Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Month of the hungry ghosts or hungry men?

FRIDAY, August 14, is the start of the Ghost Month. If we go by the Taiwanese version, it means that ghosts will haunt the Philippines with the first day of the month marked by the opening of the temple gates (a.k.a. The Gates of Hell!). Never mind that Dan Brown in his novel, Inferno, referred to Manila as the gates of hell. During this Ghost Month (which ends on September 12), incense and food are offered to the spirits (to discourage them from visiting our homes) and spirit paper money burnt as an offering. Also during the month, people avoid surgery, buying cars, swimming, and going out after dark. It is also important that addresses are not revealed to the ghosts.

There are more caveats regarding this ghostly month (Please see our centerfold in this week’s issue of the Baguio Chronicle). But the greater question in this world of flesh is: Should we be afraid of the ghosts or the men?

We brought this to forth because August 13 is this year’s Earth Overshoot Day or EOD. This means that last Thursday is the day when humanity’s resource consumption for the year exceeds the Earth’s capacity to regenerate these resources. The EOD is also known as the Ecological Debt Day. This started in 1987 by the Global Footprint Network or GFN to draw on the Earth’s very finite resources and how fast we are overshooting our consumption.

The GFN also came out with an equation to calculate this year’s EOD which is: World Biocapacity divided by the World Ecological Footprint multiplied by 365. In 1987, the WEOD was December 19. In 1990, it became December 7 then down to November 21 in 1995. By 2010, it was August 21 and last year, the deceleration slowed down to August 21. Last year, it was August 19. Now it is August 13.

What did you do last Thursday? Probably, nothing if you are in Manila because it rained and the rains flooded the roads and traffic put us on a standstill. In Baguio, there was nothing much to do because school in the college just started and students were just getting to know each other. This is the dead season for tourists so there were a few of them in the city.

If ever there was a celebration, it was The Big Bang in Tianjin, China last Wednesday night when a series of explosions from a warehouse of dangerous chemicals killed at least 50 people and injured more than 400.

It is said that all of humankind now needs 1.6 Earths. The Philippines needs 1.9 Philippines to consume within this year, almost the same as that of the United States. The United Arab Emirates needs 12.3 UAE to support its residents, Japanese need 7 Japans and Chinese need 2.2 Chinas.

All of us here on Earth would need two Earths by 2030. Is that why we are trying to colonize Mars and why we are reconsidering Pluto?

We wonder how many Baguios Baguio residents need for its consumption. We would expect a lot because that is what BLISTT is trying to remedy already. It’s been decades and nothing’s happening on that concept. But eventually, we would be outpacing our resources as well.

Let us try to go on the old-fashioned ways to tip the balance to our favor or advantage. Let us plant more trees and other greens, use renewable energy and, most of all, moderate greed --- our never-ending and insatiable greed!

Are you with us?*

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Wedding in the burial cave

LAST month, a couple from Manila decided to have their honeymoon in Sagada. Nothing wrong with that as Sagada has become a favorite honeymoon destination for many Filipinos, especially after the movie “That Thing Called Tadhana” came about.

What made the couple famous, however, was when they recreated their wedding in Sagada, posing in the now-famous Kiltepan sunrise spot, the rice terraces on the northern side of the town, and in Lumiang Cave. The cave is an old burial cave and the couple decided to hold their post-nuptial shoot among the wooden coffins.

The photoshoot passed quietly in the Internet until it made it to a Sagada Facebook page. That’s when the issues came out of the cave. The reactions we saw at random in some of the comments include crazy, what were they thinking, desecration, shameful, ignorant, death wish, disrespect and stupid. Some called for the heads of the photographers, the newly-wed couple, tour guides, owner of the inn where they stayed, tourism officer and tourism committee. Almost all were angered by the photoshoot while some took a sardonic view saying that maybe they wanted a corpse wedding theme and the guides turned their hanapbuhay into a hanap-patay.

The biggest victim of all these, of course, is Sagada. Not only the place but the idea of Sagada. Even before “That Thing Called Tadhana” came about, Sagada has been turning into the city it was long compared to: Baguio. It has always been said that Sagada is Baguio fifty years ago, and then the time comparison was pushed to thirty years ago then twenty years ago.

Now Sagada is fast catching up with Baguio. On any long weekend, some of those who go to Baguio proceed to Sagada. The Kiltepan sunrise, once the secret of the town, has become a wide open secret. Three hundred would converge there on sunset, a far cry when only the movie couple had their “hugot” dialogue there.

Now this. After the photographers were condemned for their audacity, the fingers were blamed on the tour guides. The inn where they got the guides was identified. The inn said that the guides, mostly students, knew what they were doing and were not the ones.

The “real” guide was later identified but the old issue of the rival tour guide associations was again brought up. Also their inadequacies on some of the histories of the places in Sagada were discussed. As it turned out, only a few of the guides and residents were able to watch the Tadhana movie so how could they respond to the tourists’ requests for the “Tadhana” tour. There were talks about the tourism officer and how he is also the executive secretary so how can he fully do his specific job since budget is limited? If we call for the heads of all these people, will the problem cease?

A wedding photographer, especially with the scale of what the couple had, is not alone. Or a couple, as their business name implies. At the least there were five including the ones in charge of the klieg lights, because the cave was flooded with lights. So a production as major as that was not noticed by the people near the caves? Was it so hush-hush that no one in Sagada knew until it came out in the Internet?

If Sagada has to learn from Baguio, it has to learn not from its success but from its mistakes. Does it equate tourism success with the number of tourists? Then by all means, stuff the caves with people. Let the tourists do what they want to do. They are always right, you know. Have fast food franchises everywhere. Build parking lots and multi-level parking spaces. Build a shopping mall. Let the tourist pose with the hanging coffins right there in their inns.

But if the Sagada residents value their culture more than the tourists, then this is the right time to do what’s right. It has to acknowledge the limits of hospitality. Taboos of the forefathers had their reasons that are not be thrown away like heathen idols. In fact, it is these “heathen idols” that made Sagada Sagada. If you again look at the post-nuptial  photos, look at it semiotically: that it means marrying commercial tourism with the death of the culture.    

A sort of a dap-ay should be formed to address the invasion of tourism in Sagada. Get lessons from other tourist areas in other areas of indigenous peoples as guides. It has become easy to come to Sagada with the good roads but it doesn’t mean we have to make it easy for them. Let them learn your culture and know what’s appropriate or not. Let them appreciate Sagada for what it is not what they want it to be. You should not build bungee jumping sites just for them to touch the hanging coffins.

Where do broken hearts go, goes the blurb from the Tadhana movie. Maybe it is in Sagada. But the broken hearts should not be the hearts of the Sagada residents.*

Saturday, August 01, 2015

The unmentioned

MUCH has been said about the last State of the Nation Address or SOCA of President Benigno Aquino III.

For one, it was more than two hours long. There were 85 applauses, we heard. We downloaded the English translation and there it was: 45 pages and more than 17,000 words. It was already a novella or the equivalent of Bob Ong’s novel.

Would President Aquino have written the whole thing? Hardly. It took a village to make that speech and it was done for more than a week. It was his valedictory address. His report card. It was his crowning glory.

But as it turned out, it was a speech known for what were not mentioned. Minutes after the speech, it was the consensus among the so-called pundits in the social media. There was no mention of this, no mention of that. At 17,000 words, he could have created the whole weekly newspaper but there was no mention of many that were bugging our local papers.

So we did what most decent journalists now would have done. We downloaded the whole speech (something you can’t do with Marcos, even if there already was an Internet at that time) and relied on the “find” feature.

These were the initial words not mentioned: "Baguio", "Cordillera", "autonomy". There were three matches of "NCIP" but all because it was inside "priNCIPles" and NCIP and principle are sometimes strange bedfellows. These were the same problems with the last SONA. So is it safe to say that Cordillera autonomy will not push through? There was no mention of FOI either and only one of freedom (freedom from corruption) and three mentions of information. There was no mention of Ilocos either or Cagayan and one mention of the vote-rich province of Pangasinan but only under TPLEX. So our neighbors did not fare as well too. There was one mention of Cebu but only in the context of its earthquake. There were four mentions of Manila.

There was no mention of human or mankind. There was one mention of animal but only in relation to Moros. And the Church would not like the SONA either because there was no mention of religion or Catholic. There was nothing on politics but two mentions of politicians. Binay was mentioned but it was in the first part when Aquino acknowledged the bigwigs. Roxas was mentioned but it was a whole paragraph honoring him. There was one mention of Yolanda relating to the life-changing typhoon and one Yoly for Yoly Ong who is part of the Aquino cabinet. There was, of course, a paragraph for dear Yolly, who is the yaya of P-Noy.

There were two mentions of energy but one was on solar energy and another for the Energy Minister. No mention on environment, pollution or trees, which is reflective (we thought) of his non-emphasis on nature. Nature was mentioned once but only as “not my nature to brag”. So there.

But so who and what groups were treated well by the SONA? Not the Christians because they were not mentioned either. Nor INC or Iglesia. God was mentioned only twice. ASEAN was not mentioned.

The terms frequently mentioned then were poverty (eight times), poor (6), love (5) and peace (4). Health was mentioned 17 times but nine times with PhilHealth. Economy was mentioned eight times but OFW only twice. There were 31 matches for help, 17 for deliver and seven serves. The most frequent were country with 54 mentions, Philippines with 27, and Filipino with 40.

We cannot list all the words but you get the drift. It was all about the country, which is OK. We can always say it’s not the number of mentions but the actions on them. And how can you work on something unmentioned? Unless the president is a silent worker which, at 45 pages, he wasn’t. He mentioned selfie once but no Facebook.*

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