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Sustainable development: the key to protecting the environment

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Aside from fighting the preposterous leyenda negra by attempting to bring back the Spanish language in order to redeem our Filipino Identity, I have another advocacy: environmentalism. But so much has been written about it already. Any views from me will be a mere drop of water in a filled bucket. All I can say is this: much of the Philippines before, especially during the supposedly “exploitation-filled” Spanish times, was a haven for nature fauna and flora. This beauty inspired the creativity of many a poet and artist. But many of these natural wonders today are either gone or polluted. All this in the name of capitalism inspired by US WASP greed and avarice.

The desecration of our natural resources is a major factor for my travels. My travels are fueled not solely by my passion to search for traces of our country’s Hispanic past, nor are they spurred exclusively by a responsibility to document maltreated Fil-Hispanic heritage sites. I feel an urge to visit our country’s natural wonders because I fear that one day, any time soon, these natural wonders will soon disappear. Or that they might meet the same fate as the Pásig River or once lush forests that are now commercial centers. That is why I keep on taking pictures of beautiful sceneries. Those photos are for my children. When they grow up and these natural beauties are gone, they would still be able to see them, at least through my eyes in all the pictures that I took.

I fear not for myself but for my children. Let me just borrow a few lines (written in original Tagalog spelling) from Filipino folk band Asin to explain this fear:

Ang mğa batang ñgayón lang isinilang,
¿May hañguin pa cayáng matiticmán?
¿May mğa puno pa cayá siláng aaquiatín?
¿May mğa ilog pa cayáng lalañguyán?

Right now, it’s not enough to be simply “environmental” in order to save our natural resources. Protecting the environment nowadays is not just about throwing one’s waste in a designated trash bin or turning off electrical appliances that are not in use. It is not just about tree planting events. This is not just about hating illegal logging. Environmentalism is something that “needs to be done”, and without harming the economy.

The keyword here is sustainable development. The International Institute for Sustainable Development explains this much better:

All definitions of sustainable development require that we see the world as a system—a system that connects space; and a system that connects time.

When you think of the world as a system over space, you grow to understand that air pollution from North America affects air quality in Asia, and that pesticides sprayed in Argentina could harm fish stocks off the coast of Australia.

And when you think of the world as a system over time, you start to realize that the decisions our grandparents made about how to farm the land continue to affect agricultural practice today; and the economic policies we endorse today will have an impact on urban poverty when our children are adults.

We also understand that quality of life is a system, too. It’s good to be physically healthy, but what if you are poor and don’t have access to education? It’s good to have a secure income, but what if the air in your part of the world is unclean? And it’s good to have freedom of religious expression, but what if you can’t feed your family?

The concept of sustainable development is rooted in this sort of systems thinking. It helps us understand ourselves and our world. The problems we face are complex and serious—and we can’t address them in the same way we created them. But we can address them.

Click here and here for more information about sustainable development.

Act now.

Earth Hour 2011

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Earth Hour 2011: It’s time to go beyond the hour

At 8:30 PM on Saturday 26th March 2011, lights will switch off around the globe for Earth Hour and people will commit to actions that go beyond the hour.

With Earth Hour almost upon us, our thoughts are with the people of Japan during this incredibly challenging and sad time for their country.

Earth Hour tonight

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This is the only planet we have.

15M Pinoys expected to join Earth Hour switch-off

At least 15 million Filipinos are expected to be part of some one billion people worldwide who will switch off their lights for one hour for the environment Saturday evening.

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) said the switch-off at 8:30 p.m. of March 27 will be the highlight of Earth Hour, which has been observed in the last three years.

“The switch-off signifies the start of a very personal and lasting lifestyle change to minimize our ecological impacts and to do our bit for a more sustainable planet. Personal pledges can take many forms, from upgrading to energy-efficient appliances to planting and stewarding a small grove of native trees,” WWF said in its website.

As of 7:30 p.m. last Thursday, some 1,041 Philippine cities and towns have confirmed participation.

10 ways to make a difference

WWF gave the public 10 ways to make a difference during and after Earth Hour 2010:

* Document Earth Hour celebrations
* Host outdoor evening parties
* Encourage children to play outdoors
* Do a “Recyclables Hunt”
* Unplug or use less power, if working the graveyard shift
* Involve local leaders
* Clean up the street
* Unplug and chill out
* Give yourself an energy makeover
* Make a pledge for the planet

WWF said that in 2009, over 10 million Filipinos in 647 towns, cities and towns joined in – more than anywhere else on Earth.

This year, Earth Hour Philippines aims for the participation of over 15 million Filipinos in over 1,000 towns and cities nationwide. Globally, 807 cities, towns and cities in 82 countries across every continent have already signed up.

Click here for more!

Philippine Travel Blogs: The Best Way To Promote The Country Online!

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This photo was taken from Ivan About Town, one of the most popular and widely known travel blogs in the Philippines.

Ivan About Town, one of the most popular and widely known travel blogs in the country.

Among the achievements that wasn’t given much limelight in Mrs. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s recently concluded State of the Nation Address (SONA) was the success story of Philippine tourism.

Arroyo mentioned it briefly yet powerfully:

“In the last four years tourism almost doubled. It is now a $5 billion industry.”

Many critics of Arroyo are still in doubt over the accuracy of the economic figures she mentioned in her SONA. But observers, especially in the travel and tourism sector, could never deny the sudden growth and liveliness of Philippine Tourism these past few years. This is due to an aggressive and relentless advertising campaign by the Department of Tourism, led by Tourism Secretary Joseph Ace Durano, to promote the country not only to foreigners but to Filipinos as well. It is because the DOT is knowledgeable of the fact that thousands of Filipinos are themselves foreigners in their own country.

Many years ago, it was the dream of countless Filipinos to travel abroad not really for work but just for the sake of traveling. Nowadays, however, Filipinos have already set their eyes at home. Why travel to other parts of the world when there are as many breathtaking sights to discover as there are in other countries? Besides, there are still many scenic spots left unphotographed nor visited by the mainstream public.

Take the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park in Palawan or the white coastlines of Caramóan, Camarines Sur, for instance. These two, now a favorite of many locals as well as foreigners, were virtual unknowns as compared to the mammoth popularity of, say, Mayón Volcano of Albay and the Chocolate Hills of Bohol. The previous decade, Palawan’s underground river and Caramóan’s beaches were almost unknown. But now both places are in the mainstream of public consciousness.

Aside from the laudable projects of the Mr. Durano and the Department of Tourism, the local tourism sector has several anonymous people to thank for. And these are the online advocates of tourism (not to mention patriotism), the webloggers!

Travel writer and heritage advocate Ivan Henares and his hugely popular website IVAN ABOUT TOWN leads this online group of travel freaks who relentessly walk the endless mile of Philippine paradise. The website won The Best Travel Blog for 2007 in the inaugural The Philippine Blog Awards which I and my daughter were fortunate enough to witness. But unfortunately, Ivan wasn’t there to collect his trophy (he was out traveling! LOL!).

There’s no need for further introductions for Mr. Henares (he is also a member of the Heritage Conservation Society); all he needs to do is to take a bow and do some more traveling here in the Philippines because recently, I began to notice that he has included foreign trips in his blog as well. In my point of view, I don’t find it appropriate for a Philippine travel blog (especially since a rabid nationalism has been rubbed off on me by works of nationalist writers I follow). But of course, it’s his prerogative to do that and I have no right to meddle. He’s still doing a fantastic job for the local tourism sector as well as heritage conservation.

Next is PINOY TRAVEL BLOG, another popular travel blog which also focuses on local travel and tourism destinations. It is maintained by some of the best young writers/bloggers in the country today: Palanca Awardee and netrepreneur Abe Olandrés (popularly known as “Yuga” in the local internet scene), Marc “Hoop” Avellana, Arnold Zafra, and a host of others.

PHILIPPINE TRAVEL BLOG, much like PINOY TRAVEL BLOG, is also maintained by a host of contributors who have made traveling the archipelago their passion. Some of the contributors are Melo Villareal (travel photojournalist and online publisher), Jocelyn Dimaculangan, and Enrico Dee (who also contributes for PINOY TRAVEL BLOG).

We also have TRAVELER ON FOOT which also has a strong following. I had the pleasure of meeting this rather “mysterious traveler” last year. I said mysterious because, up to now, he still refuses to show himself up in his website! Instead, Mr. Traveler usually brings his son along with him and takes pictures of the latter in front of any scenic spot on hand. Quite unique and intriguing.

And of course, there’s WITH ONE’S PAST by my dear friend and fellow hispanista Arnold Arnáiz. Although his blog deals mainly with Philippine history and occasional socio-political commentary, “Arnaldo” is also using it as a platform to familiarize his readers with a rich historico-travel information on Philippine provinces. He’s currently based in Cebú and has already traveled to many Visayan provinces.

One of my favorites is PINOY MOUNTAINEER (especially since I’m a mountaineer myself). Although not exactly a travel blog, it somehow falls under this category because it’s proprietor, Gideon Lasco, travels, climbs, and documents almost every mountain there is in the Philippines. As of this writing, he has climbed over 50 mountains in the Philippines. This website (launched with the help of Ivan Henares) is a gold mine of information about Philippine mountains, popular or not, as well as a rich source of mountaineering knowledge.

LAKWATSERA DE PRIMERA (and it’s true… it’s not just another travel blog!) is another interesting online travel diary. This one is highly recommended since it contains awesome and much larger photographs of the places featured in it. You’ll also enjoy reading this particular blog post taken from the said travel blog: 100 THINGS I AM PROUD ABOUT THE PHILIPPINES.

My own, ALAS FILIPINAS, tries to become a travel blog, too. But due to time constraints, it remains mainly as my angst bin, hahaha! But seriously speaking, whenever I have time, I travel to different places and blog about it for the reading consumption of the Spanish-speaking netizens. Try this link, for instance.

I am sure there are still lots of local travel blogs around. And there will be many more to come. Wittingly or unwittingly, they should now be cognizant of the fact that they have made themselves Philippine online heroes because they have featured many places, cultures, and other aspects about the Philippines that have never been shown to the world before. Furthermore, travel advocacy promotes ecotourism and environmentalism, two very important attributes in Philippine tourism.

To all of you out there, thank you very much your travel advocacies and for patronizing our own. Helping out Philippine tourism is tantamount to saving the country as well.

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