Thursday, 18 Apr 2002

QUEZON CITY, Philippines

Early this morning, I received a telephone call from Odette Alcantara, program director of Earth Day Network Philippines. She was calling to tell me about an opportunity to talk with a reporter from a leading television network to promote events for this Sunday’s Earth Day celebration. She asked that I talk about my book, the international award it won, and the events that Happy Earth will sponsor for Earth Day.

As seen on T.V.

In addition to being an art critic, a journalist, and a champion chess player, Odette is one of the prime movers in Earth Day Network Philippines. She has been active in organizing the network’s activities and has managed to link up EDN with over 2,000 nonprofits all over the country. Although I had originally planned to work on the props for the Earth Day games during the scheduled interview with the reporter, I agreed to participate — which turned out to be a good decision on my part.

I arrived at Odette’s house at shortly past 11 in the morning. In between incoming phone calls (which never seemed to stop), she updated me on the status of the manual on solid waste management that Earth Day Network Philippines is co-sponsoring, together with Mother Earth, a nonprofit that Odette helped to found.

On Tuesday, I talked about the garbage situation in Manila. The reality in our very bureaucratic and corrupt political system is that the majority of policy makers do not understand proper solid waste management, and thus are not in a position to propose intelligent solutions to the waste problem. Instead, they came up with a 200-page guide to garbage rules and regulations, which, in Odette’s words, is more like an obstacle course than an instruction manual. Rather than answering the question, “How do I organize my waste so that it does not become garbage?, the government perennially asks the question, “Where do we dump, burn, or sink our garbage?”

The EDN Philippines/Mother Earth manual, which is simple enough for even a child to understand, emphasizes the distinction between waste and garbage, and offers examples of people and institutions who have successfully implemented a waste management system. It is essentially a course on Garbology for beginners.

The manual will be launched during the Earth Day program at Arroceros Forest Park, and the secretary of education will be present to officially endorse it. I was asked to present the secretary with a commemorative copy of my book, Are You the Forest King?, which garnered the Environmental Communications Award under “Institutions and Initiatives” of EURONATUR — the European Nature and Heritage Fund.

Another event highlight is the donation by our national sculpture artist, Napoleon Abueva, of commemorative park benches to the Forest Parks Winner Foundation. Next on the list of events is the State of the Philippine Environment Assessment, followed by the day-long free ecological waste management workshop given by Mother Earth Foundation. In the afternoon, there will be a reading of Are You the Forest King? and a series of games from Happy Earth. Other Earth Day events will be held simultaneously all over our country.

I shared these plans for Earth Day with the television reporter, Caroline Howard of ANC Channel 21. This opportunity to promote our activities was a very welcome development, and I’m glad I was given a chance to talk about our projects — not just those for Earth Day, but our environmental commitments throughout the year.

After a brief lunch with Odette and her guests, I rushed off to a mask-making workshop at the Cultural Center of the Philippines. For the Earth Day celebration, we will be playing a Turtle Race biodiversity game and we badly need masks of a crab, a rat, and an eagle — predators of newly-hatched sea turtles. Much of my afternoon was spent on making the clay molds for the masks. I’ll be back at it tomorrow, and I am looking forward to filling you in on the events of the day.