crusade / write here write now



Of all the heroic efforts of private individuals in the wake of supertyphoon Yolanda (international name: Haiyan), what I found most meaningful was Hindy Weber Tantoco‘s “Balik Bukid,” a country fair at Sta. Elena, the Tantoco property her husband Gippy Tantoco manages in Cabuyao, Laguna about half an hour from the peripheries of Metro Manila in the Philippines.

Balik Bukid is a Tagalog phrase, which literally connotes a return to the farm, or what the farm, the bukid, represents: the simple life that is more natural, friendlier and more respectful to and less abusive of the natural environment. The country fair was some sort of a picnic at the park, on a farmland lush with trees and plants and horses, ducks, sheep, carabaos, pigs, cows, roosters, even rabbits and hamsters. There was shopping, mostly organic stuff, like wine, fresh juices, and spreads made from herbs, as well as tote bags, T-shirts, all bearing the insignia of earth consciousness. There were concerts, too, which I skipped, as I went with my two nieces, Rafa, 7, and Georges, 4.

One hundred percent of the proceeds from this country fair would go to the relief and rehabilitation of Yolanda survivors. No offense to the organizers, but I’m sure what the fair might have raised would be a drop in the ocean of donations coming from all over the world, given that, Hindy’s affluent circle notwithstanding, they kept the ticket prices down, along with the prices of everything else.


But Balik Bukid was nothing like most of the relief drives and most of the fundraisers because, to me, at least, it was looking farther ahead. And it was an appropriate response to a natural phenomenon that proved to be the fiercest on record, a supertyphoon with up to 380 kilometer-per-hour gusts of wind. In Warsaw, Poland, the nations represented at the Climate Change Conference have at last “accepted the reality of the effects of climate change,” according to The New York Times, though nothing concrete has come out of the supposedly urgent biennial meeting as to how these nations can come together to mitigate the problem. The Warsaw climate talks came in the shadow of Yolanda’s shock and awe, as it began two days after the supertyphoon made landfall in central Philippines, just when news of death and destruction caught the world’s attention, and ended just last weekend, while, happily, I was at Balik Bukid fishing and enjoying corn on the cob for a cause with my nieces and my friends.

I would be dreaming if I said we could all follow the example of Hindy and her family, who moved their life lock, stock, and barrel to the countryside, to live as simply as possible, to be closer to nature as possible. But why not?

Maybe we don’t have hectares of land to convert into a farm. Maybe we don’t even have a backyard to turn into a vegetable garden. Maybe, we don’t have any space in which to plant an herb, let alone a tree.

But there is so much we can do, like taking the bike or walking rather than driving an SUV to the neighborhood cafe or the grocery or the gym. It’s about time we finally got down to segregating our trash, to taking a tote bag or two or three to the supermarket, to unplugging all appliances when not in use, to keeping the airconditioner off, unless the heat proved unbearable. Maybe we should stop buying new gadgets every after six months and call on Apple or Samsung or Sony to stop coming up with new, better, faster models in their bid for supremacy in the market.

Or we can read books like Alan Weisman‘s The World Without Us and bring our earth quotient a notch higher. I would also recommend Life Counts: Cataloguing Life on Earth by Michael Gliech. Both books, especially the former, are grandly entertaining, sort of like eco-thrillers. If nothing else, these books will make us realize, despite our claims that we are the center of the universe, how unimportant we are and how hazardous our presence is — our arrogance is — on earth. At the risk of sounding anti-human, may I ponder on this thought for a while: Let seven billion humans leave the planet, along with all their pets, all their domesticated animals, and the planet will go on as usual, even thrive, turning all our megalopolises back to “normal” in no time, overrun with greenery, crawling with insects, turning into the wild. But when the honey bees go, when the dung beetles go, when the plankton all dies in our polluted oceans, I don’t think we can even approximate how such extinctions will set back the planet and how they will endanger even us.

Maybe it is too late. Maybe there is nothing we can do. Even if we all can do Balik Bukid and turn our life around like Hindy and her family, maybe it won’t change a thing.

But we have to do something, unless we are resigned to live in fear.

But we have to do something, if only for hope.

Yes, if only for hope. To borrow from The Hunger Games, “it is the only thing stronger than fear.”




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