 1,000 still missing (NDRRMC, 2014).

The aftermath and damage of Yolanda as well as all the other equally-damaging typhoons paint a gruesome picture to our national landscape. We (those who have not been significantly affected) can go on with our lives without much of ‘psychological scars’ but the memories will forever be painfully etched for those who have lost their loved ones, homes, and properties.

Now, in the quiet after the storm, we are faced with two clear choices: (a) to simply go on with our lives not really caring or (b) doing something meaningful that will have lasting impact to the lives of others. The second choice can be done through an act that is as simple as planting a tree, most especially, a mangrove tree. Why mangrove trees? What program can we look at to give us the bigger picture of reforestation as part of our country’s climate action? Through this brief paper, we are taking a closer look at the National Greening Program of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) with focus on mangrove trees.

II. Multi-tasking mangrove trees (a snapshot from literature)

Mangrove trees do significant environmental services. They are typically medium in height and very tolerant, allowing them to survive in brackish water. The Philippines are believed to be hosting more than 50% of the world’s 70 mangrove species (FPE, 2014).  Mangrove trees’ benefits are summarized below:

  • providing protection and shelter against extreme weather events, such as storm surges, floods, and tsunamis. Mangroves absorb and disperse tidal surges, for example, “a mangrove stand of 30 trees per 0.01 hectare with a depth of 100 m can reduce the destructive force of a tsunami by up to 90%” (Hirashi and Harada, 2003, as cited in Wetlands International, n.d.)
  • acting as carbon sink by absorbing significant amount of carbon dioxide; mangrove trees are capable of absorbing up to 4 times more carbon than their counterpart in tropical rainforests (Ranada, 2013).
  • providing habitat, food and nourishment for rich varieties of animal and plant species (e.g., many marine and fish species reproduce and spend time in the mangroves as juveniles or adults (Wetlands International, n.d.).
  • contributing to ecological balance by preventing sedimentation, which leads to siltation in coral reefs; accumulated soil and debris also facilitates the expansion of lands (FPE, 2014).
    • producing timber and plant products as these species of trees are useful and valuable; wood from mangrove trees are perfect for construction and are commercially used for pulp, wood chip, fuel, and charcoal production; meanwhile, certain species are used for medicinal purposes (WWF, n.d.)
    • Contributing to tourism revenues as they add beauty to  beachfronts and coastal communities; the diversity of marine species in the areas also attracts snorkeling enthusiasts (WWF, n.d.).

Indeed, mangrove trees provide valuable environmental services and are proofs of how rich and blessed our country is. Their significance should also be seen in the context of climate change. More severe weather events are expected in this part of the world. Storm surges, such as those that happened in Tacloban City, are caused by extreme or very strong typhoon winds, which eventually cause sea waters to surge over and submerge coastal towns. Super typhoon Yolanda was observed to have caused storm surges of up to five meters high (McIvor et al., 2012b, as cited in Primavera, 2013).

While mangrove trees will not stop strong tidal waves and storm surges, they do tend to lessen impact and act as buffer zone. They also absorb carbon dioxide, which significantly contributes to the rise in global temperature.  Indeed, mangrove trees are our multi-tasking super-trees! It then becomes necessary that mangrove areas’ rehabilitation be an indispensable part of any greening and reforestation initiative. Let us now consider DENR’s National Greening Program.

III. Understanding the National Greening Program

The NGP is primarily a two-pronged initiative, contributing to climate change mitigation efforts and poverty alleviation by addressing the need for livelihood of marginalized upland communities and even lowland families (DENR, n.d.).  The program involves reforestation in public lands such as forestlands, mangrove and protected areas, ancestral domains, civil and military reservation, sites targeted for urban greening, inactive mining areas, and other suitable lands. (DENR, n.d.) What is noteworthy about the program is its multi-agency approach, requiring government agencies to conduct their own tree-planting activities. For example, agencies such as the Departments of Labor and Employment, Justice, National Defense, and Interior and Local Government, Education, and Public Works and Highways have issued circulars and administrative orders requiring their regional offices to conduct tree-planting activities.

Rehabilitation of mangrove areas is part of the goals of NGP. It is targeted to cover about 380 kilometers of coastline (Ranada, 2013). Region 8, being prone to strong typhoons, is among its beneficiaries. Aside from its participation in the NGP, Eastern Visayas is also conducting the Leyte Gulf Rehabilitation program, which had been allotted a budget of P38 million. It targets to rehabilitate the mangrove and beach forest areas from Palo, Leyte to San Juanico Bridge, Tacloban City, and other areas along the San Juanico Gulf (spanning the provinces of Leyte, Samar and Eastern Samar) and covering about 38.5 km of coastline (DENR Region 8, n.d.).

IV.  Success and criticisms

The NGP covers all the regions and has so far led to the planting of more than 397 million trees (DENR, 2014). Region 8 (Eastern Visayas), which has been significantly damaged by Yolanda, is indeed benefiting from the NGP. In 2013, a report has indicated that the government is planning to reconfigure the plans for Eastern Visayas primarily because of super typhoon Yolanda; more focus will be given to the rehabilitation of coastal areas over reforestation efforts in upland areas (Ranada, 2013). So far, tree-planting activities are taking place in coastal areas in Tacloban City and Dulag town in Leyte; Guiuan, Llorente, and Balangiga in Eastern Samar; and Basey in Samar (Ranada, 2013). Meanwhile, Borongan, Easter Samar has already targeted the planting of mangrove trees in about 1,150 hectares in the Leyte Gulf area (Azura, 2014).

There are accounts of successful implementation. For example, the program had been observed as directly assisting communities because it requires the employment of locals, many of whom have been rendered jobless after Yolanda’s wrath.

However, there had been problems and criticisms as well. The following are just some of them:

  • failure to adopt science-based protocols in mangrove rehabilitation. For example, planting at the seafront is not ideal because it leads to high mortality (i.e., the lower intertidal to subtidal location is not a favorable spot for mangrove trees) (Primavera, 2013).
  • planting of wrong species of trees or devoting more areas for fast-growing species meant for commercial purposes (Ranada, 2014)
  • lack of massive and serious educational and social marketing programs (Primavera, 2013)
  • planting of wrong species of trees (e.g., fast-growing bamboo varieties, which cannot withstand storm surges and low water supply) (Primavera, 2013).
  • expansion of fishponds (many were illegally established) ultimately reduces mangrove areas
  • poor implementation of greenbelt laws (e.g., PD 705 of 1975, PD 953 of 1976, PD 1067, DENR Administrative Order 42 of 1986, DENR AO 76 of 1987, Fisheries Code of 1998, etc.)  (Primavera, 2013)
  • seemingly lopsided view of trees as income-generating goods against the need for protection and conservation; there are reports of intentional burning so that more trees will be funded, ultimately generating income for the planters (Ranada, 2014)
  • weak monitoring instruments (Primavera & Esteban, 2008)

I have also observed that most of the NGP documents and reports focused mainly on the number of trees to be planted and had already been planted rather than the over-all impact to ecological and societal goals. It is understandable that economic gains must be ensured so that the people can benefit equitably from the use of our natural resources. However, I also think that more seriousness and efforts must be given to the meaning of NGP to our long-term survival vis-à-vis climate change and environmental protection.

In the context of mangrove plantation, I think that there is also lesser importance given to it. The projects and reports show small percentage of areas (and funds) given to mangrove rehabilitation. There are also few materials on these very important tree species.

V. Moving forward

We have began this paper by recalling the pains and damages from super typhoon Yolanda. I have chosen this topic because I feel that we need to do more about our coastal ecosystems, primarily, our mangrove areas, in the context of climate change and environmental management. These “multi-tasking” trees deserve more attention than what we are giving them at the moment. The following are just some of the interventions, which we can still do or adopt:

  • our responses should be more “people-centric”; the NGP seems to be partnering with both the public and private sectors, however, I have yet to see a significant number of people or organizations who are actually authentically engaged
  • the NGP managers should also develop reports that meaningfully carry lessons and best practices, and not just show statistics on the number of trees planted or areas covered
  • more massive information dissemination and social marketing must be done and such efforts should not also concentrate on the cold statistics alone
  • the tendency to look at tree-planting as “easy money” sources (thereby, leading to rampant burning) may be prevented by establishing credible third party “Bantay Kagubatan” squads all over the country (e.g., volunteers, students, employees of private offices, etc.)
  • Most importantly, perhaps, we need to “re-appreciate” our forests by connecting them to our spiritual growth—seeing them as our anchor, that ever-nurturing force which gives us strength, refuge, breath, and sustenance. This may be done through more values formation activities and integration in the educational system, faith-based and church organizations, corporate social responsibility interventions, media engagement, and deeper people and private sector engagement.

We need to put our acts together before another Yolanda—probably stronger—hits us again, totally unprepared.

References

Azura, B. (2014, April 2). CENRO-Borongan to rehabilitate mangroves in coastal areas, Sinirangan News. Available at http://www.sinirangan-news.net/2014/04/cenro-borongan-to-implement-p1-billion.html

Department of Environment and Natural Resources. (2014). National Greening Program Annual Accomplishment Report (2014), NGP Website. Available at http://ngp.denr.gov.ph/index.php/site-administrator/ngp-accomplishment-report

Department of Environment and Natural Resources. (n.d.) National Greening Program, DENR website. Available at http://www.denr.gov.ph/priority-programs/national-greening-program.html and http://ngp.denr.gov.ph/

Department of Environment and Natural Resources – Region 8. (n.d.). EV to benefit from the 1B peso mangrove rehab project. Available at http://r8.denr.gov.ph/index.php/86-region-news-items/330-ev-to-benefit-from-the-1-billion-peso-mangrove-rehab-project

Foundation of the Philippine Environment (2014, February 17). The Lay of the Land: Ecosystem Diversity in the Philippines (website of the Foundation of the Philippine Environment). Available at http://fpe.ph/biodiversity.html/view/the-lay-of-the-land-ecosystem-diversity-in-the-philippines

National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council. (2014, April 17). Updates regarding the effects of Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan). Available at http://www.ndrrmc.gov.ph/attachments/article/1177/Update%20Effects%20TY%20YOLANDA%2017%20April%202014.pdf

Ranada, P. (2013, November 20) DENR to restore mangrove forests in Yolanda-hit areas, Rappler. Available at http://www.rappler.com/move-ph/issues/disasters/typhoon-yolanda/44182-denr-restore-mangrove-forests-yolanda

Ranada, P. (2014, June 22). Rethinking the National Greening Program, Rappler. Available at http://www.rappler.com/move-ph/ispeak/60948-rethinking-national-greening-program

Rath A. (n.d.). Mangrove importance, World Wildlife Fund website. Available at http://wwf.panda.org/about_our_earth/blue_planet/coasts/mangroves/mangrove_importance/

Primavera, J. (2013, December 19). Shelter from the storm: Coastal greenbelts of mangroves and beach forests, Philippine Star. Available at http://www.philstar.com/science-and-technology/2013/12/19/1269584/shelter-storm-coastal-greenbelts-mangroves-and-beach

Primavera, J. H., & Esteban, J. M. A. (2008). A review of mangrove rehabilitation in the Philippines: successes, failures and future prospects. Wetlands Ecology and Management, 16(5), 345–358. Available at http://repository.seafdec.org.ph/handle/10862/93

Wetlands International (n.d.) Mangrove Forests (Website of Wetland International). Available at http://www.wetlands.org/Whatarewetlands/Mangroveforests/tabid/2730/Default.aspx

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