Protecting our Atmosphere for Generations to Come

The Philippines celebrated the 25th Anniversary of the Montreal Protocol by forming a huge \\\"25\\\" with the help of students and faculty members from San Francisco High School. More »

Eco-friendly and Sustainable Schools

Schools in the country are getting more and more eco-friendly. More »


Going Organic, Going Green

Are you into organic products, specifically citronella lotion and sprays?  Have you ever wondered how they’re made? If they’re true to their claim, if there really are citronella extracts in every bottle — or are we just being duped — that chemicals are used instead?

Organic Products: Human Nature Spray Sanitizer, Ilog Maria Healing Massage Oil, and Bounty Forest Hand and Body Lotion

I’m doing my best to support green products so I buy if I can, although I must admit, I still have a lot of chemical-based stuff as well. The market for organic and eco-friendly products is growing — more Filipinos are becoming aware that going green is not only good for the environment, but it’s also what’s best for our health.

Mr. Aries Maputi briefing us on how citronella oil is extracted.

Anyway, last month, speaking of citronella, I was able to see for myself that yes, real extracts are in those bottles. We went to Mt. Kitanglad Agri-Ecological Techno-Demo Center (MKAETDC) in Sinaburan, Imbayao Malaybalay City in Bukidnon (in Mindanao) — managed by the multi-awarded, super kind Maputi Family — and we got to see how the citronellas are planted, dried, and placed into a “boiler” to cook so its oil could be extracted. The “boiler” as I call it, is an Essential Oil Distillation Chamber, and its operation’s being assisted by the Local Government of Malaybalay, the Department of Science and Technology, the Philippine Federation for Environmental Concern, the Protected Area Management Board, and the Imbayao Multi-Purpose Cooperative.

If you wanna see for yourself, the farm welcomes visitors and researchers — they even have a Training House with rooms for people who would want to spend the night. There’s a lot to see there — trees and crops, koi and frog ponds, and all the animals you could eat like pigs, goats, and chicken (joke, hehe!). Ben Jr., Sir Ben’s eldest, even shared with us plans on marrying Eco-Techno and Tourism in the farm in the coming years.

If you wanna know more about our visit to the farm (in short, a better and more detailed write up about our experience), kindly check out this Farmers on the Forefront article in Balicassiao.

Travel: Biak-na-Bato National Park

The Biak-na-Bato National Park in San Miguel, Bulacan is listed as among the Protected Areas in Region 3. The park covers about 2,100 hectares, which could easily be traversed, thanks to the trails along the river that would lead trekkers to caves and secret passages.

There’s so much to appreciate here. For someone who enjoys seeing a lot of greens and having quiet time, Biak-na-Bato is one of the nearest nature stops people from Metro Manila could set foot on.

First went there about ten years ago, as part of a field trip for an Environmental Education class I took at the Environmental Studies Institute. Back then, I remember the place was quiet, and you had to go through a “rope” bridge to get to the other side of the park (where we had to register, and where we also met this organization that handled livelihood projects for the community). That was so many years ago, in fact, a long time back that an assisted living software from eldermark has already been developed — what I’m saying is that the world has changed so much… and fast.

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Oh no! The road’s closed. We had to do a bit of bouldering cause we got lost. lol.

We went there again last March and so much has changed. It was weird seeing the river now ‘dryer’ than it was (and I remember we went there summer time too); it was shocking to see writings on the wall (I’m sure Andres Bonifacio and the katipuneros didnt write those); and oh, there were too many kids following ‘trekkers’ offering their services as (obviously unofficial) ‘tour guides’. I felt trapped between wanting to ‘help’ the kids, but then again,  if we ‘help’ them, they’d just keep doing it (which will not really do them any good).

Anyway, we took a San Miguel bus at the SM North Terminal in Quezon City, asked the conductor to drop us off at the Park Entrance, but got dropped at this tricycle station to the Park instead. It was, however, a long road to Biak-na-Bato, and if my memory serves me right, it took us about 30 minutes to get there, and about over a hundred pesos more for the fare.

Entrance is cheap at less than fifty pesos each, then the ticket lady there asked if we would want a guide. We are the backpacker, adventurous, private people-type so we said no, and then we went off to trek. We first stopped at this quiet place near the lake (see bottom left photo) where we laid for about an hour just listening to the water streaming while birding.  After a while, people started coming so we decided to get back on our feet and continue our “journey”…

… which led us to a cave. We didn’t really go inside (it’s the Bat Cave and I have been there years back) but from where we stood, which was at this big rock near the bridge, the smell of bat droppings was at its best. Mmmm. Cafe aroma! Nomnom lol. There were a couple of families/barkadas swimming at the lake near the bat cave at that time so we just took a few photos then went on with our “trek”. We stopped again at this small cave-like thing, where we rested, sat, and talked about life for, maybe two hours. It’s like being on a semi-private cave with a great view of the forest that surrounds the Park.

It’s been months but what I distinctly remember is how we never really got hungry even after having spent hours walking (and bouldering) without having eaten anything. We just had this one bottle of Pulpy Maid to share. lol.

Goes to show that nature is just so very refreshing.

Inclusive Mobility for Cleaner Air

“Less cars, less air pollution.” The second day session of the Clean Air Forum focused on supporting the right of the people to have access to roads via non-motorized transport. Of all the presentations delivered, one got me interested –Inclusive Mobility by the Ateneo School of Government.

So what is Inclusive Mobility? It’s about ensuring that everyone’s able to get from Point A to B, regardless.

“Kumusta ang biyahe mo kahapon?” Interestingly enough, this is how Ms. Tina Velasco of the Ateneo School of Government opened her talk on Inclusive Mobility, highlighting the hardships an ordinary Filipino commuter faces, on a daily basis, going to and from work.

She talked about “Catalyzing New Mobility in Cities: The Case of Metro Manila” as implemented by the Innovation at the Base of the Pyramid in South East Asia (iBoP-Asia) Program at the Ateneo School of Government). I believe this is so far in line with the campaign to increase the “road share” of non-motorists — and the drive to entice people to walk more, and in so doing, “air” pollute less.

The argument is that Metro Manila is far from what could be a walkable city… and that, like many of the rest of us, they envision a change that would make the metropolis as such. She then presented ten principles that would make it “walkable”, which include the following:

1. A Transport System that works for the poor and the vulnerable
2. A walkable, bikeable accessible city
3. Moving people, not vehicle (EO 774, Section 9: Those who have less in wheels must have more in roads)
4. Mobility with safety and civility (bringing back the dignity in taking public transport in the country)
5. Clean air, clean vehicles, clean streets, clean facilities
6. Planning and communicating better, and traveling less (advocate working from home, mobility with the least travel cost and time)
7. Sharing information to increase connectivity and accessibility
8. Making neighborhoods accessible to the rest of the city
9. Changing mindsets and behaviors – the authorities and ours (changing the mindset from building more space for roads so we can accommodate more people who could walk, rather than provide space for cars)
10. Mobility of all, by all, and for all (footprint on the streets)

The principles are clear and concise, and in a way, I believe, Metro Manila is already like that, with just a bit of fine tuning to be made. I feel that Manila is a “walkable” city — and it would even be more so if it would be:

1. Cleaner. It’s depressing to be walking around and seeing garbage all over the streets (especially in areas like Cubao and Recto), and walls seemingly painted with dust and mud (sighs). Let’s place high value on aesthetics and make our cities better simply by making them cleaner.
2. Greener, with ample space for trees to shade people (and make the surrounding more beautiful, hehehe).
3. Safer. People would probably walk more or bike more if they’re not fearful that their bags or whatever they have on would get snatched at any given time. I think people tend to do something bad (like snatching) when their surrounding looks bad…

I’m pretty sure greening and ensuring that the cities would get cleaner and safer are on the agenda of every local government unit, so improvements are definitely on their way — little by little. Now, for us, “ordinary citizens”, we can do our share simply by not littering on the streets. Pocket your candy wrappers and my goodness, please don’t just throw them anywhere.

I think Miss Velasco’s super right on when she said, “if we live here, we should make it a point to actually care for this city, and be really helpful and not complaining people”.

Let’s all help.

Partnerships for Cleaner Air

DENR Usec. Analiza Teh (above) and Consultant Mr. John Boyd (below)

Early today, I attended the 6th Annual Clean Air Forum, jointly organized by NGOs and a couple of government agencies. It banners partnership, which is very fitting, considering that working for clean air isn’t really the responsibility of the government alone as most might be thinking.

The theme is so simple it needs no explanation. Partnership is key — commitment must be made, trust is essential.

I love how, in today’s forum, each partner recognized that there is no monopoly as far as the environment is concerned. Gone are the days when a sector blames another, or is too defensive when criticisms are thrown their way. Perhaps, the catastrophes that have swept the country and killed too many of our men during the last few years have changed our people’s mindsets and turned us into one — despite our many differences.

To quote Dr. Eva Ocfemia, Assistant Director of the Environmental Management Bureau, “we might be disagreeing but we all agree that we need to do something for the environment”.

Members of the Partnership for Clean Air (PCA) even lauds the government’s openness to welcome criticisms, especially when Undersecretary Atty. Analiza Teh of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) challenged everyone present in the forum to assess them in their implementation of the Philippine Clean Air Act (CAA) and point out policy gaps and where the DENR might have been missing in terms of enforcement — whether it’s the employees, the policies in place, or the lack of political will.

Anyway, of all the talks I heard from the speakers and the participants, I particularly support the “bus” proposal of Mr. John Boyd, a consultant, originally from California, who has chosen to stay and has been living in the Philippines for the past 20 years. He calls for the improvement of the operation of buses in the country, stressing that doing so is the only way to stop people from taking their cars. He further shared that buses here are not a priority, which should be the contrary given the fact that buses really carry more people. A commuter himself, he said that “buses” ought to be treated with great respect, with the scheduling and number of buses a must to improve. I totally, absolutely, completely, super duper agree.

There will be another session tomorrow so I’m looking forward to hearing and learning more about sector initiatives for cleaner air.

I’d like to end this post with a quote from Mr. Rene Pineda, PCA President. At the forum, he said, “pollution is a multi-faceted occurrence. It is difficult to strike a balance, and this is what partnership is all about. We are partners in doing work in order to achieve an equilibrium, quality environment.”

Let’s all work together for cleaner, better air.

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