Friday, April 27, 2012

Backpacking To Bolinao

The Plan
It all started with an impulsive idea a few days before holy week.  I decided we were going on a backpacking adventure to Bolinao with the kids after an acquaintance mentioned she was from that province and that it wasn’t  difficult  nor costly to go there.   So we packed our bags, threw caution to the wind, and left two days after the idea entered my head. I figured how difficult could it be, since we traveled often to Baguio along the same route and which is even farther.  So I had it all planned out to travel at midnight, get some zzzzs in the bus and arrive there by early dawn and start the day in the beach.  Spend a few days, enjoying the water and sand, reading a book, writing a bit, take some nice shots, spend some quality bonding time with the kids. That was the plan in my mind.

The Reality
Now here is what actually happened. So we packed our bags, hailed a taxi to bring us to the 5-Star bus station an hour before the midnight trip so we don’t have to rush.  When we got there, the bus --- the final trip for the day---was already full and was about to leave.  The next trip was at 5am the next day.  So we took the trip sitting by the aisle in plastic chairs for the next 3 hours, trying to focus on the movie being shown instead of whining and grumbling.  There was a kind man who gave up his seat for the younger kids  with us.  At least that cheered me up a bit.  And three hours wasn’t too bad or long a wait.  When we got to Pangasinan, people started getting off.  So we were able to transfer to better seats at least an hour before reaching our destination.

When we reached Bolinao, the farthest of  part of Pangasinan,  at 4am we waited at the bus station for our contact to arrive. I discovered that the Victory bus station and 5-Star bus station were almost beside each other, so either bus service could be used for Bolinao, Pangasinan destination.  Two hours have passed and she wasn’t around yet so we decided to continue without her. It wasn’t mind-boggling to get around as there was a  huge map in the bus station that indicated resorts, their locations and contact numbers if you want to ask about rental rates. Thanks to the friendly canteen owner in the bus station who recommended we go to Cabrera Cottages  18 km away, we were able to decide where to go and how to get there. She helped us hire a tricycle for P200 to bring us to Patar. 

It was a refreshing morning as we took the trike trip. Upon seeing the beach, my mood got better. So we settled in a cottage fronting the beach for the next two days. The bamboo cottage offered minimal comforts with a mattress, a light bulb, and a fan which barely reached everyone.  That was tolerable. But what was a negative was the common bathroom area that was somewhat clean but you would prefer to rush out as soon as you are done. And the late night sing-alongs at full volumes  that went on  through the night.  I don’t know how we managed to sleep eventually.

The Good and the not so Good
The mornings made up for the warm nights as the breeze and the water were cool and refreshing to the skin.  The view was uplifting and the rhythmic waves were soothing to the mind and soul.  The soft sand and clear waters in the day made up for the not-too-comfortable nights.  I would walk and sit around the beach at night for an hour or so by myself,   saying a short prayer and appreciating the sight of the star-filled night sky along with the music of the waves before I went to sleep.

My kids easily made friends with the other vacationers. Our friendly cook named Nandy served us specially cooked dishes of rice and veggies for lunch and dinner and hot water for our cocoa and my coffee 3-in-1 packs for the morning.  It was a budget trip so I passed the market to get some supplies before we headed for the beach which was quite a distance from the town.  We came at the right time because  when we were about to leave, two days after, which was a Maundy Thursday, the crowd started coming in.  The empty space was filled with parked cars and the place was buzzing with people by the afternoon. Some people could not be accommodated anymore.

Happily Ever After
People were kind and considerate, unbelievably trusting compared to the attitudes in Manila, when it comes to cash.  I made the mistake of assuming that there would be easy access to ATMs  should I need more money.  Horrors, there was only one bank in town that had an ATM where I could get cash from after 5pm and it was not working.  The next one was an hour’s bus trip away at Alaminos, the more popular area because of  the Hundred Islands tourist site.  So my mind was racing: . . .what are my options now?  At first, I  intended to wait  for the only ATM in the area to go online for as long as it took.   When it was not yet working after over an hour, I made a deal with the bus conductor. I asked if he could advance me some cash until we reach Alaminos on our way home where I can get cash from an ATM to pay him back.  To cut the long story short, I was able to pay my dues to the trike driver, my cook, and the bus fare due to the kindness, trust and patience of the people of Bolinao.  So aside from the beautiful beach, it was the warm welcome of the people that made me decide to come back more often in the future.  Now I know how to prepare for the next visit.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Earth Hour and Beyond: What Should I Do Now?

A beautiful sea of candle lights lit up the Ayala Triangle Garden in Makati City last March 31, 2012 with shadows of smiling faces appearing over the darkness. People united and took pride in the effort to create global awareness for the plight of Mother Earth.  There were song and dance numbers as well as random pledge-making among the audience before the anticipated light switch-off moment was to happen from 8:30 until 9:30 pm..  Celebrities like Chris Tiu attended the event to lend their crowd-drawing power for the cause.  The feeling of the night was somewhat close to a New Year celebration where a count-down for Earth Hour was eagerly anticipated but instead of fireworks, the crowd was looking forward to darkness.  Who would have guessed that darkness could be a good thing?

The world celebrated Earth Hour, the largest environmental celebration in human history, last March 31, 2012. The Philippines, declared a Hero Country for topping Earth Hour’s global town and city participation level for three straight years until this year, held three simultaneous switch-off ceremonies for the first time in the cities of Makati, Cebu, and Davao led by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Philippines! 

Makati City’s Ayala Triangle Gardens was the central hub for Luzon. Earlier at 6:30 PM , glow-in-the-dark dance troupe Bailes de Luces and the Caracol dancers led the  Earth-themed parade from the Makati fire station to Ayala Tower One - where WWF-Philippines National Ambassador Rovilson Fernandez hosted the program. 

Performances from Bailes De Luces, Caracol, and El Gamma Penumbra entertained the audience with outstanding energy and confidence. Minutes before the switch-on, WWF-Philippines Partners announced their participation in the I WILL IF YOU WILL campaign by sharing their pledge. 

The I WILL IF YOU WILL campaign aims to empower people by asking them to share a personal dare with the world. It poses the question -- what are you willing to do to save the planet? -  and centers around providing a social contract between two parties. It connects one person, business or organization to a ‘promise’ and their friends, family customers or members to a challenge – uniting them behind the common goal of creating a positive environmental outcome. 

Famous faces around the world are speaking out to encourage participation and support for Earth Hour. Pledges are coming in from a plethora of groups and as an open sourced campaign, Earth Hour uses social media to connect a global community of people inspired to change the world they live in.
Cebu City’s Plaza Independencia was the chief switch-off site for the Visayas. A festive street parade led by local Sinulog Dancers started at Fuente Osmeña Circle from 5:30 PM onwards. The Cebu switch-off featured a candle lighting ceremony capped off by the release of biodegradable sky lanterns. Cebu’s event was held in cooperation with the Aboitiz Group and the Cebu City Government.

SM Davao was the main switch-off site for Mindanao. WWF-Philippines National Ambassador Marc Nelson hosted the switch-off, which featured a tribal-themed parade around SM Davao at 6:30 PM. Black-light and fire-dancers entertained the crowd with specialized routines when the city plunges into darkness. The Davao event was in collaboration with SM Supermalls, the Green Alliance and the Davao City Government.

Earth Hour is one of the solutions that we can use to battle climate change, among other environmental problems. With this in mind, Makati City Mayor Hon. Jejomar Erwin Binay, Jr. welcomed the guests and introduced a short message from the President of the Republic of the Philippines, Benigno Aquino III.  WWF Philippines Vice Chairman and CEO, Jose Ma. Lorenzo Tan talked about climate change and rallied people to be part of the solution. 

Andy Ridley gave the keynote speech followed by the Earth Hour official video and a message from heads of WWF International leaders – Jim Leape, WWF International Director General and Yolanda Kakabadse, WWF International President. 

“I want to say thank you to all of you here in Mania and across the Philippines who are part of this global event. Earth Hour by itself is an important statement of concern about the future of the planet. It also should be just the beginning. So I hope when you go home you will recommit yourself to making changes in the way you live that can help us all sustain life on earth. Thank you for being part of Earth Hour 2012,” said Mr. Leape in his message to the Filipinos. 

Marc Nelson and Rovilson Fernandez
Everyone was asked to pledge for the planet by having a greener lifestyle and by joining hundreds of millions of people across the globe in calling for action on climate change and celebrating one’s commitment for the planet not just for that night but beyond the Earth Hour. 

The ceremonial switch-off was led by Earth Hour Co-Founder Andy Ridley, WWF Vice-Chairman and CEO Mr. Jose Ma. Lorenzo Tan, Makati City Mayor Hon. Jejomar Erwin Binay Jr., Ayala Land Inc. President Mr. Antonio Aquino, DOE Undersecretary Ms. Loreta Ayson, Climate Change Commission Commissioner Naderev Saño, and MACEA President Mr. David Balangue.

Now in its fifth year, Earth Hour Philippines continues to grow. Current public sector partners include the Climate Change Commission, Department of Energy, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Philippine Information Agency, Department of Public Works and Highways, Department of Science and Technology, Department of Agriculture, Department of Foreign Affairs, Department of National Defense, Department of Transportation and Communications, National Economic Development Authority, Department of Budget Management, Department of Trade and Industry, Department of Education, the Metro Manila Development Authority, League of Municipalities, League of Cities and League of Provinces of the Philippines.

Philippine Media Champions include TV5, ABS-CBN, GMA-7, CLTV-36, Discovery Channel, Knowledge Channel, ZOE TV, Global News Network, Philippine Star, BusinessWorld, BusinessMirror, Philippine Daily Inquirer Online, Aftercall Magazine, Philippines Graphic, Radyo Veritas, DZIQ, DZAR, Globaltronics, QCreativs, Photoworld Manila, ASK and Illuminati Philippines.

Corporate partners include the Yuchengco Group of Companies, Arthaland, McDonald's, Big Chill, Tully's Coffee, Globe Telecommunications, Smart Communications, Primer Group of Companies, Core, York, Victory Liner, Aboitiz Group of Companies, Lopez Group of Companies, Philippine Business for Social Progress, Ayala Land, SM Supermalls, Victory Liner Incorporated, 2GoTravel, Canon Marketing Philippines, Campaigns and Grey, Leo Burnett Manila, the Makati Shangri-La Hotel plus Hyatt Hotel and Casino Manila. 

The list of allies grows longer each day. 

“More than anything, Earth Hour is a celebration of hope. When our planet plunges into darkness, we can look to the stars and dream of what can be. When the lights switch back on though - our real work begins,” concludes Ibay. 

These scenes may have been replicated in other major cities around the world but when the lights are turned back on, what happens next? How do we keep the feeling alive, much longer than just a hour?
WWF Phil CEO, Mr. Jose Ma. Lorenzo Tan, sums up what Filipinos can do beyond Earth Hour.

Mr. Jose Ma. Lorenzo Tan
“What are the things we forget? . . . is that we are a democracy. The art of democracy is participation.  If you look in the US, the first one to respond to Hurricane Katrina is the private sector not FEMA.  So that is the point I am trying to make here.  Sure, the governent has the opportunity to influence politics, but politics takes years like planting trees. Whereas the private sector can do something quickly and within one year they can make a difference, not just by saving power but by keeping communities and economies viable . . .such as how they put up their plant or how they annex water.  No company can operate without water and there are some companies who have actually made investments in improving watershed management that not only benefits the company but also the community. For me, the challenge here is to create waves of reaction, not just point to government and ask what are you doing now. The opportunity really here is to point to yourself and ask: what am I doing?

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Makati Celebrates World Poetry Day

Ayala Triangle Garden
Makati City---World Poetry Day was commemorated with a night of poetry reading by students and professionals with special song numbers at the AyalaTriangle last March 21, 2012. The event entitled A Walk Through Words at the Gardens highlights the  mystical beauty of Philippine poetry by bringing together some of the country’s leading writers and literary personalities who are firm believers on the power of words.  The activity was spearheaded by Ayala Foundation through the Filipinas Heritage Library and the group of writers involved in the Metro Serye literary magazine,

Krip Yuson
Guests who shared their poems with the crowd were magazine editor and the 30th National Book Awards Leisure Category finalist RJ Ledesma, Palanca awardees Ricci Guevarra and Vim Nadera. Literature personalities- essayist, novelist, and poet Krip Yuson; poet and literary critics Jimmy Abad, Anina Abola, Eliza Victoria, and Carlomar. Music, also a form of poetry, was performed by Arya Herrera and Reb Atadero from Blue Rep, and rapper Gloc9. The other poetry readers included students from the Ateneo de Manila University and De La Salle University.

RJ Ledesma
“Appreciation of poetry is universal. It begins almost when we are toddlers.,” says Filipinas Heritage Library (FHL) director Maritoni Ortigas. “Today, we are celebrating the World Poetry Day in recognition of poetry’s distinct influence to expand people’s views, understanding, and appreciation of humanity and its experience. Everything in life—what is seen, felt, and imagined—belong to poetry. Our imaginations are stirred and our minds are enriched by the magic of words, captured thought, image or metaphor. We hope this celebration manifests this.”

Arya Herrera and Rebs Atadero
This unique event  showcased contemporary Filipino poetry punctuated by musical landscape in an informal urban setting, so the ideal venue would be at the heart of the Makati Central Business District— which is at the Ayala Triangle Gardens. “The event aims to encourage Makati denizens and Filipinos in general to continue their passion for poetic excellence while also preserving and enriching our heritage,” shares Mel Ignacio, Assistant Vice President of Ayala Land.
Makati City’s meteoric rise as the country’s center for business, culture, lifestyle, and entertainment can be described as poetry in motion. “The development of the city did not happen overnight,” notes Mel Ignacio. “What played a key role in this regard was the seamless integration of ideas and strategic partnership among the primary stakeholders of the city—the local government unit,, the Makati Commercial Estate Association, Inc. (MACEA) and Ayala Land, Inc. (ALI).” This is the reason why Makati City continues to grow and become relevant in the modern sphere of things.

In line with this cultural thrust, the recently launched campaign, “Make It Happen, Make It Makati,” also enforces Makati’s position not just as the country’s preferred business and lifestyle destination but also as a home for poetic and artistic minds.

 Poetry enthusiast Tessa Sweezy Webb first initiated the celebration of the World Poetry Day in 1936 in Ohio, U.S.A. to honor poets. In 1999, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) officially declared March 21 as the World Poetry Day as a tribute to poets and other literary artists in recognition of their valuable contributions to society.


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