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Extinction.png“Anthropocene”. I first encountered this term back in 2003 in my Geology and Biology class when we were discussing different epochs. Two words popped out of my mind upon hearing the word: human civilization, and climate change. Last night’s podcast could have possibly confirmed these two.

Anthropocene started when varieties of snails in Italy die, leaving only one species of snail to dominate the area. This was a sign of the rise of industrialization and humanity’s global impact, unbalancing global ecology. The term anthropocene was described in geologic nomenclature (as the term was first proposed to the Stratigraphy Commission of the Geologic Society of London to be adopted as a legitimate geologic division) as a period when humans have completely harnessed its influence in the world, controlling world’s resources. And we see it everyday: as more and more humans are born and human society’s become more established, as cities and megacities are built, we produce more waste, and exploit a lot of finite resources. Ergo, thousands of animal species become extinct every year, or around 3 species per day. Just last month, the last of Rabb’s fringed-limb tree frog died, wiping its entire species off the planet. When agriculture started in the US, 7,000 varieties of apple can be found, but since only 100 species are commercially grown for human consumption, the other 6,900 species will most likely to go extinct in the next 25 to 50 years.

It’s interesting and somewhat disturbing to think that as we engage passionately on human affairs, we devoid ourselves from doing something to save ourselves from an impending extinction. Many scientists are predicting another great extinction is at hand, but contrary to the mysterious extinction of the dinosaurs during the Cretaceous – Tertiary period, this next great extinction is certainly human-made. More than the increasing threat to a global nuclear war between Russia and the US, storms become more treacherous and natural calamities become far worse than ever. It is Nature finding its way to bring back its balance.

As the podcast ended, I wondered what would be the next epoch after Anthropocene, or whether we are still here to define that next epoch. It may probably be the end of the world in the next 100 years or so, I will never know.”There is too many of us,” as Jane Goodall would put it, suggesting that we should find a way to reduce the number of people in the world. It’s a scary thought, but it makes sense, unless we start figuring out how to balance this power that we have as humans with Nature. Governments must begin to plan way ahead, similar to how the Norwegian government is collecting seeds from around the world and keep it at the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. We need begin to mind the world we live in and live harmoniously as part of the global ecology.

We already are at the last few minutes before Earth’s time strikes 12. We don’t have much time left.

 

Few months ago, a good friend of mine bid goodbye after five years of living here in this wonderful city. I was surprised that she suddenly decided to move; she was doing well in her job and she has been considered one of the movers in this part of the world. But she had to leave. I didn’t know why she decided to go until I had a catch up with her before her flight.

People who get to work with her would call her “Dragon Lady”, “Slavedriver”. Some would hate working with her because of her tough dispositions and her very strict work ethic. I was not an exemption to her touch of toughness when we had a misunderstanding or two. She would demand for me to show up in ungodly hours to do something for her, such as preparing materials for the following day’s activity. But at the end of the day, I would understand her, thinking that she was just eager to finish something that needed to be done.

Everything changed when we had a small conversation on the day of her flight. She told me that the reason why she had to leave was because she was the only one working in her family, and her two boys are growing up and their tuition fees are becoming more expensive. Moving out and moving to a new place would mean earning few more — sufficiently enough for her family’s subsistence. She admitted that she was not sure whether her new job would give her enough satisfaction at work, but she had to move.

That day, I got to know her a little bit more. I understood why she had to be tough at work. Her dedication to her family reflects her passion and her resilience at work. She might face a lot of criticisms because of her strict work ethic and overly stressful work schedule that stretches over weekends, but that day, I understood why.

Sometimes, it’s very easy to insult or mock people simply because they are either doing something out of the ordinary, or simply because people do not like their attitude. Calling someone names because we don’t like the kind of work that they do is easy, but that will not stop the person from doing what they have to do, especially if they are eager to improve themselves and to change themselves for the better.

I was having breakfast with a friend last week. In the region, some people would make fun of her for her mediocre performance at work. I would shrug off these comments whenever I hear them because she was a friend. Over breakfast that day, I was happy to hear that she is planning to enrol in an English language course and go back to college and finish her degree. She said that she is doing these because she is really passionate with this opportunity and she wants to prove to herself that she can make a better improvement of her self.

I thought, instead of bullying this person, why not help and support her?

poster-kind-person-jerk-flower

 

iyamTo be fair, I wanted to watch Tuviera’s “Imagine You And Me” (2016) to follow up on what happened with the AlDub hype since it started a year ago (which all began, interestingly, a day after my birthday last year). Aldub’s media sensation took over the Philippines and many Filipino communities worldwide for a number of months until all the dust has settled, and we saw in Kalyeserye how hard Eat Bulaga tried to sustain the kilig and the magic of the series on TV. “Imagine You and Me” came out at a perfect time as a culmination of the accidental love team’s first year of success.

I didn’t really set a very high standard watching the film earlier today. I know that the film will bank on the success of the love team and the chemistry of the two that they even will not extend their arms to meet the demand of their characters. It was a pretty formulaic plot: a no-boyfriend-since-birth (NBSB) hopeless romantic girl falls in love with a guy who she met at a park after retrieving his mobile phone and stuff from a thief. Their backstories are not really that important to sustain a layered story: she being an OFW yet would have more time walking in the park and daydreaming that does not really give justice to the difficulties of living in a foreign country, much more to a province of Como; while he is a stepson of a widowed Filipino caregiver who was in the process of moving on and has decided to end his ‘waiting’ in Como. Honestly, you won’t really bother thinking about these plotholes too much as all these were smothered by all the kilig and comedic moments and the glossy portrayal of the city. The film also tried to inject two more twists in the story but then again, it happened so fast that the film neither has enough time to wrap around these loose knots nor provide a more substantial backstory of why these things happen. There was this one memorable scene of a long take, however, which I think was a good devise to put the theme of “destiny / coincidence” central to the story.

The turn of events of “Imagine You and Me” made me feel that it was too surreal to happen in real life. The filme was done too glossy that it felt escapist and too romanticised, contrary to how AlDub evolved on TV: its relatability, simplicity, and the ordinary-aspiring-artista-falling-in-love-with-a-celebrity formula was completely gone in the film. It did give justice to the sensation that is AlDub, but for someone who doesn’t follow the hype, the film feels a little rushed in terms of story development and there were few twists and turns that were like “how did that happen?”
220px-thatthingcalledtadhanaWhich makes me miss “That Thing Called Tadhana”. This 2014 popular-due-to-word-of-mouth film became such a hit not only because of its breakup hugot lines but also because it neither promises a romanticised ending nor a happy life ever after. It has its similar charm like that of “Imagine You and Me” and the centrality of the theme of destiny and tadhana are also present. Contrary to “Imagine”, “That Thing”‘s Baguio was a good plot devise to show the progression of moving on, and the film showed the gradual evolution of moving on and that subtle falling back to love. “Imagine” made us travel to Como, but it was not a plot devise: it was not even utilised well in the plot (SPOILER ALERT: Andrew proposed to his ex-girlfriend in Manila, so why Como?).

“Imagine You and Me” will be remembered by many fans as the film that cemented AlDub’s influence in popular Filipino media, but it’s not a film that will sufficiently trigger relatable events in someone’s life. They could have made the film more grounded, and more layered, so that it can last more than AlDub’s lifespan.

Ok, now where’s my DVD copy of “That Thing Called Tadhana”?

 

Listening to the Veneration Gospel during the Veneration of the Cross Mass this Good Friday afternoon, my attention was caught at the scriptures of how Peter denied his affiliation with Jesus thrice. I would understand how difficult and lethal it was to become one of Jesus’ disciples during His time as His mere existence was being condemned by the Jewish priests, hence Peter’s denial of his discipleship in order to save his life. On the contrary, Peter’s denial of Jesus shows his weakness in professing his faith, and raising his life and owing it up to the Lord.

1024px-the_denial_of_saint_peter-caravaggio_1610

Denial of Peter (Caravaggio, 1610)

Peter’s denials show us the bitter end of being human, of how we can become vulnerable at times in contrast with how Jesus professes His faithfulness and faith in humanity that He has given up His life for us. But Peter is no exception as we all have become like him many times in our lives and has denied Jesus’ existence. We have denied our faith to Jesus and has succumbed to our fear due to uncertainty. Our faith became weak that it became easy for us to give up our faith.

I, too, has become Peter at some point in my life and denied Jesus. The first one was back in high school when I became very interested in Wicca. I became so bored with Catholicism that I wanted to try a new religion. Being young and curious back then, I just went and tried to do the spells and the rituals, but that put me farther away from God. I worshipped other gods and imagined myself being in a higher position — only to find out that I became weaker and less focused. Years later, I came back to the Lord.

The second was when I was struggling with my sexuality. It was very convincing for me as a young gay man to discount from believing in God because of the opposition and rejection that I get from the priests at every homily, the pressure from some of my friends who denied our sexualities and told us that being gay was wrong, and living in secrecy inside my home. It was tough to live and I would always question my faith, and so I thought leaving my religion was an easy way out. I was wrong — shifting from a believer to a non-believer was even more difficult. Every time I deny God, I experience this pain inside me like a red ant was pinching my heart, a regret that kept on haunting me. One day, I had a eureka moment — it was not really necessary for me to reconcile the irony between my religion and my sexuality; that despite the Catholic priests denouncing my existence, my faith in Jesus should be stronger. Jesus taught me to love God as I loved my neighbor, and while tolerance is not a good trait in being an activist, letting things be and traversing the difficult route and win the non-believers’ support by arguing within the same level of understanding of where they were coming from became my pathway towards enlightening other people.

The third time I denied God came from the pressure of my peers. As an activist, it is a rule of thumb to take things from a human rights perspective. Unfortunately, many people who do not believe in human rights come from the right wing who are most of the time, religious fanatics. It is very easy to get swayed and to denounce my faith, especially when you are asked to reconcile your faith with what you fight for. But then again, I realize that some things are better left as they are, and face their arguments one at a time.

Through these different experiences, I came to learn that denying my faith is denying my history, my values, and my heritage — the roots of my personhood. These things defined me, and has continued to define me, and denying my religion or making that drastic shift to be away from my religion is both unhealthy and unwise.

Similar to Peter, when Jesus came back from the dead, despite Peter’s fear of seeing Jesus again, he still went to see him. Same thing with life — we fall down, we fail, and we give up, but we must never give up our faith. We must never deny who we are and where we came from. Whether we believe in God or not, regardless of whether we are Catholic, Muslim, Jew, Wiccan, or belonging to any other religion, believing is not something that you force yourself into — you just let it happen.

Everybody wants to be accepted and to feel a sense of belonging. Living in a world that believes that you are defined by the people you are with, it really is difficult to find people who you can relate to and people who can understand your quirkiness or weird antics. It’s not always easy, and sometimes, you get stuck with people and you can’t do anything about it.

I have always been considered different and weird. Some of my peers would sometimes consider me nerd, or my thoughts would just come up with out-of-this-world ideas and concepts. I sensed this as early as seven: I was seen as atypical and few people would understood. I survived high school and college being like this, but I did not survive this being alone, albeit being introvert as I am. In high school, I was with a group of students who would always ace the class, and we would consider ourselves the ‘smart alecks’. During college, being a transferee that I was, I sticked with the other shiftees and transferees of my bloc, and we became a tight group. I admit, I have sometimes, if not most of the time, played the innocent/dumb card just to give people something to laugh at, and it works, because for me that was my way of making sure that I still have flaws. I was topping the class without a fuzz, so making fun of myself would make me “more human”.

But I guess that doesn’t work in other settings outside of school, where intellectual elitism draws the line between being taken seriously and being a laughingstock. That in the context of intellectual elitism, being different is not a call for people to understand where you are coming from, but puts a target on your back and be laughed at. Don’t get me wrong, I understand that there are some wrong things in the world that I grew up believing, things that I thought were true but were actually not, but I could use an ear with a little bit of patience and be heard. I could use some compassion and a kinder approach than be a center of insult. I guess that’s why a lot of people would rather commit suicide, because some people would come at you and tell you you’re wrong because they are more experienced in this world, they know more, or they just have the confidence to tell you that you are wrong.

If people can be a little kinder and will learn to extend a little compassion to understand where people are coming from, the world could have been a better place to live in for everyone.

 

Who counts as Filipino?

It’s our flight later this evening back to Bangkok. I’m a bit excited that I am going back to what I consider my second home (despite nursing this colds and cough). For more than a year now, Bangkok has been my home. My partner is now based there, my work is there, nd there are so many opportunities there. On the other hand, leaving the Philippines again makes me feeling a bit regretful. My family of orientation and my extended family all live here, and all my memories of growing up are here.

Watching iJuander on GMA News TV this morning suddenly made me think: for someone like me who’s technically not based here work-wise, do I still count as Filipino? IJuander has been showcasing very Filipino topics and issues, even social experiments that show typical Filipino traits. This makes me miss my life here in Manila. I wake up to my usual bed with the noise of my neighbors, I prepare to my work despite the heat, and I travel, albeit exhaustingly, to work, spending an hour of travel in a narrow seat for three with three other commuters going to downtown Metro Manila. Watching iJuander makes me think of an ideal “Filipino” – a seemingly aspirational, childhood-like dream of an imaginary place. But that is not how a Filipino is now, especially if one would compare it to Manila. The noise, the “electricity” as what my partner would always tell me, the ‘pulse’…it’s the chaos that defines the Filipino now.

Where does that put me, or my partner, or those living in Bangkok? I know they are Filipino too. We are. Heck, we even call ourselves “Pinoy Mafia” for being a community. A community of activists and of visionaries and of critiques. This group actually reminds me of La Liga Filipina, a group established by Filipino thinkers in Madrid during the Spanish colonization – Filipinos who, despite being far, would still fight for independence and would still long for Philippine liberty and sovereignity; but fast forward 2016, the country longs for common sense and a sense of order. 

Full circle. We do actually count as Filipino.

I am not sure if we’re coming back to the Philippines for good, or if we will ever be back here in Manila to work, given that we’ve found a lot more good opportunities outside of the country. But who knows. Thungs have changed since 2014. But as long as I know that the work still benefits the country, I’d still count as a Filipino.

It’s been almost a year already since I’ve been outside of Metro Manila and I miss am already missing that unique Filipino vibe. Apart from missing my home, my family, and my boyfriend, there’s nothing more fulfilling to get out of Manila and see the beauty that is the Philippines. Really, #itsmorefuninthePhilippines!

Thanks to this online map maker, http://forge.codedgraphic.com/lakbayan/, it was able to map out where I’ve been around my lovely native land. And it graded me a B! Looking at the map, I can’t believe I’ve been through most of the provinces. And I need to expand more!

Cheers to more travel in the Philippines!


My Lakbayan grade is B!

How much of the Philippines have you visited? Find out at Lakbayan!

Created by Eugene Villar.