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Archive for the ‘environment’ Category

I was on my way to one of the training rooms for a meeting when an officemate called me from the floor pantry and there I saw a large number of employees watching the TV hanging from the wall.

It took some seconds before I realized what I was looking at – fast running water carrying small debris over what looked like rice fields. My brain quickly went into recall and I remember the movie 2012 only that the logo at the bottom of the screen did not say ‘HBO’ and besides, no movie channel is allowed in our office pantry TVs.

In fact, the logo at the bottom of the screen said ‘CNN’ and this channel never made a spoof of anything. I suddenly rushed back to reality when a colleague nudged me aside to get closer to the screen.

March 11 was the day when Japan experienced its worst earthquake – an earth-moving 8.9 shock on the Richter magnitude scale that sent powerful tsunami over Sendai, Japan. The destructive wave took lives, properties and even led to a nuclear meltdown.

No words can describe the anguish shown in the news of the people who lives on to witness what happened and to endure the loss of loved ones.

One afternoon back in 1990, I was taking a nap in my lola’s room when I heard shouts and I found myself being carried in one arm by my lola. We went out of the house and I saw throngs of people on the street. I did not feel the 7.9 earthquake that destroyed most of northern Luzon but I saw pictures, heard news but was not old enough to grasp the severity of the issue.

A year later, I thought I was seeing snow. My older cousins were on the roof sweeping heaps of ash. Mount Pinatubo erupted after almost half a millennium of sleeping – an eruption that was dubbed as the most destructive in modern-day history. Still, as a young child, I was not able to fully understand how worse the event was on agriculture, climate, economy, lives of those who once lived around the volcano. My life immediately went back to normal.

September 2009 was when I was old enough to understand. To fear. To act as an adult. We experienced Ondoy in such a way we thought we would only see in the news. What we thought is only possible in far-flung places, not in suburban Cainta.

Now, I fear for the future. Christchurch, New Zealand had an earthquake before Sendai, Japan. Both of them lie on either side of the Pacific Ring of Fire. Sitting like a duck on the midpoint of these two places are the Philippines and the Marikina Valley Fault System (MVFS).

Running through the most expensive villages in Pasig City all the way to the Taal Volcano, this fault line has not produced a sizeable earthquake in recorded history. And it is long overdue, taking into consideration the activities of the tectonic plates around that of the Philippines.

What is even scarier to think is that the movement of MVFS could lead to the eruption of Taal just like what happened when Pinatubo was ‘awakened’ by the 1990 earthquake.

No one knows for sure when these things will happen or whether we will be prepared for it.

This is just a testament to how unpredictable life can be. And how important each breathing second is.

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The Fear Lingers

A year and one day ago, we were all humbled by nature. No one was richer than the other. No one was more powerful than the other. Everyone was equal in the eyes of Ondoy.

During the first week of September 2009, Saturday, I was in my room’s terrace pulling out weeds from my cacti when I noticed the dark enveloping all around me. I though it must be the clouds covering the afternoon sun. But it was getting bigger and closer. As I turned around, I managed to scream – in front of our house was a swarm of dragonflies! A swarm big enough to make the sky dark. I thought I’d only see this in movies and with locusts, not in Cainta and not with dragonflies. I went inside the room and called my sister and mom to see the rare phenomenon. My mom said that her lola told them when they were young that when dragonflies converge in plains like what we were seeing, a fairy or a mountain goddess went down from the mountains, protected by the swarm, to warn the people of an impending disaster.

September 26, 8AM. The rain was pouring continuously for several days now. Not very strong. Not even with strong winds. But consistent. Our street, which was never flooded, slowly showed water building up. We were all in the garage, looking out from the gate and showing my nephew how fast the current was. We were laughing as the last time we saw such flood was when we were still in San Juan. We saw fish jumping out of the water. Then a banana plant trunk. Then a sofa. Then rubble with what looked like the remains of a shanty home. We started to panic.

Water suddenly turned from brown to black. We helped our neighbor who was busy saving her chicken coops get across to our home for she could no longer cross the street with the how strong the water was flowing. The banana trunks soon were replaced by tree trunks with roots! James and my mom were hurrying in saving all the potted plants in our garage and moving it higher up on the plant boxes.

We went inside and slowly watched the water rise and engulf everything on its way. With only three steps before the water gets inside our home, I told my mom we should move everything upstairs. The first one to go were the two dogs. Contessa and Samantha were already panicking and were barking incessantly. James stayed with them in our room to calm them.

My mom, brother and sister packed everything up and brought almost everything to the second floor of our home.

September 26, 12NN. Only an inch was left before the water reaches our living room. Our neighbor’s bungalow was already covered a meter shy up to its roof. I was holding a big stick, bravely smashing the heads of small snakes trying to escape the flood to our home. We might survive the flood but not the snake bites.

September 26, 2PM. The water slowly receded. With no electricity and water, we were thankful. Our neighbor courageously swam back to her house for her sister and grandmother. I was still at the door watching out for snakes. My family slowly brought down the furniture.

September 26, 6PM. Cold. Dark. But safe. We were laughing and recalling what we have just seen, oblivious to what just happened to millions outside our home.

September 27, 6AM. We woke up early to find two-feet deep mud in our garage. My mom tried to go to the market as usual. I went out to see the streets after the storm. All of us almost cried. Cars on top of another. Big tree trunks through windows. Dogs with stiff, dead bodies lying around. With no water, we used the running water along the street (probably from the overflowing creek) to wash off the mud in our garage. It was a heavy task but nothing compared to our neighbors who brought out their furniture soaked in river mud, with their homes ruined by the ravaging flood.

September 28, 9AM. We still do not have electricity and water. Though our pantry was filled with canned goods, we had no drinking water anymore. The adults can survive. But my sister’s young son and our dogs won’t. Braving the waist-deep waters in the main street of our village, we went on to Robinson’s Place in Junction.

It was closed. But the manager said they will be allowing shoppers with urgent needs – old people, pregnant women, sick people – to go first. Everyone was hysterical – one man said her wife is pregnant but he needs to get her water. The mall closed its doors again, I can’t blame them for there was no electricity, and the grocery was still filled with water on some parts. I stayed calm. I need water for my nephew and dogs, and candles for the night.

When the store allowed us to go in, I calmly walked straight to the candle section, James to the water and dog food section, my mom to the noodles section. With only about two thousand pesos in my pocket, we spent everything on that and walked home, and sincerely thanked the cashier for coming to work that day. I saw a woman in a pushcart, carrying two big bags of dog food and a large pack of diapers. I wanted to cry then but I composed myself.

September 29, 9PM. I was back in the office. I delivered my clients’ needs. And then I realized how devastating Ondoy was to the country. No words can describe the gruesome images we’ve seen. No words can describe the heroic deeds people have done.

Writing this entry makes me teary-eyed. I am suppressing the emotions. We did not lose anything. Our valuables were intact. Our family was safe. Our dogs were healthy. But we were only one of the very few who were lucky enough.

Ondoy brought out the worst fear in all of us. But he also brought out the best in us. That Filipinos can rise from the disasters. That we can continue living on.

One year has passed and the memory still lives. The pain is still there. The fear lingers.

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Beluga Ka!

The International Whaling Commission held its 62nd Annual Conference in Agadir, Morocco without reaching a strong resolution regarding loopholes in international agreement over whale harvesting for food and research.

According to Article VIII of the Commission’s Convention, the IWC can grant scientific permit for catching whales for scientific research. Though the member nation should submit the proposal, it is the member nation who has the power to issue the permit.

Yes, I would like to catch whales for scientific research, at least, it is what my proposal says, and IWC can take its time and effort to study it, but for the meantime, let me grant the scientific permit to my fishermen.

The only problem with this is that – not all these ‘scientific’ harvest ends up in laboratories. Studies by various groups have shown that they end up in restaurants, particularly in Japan.

I believe there is no provision in the Convention that mandates third-party audit of the whales’ fate made in the name of science. This is one of the loopholes of the provision.

One of the loopholes that was not resolved in Agadir.

Another issue is that the Japanese government continuously navigates the Antarctic Ocean to kill whales in the name of research. Recent news showed that Australia is more than willing to bring the case against Japan to the International Court of Justice. The IWC, with most of its members, urged Japan to suspend its Antarctic permits. Japan has yet to heed to any international pressure. In fact, it released its latest whaling permit for 2009/2010.

The Antarctic Ocean, due to its geography and climate, is a very good habitat and feeding ground for whales. Allowing dubious whaling activities in the region certainly disrupts the ecosystem.

We are not part of the IWC nor am I willing to join and recruit you in the Whale Wars but we can help save the whales by not patronizing any food with whale in it and let us spread the education about these intelligent mammals.

Most of the information was based on IWC’s website. Photo courtesy of IWC’s website.

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