Modern life phenomenon:  Minister for Loneliness

On Wednesday, the U.K. made political history by creating an entirely new, untried political role: the world’s first “minister for loneliness.” The post is designed to combat what Prime Minister Theresa May called “the sad reality of modern life” for many people.

Half a million British people over 60 only talk to another person once a week or less. People who self-report as lonely are more likely to experience dementia, heart disease, and depression. When it comes to life expectancy, the long-term health effects of loneliness are equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

The World’s First Minister of Loneliness, Feargus O’Sullivan, Citylab

Maybe there’d be less songs for the lonely in the world, let’s see.

Advertisements

Tourism-worthy design

Longaberger Company basket buildingBuilt in 1997 as the headquarters of the Longaberger Company—an American manufacturer and distributor of maple wood baskets—the building takes the shape of the company’s biggest seller, the “Medium Market Basket.” The building measures seven stories and 180,000 square feet. The structure and its surrounding 21 acres were purchased by developer Coon Restoration.

But news has it that the building’s sold to a developer. The current design is amazing so I hope it stays. 

The Philippines doesn’t venture into similar “riskier” designs, architects here influenced and still preferring Brutalist design ie. concrete-heavy fortress-like buildings. But what buildings would we have if builders design out of the box? A bahay kubo (nipa hut) perhaps? But then there’s already the iconic still operational Cultural Center in Manila…derided by people of the extreme right on the grounds that it was a project of Imelda Marcos (in other words, everything the former First Lady had ever touched is bad). Or, perhaps a reimagined pine tree…burned during the holidays in Baguio City. Accordingly some people had had enough of the artificial kind that manifested each year the dirty hand of politics.

Tourism which is being aggressively-promoted in the country iif it is to endure as a unique offering need to be packaged as a total experience of place which includes architecture. You can’t call people to come visit for them to just see or smell the flowers (literal and not!) and not care about them seeing vandalism on buildings, abandoned and decaying properties, and haphazard and uninspired design all over the place. Consciously designing the place ideally right from the start should eliminate the need later on to hide from visiting VIPs embarassing elements such as decay.

Urban diaries

How can urban diaries influence effective city planning and development outcomes?

My answer, first of all, is that using the time-honored words of designer George Nelson, “to see is to think.”

I believe that urban diaries are one key to a more inclusive and empowering approach as our cities change around us. A camera and smartphone are great tools for development of this exploration and vocabulary. We can focus on common urban themes, such as street corners, plazas, parks, and other shared spaces, and evaluate what appeals to each of us, and what does not.

Urban diary topics are as varied as the inspiration that we find in cities. The urban diary interprets the intersection of the public and private realms, the boundaries of the built and natural environments, the relationships between land uses and transportation, and issues of adaptive reuse and public safety.

Five concluding suggestions gleaned from Seeing the Better City summarize how to start thinking more visually in urban settings, and help read, frame, and connect with urban surroundings:

  • Choose the diary tool and type. Will you photograph, write in a journal, sketch, record audio, tweet, or do a combination of each? Pick a medium that best fits your diary’s purpose, whether your aim is to explore, document, or advocate for change.
  • Plan your path. Decide whether to follow a prescribed path or wander. Where will you start and end? Will you walk, bike, use public transit, or drive? Use maps (paper or digital) to gain perspective and define initial goals.
  • Select what you will focus on. Examples include the role of transportation, nature, color, the overlap of public and private space, height and scale of buildings, street features, spontaneous expression (e.g., graffiti), and feelings of safety or discomfort.
  • Use the book’s LENS (Look, Explore, Narrate, and Summarize) Method. Here are some easy examples: summarize the walk from your home to a chosen destination in one to two paragraphs, videotape a walk, bike trip, or other focused activity along a street, or use continuous shutter or “burst” mode to photograph street life that you observe from a passing car, bus, streetcar, or tram.
  • Finalize conclusions and use. Assemble and present photographs and other diary media in a way that will inspire and show what is possible and what might be adaptable to your city or neighborhood. Most importantly, address human character and opportunity, no matter how the diary will be used.


 Seeing the Better City, Making a Better Place, Charles Wolfe, Planetizen

“Women’s paths to peace”

Saan ko nga ba huhugutin and aking Kapayapaan? / Where do I find my Peace?
Kagalingan sa sakit / Healing from pain
Kaligtasan sa hinagpis / Refuge from despair
Katapusan ng alitan / The end of conflict
Walang hanggang kapayapaan / Never-ending Peace
Sa armas? / In the use of arms?
Sa pagtitiis? / In forbearance?
Ang manahimik o magmaktol? / To keep silent or brood?
Ang tanggapin ang lahat ng latay? / To endure every lash?
O gumamit sa matinding galit? / Or seek revenge in blind rage?
Sa mundo kong mabilis ang pag-ikot / In my world ever-spinning
Nakakahilo / Dizzying
Saan ko nga ba huhugutin ang aking Kapayapaan? / Where do I find my Peace?
Saan nga ba? / Where?

– opening poem, Paths to peace: A forum on women’s spirituality 2001, Women’s Feature Service Philippines Inc.

On International Volunteer Day 2017

I tried volunteering this year. The kind in which you’re not paid a salary because you’re doing the work for altruism. I did get an allowance though and family insurance and a nice semi-furnished apartment and reimbursements of official business activities. For these, I have to humbly say I was much better off than local and national volunteers. A discrepancy that PVSCA should look into in order to propose change in local and national volunteering policies among sourcing agencies.

I decided to volunteer because (1) I wanted to know the difference between a formally-employed development worker and a volunteer who offers to be deployed in order to bring about change or development and (2) I’ve had my share of frustrations with agency-initiated development and I wanted to become the change to others that eluded me and communities in agency-based development.

I learned a lot from volunteering. Well, first, obviously I wouldn’t have known those communities if I didn’t volunteer to be in those communities. Second, what is volunteer work and what isn’t (relative to the official definition). One may say the word ‘volunteer’ is simply work with no pay, but mind you that’s not the entire definition. As part of my orientation, my mentor assisted me through an exercise that helped me distinguish volunteer work from not. Third, the faces and complex dynamic of conflict in the area. There are writings about the facets of conflict in the South, but one would understand it’s complexity only when one is actually in the midst of it– seeing, smelling, feeling it. Fourth, I bow down to all the volunteers there whom I’ve met. They continue to do and actively work for what is right despite threats to their lives. I’m so  much honored that they shared to me their experiences and thoughts. I’m wiser as a result. Fifth, the turf wars and the fight for limited resources (funding) among volunteer organizations. I guess this is what happens to volunteering when it is institutionalized. The personal and personalized (act of volunteering) is controlled using rules set by the organization that could spur resistance, in-fighting, and such unless these are effectively managed. This is to say, there’s really no perfect medium to deliver change or development. What really matters then is, given these imperfect media or vehicles for change what best suits the doer at the moment? People are not static beings nor are in static situations. We change our minds, tastes, some traits in our personality, etcetera. So yeah what medium best suit the change-agent or maker at the moment?

In all cases, however, volunteers always act first in times of crisis or emergencies. They are always the first to answer the call in times of need.

Today, the International Day of Elimination of Violence Against Women

We, in the Philippines, need to review the current Anti Violence Against Women and their Children Law (Republic Act 9262) to include non-spousal violence. This requires a real and comprehensive understanding of gender inequality, that is, violence done to women (and their children) isn’t confined within a male-female relationship, but also, in many instances, within a female-female relationship as for example a mother-daughter relationship wherein either is the perpetrator or abuser. As I’ve written in earlier posts here, women also abuse other women in covert and overt ways. What if your own mother assaults you and your children in the middle of the night? What instant legal remedy could you avail of? Authorities and public services, per RA 9262, respond only to women-victims of spousal or partner abuse. It’s the saddest thing when authorities are themselves at a loss when you tell them that you want a protective order against your mother. 

One might argue there are in the Revised Penal Code remedies against non-spousal violence. True, but, you see, the treatment under this Code differs from that in RA 9262. In the latter, there is urgent response and “special” considerations ie. arrangements that are sensitive to needs of the woman-and -child(ren) victim which are not provided for in the former (RPC). 

The lesson here is, policy-makers, in enacting gender-equalizing and protection laws need first to understand the concept of gender and women ie. it is not just men who are violent or abusive. And what about domestic violence done to LGBTQ? Moreover, enactment of laws such as RA 9262 cannot be divorced from laws such as on divorce given that women’s rights are non-divisive. One’s right to life cannot be divorced from one’s right to education. Sama-sama lahat yan. Policy-makers need to understand these in order to draw up effective policies.

International day elimination of violence against women

Four years post-Yolanda: remembering Filipino aid workers

the filipino aid workers of typhoon haiyan
Newton Tech4Dev Network launches the book The Filipino Aid Workers on November 9, 2017 at De La Salle University. The commemorative book brings together powerful stories and evocative photographs of eight Filipino aid workers who conducted technology and communications work for international aid agencies in the wake of Yolanda. The book recounts not only the difficult stories of working in an emergency context, but also their personal challenges. The launch will feature a roundtable to discuss with the aid workers to be honored their key lessons learned from the Yolanda response and invite reflection on how global aid agencies can better support local aid workers.

The featured stories provide a snapshot of the work of Filipino aid workers in the country, the challenges encountered in the field, and the innovative solutions borne out of those challenges. The book is available to download on Newton Tech4Dev.

Baguio City: UNESCO City of Crafts and Folk Art

​The role of culture is…now taken into account particularly within Sustainable Development Goal n°11 to “Make cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable”. UNESCO and other stakeholders have been actively advocating for the integration of culture and creativity in the international development agenda.

2030 Sustainable Development Goals

It is first and foremost at local level that culture and creativity are lived and practised on a daily basis. It is therefore by stimulating cultural industries, supporting creation, promoting citizen and cultural participation and approaching the public sphere with a new perspective that public authorities, in cooperation with the private sector and civil society, can make the difference and support a more sustainable urban development suited to the practical needs of the local population.
The contribution of culture to urban development is also acknowledged in the New Urban Agenda (led by UN Habitat).

Building partnerships and sharing practices lies among the key principles of the (UNESCO Creative Cities) Network. However, despite significant effort to improve the geographical balance of the Network, cities from the Global South are still under-represented. Ensuring equitable representation from different regions is a strategic objective to ensure the sustainability of the Network through inclusiveness as well as its capacity to demonstrate the power of creativity for sustainable development in diverse social and economic contexts, in line with the core values of UNESCO. Opening up the Network to cities from the Global South also offers the opportunity to explore new dimensions of creativity, often more intimately linked to local development, which is also a source of mutual learning for member cities.
The seven creative fields provide an anchor to characterize each city, ensure their visibility and facilitate fundraising to support their programmes. The categories also reflect the identity and strategic positioning of the Network and constitute an added value for its visibility. 

Baguio City joins UNESCO’s Creative Cities Network, as a City of Crafts and Folk Art.

Baguio City UNESCO Creative City Crafts & Folk Art
via UNESCO webpage

So happy for the City! So proud for the woodcarvers, weavers, knitters, painters, tattooists, folk singers, writers, dancers and choreographers, jewelry makers, etc.! They have faithfully preserved their craft even when it has gotten difficult over time. Indeed the global recognition is a dream come true and opens up a world of possibilities for both the community and the City.


Quoted texts (except par.2), source: Building a Collective Vision for the Future, UNESCO Creative Cities Network (UCCN) Strategic Framework 2017-2021

Quoted text, par.2, source: Why Creativity? Why Cities?, UNESCO UCCN website

Why Ms. Avancena should be called First Lady and reporters, male and female, need to overcome prejudicial views of women

Common law wife. Others, just wife. Some, partner. But first things first: common law wife is not necessarily synonymous with mistress or kabit.

And, please, wife or partner is a non-title. It would be the height of discourtesy, or is it unlawful, in Britain, for example, if a local reporter headlines his report with Prince William arrives in Paris for a second State visit with his commoner wife Katie and their half breed children George and Charlotte who by the way is a spitting image of old lady Elizabeth. Such reporting will I’m sure bring out the Red Queen in Queen Elizabeth II. Wife, whether the woman is in Britain or the Philippines, a royal or not, is an adjective not a title not even a person. 

The President has been heard to have spoken about Ms. Avancena as replaceable, but logic would tell you, it was uttered perhaps just to wake up sleepy heads in the audience – at which time the sleepy heads did wake up, wrote down what they’d just heard, without understanding that those words were really for them not about Ms. Avancena, and if they’d dug deeper into previous talks, they should’ve also heard the President crediting Ms. Avancena for helping him look after his health which says something about his trust of her – so that, as verified by deeds, he’s actually respectful of her, a case of actions speaking louder than words.

Hence ik-kan tayo met a apo iti asin dayta sa-o tayo (let’s add in salt to our words), as what old folks in Ilocandia remind younger people. Let’s be more professional in our approach to reporting. Or, if we don’t want professional, then, be gender sensitive as this is a required competency in journalists. 

Moreover, media people’s refusal or difficulty acknowledging Ms. Avancena as the First Lady (shocking, too, that on the Net “history” has written her off as just businesswoman and nurse) in light of the annullment of the President’s first marriage could only be explained by machismo and prejudice overtaking their education. Because, people, in the Philippines:

When a man and a woman who are capacitated to marry each other, live exclusively with each other as husband and wife without the benefit of marriage or under a void marriage, their wages and salaries shall be owned by them in equal shares and the property acquired by both of them through their work or industry shall be governed by the rules on co-ownership.

In the absence of proof to the contrary, properties acquired while they lived together shall be presumed to have been obtained by their joint efforts, work or industry, and shall be owned by them in equal shares. For purposes of this Article, a party who did not participate in the acquisition by the other party of any property shall be deemed to have contributed jointly in the acquisition thereof if the former’s efforts consisted in the care and maintenance of the family and of the household.

– Article 147 of the Philippine Family Code

Why media editors do not know that the law recognizes common law union and renders it with rights otherwise would’ve promptly called their reporters attention is grave negligence on their part. They’re lucky nobody’s suing them (look at US First Lady Melania and Duchess of Cambridge who sued media outfits who publicized their photos. Yes there is the right to free speech but there are certain lines that can’t be crossed, out of basic human respect for another). Such also points to the role of the coomunications outfit for Malacanan, in terms of laying out the protocol to be observed by media covering the Office of the President: official titles, official names (eg. is it Honeylet or Cielito?), and important what-nots. The choice of public address of the wife of the Philippine President reflects not just on individual reporters but more importantly  on the Filipino people as he is their elect and on the State which he and his family represents.