Mika’s One Earth

2013_1108_aguilos_survivor_mika“If there’s only one earth how come we had the typhoon in Tacloban, but not here in Manila?”, asked Mika, leaving her host dumbfounded.  The 5-year old Haiyan survivor,  along with her mother and three other siblings, evacuated to the Philippine Capital Region six days after the typhoon hit her town.  She had experienced the intensity of Typhoon Haiyan’s2013_1108_aguilos_survivors_shelter destructive force, the wind that rendered her family homeless , and the flood that killed thousands in her hometown.  She saw and smelled the rotting bodies as she and her family walked the streets of Tacloban, looking for a bus ride to Manila. They had waited to no avail,  for a  C-130 flight out of Tacloban, leaving them  thirsty and exposed to the elements for almost twelve  hours.

Mika and the rest in her household were among the lucky ones. Their community, which is about five  kilometers inland, was spared of the storm surge that inundated those areas closer to the sea.  However, the winds packing a maximum of 314 kilometers per hour, blew away most roofs, and the heavy rains of up to 30 millimeters  per hour soaked everyone and everything in her neighborhood.2013_1108_aguilos_clinic_damaged2

In Mika’s one Earth, the deadly supertyphoon started more than 3,000 kilometers east of the Philippines, giving it plenty of water over which to strengthen. (See “Clues to Supertyphoon’s Ferocity in the Western Pacific,” by Dennis Normile, Science , Vol. 342, p.1027, 11/29/2013.) With the storm moving over the warm ocean at a very fast clip of 32 kilometers per hour, researcher  I-I Lin of the National Taiwan University likened Haiyan  to a car moving without a break.   It was moving before the storm’s churn could be slowed down by pulling deeper and cooler water to the surface. Lin explained that “the warmer the subsurface layer, the faster the moving speed, the smaller the cooling effect.”

About the storm surge, there was mention of  the strong easterly wind that caused the piling up of water in western Pacific, where the sea-level rise over a 20-year period exceeds 20 centimeters.  “It is likely that the elevated sea level contributed to the flood and inundation problems  in the Philippines,” Bo Qiu of the University of Hawaii, Manoa was quoted saying. (Ibid. Normille, 2013)

2013_damaged_tacloban_sanjose_peninsula_After_1400With the official death toll from the Leyte and Samar islands almost 7,000 now,  there’s a consensus among the survivors and with some Philippine Government officials that  Tacloban City and neighboring cities were not prepared  for the impact of the super typhoon.  Warnings of storm surge were not fully understood, not even by the Mayor of Tacloban City nor by federal government officials like the Secretary of Interior and the Secretary of National Defense.  These officials sheltered in buildings less than a 500 meters from the ocean, rendering them too shocked and weakened to lead an effective rescue and relief operations at the most critical period. Anderson Cooper was spot on in his observation of November 13, 2013,five days after Haiyan made its deadly landfall in Tacloban.  “There is no real evidence of organized recovery or relief, ” he said on his tweet.

Among the first signs that things have improved came through Mika’s Uncle who wrote in an email of December 13, 2013:

Typhoon Haiyan's Path

Typhoon Haiyan’s Path

“I survived. My family survived from the strongest typhoon in the world ever recorded – Typhoon Haiyan , locally known as Typhoon Yolanda. After a little over a month my family is just fine. For three weeks my family stayed in a Barangay hall which served as the evacuation center.

We lost everything in that horrible typhoon but we are all alive. I only saved the important documents such as live birth certificates and other important matters. I was able to save my CPU and the monitor but not the printer. Our evacuation center was already congested.

The last time I opened my email was November 6. I informed you that a typhoon was coming and will hit Eastern Visayas. I was already monitoring that typhoon a week before the landfall. I knew it was powerful but the damage and the number of casualties were beyond my expectations. Maybe it’s  because of the storm surge that killed thousands in Waray region. Fortunately, Tolosa had only 18 casualties because it was not hit by the storm surge.

I received a US AID tent – a huge one – thru the effort of the Catholic Relief Services(CRS). We also received lot of relief goods coming from different countries and from the local organizations. I already  have a cell phone loading business(Smart & Globe). My family is okay and GOD BLESS US ALL.

 I have to cut this message because my time is limited. I am just renting in an internet Cafe’. Thank you again.”

Mika continues to stay in her temporary home in Metro Manila. She and her three siblings are back in school. While she initially had challenges adjusting  to the shift in medium of instruction from English to Tagalog, she has reported that she’s starting to understand her lessons a little bit better nowadays. Her mom has found a job several miles away in the big city, with a three-hour commute every day.  Her other cousins who have evacuated to Manila as well have since returned to Tacloban, where their home was  among the very few that sustained the strong winds but were spared from the storm surge.

As the public and non-profit sectors talk about rebuilding the region ravaged by Haiyan, both environmental and engineering solutions to mitigating the effects of storm surge on densely populated coastal zones must be part of the conversation.  A good resource are  The Dutch Dialogues workshops initiated, in connection with the rebuilding efforts post Hurricane Katrina. These workshops involved  Dutch engineers, urban designers, landscape architects, city planners and soils/hydrology experts and,  their Louisiana counterparts.



A traditional house in Batanes Island

Among those initiating a conversation on a post-Haiyan rebuilding effort is the United Architects of the Philippines,which, as recent news releases have it, are offering their pro-bono services on designing typhoon resistant homes. In a forum

20131121-roof_4aguasheld on November 20, 2013, they identified at least 8 features of a typhoon-resistant home: (1) Highly replicable components; (2) Durable materials – e.g., concrete; (3) 4-side slope roofs; (4) stilts; (5) tempered glass with protective film or sticker; (6) storm shutters; (7) safe elevated location; and (8) revised building standards.

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Of Eartha Kitt, Typhoon Haiyan, and Waray Grit

A Waray coconut vendor at Tacloban Public Market, 2010.

A Waray coconut vendor at Tacloban Public Market, 2010.

A month after Typhoon Haiyan ravaged my home town, stories of death, destruction, and survival linger. However, listening to the song “Waray Waray” never fails to snap me back into a positive mode. The popular version is in Tagalog and has been sung by artists of global fame, like the late  Eartha Kitt and Lea Salonga. It extols the grit of the Warays, especially its women.

A wounded Typhoon Haiyan survivor seeks help from Catherine, a Waray midwife.

A wounded Typhoon Haiyan survivor seeks help from Catherine, a Waray midwife.

Eartha Kitt had a saltier translation. In her spiels while performing at Cafe Carlyle she said,  “I suppose you wonder what language this is? It’s the language of the Philippine Islands called Tagalog. And it says, the women of Waray Waray have muscles of steel, and we can fight any battle, but our kisses are as sweet as wine.”

The original version was in Waray language (See rough translation into English below.)It’s poignant in its

Dried Fish Vendor - Tacloban Public Market, 2010

Dried Fish Vendor – Tacloban Public Market, 2010

narrative of abundance, especially these days. It also speaks of the people’s resilience, something that photojournalist David Guttenfeleder of the Associated Press and National Geographic captured in his photographs and shared through his Instagram. With this wealth in spirit, there’s no doubt that the Leyte and Samar region that Haiyan ravaged will recover.

“Waray  Waray “

(Original Version in Lineyte-Samarnon)

1. Waray-Waray, pirme may upay
Mayda lubi, mayda pa humay
Iton dagat damo it isda
Ha bungto han mga Waray.
2. Waray-Waray pirme malipay
Di makuri igkasarangkay
Nag-iinom kon nagkikita
Bas’ kamingaw mawara!

3. Lugar han mga Waray-Waray
Kadto-a naton, pasyadaha
Diri birilngon an kalipay
Labi na gud kon may fiesta.

4. Mga tawo nga Waray-Waray
Basta magkita, mayda upay
Diri kabos hit pakig-angay
Sayod kamo basta Waray.
5. Waray-Waray! Waray-Waray !

     Kabuhi maupay
Waray-Waray! Damo iton lubi pati humay)
Waray-Waray! It mga dagat riko hin isda)
Ha bungto han mga Waray!

6. Waray-Waray! Waray-Waray pirme la malipay
Waray-Waray! Diri makuri igkasarangkay
Waray-Waray! Nag-iirignom kon nagkikita
Bas’ kamingaw mawara!

Waray  Waray


1. Waray Waray, feast is constant

     With coconut and rice

     Its seas teem with fish

     In Waray-Waray land.

2. Waray-Waray, fun loving,


     They drink when they gather

     Vanishing loneliness.


3. To  Waray Waray land

    Let’s go visit

   It’s fun-filled

    Especially during fiestas.


4. The Waray-Waray people

    They have a feast when they gather

    Their hospitality never falls short

     You’re certain of this with the Warays.


5. Waray-Waray! Waray-Waray

     Life is good

     Waray-Waray! Coconuts and rice abound

     Waray-Waray! Its seas teem with fish

     In  Waray land.


6. Waray-Waray! Waray-Waray !Fun-loving

    Waray-Waray! Waray-Waray! Friendly

   Waray-Waray! Waray-Waray !

    They drink when they gather

     Vanishing loneliness.

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Feasts and Festivals of Fall

This gallery contains 13 photos.

Winter has already started dumping snow in Colorado since two weeks ago, but memories of the festivals of fall still lingers. Remembering the joyful times – before last month’s floods unhinged homes and lives in the Rocky Mountains – is … Continue reading

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Kuratsa – A Rich Life in Dance

Samar Congressman Marcelino Libanan dances "Kuratsa Mayor".

Samar Congressman Marcelino Libanan dances “Kuratsa Mayor”.

“You walk, swim, and fly,” coached an amazing lady we fondly call Nanay Charing. At 85 years old she can still out-dance everyone on the dance floor. Her life is a lively, inspiring kuratsa, a traditional dance of the Waray people with roots from the islands of Leyte and Samar.

“Walking, swimming, and flying as dance steps are limited to the girls,” stresses Mana Charing. Indeed, in the dozens of kuratsa dances I’ve watched in my lifetime, the guys’ ability to be graceful lie in their abilities to kee their upper bodies stiff. However,  their joints have to be very flexible as they have to bend their knees while doing mincing and jumping steps, all at the same time – especially in that part of the dance mimicking a chase.

Kuratsa has unlimited number of steps and figures, allowing the dancers to be creative. Innovation in the dance, as in life, freshens up this ritualistic workout that blends centuries-old narrative of courtship and celebration of the natives with the music and dance steps that are heavily influenced by their colonizers from Europe. This dance would not be out of place in those islands depicted in the ” Zorba the Greek” movie.

Kuratsa is not unlike the the sirtaki, the Greek dance which combines the slow and fast versions of the Greek folk dance, hasapiko. Kuratsa starts with the “walk”. In the middle part of the dance are the mincing and chasing steps that increasingly go faster. After the chase comes what I’d call the “hostage” phase where one partner is lead to seat down on a chair, signaling those in the camp of the other dancer to throw in their cash into the dance floor. Then the kuratsa resumes with the slow phase, followed by another round of chasing and holding the other dancer “hostage”. This time, those from the other camp take their turn in throwing in their money into the dance floor. The dance could go on forever, until the dancers slow down, bow, and return to their respective seats.

Unlike the sirtaki, kuratsa is danced by two dancers, traditionally male and female. While sirtaki eventually has most in the crowd participating in the dancing, in kuratsa, the crowd participates by opening their wallets and throwing in their cash.

The proceeds of the kuratsa dance go to the newly married couple, if the dance is performed during a wedding feast. However, if the kuratsa is performed during a fiesta celebration, the proceeds are used to finance projects of the fiesta organizers. With this fundraising element of the dance, kuratsa is popularly referred to as a prosperity dance. Imagine if all the members of the U.S. Congress could dance the kuratsa in a way that will allow their supporters to contribute their cash for building roads and bridges?

In many ways, kuratsa is a story of getting most from life – through grace, smarts and rhythm – with the support of family, friends and a whole village that cares. Listening to Nanay Charing’s stories, kuratsa embodies her life. As a school teacher with seven children, she needed to help augment the household income. She needed to help her husband, a military officer, support her brood. She started a peddling business that provided basic consumer goods to her customers through long-term payment schemes. Soon she would branch out into micro lending, and eventually into financing of large scale construction projects. From her stories, the most challenging point of her life was when her husband became fatally ill, even as they were putting four of her children through medical school in Manila. She learned to survive in the most hostile environment in Mindanao, where there was a raging insurgency and secessionist movement. As a military officer’s wife, she was a prime target for ambush. She learned all the security measures she could do to protect herself while keeping her business afloat and taking care of a sick husband.
Today, Nanay Charng takes pride in the successes of her children, four of whom are practicing medical doctors in the U.S., with the rest of the children having successful careers based on their nursing profession. The careers that her children pursued were her choices more than her children’s, she asserts. My niece of high school age, who was listening in to her stories could only exclaim, in teenager fashion, “She’s hardcore!”.

Nanay Charing was called on to dance the kuratsa at the fiesta that night. She didn’t miss a step on that particularly long dance sequence. With every dance step, the past and the future merge like a time machine – tradition enabling the fiesta organizers to move forward with their mission of service. This kuratsa generated over $800 in proceeds that night – and more: an enriched cultural experience for the next generation who participated in the event and saw the feat of keeping one’s balance, even if one has to swim, hop, and fly.

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Spring and Hibiscus


It’s spring! It may not feel like it with about a foot of snow outside, but with my red hibiscus in full bloom today, there’s reason to believe the season is moving ahead to be in sync with the Eastertide.



Spring in my book started earlier when on March 13, 2013, when Jorge Mario Cardinal Bergoglio, S.J. became the 266th leader of 1.2 billion Catholics all over the world, choosing the name Francis.

Pope Francis - Photo by http://www.google.com/url?sa=i&rct=j&q=pope+francis&source=images&cd=&cad=rja&docid=FPkFDCkMZAFd-M&tbnid=cBNtZTEAFT84SM:&ved=0CAMQjhw&url=http%3A%2F%2Ftotallycoolpix.com%2F2013%2F03%2Felection-of-pope-francis-the-1st%2F&ei=6dlTUZ_0OqGFiAK8uoDACg&bvm=bv.44442042,d.cGE&psig=AFQjCNFSHxAt3mdwf7LmQX4PAHeRDpMrvg&ust=1364536102031261

In his homily at the mass inaugurating the Petrine Ministry on March 19, 2013, His Holiness Pope Francis stressed on the need to protect creation and humanity, echoing his consistent voice for social and economic justice, as well as the environmental message that his namesake is popularly associated with. Thus, Pope Francis said:

“The vocation of being a ‘protector’, however, is not just something involving us Christians alone; it also has a prior dimension which is simply human, involving everyone. It means protecting all creation, the beauty of the created world, as the Book of Genesis tells us and as Saint Francis of Assisi showed us. It means respecting each of God’s creatures and respecting the environment in which we live. It means protecting people, showing loving concern for each and every person, especially children, the elderly, those in need, who are often the last we think about. It means caring for one another in our families: husbands and wives first protect one another, and then, as parents, they care for their children, and children themselves, in time, protect their parents. It means building sincere friendships in which we protect one another in trust, respect, and goodness. In the end, everything has been entrusted to our protection, and all of us are responsible for it. Be protectors of God’s gifts!”

How does one become a protector? Pope Francis suggested starting with oneself, especially emotional fortitude, even as he reminded everyone the virtue of tenderness as a sign of strength.

“But to be ‘protectors’, we also have to keep watch over ourselves! Let us not forget that hatred, envy, and pride defile our lives! Being protectors, then, also means keeping watch over our emotions, over our hearts, because they are the seat of good and evil intentions: intentions that build up or tear down! We must not be afraid of goodness or even tenderness!”

“Here I would add one more thing: caring, protecting, demands goodness; it calls for a certain tenderness. In the Gospels, Saint Joseph appears as a strong and courageous man, a working man, yet in his heart we see great tenderness, which is not the virtue of the weak but rather a sign of strength of spirit and a capacity for concern, for compassion, for genuine openness to others, for love. We must not be afraid of goodness, of tenderness!”

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Living Sustainability in Germany

The Federal Government of Germany has what looks like a straightforward strategy for sustainability. The strategy is summarized into Ten Golden Rules. Its introductory remarks thus says:

“The national sustainability strategy is not intended to be a theoretical or academic paper. It seeks to provide practical guidelines to help politicians and society as a whole align their actions to the imperatives of sustainability. Rule of thumb: Every generation must solve its own problems rather than passing them on to the next generation. At the same time it must make provision for foreseeable future problems. This applies to conserving the natural resource base on which life depends, to economic development and to social cohesion and demographic change.”

Sustainability may be an idea that is quite a challenge to wrap one’s head around, especially if the intention is to translate the concept into actionable measures now rather than later. My recent visit to Berlin and Frankfurt showed me that far from being an esoteric concept, sustainability could actually be a mainstream ethos. On this trip, a sustainable lifestyle meant thoughtful consumption of resources, not necessarily making do with less, but focusing on what’s more important.

Public Transport Bias

Berliners impressed me as having an almost ideological preference for public transport. On arriving at the Tegel Airport, the advice was to take a combination of bus and train rides to our hotel. Asked about taxi service, the unanimous response was “No, it’s very expensive!” It did not seem to be a problem that we had with us heavy suitcases and an assortment of carry-ons.

The Berliners we met were generous with directions, both right or wrong way. Like superheroes, they would pry open the train door when they see you fail to board the train that you thought was the right one. Also, they will carry your pieces of luggage up dozens of steps of what seemed to be a climb to the Acropolis of Athens.

We reached our hotel in the south side of Berlin, after about three hours of intense commuter experience. What was meant to be  one train transfer took about five, with the route complicated by the fact that one train stop was actually closed for repairs. However, it was an opportunity to see how an efficient public transport system that, combined with the residents’ willingness to walk, makes for an impressive lifestyle. With over 4 million residents, traffic congestion seemed so mild.

Efficient Use of Space

Staying at the Dorint Adlershof-Berlin Hotel could easily make an American feel too cozy. It was rather disappointing when one realizes that free Wi-Fi service was available only at their business center, which consisted of one desktop computer at the hotel’s lobby; when coffee is available only if you shell out €3 a cup; when there are no brochures on local attractions and restaurants (instead one is told to contact the local tourist bureau). On the other hand, the customer does enjoy drinks in cups and tumblers that sing. The austere services and space limited physical and carbon footprint, while possibly increasing profitability.

Proactive Waste Reduction
At the Kaufland Supermarket near the hotel, where we savored traditional German deli food and delicate pastries, it was interesting to watch how shoppers minimize waste generation. They bring their own grocery bags, bag their their own purchases, and redeem their empty beer bottles. Eateries offered real, non-disposable tableware.

In Frankfurt, we had the luxury of being hosted by friends at their apartment located in a quiet and quaint town of Rödermark in Nue Isenburg. The young couple’s hospitality and graciousness were so heartwarming. They insisted that we use their master’s bedroom. Their only requirement was for us to leave our shoes outside their bedroom, and outside their door, if possible.

They took extra care in what and how much stuff and food to bring into their apartment, since the cost of waste disposal significantly goes up with the amount of waste generated. Our hosts mentioned that they can easily save €50 by taking time to redeem empty bottles. They don’t drink any alcoholic drinks, so potentially households that consume alcohol will save much more by redeeming empty bottles. The incentive to recycle is real. Theoretically, it’s possible to eliminate paying for waste pick-up services.

Smart Urban Planning and Housing

Housing accounts for much less footprint per household in Germany than in the U.S. as residents don’t seem to mind living in multi- family buildings. Home ownership is not much of a dream; most residents rent their homes.

Our hosts in Frankfurt’s suburb work about fifteen minutes away by car. With their son going to a school where his mom teaches, there’s less driving required. Flexibility in the husband’s work schedule allows him to prepare their breakfast and pack their lunches. While eating out is an option, it’s never the default meal practice. Since the family prefers not to have television, mealtimes are full of conversations. 

A few blocks from the building is the main street, which is also the way to the forest park and playground. Traffic is light; buses are popular for many residents. At around noon, many school children walk home. I didn’t see teenagers hanging out in public spaces. How this community could keep their teenagers invisible was intriguing.

Inconvenient Sustainability?

Mine may have been an experience of an idealized lifestyle. However, it’s always nice to be reminded that sustainability can be real in some pockets of this world full of breathing, consuming, living human beings. Of course, it can be argued that there are macroeconomic disadvantages to sticking to an austere lifestyle. But for the hotel owner, it could mean satisfying the profit incentive, as well as giving the customer a feel-good experience of reduced human footprint. For the grocer, encouraging their customers  to bag their own purchases allows their customers to be mindful of the amount of stuff and waste they could bring to their homes. For the restaurant owner, offering non-disposable plates, silver, and tumblers may just be a matter of taste, but it allows customers to enjoy their food, even as their waste generation is reduced. If sustainability is not about making rational choices about consumption, if it’s not about balancing economic, social, and environmental goals for current and future generations, what would it be about?

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A Younger Moon Turned Inside Out

At the ELS session on Disintegrative Capture Theory for the Origin of the Moon, Forum Adlershof, Berlin, Germany on April 20, 2012.

On April 19-20, 2012 the German Aerospace Center Institute of Planetary Research hosted the 2012 European Lunar Symposium in Berlin. The symposium, which was also sponsored by NASA’s Lunar Science Institute, was breathtaking in its inclusiveness, providing a forum for discussion on the over 50 papers presented  by lunar scholars from Europe, the United States, Japan, and Russia.

Among the most remarkably bold papers presented was that of Peter Noerdlinger   – “A New Disintegrative Capture Theory of the Origin of the Moon.”

In vigorously challenging the currently accepted Giant Impact theory, Noerdlinger pointed out the many problems of this GI theory, including the following:

  • The violent collision between Theia (the GI object about the size of Mars) and the Earth melts the entire Earth, contrary to geological evidence.
  • The Moon condenses out of the vapor cloud generated by the collision, despite evidence that the moon was NOT condensed out of vapor.

Noerdlinger’s version of how the Moon was formed which was based on his years of independent study features the following points:

  • The Proto Moon or the object that resulted in the creation of the Moon started in the same orbital path as the Earth around the Sun, but at Earth’s Lagrange Point 4 (L4). This Proto Moon, which was captured into Earth orbit, was 4 times less massive than the Giant Impact’s  object, Thea.
  • The Proto Moon had a 32% Iron-Nickel-Sulfur core supporting a dynamo, accounting for the magnetized lunar rocks. After being captured into the Earth’s orbit, the Proto Moon, tidal forces tore it apart, with its iron core and some of its rock mantle plastering onto the Earth’s surface, producing a “Late Veneer”.

    Magnetized Troctolite 76535 collected by Apollo 17

  • The remaining Proto Moon rock formed into what is now the Moon following a tidal stripping that drove the Proto Moon rock away from the Earth at a distance of about 3.8 times the Earth’s radius.
  • The Moon may be 3.8 to 3.9 billion years old, much younger than the commonly assumed age of 4.56 billion years.
  • The minerals in the Moon would be about as old as the Earth, with some rearranging during the capture and temporary disintegration process. Essentially, the Moon was turned inside out.
  • If the Moon is as young as suggested, its origin would coincide with the beginning of life on Earth – an aspect unexplained by the Giant Impact theory.

There is expectation that much of what is now a rather lopsided debate on the Moon’s formation will be decided by data that NASA’s  twin  GRAIL spacecraft started collecting since March 2012. (http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/grail/news/grail20120307.html)

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