Monday, March 12, 2007

Mutya Ng Kalikasan

It seems that the longer I keep this blog, the further delayed each blog becomes. The event of this particular blog's topic actually took place slightly over a month ago but I have failed to find the time to write fully about it. Upon the departure of Tin Tin I quickly returned back to the office, putting in the longest days I have yet needed to since arriving in the Philippines. The organization and groundwork needed for a full production of this sort was beyond my initial understanding. Much of it was completed before my January guests arrived, but the final touches where finished once they left. Needless to say through organizing this event I learned a tremendous amount.

Mutya Ng Kalikasan means, in a rough translation, Miss Nature. “Miss” pageants, or beauty contests are a very popular event in the Philippines. The overall production, from the music, dresses, talents, and even intermission numbers are all things that many Filipinos enjoy greatly. Last year, around this time, I was slightly picking fun at this with my good friend, and counterpart on environmental activities. He than suggested the idea of a Miss Earth but more poignant to environmental concerns of the Philippines, particularly the schools. With our encouragement a rural school in the mountains implemented a school Mutya Ng Kalikasan last year that was very successful on a small scale.

It was than we decided to promote a municipal wide search to promote the Municipality’s new solid waste management practices, increase public awareness and increase the involvement of the students and schools in environmentalism. A lot of changes took place during the organization of this contest, some to my liking, some not to my liking but all and all the final result was extremely positive. The contestant’s gowns and wardrobes were made entirely of recycled wastes and native plants. The talents of the contestants were directly linked to the environment; with some doing interpretive dances, writing and signing songs, on the spot painting and improve speaking. Local grade schools participated in the demonstration of environmental sound practices during intermissions. The stage was all-natural; with bamboo, trees, a cave and a running waterfall. Lastly, and what I was most proud of, was the accompanying recycle drive held between the schools to see which school could recycle and sell their waste for the most amount of money. The participation of the schools was simply amazing, with the winning school receiving almost two hundred dollars through recycled waste sales. It was an awakening to the principals that this alternative income was available to them on a regular basis and I’m proud to say a month later and many schools are continuing their recycle “drives” to produce income.

In addition the contest was filmed by an English women who was doing film work for the Philippines Department of Tourism, who has since included clips of this contest in the Philippine tourism video for the Philippines. The Mayor was thrilled that a contest of this proportion could be put on at roughly a ¼ of the cost of previous contests and has pledged to support it in the future. Almost 2,000 people were in attendance that evening, who through their admittance fees, assisted in raising a total of close to 100,000 pesos that has went directly to schools for environmental education and solid waste management.

We have started the preparations for next years contest. However I won’t be here to see it completed. I will assist as much as I can up until I leave. At the moment I am also busy working on the Livelihood Sustainment project funded by the US Embassy I mentioned in a previous post. It is another project that I am under qualified for. I am doing massive amounts of research to bring my knowledge up to par. I have 9 months to liquidate the money from the grant. This will not be a problem, however I mean to do it in a very sustainable matter, especially with the knowledge that the project will most likely not be completed upon the termination of my contract this December.

"The Winner"

On a personal scale I have been trying to get into the studying groove for my GRE exam that I will be taking this June in Manila. The idea of possibly returning to school for my masters excites me, however the studying is hard to return to. In the evenings and weekends I have been biking lots and diving more and more. I hope to get my advanced dive certificate on the weekends this April. This is partly in preparation for my next little vacation in May when I will be doing a one week live-a-board at a small set of Islands in the Sulu Sea, diving 2-3 dives a day for 5 days. This upcoming holy week (first weekend of April), which is the largest celebration bar none in the Philippines and a 5 day weekend (thur/fri/mon), I have planned a bike tour around my island. It will be 3 nights, 4 days at about 100-130 K a day. That should bring you all up to date on my life for the time being. As always I would love to hear the flip side of it all and find out about the current events of your own lives as well.

I hope this post finds everyone in good health, good sprits, looking forward to summer, and happy. I miss you all.


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