Penny Reyes-Velasco is a children’s book author and collage artist, as well as executive director of Happy Earth Organization, a nonprofit that produces literature-based eco-educational materials in the Philippines.

Monday, 15 Apr 2002

QUEZON CITY, Philippines

At the end of every day, I ask myself the same questions — and for the last year, I have often been getting the same answers. The routine usually goes like this:

Q: “Ok, Penny girl, what are you doing with your life?”
A: “A balancing act, one great balancing act!

Q: “Is it hard work?”
A: “No, it’s fun play!”

Q: “Are you happy?”
A: “Yes!”

It is a challenge, you know — blending the creative and spontaneous output of pressed flower art and the organizational skills necessary to run Happy Earth — but striking the balance between the two has so far yielded a very fulfilling experience.

Group photo from the San Juan Youth Ecology Camp last week.

This week will be a particularly challenging time for me, because we at Happy Earth are in the middle of our Earth Day preparations. We will be conducting a series of eco-educational games for children on April 21 and have yet to complete the masks and props and artwork for the program.

For the last six months, Happy Earth has been conducting environmental education outreach activities in a remote fishing village in the municipality of San Juan, in Batangas province. This area is home to the endangered Philippine Teak Tree (Tectona Philippinensis) and forms part of a biodiversity corridor running from the Sierra Madre mountains of Luzon down to the provinces of Mindoro and Palawan.

I spent today working on the follow-up to a recently concluded San Juan Youth Ecology Camp, co-sponsored by the U.S. Peace Corps and the Rotaract Club of San Juan. The aim of the eco-camp, which was held earlier this month, was to mobilize youth leaders in San Juan and encourage them to come up with an Earth Day event or activity.

Timeline of the universe in a coconut-shell.

For the opening activity of the camp, we played a game called “Life on the Edge.” The game illustrated the concept of carrying capacity adaptation while energizing the participants, who were each asked to behave like a particular animal. This activity served as the springboard for sharing a creation spirituality module that we had recently developed, inspired by the works of Elisabet Sahtouris, Brian Swimm, and Thomas Berry. This module tackled evolution from the big bang up to the present — a history we helped illustrate by unfurling a timeline along the beach. At the end of the activity, we challenged the participants to find positive responses to our current ecological crises.

As part of the educational entertainment that was offered later on that day, a biodiversity theater group presented several skits about the importance of each and every plant and animal. They later helped teach the youth about interconnectedness through a game called “The Web of Life.” On the second day, the campers went on an educational hike to Naambon Falls and participated in a coastal resource orientation courtesy of the Hayuma Foundation and a waste management workshop by Happy Earth.

The final day of the camp opened with a leadership seminar conducted by a volunteer, Ishy Bantigue, who used games to bring out the natural leaders in all of our participants. The activities instilled in the youth a sense of unity and interdependence — a perfect preamble to planning the Earth Day celebration and painting a large environmental mural.

Thanks to Ishy, who braved 10 hours of travel by bus today just to meet the organizers of the San Juan Earth Day event, we now know that the participants decided to hold a “Walkathon for the Earth.” Dubbed “Alay Lakad para sa Kalikasan,” the event will feature banners and the colorful environmental mural painted during the camp, and will conclude with a river cleanup.

The sad news is that we had a very low turnout for today’s meeting. For the next four or five days, I will have to find a way to follow up with the 12 participating schools about the event, in order to secure their participation. That’s lots of work and I don’t have much time (that whole balance problem!), but its never too much work to help people realize that we all have a role to play in the protection of our home, the planet Earth.