Weathering the Storm: September 29-October 1, 2011    Dumaguete Climate Change Presentation

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With NORSU President Henry Sojor and NORSU Board of Regents Member,  Arlene Grino.

(Note: In trying to reconstruct my Climate Presentations list, Arlene Grino of MISSION Dumaguete sent me her report of the Climate Change Presentation Series I did in Dumaguete City. This originally appeared in the MISSION website on October 6, 2011.)

Last Thursday, at exactly 6:36 AM, our dynamic speaker Shiela ‘GORE’ Castillo texted me that she was boarding her Cebu Pacific flight. She was finally enroute to Dumaguete after missing the previous flight having been stranded at Calapan Port due to typhoon Pedring. Having moved the schedules twice, I was happiest to see her emerge from the airport’s arrival area. Shiela had plenty of time to prepare and freshen up for the first engagement: Silliman University, 10 o’clock AM, Assembly Hall.

There were two sections from the High School department of Silliman, each section having about 50 students;  another section of 20 from the Masscom Department; teachers and walk-ins another 30. The open forum was highlighted with one high school student asking, in beautiful deep Tagalog, what they, as a studentry, can specifically do to address the climate crisis. Different reps from various advocacy groups such as and FENOR (Friends of the Environment in Negros Oriental) took turns providing suggestions. A faculty from the Masscom department shared what her class has been doing for the semester: conducting surveys among the stakeholders and information dissemination on proper waste management. They hope to come up with a  sustainable waste disposal program for the campus. A few days after, the same group extended an invitation for us to sit in during their presentation so we can help deliberate on an advertisement they created to save the environment.

In the afternoon we proceeded to Foundation University. There were about 200 student leaders that filled up the Audio Visual room, most of them participants during the last September 24th march around the city urging the public to use less fossil fuels. During the merienda after the talk, the Vice-president and owner of the University, Dean Sinco, joined us. He brought with him samples of charcoal made from coconut husks. It was a by-product of their College of Agriculture from their coco sugar production. Their College of Engineering has also fabricated what they call ‘bio-mechanical goats’ (BMG), a simple mechanical device that hastens the conversion of organic waste into compost fertilizer. They have distributed it to several municipalities and supervise the composting project themselves. Among the Universitites, Foundation University leads in environmental advocacies. The school serves as a strong ally of green-minded souls.

Before ending the day, we passed by the home of Silliman University President Ben S. Malayang III. A former USEC of DENR, he shared with us his green vision for Silliman. Among those projects mentioned were: 1) bio-diversified waste management on a 16-hectare site outside campus; 2) a loan-a-bicycle program among students, faculty and staff to lessen use of motorcycles and cars; and 3) something that was borne out of our long late afternoon tea discussion: hiring a University officer who will focus on synergizing pro-environment practices throughout the campus which entails a separate office all together.

Our presentation the following morning at the Philippine Science High School was co-sponsored by Rotary Club Dumaguete South. Thru our Mission member Melvin UyMatiao. Fifty (50) class officers from various levels were chosen as audience and provided snacks to. Like the previous two forums, they all seem to connect strongly with images showing forest and Arctic animals suffering from loss of habitat. The incumbent and past presidents of the Rotary Club both participated in the open forum. They spoke of their tree-planting projects, of which grown trees now line busy roads of Dumaguete. At one point, the audience was asked to identify trees. This was very telling since most of them could not name common trees found around the city. One student even mistook a Mahogany tree for Santol. The good news is, when Rotary South had their meeting a few days after the forum, they made plans to send their young Interact members to Liptong Woodlands, a privately-owned local tree reserve to familiarize themselves with endemic tree species.

In the afternoon, Shiela had the privilege of speaking to fifty (50) seminarians at the St. Pauls University.  There were also a handful of students and college faculty present. Both Gilbert Uymatiao and Frans Koerkamp were present.

Negros Oriental State University (NORSU) was conquered on the third and final day of the campus tour. About 250 people (officers of the different campus organizations, faculty and administration officers, public school teachers and private individuals) filled up the audio-visual room on a Saturday morning –quite impressive considering Government campuses are closed on weekends. Backed by their school choir, President Henry A. Sojor was there to personally welcome Shiela.

During the open forum, one of the student leaders asked President Sojor  what projects in campus can be started to address the Climate Crisis. Shiela suggested a money-making waste disposal system which she picked up from other campuses she has presented at. I also took the opportunity to throw in a few ideas for them to consider: 1) a solar-powered celphone charging center –since solar panels are locally produced on the island;  2) loan-a-bicycle project; and 3) take advantage of the continuous sharp increase in precipitation levels by designing a rain-catching system to be installed on all building roofs to collect rain water for toilet use. The ideas were met with excitement but most importantly, with approval from President Sojor.  He immediately instructed members of his administration to draft a requisition for the solar-powered charging centers for all nine (9) campuses around the province. The faculty head of  all Student Organizations was asked to look into the feasibility of the bicycle program. Next would be for us to lobby at the City Engineer’s office to consider requiring rooftop rainwater catching devices for  ongoing and future building.

Throughout the presentations, MISSION was introduced. Members of other environment organizations who came to support were also acknowledged. A follow-up letter showing our appreciation and encouragement for future tie-ups will be sent to the different participating groups.

It was mid-afternoon when I drove Shiela to the port where she rode a pumpboat to cross to Cebu. Another storm has entered the country by then but the sea seemed safe for travel. At exactly 7:43 that evening, Shiela GORE texted that she arrived safely home. #


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