People power vs people’s power

transition-council-edsa-1-2015

People power or people’s power?

I’ve never really accepted the notion of “people power” (without the apostrophe-s).

This catchword is often used like it was a form of physical energy with supernatural overtones, something that can be conjured only by a superhero, a wizard, or a cardinal. To me, people power suspiciously sounds like “labor power”, which an employer pays with daily wages. Or “horsepower”, in which 1 hp = 745 watts. Continue reading “People power vs people’s power”

Boat builders we must remain

I have this lifetime obsession with boats.

I secretly spend a huge amount of time reading and writing about watercraft of all types. I enthusiastically ride them every chance I get—from the rakit (pontoon barge) of many Abra River crossings in my childhood and youth, to the modern inter-island passenger ships that ply the southern islands from the Port of Manila, which I’d usually choose over airplane rides.

This obsession always generates two persistent streams of thought: On one hand, my artistic (okay, melodramatic) side is hypnotized by the rippling, churning, foaming, almost magical flow of the sea or river in the wake of the boat. It’s a hypnotic feeling that rarely bores me.

Visayan caracoa structure
The superstructure of a Visayan caracoa, providing a glimpse of its features that made it a superb fighting ship for our ancestors. From W.H. Scott's "Boat-building and Seamanship in Classic Philippine Society," Philippine Studies Vol. 30 no. 3 (1982) 335-376

Continue reading “Boat builders we must remain”

A foray into urban forests

Our neighborhood at the very fringe of Baguio is particularly lucky for being situated a stone’s throw away, quite in a literal sense, from a small pine grove. This grove, in turn, was originally an extension of a much bigger privately owned forest, but now separated from it by a couple of concrete alleys, a growing cluster of houses, and eroded slopes of coarse runo grass.

I ask Kabsat Kandu if he knows this. “Yes, of course, I grew up here!” he replies with just a touch of righteous pride. My streetwise friend, who sowed his wild oats in these parts, tells the truth. This still-forested part of Baguio actually serves as a hideaway, not so much for rich weekend vacationers from Metro Manila, but for locals with other goals in mind—often, doing stuff not to be proud about. (More about this at some other time.)

Pine groves of Baguio City
A pine grove in the fringes of Baguio City is shrouded in midday fog

In fact, not just our neighborhood but much of the Cordillera region remains lucky for having preserved a fairly high percentage of its natural forest cover. While the entire country’s forest cover rapidly shrunk from a high 17 million hectares in 1934 (56 percent of total land area) to a mere 7 million in 2003 (23 percent), the Cordillera retained a high forest cover of 85 percent.

Even Baguio and the fast urbanizing adjacent towns have retained extensive patches of original pine forest, despite massive deforestation. Of Baguio’s total land area of 5,751 ha, only 8.1 percent still has old growths of pine while 19.8 percent has production pine stands; 2.1 percent is brushland. In comparison, Metro Manila with its 64,000-ha land area shows a drastic reduction of forest lands and parks from a high of 25.1 percent in 1938 to an extremely low 1 percent in 1994. This supposedly increased to 4.4 percent (2,820 ha) by 2010, but still remains very low. Continue reading “A foray into urban forests”