Thursday, May 29, 2014

Haikyo #2: Casa Real in Lingayen Pangasinan

My trip to Lingayen Panagsinan was an official business, naturally I didn't have the time to explore the place as I would have wanted to but I managed to make a very short side-trip when I saw a haikyo structure in the middle of the busy capital. The Casa Real is a historical building seated to another heritage structure, the Pangasinan Provinicial Jail. Its sorry state is appalling, if you only knew the history of the building.

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Pangasinan Provincial Jail

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Casa Real facade

Casa Real literally means "royal house", built in 1840s and one of the first public buildings to be constructed with brick. The alcalde-mayor (functions as governor AND magistrate) resided and held office here. Later on, it was called the Gobierno, in 1886 when the position of Gobernador Civil was created to perform the executive function of the Alcalde Mayor and the latter retained his judicial function only.

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Looking at the 2nd floor, I can't decide if that's a door or a window

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During revolution, the Spanish soldiers and the Voluntarios Locales (native recruits of the Spaniards who fought the Katipuneros) holed out at the Casa Real. On June 29, 1898, the Pangasinan Katipuneros planned to capture Lingayen by taking Casa Real. They secretly meet in the evening in Brgy. Domalandan and crossed the river to the Baraca St. but were detected prematurely and got massacred. This street is now called Heroes St.

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On February 16, 1901 Judge William Howard Taft and his three commissioners formally organized Pangasinan as a civil province, Lingayen remained the capital municipal because of the existence of provincial buildings there, Casa Real retained its capitol function.

In 1919, the capitol moved to its current location, near Linagayen beach, and Casa Real was used as a public elementary school for about three to four years before it became a Regional Trial Court.

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could this be one of the classrooms?
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During World War II, the Japanese used the building as their office. After the war, when the new Capitol building needed extensive repair because of the damage inflicted by the American naval bombardment, the provincial offices had to move back to the Casa Real until the repair work was done.

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The remaining planks reminds me of an Inari shrine tori

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Surviving several earthquakes and the bombings of WWII, it was declared a National Historical Landmark by the National Historical Institute in 2002, with 95% of its original materials intact. But in 2008 super typhoon Cosme ripped off a part of its roof and looters saw the chance to steal  ballustrades, wooden floor planks, doors and windows. The municipal government offices occupying it, like Sangguniang Bayan, and DSWD,  vacated the place and it became an empty shell.

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right now these plants are the occupants of Casa Real

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The Pangasinan Heritage Society, Inc. (PHSI) was granted permission to clean up the building and protect it from further vandalism while waiting for restoration. But after a year, PHSI ran out of funds to sustain the protection of the building and it was again vandalized by thieves who yanked out the remaining doors, windows and iron grills. 

Several appeals were made to restore the building. In 2010, Governor Amado Espino pledged to restore it. The PHSI and Provincial Engineering took the remaining wooden materials for safekeeping. In January 2012, Congressman Leopoldo Bataoil (Pangasinan, 2nd district) agreed to allocate part of his pork barrel to restore Casa Real and the provincial jail. Then we all know what happened when the PDAF scandal blew up and now I don't know what the fate of this historical structure would be.

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From trial court to basketball court?

I hope it won't be a haikyo for too long, It is a witness to many lives of different generations and a survivor of harsher times, it deserves to be restored to its old glory.


Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Overheard at the Scouts' Venture Camp; Thoughts on Mining and Consumption

I was in Lingayen Pangasinan earlier this month, attending the the 6th National Scout Venture Camp of the Boy Scouts of the Philippines. I volunteered for Greenpeace, we had booths at the Global Development Village, an exhibition of national and international organizations together with local and national government agencies where scouts were given lectures and demonstrations on environment, peace and development. In our booth, we gave a short lecture about climate change and had interactive demonstration of different practical uses of sun's energy as part of our campaign for renewable energy. 

Our post was perched between the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR). I wanted to roam around the village to check the exhibits of other organizations, but I didn't get the opportunity to leave my post for long. Without intention, I happened to overhear what the DENR people were up to. I listened to a lady introduce a video she's about to show about mining, supposedly to give a "wider perspective" since most people are usually critical about mining. I couldn't believe what I was hearing, were they just promoting an activity we all know is largely detrimental to the environment? By an agency funded by people's tax to PROTECT the environment and promote CONSERVATION of natural resources?

You can never underestimate the power of documentary films, short or feature length, when we faced our audience and asked them what they saw in DENR booth and their thoughts about mining, the scouts were quick to say "it's important", "without it we would go back to stone age", "a worker can have a salary of P500,000", "we'll end up looking like Gollum", WTH! I don't understand the connection of the last comment, but clearly, those people we pay to protect our environment were trying to convince the young ones of the "positive" side of mining. Ah, they have a term for that, "responsible" mining. Yes. Is this really part of DENR's function? Oh, but why won't they? We can only speculate at this point, but we all know how our government works.

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DENR Sponsors?

A friend once told me, one can't be anti-mining and own a car, or laptop or cellphone or anything with metal. I am writing this post with a laptop, so you might as well call me a hypocrite. The thing is, I cannot deny the worth of mining in consideration of economy and commodity. It creates jobs. From the miners to the sellers of the end products, just think of all the metallized stuff we buy. I will not deny the convenience these end products and the economic boost it brought us. Sure, we would not have advanced from stone age without mining. 

Having said that, I am still very much against mining. Because despite all the good things, I can't ignore its enormous environmental impact. They say it's okay as long as it's "responsible" mining. But it's displacing an ecosystem, sometimes a community. How can you call it responsible? It's like securing peace through war, how can one accept the casualties that went with it? There will always be consequences, and in the end, we will pay the price. There is no such thing as responsible mining.

One boy scout asked "so what about the minerals we need, how do we get them?". A lot of people can easily justify a despicable act with "it can't be helped eh" shikata ga nai... My question is, how much have we extracted at this point and how much more do we need? Our consumption behavior fuels the need for mining. So many people own more than one cellphone, some upgrade every year or two even when the old one is still in perfect condition, some people own multiple gadgets and all of them have the same features. Do you have any idea how many people own a digicam, SLR cam, e-book, smartphone, tablet, laptop, all at once? A LOT! More than what your basic calculator can add.

I remember a conversation I had with a friend many years ago. She just got herself the latest Ipod, this was before the touchscreen era, and she was was raving about the genius marketing of Apple, how it creates people's needs. Initially I thought she meant to say how Apple identifies the market needs and address  them with their innovative products. Later on, I realize she meant it the other way around. Apple brings us products that are eventually categorized as "needs". Genius no? For the record, I am not criticizing Apple, when my smartphone broke a few months ago, my brother gave me his old Iphone, and I am enjoying it immensely. I do recognize the legacy of Apple in the mobile industry and information technology.

I'd like to shift from pondering whether mining is good or bad, to do we really need to consume this much?

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It all comes down to us, what do we want, what do we need, can it be helped? I don't really have definite answers. All I know is, we have to start questioning our consumption habits and think hard, what is our priority? Is this really necessary? I don't believe in responsible mining but I believe in responsible consumption.

 The Story of Stuff is a 20-minute, fast-paced, fact-filled look at the underside of our production and consumption patterns. The Story of Stuff exposes the connections between a huge number of environmental and social issues, and calls us together to create a more sustainable and just world. It'll teach you something, it'll make you laugh, and it just may change the way you look at all the stuff in your life forever.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

The Overview Effect

Astronauts who have seen the Earth from space have often described the ‘overview effect’ as an experience that has transformed their perspective of the planet and mankind’s place upon it, and enabled them to perceive it as our shared home, without boundaries between nations or species.

OVERVIEW is a short film that will explore this perspective through interviews with astronauts who have experienced the overview effect. The film also features insights from commentators and thinkers on the wider implications and importance of this understanding for humanity as a whole, and especially its relevance to how we meet the tremendous challenges facing our planet at this time.

Astronauts are one of those people I truly envy. It seems to me that you have to be a genius and perfectly fit physically to be one, but more importantly, to be up there and see our dearly beloved planet in its entirety. I sometimes watch ISS earth observatory videos and I can only imagine how humbling and mesmerizing it  can be while in the Cupola for hours. It's one of my dream romantic date destinations. Here's what I know though, I don't have to fly to outer space to experience this thing they called the "overview effect".

The overview effect is a cognitive shift in awareness reported by some astronauts and cosmonauts during spaceflight, often while viewing the Earth from orbit or from the lunar surface. It refers to the experience of seeing firsthand the reality of the Earth in space, which is immediately understood to be a tiny, fragile ball of life, "hanging in the void", shielded and nourished by a paper-thin atmosphere. From space, the astronauts tell us,[5] national boundaries vanish, the conflicts that divide people become less important, and the need to create a planetary society with the united will to protect this "pale blue dot" becomes both obvious and imperative.

I don't know exactly when it started for me, this environmental concern. It certainly took me long to act. But when I look at pictures of the earth, the Earthrise, the Blue Marble, I'm just in pure awe. It's like a parent looking at a newborn child, there's love and feeling of oneness, understanding its vulnerability   and a rush of overwhelming desire to protect it. I see nothing but beauty even though in reality, there are more chaos than what we see and hear in the news everyday. As what Bette Midler had sung, "from a distance, there is harmony... from a distance you look like my friend, even though we are at war". I wonder, how did the people feel when they first saw the pictures of our home planet?