green grass of home

There’s no doubting it– green is definitely in these days, what with most of us already getting firsthand accounts of the baaad effects of climate change. Al Gore’s vivid campaign is ruffling feathers, to say the least, and I’m both glad and wholly appreciative that even in the business sense, Pinoys are turning green.

Heard about AyalaLand’s new project in Canlubang, called Nuvali (from the Latin nuvo meaning “birth of a star”). Literally a “new valley” in the Sta. Rosa-Tagaytay area, it’s a 1,600-hectare megatownship development set for full bloom over the next 40 to 50 years. Eyed as the next Makati, its main thrust is 21st century technology meets back-to-basics harmony with nature. Think eco-friendly, ultra-modern sustainable living: clean lines, fluid designs, integrated zones (residential, business, services), and green green green everywhere.

My dad has always pointed out that in the Philippines, land development is generally in the hands of private/business groups, which themselves target areas for projects and take care of building the necessary roads and infrastructure. In other countries such as the US, it is the government that first develops a piece of land, after which it invites private investors to build and sell.

Being in the real estate business, I’m wary of companies out to profit on monster sales talks, but as I told friends, if there’s one company you can trust to deliver on its promise, especially for a project of this magnitude (expect it to shape future lifestyles!), it’s Ayala. Sure it’s still, first and foremost, a business, but I see nothing wrong with that. Hooray for that, I say: bring in money, circulate it to benefit more people, everybody happy!

The holistic vision for Nuvali is contagious and in my opinion, exactly what we want and need today. Our parents’ generation lived to fight for causes; our generation is living to enjoy (?) the fruits of their labor. “Doing the right thing” is not as much as a struggle as before, with social trends making it almost natural, automatic, expected. We are living in the “ever after”, in what comes after Sleeping Beauty wakes up.

Good news is we don’t have to wait so long to see this vision made manifest (even partially). Turnover for the project’s first residential lots is in mid 2009, but some areas will already be open to the public by next year, in April 2008. These include an iconic commercial and sales center reminiscent of Singapore’s new Harbour Front (or is it Vivo City? pic below taken last July) and an 8-hectare manmade lake with water buses and taxis.


More on Nuvali here.


$5B for energy efficient buildings

Buildings in 15 cities around the world are poised for an energy efficiency makeover under Clinton’s Climate Initiative Energy Efficiency Building Retrofit Program.

Raised from loans from five global banks — Citigroup, UBS, Deutsche Bank , ABN AMRO and JPMorgan Chase, the $5 billion budget for the project will be used to fund the overhauls of the buildings at no net cost, which “more than doubles the amount for energy-saving building retrofits”.

Also on board are energy service companies Honeywell, Johnson Controls, Siemens and Trane, owned by American Standard, which will boost capacity by permitting “large numbers of building make-overs” and will “financially guarantee energy savings from the projects”.

Participating cities are: New York, London, Tokyo, Bangkok, Johannesburg, Berlin, Chicago, Houston, Karachi, Melbourne, Mexico City, Rome, Sao Paulo, Seoul and Toronto. Governments have committed to “provide incentives for private building owners to become more energy efficient.”

Of the list of cities, I think Manila compares to Mexico City, Karachi, Sao Paulo in terms of necessity for such an overhaul.


goodbye plastic

In six months, plastic grocery bags in San Francisco supermarkets, which total about 181 million each year, will be banned…and replaced by canvas bags. This will free American landfills from 1,400 tons of annual plastic debris.

I remember a similar movement in Manila when I was in grade school, which promoted shopping with one’s own bayong. Very “cute” concept (i.e. trendy, novel, fleeting, “worth a try”), but really, how practical is it to haul groceries in bags made of porous abaca fiber? In fairness, those Winnie the Pooh banig bags all over divisoria are sturdy…they just don’t look as “cute”…


coastal populations at risk

A study which identified urban populations at greatest risk from rising sea levels and more intense storms due to climate change ranks the Philippines as 10th most susceptible:

The 10 countries with the largest number of people living in this vulnerable, low-elevation [coastal] zone [less than 10 metres above sea level], include in descending order: China, India, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Indonesia, Japan, Egypt, the United States, Thailand and the Philippines.

Brings to mind (again) Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth which left me stunned the first time I watched it. Admittedly I owe that documentary another sit down, but one doesn’t easily forget the picture it painted of sunken megacities all over the world should global water levels rise.

A tinge of reassurance then that the above-study says that:

…sea levels are not expected to rise anywhere near the 10 metres of the low-elevation zone. The fourth Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report estimated that sea levels are likely to rise in the range of 22-34 centimetres between 1990 and the 2080s.

2080s. Okay. But no license to be complacent as “this level could be significantly higher with accelerated melting of the Greenland and polar ice sheets.”

What do we do? Three types of responses are recommended to address these risks: migration, mitigation and modification.

Where do you and I fit in there?

Source: IPS

UPDATE: Read in Reuters today that “better architecture and energy savings in buildings could do more to fight global warming than all curbs on greenhouse gases.” Meaning the way to fight the global warming behemoth is through small, consistent steps from each of us, and not so much via grandiose countrywide efforts to reduce fossil fuel emissions. The solution is literally in our hands!

Concrete tips we can all start doing NOW:

  • more blinds to keep out the sun in hot climates
  • switching to energy efficient lightbulbs
  • better insulation and ventilation
  • Avoid building a bigger house than you need
  • refurbish vs. demolish old buildings

According to UNEP Head Achim Steiner:

“The savings that can be made right now are potentially huge and the costs to implement them relatively low if sufficient numbers of governments, industries, businesses and consumers act.”


let us be disturbed: the earth is dying

I saw Inconvenient Truth last Tuesday, and still I’m hung over the news that the earth can literally die within our lifetime..

Nothing “new” about it actually– it’s common sense that nothing lasts forever, plus we’ve been told several times in college that we are quickly using up our non-renewable resources: air, water, land.

But that documentary hit me hard. When I quit government this year, a part of me really died– I just stopped thinking of bigger things. Things people would call “idealistic” (oh how I hate that label). All the frustration, and the overarching question whether one person can really make a difference– they just hit boiling point and I resigned to the idea that maybe there’s no point in pushing in that direction anymore..

Now here’s Al Gore, politician, man of power and considerable clout (even I admit to watching the film because of his direct hand in it)– making such an impassioned and personal statement: I want to save the earth. Will you stop and listen to what he has to say? The fact that he urges Americans not to buy American cars makes him more credible to me in an instant (I know squat about American politics)..


more disturbance: let’s support pinoy

Still hung up (i.e. depressed) over Inconvenient Truth, I also sat through a talk of Alex Lacson last week. Young lawyer and author of 12 Little Things Every Filipino Can Do to Help Our Country — he is a simple man with a pleasing way about him, and also very “idealistic”. The very first “Thing” he discussed left me wanting to act, and act NOW: Support Filipino products.

Every peso spent on imported goods is one peso given in support of another country’s economy, not the Philippine economy. Every time we buy a blouse or dvd (oh no!) made in Bangkok or China, we are contributing to the bad business of local industries.

What to do? Alex Lacson recommends a 50-50 split between 1) supporting foreign investments and 2) economic nationalism. This will obviously require a lot of initial compromise (quality and value for money may need to take a backseat to plain belief in and support for the campaign), but it is what our industries need, perhaps to survive first, then improve and be competitive later on.

My dad always says that we are quick to call the Philippines an agricultural country, and yet we import most of our rice and cattle! I’m sure there are more complex theories on why the economy is the way it is, but on a personal level, this economic nationalism is something concrete that we can do, and do NOW.

Lacson said he started with changing the toothpaste of choice in his family (because one uses it three times a day, everyday). Colgate pulled out its manufacturing arm from the country and moved it to Thailand some time ago, so its products are no longer produced locally. Neither are Close up products. His household now boasts of pearly whites from Happee and Kumukutikutitap.

I asked where a list of all the Pinoy products which need Pinoy love and support can be found, and he indicated that one such compilation is in the works, c/o Cito Beltran and company. Right now what we can do is make the extra effort to read labels at the groceries, or ask our salesladies where whatever we are buying is made.

Why do I call this a disturbance? Because it is exactly that– we are called to ruffle our feathers, change our lifestyle, get inconvenienced. And the call is not coming from a plea– no one is begging or even persistently giving us a salestalk– we are simply being told how things are, we are being given the truth.

Sharing my favorite prayer below:

Disturb us, O Lord
when we are too well-pleased with ourselves
when our dreams have come true because we dreamed too little,
because we sailed too close to the shore.

Disturb us, O Lord
when with the abundance of things we possess,
we have lost our thirst for the water of life
when, having fallen in love with time,we have ceased to dream of eternity
and in our efforts to build a new earth,
we have allowed our vision of Heaven to grow dim.

Stir us, O Lord
to dare more boldly,
to venture into wider seas where storms show Thy mastery,
where losing sight of land, we shall find the stars.

In the name of Him who pushed back the horizons of our hopes
and invited the brave to follow. Amen.


An Inconvenient Truth:a Global Warning


We have just ten years to avert a major catastrophe that could send our entire planet into a tail-spin of epic destruction involving extreme weather, floods, droughts, epidemics and killer heat waves beyond anything we have ever experienced.


Ten years is not far away at all. Many of us, myself included, dismiss promptings for environmental action because we don’t fully grasp its urgency. We say:

  1. it’s never going to affect us directly (we may be a poor country, but we are rich–maybe too rich–in natural resources);
  2. there are much more immediate concerns to worry about: money, relationships, work, food, vacations.
  3. seems there are enough people worrying about the Earth as it is–better to let those will less problems worry about the environment.

Although it does make sense to contain ourselves in our private little worlds–especially if we need a break from the everyday chaos that is Manila–it IS our business to worry about how our physical world is changing (and for the worse at that).

Example: It’s nearly December and yet almost everyday I hear someone complain about the heat in Manila.

Last week I got invites to the screening of An Inconvenient Truth. After reading up on it tonight, I regret not making the extra effort to attend.

Taglined, “By far the most terrifying film you will ever see,” An Inconvenient Truth is a “passionate” documentary on global warming:

From director Davis Guggenheim comes the Sundance Film Festival hit, AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH, which offers a passionate and inspirational look at one man’s fervent crusade to halt global warming’s deadly progress in its tracks by exposing the myths and misconceptions that surround it. That man is former Vice President Al Gore, who, in the wake of defeat in the 2000 election, re-set the course of his life to focus on a last-ditch, all-out effort to help save the planet from irrevocable change.

…Interspersed with the bracing facts and future predictions is the story of Gore’s personal journey: from an idealistic college student who first saw a massive environmental crisis looming; to a young Senator facing a harrowing family tragedy that altered his perspective, to the man who almost became President but instead returned to the most important cause of his life – convinced that there is still time to make a difference.

Longtime film critic Ebert says:

In 39 years, I have never written these words in a movie review, but here they are: You owe it to yourself to see this film. If you do not, and you have grandchildren, you should explain to them why you decided not to.

The truth hurts, but as they say, AIT “is not a story of despair but rather a rallying cry to protect the one earth we all share.” Its message is one of hope–we CAN do something about it, but we must do it NOW:

Supported by WWF Philippines (WorldWideFund for Nature), you can still catch AIT in theaters nationwide, with the latest schedule in Manila, Cebu and Clark as follows:

* Nov 21 (Tuesday) – Press Screening w/ panel, Mall of Asia (c/o WWF)
* Nov 22 to 28 – SM Mall of Asia & SM Megamall
* Nov 29 and Dec 5 -The Block (SM North Edsa) & SM Southmall
* Dec 6 to 12 – SM Fairview & SM Manila
* Dec 13 to 19 – SM Centerpoint & SM San Lazaro
* Dec 20 to 24 – SM Cebu & SM Clark
* Jan 8 onwards – TBA

More on global warming here.


How can our recreation save the environment?

September 21, 2006; 6:00pm
Meralco Mini-Theater, Lopez Building, Meralco Center
Ortigas Avenue, Pasig City

Entrance fees are P20 for students and P50 for professionals/non-students.

Mountaineering is more than just climbing peaks, blazing trails, and discovering new horizons. It is more than a hobby or plain recreation.

It is a WAY OF LIFE.

Once a person officially becomes a mountaineer, he signs a pact with Mother Nature, because a True Mountaineer is a sentinel of the Environment.

Mountaineering is not just about conquering the mountains. It is a commitment to the LNT (Leave-No-Trace) ethics. It is taking that EXTRA Step to become an Environmental Advocate.

Join us as we share with you the spirit of mountaineering and beyond through the words of mountaineers who took the EXTRA STEP to become true-blue environmentalists.

Let us share with you what it is we love Beyond Mountaineering.

Be one of us and you’ll know How our Recreation Can save the Environment.


We request that you confirm your attendance by contacting Vyxz Vasquez at 434-4642 or 0927-3994997 or email


Gawad Kalinga: Leyte

Ateneo/SLB Task Force Noah: Operation Southern Leyte
to shift to Rehabilitation
in cooperation with Gawad Kalinga: Leyte

On February 17, 2006, a massive landslide buried the people of Guinsaugon in Southern Leyte under tons of mud, rocks and debris. The more than 1,800 residents who disappeared and are presumed dead comprise almost the entire population of the once peaceful farming village. What is now left of the place is a vast expanse of mud, and a handful of grieving survivors. Nothing much awaits relief efforts.

However, a few thousand residents of neighboring villages, and the few residents of Guinsaugon who survived, remain at risk. Their area has previously been declared a geo-hazard zone. People should not inhabit the place at all.

The thousands displaced do not just need relief — rice, noodles and sardines – they need rehabilitation — a more suitable place to live in, and new means of earning a living. They need to find life again.

The Ateneo de Manila University’s joint effort with Simbahang Lingkod ng Bayan, the Task Force Noah: Operation Southern Leyte is now shifting efforts from immediate relief operations to the longer term rehabilitation of Guinsaugon and the other affected barangays of St. Bernard, Leyte.

This phase will be undertaken in partnership with Gawad: Kalinga, the organization set up by private individuals now known nationally and internationally for its successful efforts in providing housing, livelihood and a new life to thousands of poor Filipinos.

Gawad Kalinga: Leyte is a call to all people of good will and good fortune – to share their blessings to the less fortunate, to be part of their struggle to once again find life.

Starting Wednesday, February 22,
Please send your donations directly to
Gawad Kalinga National Office

Direct Deposit to BPI:

Current PESO Account: 3101-0973-22
Current DOLLAR Account: 3104-0162-34

Account name: Gawad Kalinga Leyte, BPI Greenhills branch

IMPORTANT: For Proper Crediting of your Donation to the GK Leyte Fund (The bank does not provide us your name):

Please FAX a photocopy of your bank deposit slip to the Ateneo Gawad Kalinga office, fax number 63-2-426-5693 (Please be sure this information is legible on the fax) OR EMAIL the following information to

(a) Your name, address, and telephone number,
(b) The deposit amount and date
(c) That the donation is for “GK Leyte Rehabilitation”
(d) How you remitted the donation (direct deposit, bank-to-bank, etc.)

You may also donate in person directly at the Ateneo Gawad Kalinga office, 3rd Floor, Hoeffner Social Training Center, Telephone No.: 426-6001 loc 5024

Members of the Ateneo community and other concerned citizens, can still donate through Simbahang Lingkod ng Bayan

The Simbahang Lingkod ng Bayan will continue to receive cash and check donations at the Loyola House of Studies Frontdesk from 6:00 am to 10:00 pm,


Direct Deposit to SLB account:

PESO Account: 3081-1111-61

Account name: Simbahang Lingkod ng Bayan.

Please make checks payable to Simbahang Lingkod ng Bayan.

You may also give your cash or check donations at Window 16A, Office of the Associate Dean for Student Affairs (ADSA), Xavier Hall, AdMU, 8:00am to 5:00pm.

IMPORTANT: For Proper Crediting of your Donation to Simbahang Lingkod ng Bayan
(The bank does not provide us your name):

Please FAX a photocopy of your bank deposit slip to the Office of University Development, fax number 63-2-426-6080 (Please be sure this information is legible on the fax) OR EMAIL the following information to the Office of Student Affairs, Rene San Andres,

(a) Your name, address, and telephone number,
(b) The deposit amount and date
(c) That the donation is for the “GK Leyte Rehabilitation”
(d) How you remitted the donation (direct deposit, bank-to-bank, etc.)


Lecture: Regenerating a Coral Reef

November 18, Friday
9:00a.m. sign in, 9:30a.m. lecture starts
Filipinas Heritage Library

P100 MVP members, P200 non-members.

“95% of RP Reefs Ruined, Says Group” -Front page headline in yesterday’s Inquirer
“Program to Save RP Reefs Launched” -Front page headline in yesterday’s Star.

The plight of Philippine reefs is front page news.
Learn about an award-winning project that regenerates the coral reef from the man who started it, Ernie Pelaez.

Two years ago, Ernesto Pelaez, together with a marine biologist and a dive instructor, set out to restore the badly damaged coral reef in his family’s beach resort. Their project was not only successful in regenerating coral and bringing back an abundance of fish, it also recently won a silver medal in the Holcim awards for innovation in achieving a sustainable environment.

It will be refreshing to listen to a success story about our environment, especially about our coral reefs. Here is a story of three invidiuals “with no high academic background”, in Pelaez’s words, who made a huge difference in only 2 years — Don’t miss it!


metro pollution

When I was a kid, I’d pass by the Meralco plant in Sucat on my way to school, and the ugly fumes from its big chimneys would greet me everyday. This bothered me considerably, and with my then dream of becoming a scientist, I thought of inventing a chimney cover that would convert bad air into good air before it was let loose in the atmosphere. Come Environmental Class in college, I discovered that my cover had in fact been invented, and was already being used worldwide.

On a more recent note, this article on cleaning big cities in National Geographic made me a little more hopeful in the restoration of Manila air. Excerpts below:

Cleaning Big Cities’ Air “Not Rocket Science,” Expert Says
John Roach
for National Geographic News
October 27, 2005

Large metropolises have some of the dirtiest air in the world. But experts say technologies that have existed for decades could help solve the problem—if utility companies are willing to use them.

The high altitude and ample sunlight of Mexico City create an ideal environment for pollutants to accumulate and linger, Molina said.

One major culprit, ground-level ozone, forms due to a sunlight-fueled chemical reaction between nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds. Commonly called smog, ground-level ozone causes a host of respiratory ailments, according the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Particulate matter is the term applied to the tiny bits of dust, soot, dirt, smoke, and liquid droplets that accumulate in the air and give smog its color.

Breathing particulate matter also causes respiratory ailments. In addition, it adversely affects the environment by changing the acidity of lakes, streams, and forests.

According to Walke, existing pollution-control technologies include:
• So-called scrubbers, which typically use chemicals or water to remove sulfur from gases produced in coal-fired power plants.

• A process known as selective catalytic reduction, which relies on the use of chemicals like ammonia to start a reaction that removes nitrogen oxides from tailpipes and smokestacks.

Baghouses—cloth bags used to filter gas streams, which can remove particulate emissions from smokestacks.

High-temperature incinerators that can destroy toxic pollutants.

“Merely requiring uncontrolled [coal-fired power] plants to adopt technologies that have been around for 10 to 20 years would solve air-pollution problems in this country, at least as far as smog and soot are concerned,” he said.


nature awareness

While looking for adventure last summer, a friend referred me to the Nature Awareness & Conservation Club, Inc.

Although I have yet to apply for membership myself, it makes me happy to see people who are impassioned travelers/environmentalists and, at the same time, generous with what they know.

Below is a recent info drop on resource persons for Solid Waste Management and Environmental Education:

Environment Awareness and Education
Chief of Environment Education
Department of Environment and Natural Resources
look for Ms. Eva Borja at 9202251 or 9284674
They give away FREE Materials for Environment Education.

Environment Management Service of Solid Waste
Executive Director
National Solid Waste Management of DENR
look for Ms. Raquel Tandug 9202250 or 9202279 or 09179239742
Senior Environment Management Service
They give FREE training and directories of Recycling Institutions.

The Nature Awareness & Conservation Club, Inc Membership
Board of Director
Membership Development and Special Projects
Dinah 09215736776