Related Posts with Thumbnails

Shooting cascades in Papa-a

As soon as I saw small cascades running down the stream, I immediately thought it would be good to do long exposures. It was just disappointing that I did not bring my tripod [again!]. But then I felt I had to shoot.

Awesome sunset in Butuan City

It is not very often you get to witness a stunning sunset that gives you goosebumps. For a photography junkie like me, you should never, never, never let it pass just like that.

Winning a photo contest

Winning a photo contest for the first time (well, officially and with a prize for that matter) gives a different high!

Missing Cordi

From afar, I could already see the clouds rolling over the mountaintops. It was a sight to behold. So I asked the driver of our vehicle going to Buguias, Benguet to stop so I can capture this once-in-lifetime scene.

Cory Aquino: An inexhaustible gift to democracy

She further stressed the belief that the Filipino people, as a nation, can be great again. During her last State of the Nation Address (SONA), she said: I believe in the inexhaustible giftedness of the Filipino people.

Conversation with a cab driver on climate change

Ironically, this cab driver who would like to contribute something help curb climate change and global warming, by planting his narra tree becomes discouraged and disappointed...

At home [and at peace] with HDR Photography

HDR is not bad per se. HDR is nice to learn. In fact it is a must for non-pro like me to learn HDR to learn more about shadow and light and exposure, which is the crux of photography.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Pinoy Explorer | Batanes' oldest Ivatan house

Batanes' Oldest houseWhen I took these photos last September 17, 2007, it was 3 days after the anniversary of the earthquake and the house was exactly 120 years old. Auntie Ida (Ivatans or locals commonly call elders, auntie) or Florestida Estrella, then 81, owns the house. I do not know if she is still alive. If it were so, she would be 85 by now, and the house is now 124 years old

Read more about this at: Eureka! | Batanes' oldest Ivatan house ~ THE PINOY EXPLORER

The Pinoy Explorer | Calapan Bay by day and night

Calapan Bay by day and nightInitially, I thought it was just an ordinary daily scene. But then peeping through the grills of the fence that separates the sea and the hotel, I noticed some people gleaning (it was a lowtide). Again, another dramatic scene I always wanted to capture through my lenses. So, I dashed back to my room and grabbed my camera backpack and in minutes, I was shooting the beautiful scenery. Thus for three mornings, what could be better than enjoying morning sun, sniffing the salty sea air, savoring your coffee while admiring this God-given scenery? Lovely, isnt't it?

Read more at: Calapan Bay by day and night ~ THE PINOY EXPLORER

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Pinoy Explorer | Shooting cascades in Papa-a

PB193091 copy

It was a refreshing weekend getaway--literally and figuratively. Join me as I journey in one of unknown travel destinations in Mindoro.

Read more at: Shooting cascades in Papa-a ~ THE PINOY EXPLORER

The Pinoy Explorer: Revisiting Barangay Calima

Revisiting Barangay Calima

Barangay calima is just an ordinary village. However there are some things that make it endearing--its people, nature and all that come with it.

Read more at: Revisiting Barangay Calima ~ THE PINOY EXPLORER

The Pinoy Explorer: A short immersion at Pula's Iraya village

A short immersion in Iraya Village at Pula

Recently, I extended an official trip in Mindoro to include a one rest day for me. This is the first of a series I blogged about Mindoro. Check out my first experience about communing with Mangyan Iraya tribe at:

A short immersion at Pula's Iraya village ~ THE PINOY EXPLORER

Friday, November 25, 2011

EXPLORED!: Awesome sunset in Butuan City

Sunset in Agusan City
It is not very often you get to witness a stunning sunset that gives you goosebumps. For a photography junkie like me, you should never, never, never let it pass just like that. If you are lucky enough to bring with you a camera, that would be heaven, but you will forever be haunted by your conscience if you did not--you know the feeling that makes you uneasy and makes you curse yourself why on earth you did not bring any camera at all!

Read more at:
EXPLORED!: Awesome sunset in Butuan City

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Pangkat Aklat: Flickristasindios reaches out to Isla Pulo

More than 300 new and old books in Filipino, English, Math, Literature, and other reference books were gathered for 4 weeks by the members of Flickristasindios from among its members, and organizations like CANVAS and CI Philippines.

Just a few days before the typhoon Pedring struck Luzon, the books finally reached its intended beneficiaries on September 24, 2011--the school children (both elementary and high school) of Isla Pulo, which sits in the fringes of fishponds located off the coast of Malabon City and Navotas.

Isla Pulo and SAMASAISIP community organization

Isla pulo is home to at least 100 poor families or roughly 500 individuals.  They live on subsistence fishing, charcoal-making, and working fishponds.  Some who have small capital have invested in small variety store and food vending.  Some also engage in odd jobs.

As it was told, Isla pulo was a large sandbar in middle of the sea.  As years go by, the strong tides during typhoons pushed the mass of sand inland  that they had to relocate every time there is a big land movement.  At this time, we find them inhabiting the mangrove area along the fringes of large commercial fishponds.

Isla Pulo community, though financially challenged, has something to be proud of--their community organization called SAMASAISIP (Samahan ng Maralita sa Isla Pulo), which becomes their social capital in leveraging and engaging with development organizations, donors and interest groups like Flickristasindios.  They were supported by the Norwegian Alliance Mission for 5 yeatrs, until it phased out from the area.

Currently, they have a project called Youth Development Activity (YDA) whose purpose is to encourage the youth to engage in more fruitful activities like education.  There is a group of volunteer college students who tutor the children during weekends.  Some of the high school students living in the community, likewise, tutor their younger siblings.  They have built a YDA Center in the middle of the community that serve as their weekend classroom and library, as well as a venue for other community activities.

Flickristasindios' response

Flickristasindios has been conducting several outreach activities for some communities.  It had its outreach activity in Teresa, Rizal in Payatas, Quezon City, the streetchildren of Cubao, and now in Isla Pulo.  It took four weeks to gather the books from various sources like the Center for Art, New Ventures and Sustainable Development (CANVAS), Children International - Philippines, and of course from among its members who unselfishly gave new, old and usable textbooks, and other instructional materials and posters.

Ree Joie Ibarra, one of the administrators of the group spearheaded the activity. Simple at it seems, this endeavor proved to be a challenging one.

"Initially, only book pledges were coming in. I think, we only had 30 books after the first book-gathering activity. So the anxiety lasted until the last few days before the actual event date. So address this, constant promotion and buzz were done. I asked Rico to create posters and second phase of the promotion was the Info Bit which showcased the real situation of the community. Also, the solicitation helped a lot. It's 60 books guaranteed," Ree Joie relates.

Renowned painter, Elmer Borlongan, facilitated some donations from CANVAS:

I asked the Executive Director of CANVAS, Gigo Alampay, about the planned children's library in Isla Pulo. He did not hesitate to donate their books and immediately sent them to me. My wife Plet and I included some Filipino children's books also. We believe this is for a good cause and the Flickristasindios did a good job organizing it. The children of Isla Pulo will benefit greatly and the private sector as well as government people should continue and support the project.

The Center for Art, New Ventures and Sustainable Development (CANVAS) promotes greater awareness and appreciation for Philippine art and culture principally through exhibitions and projects that, not only showcase artworks from some of the best young contemporary Filipino artists around, but also lead to the publication of books, prints, and other merchandise that make these artworks more accessible to the people.

But with a true-blue Indio spirit, who is not easily disheartened, the campaign went on until more books were gathered. In the end, there more than 300 books, enough to fill the bookshelf the community has constructed for their community library and activity center.

Intrinsically rewarded

Photo by Rommel Laurente
The community's response was just overwhelming. The song and dance numbers by the children inside the cramped center never failed to entertain us.  A mother who spoke in behalf of the community for the donated books was more than enough to fill our hearts.  Indeed, the spirit of volunteerism and a sense of community was just overwhelming that day--and we say, it was a successful outreach activity of the Indios!

"The event became successful because of members' desire to really help. Giving back and reaching out have been the inculcated already in the Indios' culture. It has been the second identity of the group next to photography," Ree Joie proudly says.

"It is overwhelming, to be an instrument of sharing, giving back, education and most of all fulfilling their dreams makes me proud of be of service,"
she continues.

Let's hear it from the other Indios

Louie Agapinan:
Photo by: Lorelei Pajemna
I was touched by the words of the parent when she thanked us for the books, saying that they don't have enough money to buy them.  I got teary eyed while taking a video.  I am happy that I have been a part of this actvity, knowing that we have helped and made more people happy.  I hope we can reach out to more communities in the future and you can always count me in, anytime. PROUD to be an INDIO!"

Lorelie Pajemna:

It was actually a privilege to be part of this activity. I know that not all of us are given the chance or time to reach out to our less fortunate brethren, especially those who live in places you don’t even know would exist, just like Isla Pulo.  I have been a residence of Malabon (the closest town next to Navotas) for many years now but I never heard about this community.  Had I not been a member of the Flickristasindios, I would still be clueless up to this moment. 
I have attended many outreach programs before that was also organized by the Indios, but this one is quite different for me, because aside from walking and hurdling the muddy fish ponds walls or walkways for 15 to 20 minutes.  Thank God that there is a boat to carry the books to the community. Also I find it different because instead of giving them a temporary relief for their needs, we have given them something that they can use for a long period of time and it can also be passed on to their next of kin. 

Carvin Medina
Pangkat Aklat was another great opportunity to give back to the community and another eye-opening "wow meron pang mga tao nabubuhay nang ganito sa ganitong lugar" experience for me. I do hope, however, that our donated books will be relevant and appropriate to the community's immediate needs. I also have faith in the community in Isla Pulo that they would maximize what they get.

Post Script

Apologies for this late blog post. Some uneventful situations prevented the blogger to post this blog. 
Typhoon Pedring has devastated the entire Luzon island, brought storm surge in Manila Bay, including the small community in Isla Pulo.  By merely looking at the news about the storm surge in Roxas Boulevard in Manila during the typhoon, we became worried about the community.  They could have been devastated. The Indios already resigned to the possible fact that the books, which have been barely touched by the children, have already gone with the strong tides.

Last week, Flickristasindios was informed that the community protected the books the Flickristasindios donated.  The children are now using it to study their lessons.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Explored!: Reloaded


Maintaining several blogs can be quite laborious, especially if you begin to suddenly face a writer's block--or worse, you have nothing to write about [because you feel that everyone is writing about it anyway] or simply you are dead beat or simply does not have anything to write at all.

I have wanting to blog every so often, but I was up for something that I have protracted for so long.  It is my travel blog called "Explored!"  This has been shelved for more than a year and it is only now that it is beginning to take its own pace and have its own following.  Unlike my Mono-logues blog, which has gained a relatively strong following, Explored! needed more push, which in the end, made this blog suffer.

Anyway, enough of ranting and justifying. I would just like to invite the readers of this blog to cross over Explored! for some stories about my travels. See you there!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Win a free trip to Boracay

Hmmmm...I might as well join this contest.  Nothing to lose!  And why not? If i'd be lucky enough, I would spend my birthday in Boracay, which I would definitely blog about HERE!

Here are the details:

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Monday, June 6, 2011

Inkblots is now tweeting!

I had a personal Twitter account but I deleted it because I thought I have been managing too many social networking accounts.  But then, I thought of using Twitter to gain more readership of my blogs which I am trying to revive after a self-imposed hibernation, particularly with my Explored! blog.

Blogging, I guess, is beginning to lose its popularity  because of Facebook.  I have returned to some of my favorite blogs, and there are fewer readers who are commenting on personal and even political blogs.  Some bloggers have even gone hibernation for a while, and some have even been shut down.

So I hope you follow me there and get the latest updates from my three blogs (this blog, Mono-logues, and Explored!).

Thank you for reading Inkblots: Life as it happens!

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Thursday, May 19, 2011

Photography and the art of seeing

02195813In February this year, the members of Lightpainters Photography Club (LPC) had the chance to meet with Virgie Teresita a.k.a. Imago2007 in Flickr.  She is a US-based interior designer who dabbles in photography.  Virgie, has earned the respect of her fellow Flickristas for her photographic work, that is why we invited her to give a short talk for the members.  And I thank her for allowing me to blog about it (though a bit late).  I hope that this post will help any newbie in photography, as well as those who think they are already good at it.

For her, what is photography and how does she make really good photos?

She gave a very simple, yet rousing and thought-provoking discussion.  While I have photography books and reading materials, I tend to go back to my notes from her lecture and follow what she does. 

So I now share to you what I have learned from her. 

  • Have the eyes and a heart of a child in you.  Approach any subject with a pair of eyes, without any preconceived notions about the subject.  It is like "magic" that happens without you knowing it. Having a fresh outlook will also help you to compose based on the inherent qualities of the subject and bringing out the best in it.
  • Search for the subtle beauty of light, form shadow and pattern.  By doing this, you give the viewer a deeper experience of a simple, yet, interesting subject.  Ihis includes training your eye to see the beautiful subtleties in nature, even on things like a blade of grass or the tip of a leaf.
  • Simplify.  Learn how to make your subject stand out and free from other elements.  Simplify your vision and include only what is essential.  She advises using special lenses like 50mm or telephoto lenses to isolate the subject.
  •  Control your camera.  The camera cannot control what we want to capture.  One can control the camera by capturing the image you have in mind or anything that has meaning to you.  Thus it is basic that the photographer study the settings and buttons of his/her camera.  Control can be best achieved by your distance to the subject, your perspective and point of view.
  • [In landscapes] makes sure you include a hint of a human posture.  This will make an ordinary sunset come alive.
  • Find your voice in the photos you produce.  Photos are supposed to express a part of you. Thus, you need to find meaning in what you capture and be able to express what you think and feel.
  • Capture what is not done before. There is no harm in copying, but it is always rewarding to be unique in your art.

And to see for yourself, and be inspired of what she is talking about, here are some sample photos by Virgie:

And to see the rest of her photographic work, FOLLOW THIS LINK.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Winning a photo contest

Icons on wheels

230611_10150187805557721_660412720_7291867_5561540_nWinning a photo contest for the first time (well, officially and with a prize for that matter) gives a different high! 

Recently, I won a photo contest by the Foundation for Sustainable Society, Inc. (FSSI) and Concepts Commune, which is in advocacy for the entrepreneurship for the poor. Winning photos are included in the photo exhibit dubbed as "Kabuhayan: Travelling Exhibit on the Entrepreneurship for the Poor".

I was lucky to have three (3) of the six photos I submitted be chosen among the 15 photos which were selected for exhibition.  The rest of the photos were assigned to some photographers.

The exhibit was launched last May 16, 2011 at the Northwing lobby of the House of Representatives.  House Speaker Sonny Belmonte, and Deputy Speaker Erin Tanada, and some Representatives graced the occasion.

230181_10150187805827721_660412720_7291872_981217_nWinning a photo contest is something, and exhibiting it too makes it even better!  And, finally, I realized my goal to blend photography with my anti-poverty work and advocacy.  I just hope I would have more opportunities to make use of my photography for my personal advocacy in the future.

And this is my acceptance speech: "I share this win with the Raffia weavers of Brgy. Ilaya in Inabanga, Bohol; the woodcarvers of ELJ Enterprises in Cainta, Rizal and the unknown vendor on wheels."(Smile!)

Here are the rest of the photos that made it to the cut:

Wood Carver

Women raffia weavers of Inabanga

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Inkblots' 100 most popular photos

For more than 3 years, I have put my heart into photography. I just wanna share with you my Flickr set of photos which are most popular based on views, comments and faves.

Feel free to share...

Advanced Happy Easter to all!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Missing cordi

Missing cordi
Originally uploaded by Inkblots™
One of the joys of my work as a social development worker is the opportunity to go to different places, like Benguet in the Cordilleras.

From afar, I could already see the clouds rolling over the mountaintops. It was a sight to behold. So I asked the driver of our vehicle going to Buguias, Benguet to stop so I can capture this once-in-lifetime scene.

The driver obliged and took five minutes to compose (since we were in a hurry).

I set my camera in RAW so that I could manipulate later on if ever the exposure is not good. It came out the exposure was okay but I had to add a digital graduated filter for the sky to bring out the clouds on the mountaintops.

It was worth the 5 minute stopover.

I will go back again in Benguet next week and I hope to take some photos again.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Cory Aquino: An inexhaustible gift to democracy

Tribute for Cory at Times Street 

Author's note: This article was re-published by this author from An express permission was sought from the website owner. In commemoration of the 25th Anniversary of EDSA People Power Revolution, and although this article was written in time for Cory Aquino's death, this is a fitting tribute to the bloodless revolution in 1986. The last part [in bracket] was edited to keep up with the recent developments in the Philippine political and administrative system.


LAST AUGUST 5, 2009, more than a hundred thousands of Filipinos from all walks of life—young and old, rich and poor—have lined up the streets of Manila, braving the heat, rain and dust just to get a glimpse and offer their final words of thanks to their humble and beloved hero, President, Corazon C. Aquino, who passed away on August 1, 2009 after more than a year of battling with colon cancer.

Filipinos came in droves and kept pace with President Cory Aquino’s cortege from Manila Cathedral in the historic walled city of Intramuros to Manila Memorial Cemetery in the suburb Parañaque.  Thousands of supporters wearing yellow, likewise, joined the crowd by lining up the streets.  They unceasingly chanted in chorus “Cory! Cory! Cory!”.  They brought with them banners, memorabilia, photos of the late president, candles and silent prayers as the cortege passed by.  Some groups of students were singing “Bayan Ko!” expressing their support to the Aquino family, their love for the late president, as well as their undying support to the restoration and guarding of democracy in the country.  Everyone was waving “L” with their hands, signifying “Laban,” which literally means “fight” that became the symbol of the late President Corazon C. Aquino during her bid for presidency against the tyranny and dictatorship of the Marcos regime.

For many Filipinos, it was reminiscent of the funeral of her late husband, Ninoy Aquino, who was assassinated on August 21, 1983, seconds after he stepped on the tarmac from the China Airlines plane he boarded on his way back from his US exile to Manila.  It was reported that around 2 million Filipinos and supporters of the late Ninoy joined the funeral march from Sto. Domingo Church to the Manila Memorial Cemetery in Parañaque City.  It took the procession 8 hours before Ninoy was finally laid to rest.  Cory’s funeral procession took almost the same.

MessagesFor Cory Aquino, a simple homemaker to then political detainee, Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino, Jr. who was a staunch political rival and critique of then dictator President Ferdinand E. Marcos, joining politics was out of her mind.  However, in prayer, she sought the answer to her question whether or not to file her candidacy against the fourteen-year martial law regime of political strongman, Ferdinand E. Marcos.  Cory, with the intercession of prayer, finally announced her bid for presidency, primarily because she shared a common principle with her late husband, I believe in the compelling truth that an ordinary Filipino can overcome a dictatorship. Thus, Cory, who was not even as glamorous as Imelda Marcos, became a compelling face of the opposition, who can topple the dictator.

Capped by a massive and blatant election fraud during the February 1986 snap elections called by then President Marcos, the tumultuous years of the Filipino people under the Marcos dictatorship had come to a historic end.  The opposition led by Cory Aquino held nationwide daily mass actions and rallies that culminated in the famous bloodless and peaceful EDSA People Power Revolution.  Hundreds of thousands of infuriated Filipinos converged at the Epifanio Delos Santos Avenue (EDSA) and shouted slogans “Tama na! Sobra Na! Palitan Na!” (Stop! It’s Enough! Time to Change!). They held rosaries and said their prayers, offered flowers to the soldiers, literally held their bodies against armored trucks, tanks, and military forces before Marcos could order to quell and annihilate the angry mob.  Eventually, his growing unpopularity, waning political support, and the absence of a military back up, led the dictator to abandon his post, flee from Malacañang, and seek refuge in the US for political asylum.

Under her revolutionary and transitory government, President Cory Aquino put up the Constitutional Convention that penned the 1987 Philippine Constitution that, in turn, restored the Bicameral Congress and breathed upon Judiciary to life.  She brought back the ailing nation to life by attracting foreign and domestic investors to do business in the country.  Nongovernment organizations (NGOs), which were indiscriminately accused and branded as Communist groups by Marcos, came into the open and helped the government in healing the wounded nation through various community organizing and community development programs.  Government employees worked with a renewed commitment and were proud again to be called as public servants.  The press has finally regained its freedom.  Political leaders who were unjustly detained had their new lease in life.  She resumed peace talks with the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).  She distributed lands through the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) even to the consternation of the elites and the landlords.  The ordinary Filipinos, once again, took pride in being a Filipino.  Everyone was in high spirits.  Indeed, it was a glorious moment for the Philippines and its people.

JN302003This transitory and revolutionary government, however, was not a bed of roses for the new President.  Her presidency was marred with eight military coup attempts to topple her administration.  There was a lot of spillovers of socio-economic problems under the fourteen-year martial rule.  Those difficult years did not also spare her from attacks against her integrity and capability as the President.  However, her steadfast leadership, her calm disposition and resiliency to preserve peace and order and democracy, as well as with the strong support from her constituents, she was able to finish her presidency and end her term with integrity and have a much lauded graceful exit after six years in office.

Even after her term and presidency, Cory Aquino was still a prominent icon and a strong crusader for freedom, democracy and good governance.  A mother to her nation, she told her successors to behave.  She led rallies to unseat an inept President, became a prominent figure against imminent attempts to bring back martial rule and those who have tried to amend the Philippine’s 1987 Constitution so that they can cling to their powers beyond their term.  As history can tell, she made Presidency a symbol of simplicity, servanthood, trust, and most of all, integrity and high moral standard.  Thus, any successor to her leadership comes to a point of comparison especially when her successor are not bereft with scandals, deceit, abuse and corruption.

Her passing away, not only becomes a reminder to the Filipinos of the legacy of her administration.  For Filipinos, Cory Aquino becomes a national symbol for integrity and democracy.  Moreover, she epitomizes the soul and spirit of the Filipino people—one with innate courage and strength and resiliency to face all the odds, and strong belief in God.  In her words:  “Nagpapasalamat ako sa Panginoong Diyos na ginawa niya akong isang Pilipino.” (I thank God that He made me a Filipino.).  More importantly, she becomes a symbol for Filipino’s strong valuing for peace and freedom, more so that this peace and freedom have been regained from a corrupt and dictator regime.

She always believed in the greatness of the Filipinos.  If her husband, Ninoy Aquino, once said, “The Filipino is worth dying for,” for Cory Aquino, “The Filipino is worth living for.”  Again, she further stressed the belief that the Filipino people, as a nation, can be great again. During her last State of the Nation Address (SONA), she said, “I believe in the inexhaustible giftedness of the Filipino people.”

For Filipinos, her death also ushers a renewed love of country and freedom from tyranny and dictatorship, and the birth of crusade and public vigilance against power grabbers and leeches, corruption and abuse.  More importantly, this is a fitting reminder to the national leaders that real and genuine power emanates from the people, and that only the people can bestow trust and respect to its leaders. To the last of her breath, a leader like Cory became an inexhaustible gift to her nation and democracy.

The Philippines is still sailing rough in its political tides.  [With the national elections barely 9 months away, the Philippines will become another testing ground for the virtues that Cory has set as examples.  Now that Cory Aquino has joined her God, who will continue her legacy for integrity and good governance.  Who will continue to champion the cause for truth, justice and democracy?]
Adddendum: History will tell us that her son, Noynoy Aquino has taken over the Presidency.  PNoy, as we fondly call the President, vowed to continue her legacy for integrity and good governance, as well as to champion truth, justice and democracy.  

Despite this development, the question remains.

JN302082Will all these be gone as the icon fades away?  

Still, the new president has a lot to hurdle, but as we say, governance does not dwell on the presidency alone.

Only the Filipino people—can answer that question.
And only Filipinos can choose to carry the torch to make Cory's legacy live again.

Monday, February 14, 2011

A date with Heidi Mendoza

Courtesy of "We Support You, Heidi mendoza"
In the Facebook page set up to support Heidi Mendoza, the most recent whistle blower in the issues concerning the plea bargaining agreement of ex-General and AFP comptroller Carlos Garcia, she reiterated:

"remember my main valentine of family should be rooted in love of God and country..."
On February 14, 2011, during the press conference dubbed as "Love your country. Have a date with Heidi!" held at Club Filipino, she delivered her official statement.

The following is a transcript of Heidi Mendoza's official statement:

(This blogger was not able to attend the press conference.  An express permission was granted to this blogger from the Admins of Facebook support page for Heidi Mendoza. The same is published in Ateneo School of Government's website.)



I come here this morning, to give voice to the continuing work and struggle of many citizen groups and CSOs for good governance and specifically anti-corruption and social accountability. I stand among my friends, co-workers and co-advocates calling for more committed and active involvement of public servants and citizens to uphold that which is true and fair -- just.

Sa aking mga kaibigan, kasama, katrabaho, kasangga --

I ask all of you to stand firm in our commitment to strengthen our ongoing crusade for accountable and transparent governance. I ask my fellow Filipinos, from all walks of life, from every organizational or institutional affiliation to step up our efforts in crafting practice of governance that is marked by integrity -- transparency and accountability.

• Create a government that is trustworthy, and institutionalize the needed instruments for combating graft and corruption.

• Forge a system of accountability and  transparency at all times including: immediately and urgently enact the Freedom of Information Bill if we are to make government transactions transparent and accountable. In other words, we need to move our people close to government; we need to exact accountability from government.

Our people are getting more tired and exasperated with half-truths, evasions, lies and corruption. We deserve something better. We deserve a government that serves with righteousness and integrity.

I also come here to share with you my boundless faith and hope in the Filipino.

Yes, Hope -

The past few weeks have been intense to say the least, I am being humbled, uplifted, challenged, acclaimed, threatened and inspired all at the same time.  I want to believe we are in a vortex of forces and this brings hope!

After undergoing this ordeal, I have come to realize that each individual is a well-spring of hope -- that hope is born in each and every act that upholds the truth. 

I have served in the Commission on Audit for more than twenty years and done much work with citizen groups and CSOs.  Throughout, I have tried to do my responsibility with rigor and competency for the simple reason that this is what our people deserve. I am a public servant; and the public deserves nothing less but the best from us.

This responsibility is a mission -- a crusade and it is not about me. It is not even about us - individually. Nor is this about one organization or group of organizations. It is about constructive engagement between government and its citizens, which is the essence of governance. It is about ensuring that the work that we do (whether in or out of government) are constructive, sustained and productive.

We all know that this crusade will not be won in one day. We need to have more Filipinos on our side. Hence, I propose that we continue this national dialogue in combating corruption and building a far better future. Kailangan nating magkaisa at ipagpatuloy ang ating pag-uusap bilang isang bansa -- isang bayan.

But most of all, we need to be rooted in the fundamentals -- faith in God and love for each other and our country. Or as Saint Paul constantly points out, all our actions must be based on FAITH, HOPE and LOVE. 

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Let's get loud with plastic!

Maej, my former work colleague tagged me in one of her photos, which happened to be ladies’ beauty accessories.  And why would she tag me, I thought.  I would never buy those.  But then, I got curious about the material.  So I asked.  Apparently, it was crocheted out of recycled bags.  Cool!  And she was selling it, perhaps, thinking of me buying for wifey.

Photo by Joyce Mariscal
Nonetheless, I quietly observed about this product—from a personal initiative, it was slowly evolving into social enterprise.  And it is an opportune time to help a former colleague in her advocacy.

To cut the long story short, Maej resigned from a lucrative corporate job to concentrate on an unusual hobby-turned-advocacy: fashioning scraps into highly wearable accessories as livelihood for women.  Hence, Loud Plastics Creation was born.  And her formula?  It is called CPR or
   Creative recycling
+ Promoting household waste segregation
+ Reviving Philippine cottage industry (CPR)

Loud Plastics Creation is based in Davao City, Philippines.

Below is Inkblots’ Interview with Maej.

Photo by Ogs Ocleaza
What started Loud Plastics Creations?

In 2009, I received a crocheted plastic bag from Invisible Sisters as a gift from a friend, Rebecca, and I adored it! I tried making a similar bag but I wasn’t able to finish it. The unfinished bag turned out to be a great accessory piece, and so I created my first “happy accident” necklace. I thought, if Manila and other countries like UK, US and Canada are into recyclables fever, then it’s high time that Davao and the rest of Mindanao region get a share of that “green infection”.

Who and what motivated you to pursue this project?

I give credit to my good friend and mentor, Rebecca “Bec” Gilllman, a former teacher in ISM (International School in Manila who is now based in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania) who opened my eyes to see the wonderful possibilities of recycling. She definitely “infected” me with her green movement.  Last year, I had the chance to link with several other Manila-based community enterprises like Ann Wizer of Invisible Sisters, Lynie Pispisano of Philippine Christian Foundation and Jan Harris of Trashebolsas. And this inspired me more with a can-do attitude.

You employ crocheting as the primary skill in your products.  Of all craft skills, why crocheting and why focus on fashion accessories?

Maej, showing her trainees the proper way of cutting plastic bags 
I’m a certified “craft-aholic” and grew up learning to crochet from my mom so I easily learned more in school under Home Economics. During my community outreach, I realized this specific skill set is no longer available among the younger generation. Most of those who know how to crochet are grandmothers, mothers or the elderly. Plus, crocheting is environmentally friendly in such a way that it does not make use of machineries, ergo, no energy waste.  Through Loud Plastics, it is my own way to revive the interest again to learn to crochet and to stay true to being eco-friendly.

Wearing recyclables is a proactive way to start sending out a strong message about recycling, in its most “mainstream” form – a fashionable item.  Women who wear loud plastics are those loud enough to advocate recycling in its most tangible form; they instantly represent the growing number of recycling advocates like me, therefore, “infecting” more and more people with the recyclables fever. It becomes easier for them to talk about recycling because people can see right away how these junks can be turned into something new again.  My designs are not too gaudy either because I wanted more people to wear it, or to match with casual attire. After all, accessories are light weight and are definite conversational pieces.  

What are the challenges in this project?

One of my many challenges is influencing the mindset of my target market – young professionals, women leaders, students, and mothers.  Making recyclable accessories is completely doable; selling it to an available market at a competitive price is another story. Buyers need to be educated how difficult it is to make these pieces.

Take also in to consideration the packaging cost.  Not too many consumers even realize that a huge amount they spent on a product goes to its packaging.  To maintain true to my intention, labels used for our products are made from recyclables, too.  As a social entrepreneur, I would rather spend on labor wage, creating social impact, rather than spend on packaging or plastic tags that will become additional junks. 

Do you have links with communities and institutions now (network)?  How are the communities responding to these initiatives?

It’s a simplified version of helping our communities in such a way that I provide skills and income for them (similar to “teaching a fisherman to fish and he will never beg for fish”).  I do not see myself getting these recyclables from junk sorters, as this will tolerate people more not to mix their waste. I also encourage the communities I train to start segregating their waste.

I usually visit a community first and check what type of waste is usually available in their area and then I design a specific product line for them.  I am keener in providing them the recyclables, because there’s a huge temptation for them to just buy new plastics to produce the requirements that I need.  And that’s how I ensure that the pieces we sell are really made from recyclables.  By tapping these communities as workforce, it is helping revive the Philippine cottage industry.  The income they get is not much, but for people with so much idle time, and great skills, it is a lot. 

You have to understand that these communities are in it for the money and then the recycling. I am in it for the recycling advocacy and the profit is just a bonus. The motivating factors are different. Hence, I have to be able to respond to their motivation.   

For other communities that I’ve tapped, I made it a point to design a signature item for each group keeping in mind what is their available market. By doing so, I keep their motivation because they are able to sell and earn right away. 

Furthermore, it eliminates competition which can result to “price war” and this is not good for a social enterprise to become sustainable.  For example, I’ve taught the Cagwaitnons their signature piece, plastic crocheted lei, which they started producing for their first client, Cagwait LGU, in the annual Kaliguan Festival last June 2010. The municipality of Cagwait was a great avenue to share my skills since they have already in place a waste segregation program called ‘Cagwait’s Best’.”  The workshop in Cagwait, Surigao del Sur was made possible through the invitation of Mayor Bonifacio Ondona. 

Do you have any plans to bring in additional product line like bags, purses, etc?

Most recyclables available in the market (local & abroad) are bags and purses and I definitely do not want to compete with them. The accessories are my own unique line of collection. And I’m working on my signature line, where my pieces are convertible from necklace to bracelet, anklet or headband.  I usually work on a piece based on creative instinct which means, I can never mass produce. Pretty much like dreamweavers where our ancestors receive a design through a dream, hence, each work is unique on its own. 

Photo by Joyce Mariscal

What is your vision for this venture?

For the brand to be visible in retail stores, souvenir shop and make its way in to the shopping list of every visiting Filipino abroad as pasalubong and take pride in Pinoy recycled arts & crafts. 

For the venture to remain true to its intentions and maintain integrity by using only recyclables, where all items are 100% hand-crafted (no factories), therefore creating environment impact, and for the communities to embrace the habit of waste segregation and creative recycling. I hope to be able to come up with designs that can be labelled 100% recyclable, and using non-toxic materials such as adhesives or dyes.

This year, Loud Plastics Creations has taken it to the next level by getting a permit from DTI and other government agencies so we can aggressively bid our products as alternative items usually bought in event-driven market such as festivals, parties and weddings.  Also, exporting the products will be within reach.  

I’m also re- branding the collection From “Loud Plastics” to “PINASAHI Wearable Recyclables & Designs”.  PINASAHI means “one-of-a-kind” in English or “naiiba” in Tagalog.  It is named as such since I do not want to limit myself to just using recycled plastics.  Plus, we cannot anticipate the type or volume of recyclables that we will receive. Hence, each piece is uniquely designed based on the available raw materials (recyclables). I do not see ourselves buying junk just to continue with the production for profit’s sake.  It just defeats the purpose.

How would Loud Plastic Creation create an impact to the communities?

Photo by Ogs Ocleaza
We need to compete with those mass-produced, China-made accessories.  Taking a hand-crocheted bib necklace versus an assembled or premolded necklace, for example, the crocheted accessories are more labor-intensive, hence, cluld command a higher price.  Buyers would become more conscious how the products are made (environment impact), and who the partner-beneficiaries are (workforce). In UK, buyers don’t question the price they have to pay for hand-made products. They have a huge amount of appreciation for handcrafted items and neither do they haggle nor negotiate for prices.

I strive very hard to be transparent to my customers as to where their money goes.  For every piece that gets sold, the buyer creates a huge impact on the sustainability of the project. That I believe is the real value for money.  And getting that message across becomes an additional challenge to hurdle.

The market for recyclables is getting bigger.  Take for example here in Davao when my items were only saleable to foreigners. My raw materials are recyclables found at home and from friends’ houses and restaurants, I am highly dependent on donations. It is because of this growing number of buyers and donations that I get motivated. I have been approached by a local school that they want to join this initiative.  It therefore validates further that the message is already out there, and more and more people are now getting in to the habit of recycling and the growing interest to be proactive about it.

Photo Credits:  Maej Villanueva, Ogs Ocleaza, and Joyce Mariscal



For donations of recyclables, please contact Maej Villanueva at 0918.9129767.

They need a steady source of recyclables which include the following:
  1. Clean, used plastic/cellophane or sando bags (those plastics that you cannot recycle as trash bags at home, the small-sized plastics)
  2. Old magazines, telephone directories, outdated flyers and product catalogues
  3. Corks from wine bottles
  4. Worn out rubber slippers or those with missing pairs
  5. Foil packs from chips, cereals, biscuits, candy wrappers, etc. and tetra pack juice packs
  6. Disposable lighters
  7. Shampoo sachets, old toothbrushes, and laundry powder sachets

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Movie: Crossroads

Some HBO movies these days are becoming too boring that missing movies is not that a big deal.  Star Movies shows newer blockbuster hits.  While shuffling from one channel to another, I chanced upon "Crossroads."  It was quite old.  With Ralph Macchio in the lead role, it must be really old!  I wonder what happened to him after his Karate Kid days?  I thought, I should take a peep at the movie.

I am not a guitar player.  I am not into blues, either, but I was hooked.

I think any movie buff and music enthusiast should watch this movie.

Here is the synopsis from HBO Asia:

Eugene Martone struggles with the devil and his destiny when he goes down to the Crossroads. Eugene is a gifted young guitarist and is obsessed with unlocking the mysteries of the blues. He finds cantankerous Willie Brown, a master of the blues harmonica, and frees him from prison. The unlikely duo hoboes from New York to Mississippi as Eugene searches for runaway Frances.

And one of the YouTube clips:

I will not go into details so not to spoil your watching.

My Rating: 8/10.

You may watch 12 clips of this movie in YouTube.  (However, 10/12 clip does not have an audio. I think this is the crucial part. Nonetheless, enjoy the movie or catch a rerun at HBO.

Monday, February 7, 2011

At home [and at peace] with HDR Photography

When I saw Tony Remington's Photo set on high dynamic range (HDR), my attitude and perception towards HDR has completely changed.  Earlier in my photography, most of the HDRs I saw looks surreal and unreal.  As a beginner, I thought, this is not the kind of photography I would delve into.  It would go for more realistic photos--especially those astounding images of light and shadows. HDR was not just my cup of tea, so to say.

Lately, I saw a link on the stages of photography. Looking at this graphical representation, I thought my photography really sucks!  I am not even on a maturing stage and I am regressing.  I must admit, I ate my own words about HDR (uhmmm...not particularly those who are doing HDR).

General Luna

But then, sometimes, I get frustrated with getting the appropriate exposure for both the foreground and the background in my landscape photography.  This is true when you see an amazing view and can only live with the available spot or location.  It was either the sky is appropriately exposed and the foreground is underexposed or the foreground is just right but the sky is overexposed.  I thought, in times like this, or when the sun is not at your back,  the only solution is HDR.  This also applies to the so-called "tunnel shots" like this. you cannot make a good exposure of the "tunnel" (which in this case is an arc bridgeway in Intramuros, Manila.

Chocolate hills reduxI tried this during my trip to Chocolate Hills in Bohol.  There is no way I could face a sunrise and get a good exposure of the Chocolate Hills, and it was the only time I would get to photograph it, since I have a workshop after breakfast.  Since I had no tripod during that time, I took a single RAW shot, and made three exposures in Olympus Master (the bundle post processing software of my Olympus E-510) -- these exposures are -1, 0, and +1.  Then I had my Photomatix 3.2 do the trick, and edited the colors and white balance in Lightroom 2.0.

So am I into HDR as a signature photography post processing?  The answer is both YES and NO.

YES, because I would love to use HDR only on my landscape and architectural shots.  I would still like to create HDR photos like that of Tony. 

NO, because I tried using it for street photography and still photography.  Sure, the photos look nice, but then HDR is not appropriate for them. If ever I would go into portraits using HDR, I should be as good as Chito Francisco, where most of his HDR post processing for portraits produce outstanding results.

In other words, HDR has its own purposes, and has some limitations, too.  HDR is good for landscape, and architectural shots, where you want to bring out the details and exphasize the architectural design elements like Tony's photos.  Also, if you want to create a surreal photo like the movie "The Lovely Bones", then you are on the go.  I would say, forget it when you are dealing with still photography.  Yes, you may use it to emphasize the "oldness" of the subject like dilapidated trucks and so on.  But sometimes, leaving them as they are makes it more realistic.  

In other words, HDR is not bad per se. HDR is nice to learn.  In fact it is a must for non-pro like me to learn HDR to learn more about shadow and light and exposure, which is the crux of photography.  But making it as your signature photography genre would be limiting you to explore the vast possibilities in photography.

HDR relies heavily on skill on post processing technique.  If you do not have basic photography principles on white balance, lighting and exposure control, and colors, then HDR is not for you either. HDR photography also relies heavily on technology.  Too much reliance on software like Photomatix, Lightroom and Photoshop,  also stunts your photographic learning curve.  Not everything can be solved by HDR.  Not every photo must be "HDR'd".  HDR has a purpose, and you need to discover that yourself.  On this last note, I would say that HDR offers many possibilities too and I might try HDR for portraits, like that of Chito Francisco.

Click here to see my HDR photos.

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