Accountant advocates for ‘environmental crusade’

“We need to do something!”

Almost a month ago, I got to visit one of the celebrated tourist attractions in Zamboanga, the Great Sta. Cruz Island, known for its pink sand. It is not really pink per se, but if you take a closer look of its sand, you’ll definitely see pink particles scattered on it. It has been said that these are dead corals broken into pieces caused by the irresponsible dynamite fishing in the area, let alone by global warming.

It is a big enigma that it is primarily because of the pink sand that the island is known for, pink sand which when examined is tantamount to the outcry of the environment.

That very night, I also chanced upon a friend whom I haven’t talked to for almost a year. We discussed anything under the sun – both profane and profound. We talked about life, jested some of our mutual friends, and of course shared the things we feel passionate about – the environment included. Hence, before we parted ways, he adamantly recommended that I watch Chasing Corals – a documentary about the beauty and chaos of coral reefs.

Truth be told, I almost forgot about it. Not until when we celebrated the #EarthHour2018.

I have always loved watching documentary films especially those of Kara David’s and Howie Severino’s, but this one is for the books, being the first foreign documentary film I’ve watched. And it is an understatement to say that it is disturbing. It is poignant. Heart-breaking. But equally moving.

The film is opened by Richard Vevers with a very powerful statement, “Most people stare up into space with wonder. Yet, we have this almost alien world on our own planet just teeming with life.” That was engaging enough to make us realize that there is that life underneath that we need to notice. Life underneath that we need to help. Life underneath that co-exist with us.

Vevers, a former London advertising executive who left his job to advocate for the world’s oceans, discovered that the mass global bleaching event is imminent and eventually decided that the best service he can provide the undersea universe is to photograph the bleaching as it happens in order to alert the world about the crisis.

Like any good marketer, he knows that he has to communicate this complex phenomenon in engaging, succinct ways to prompt audiences to take action. Except in this film, the action is not buying a product but rather saving the planet.

The film tracks the worldwide disappearance of coral, a crucial part of ecosystem sustaining the marine life. I never thought it is that devastating. It is heart-rending to see the corals succumb to an invisible menace. From the colorful shade of magenta and ochre, they suddenly turn to blue and purple and green before fading to bright white. The bleaching event that was documented in the Great Barrier Reef in Australia has been the longest, deadliest, and most widespread in history.

And the fact is this is an environmental tragedy of our own making. If we don’t address the warming of this planet, we will lose this ecosystem and millions of people will suffer.

I am writing this because for one I want to help the team behind the film to spread the word about this chaos that is happening underneath. The footage shows how problematic it is to set up time-lapse camera rigs underwater to document the bleaching. It was unsuccessful that they have to dive with special cameras to meticulously record the day-to-day changes on the ocean floor. The output of that passion has to be communicated.

Second, I am also deeply moved by what Dr. John Veron (the world’s foremost expert on coral reefs) said in the film, “The least I can do is to influence people because I just have to. Otherwise, I won’t like the person I will be when I am old”.

And to influence is to speak up, to make a compelling noise. I believe this is not anymore an issue whether there is climate change or not, it’s about having the discernment to know whether it’s going to be bad or really bad.

Nonetheless, on a brighter note, it is always possible to change the rate at which our planet is changing or warming. And that is still within our power today. It is not like we don’t have the money or the resources or the brains. We just have to give it a shove.

Advocating for the environment requires personal commitment, it is a ‘crusade’ that each one of us needs to undergo.

We can always start in our own small ways. Healing this ailing planet starts in us. By simply trimming our waste or eating wisely by avoiding processed food. By simply pulling the plug because the idle load still uses energy even if it’s not charging. You can also start bringing your own eco-bag when buying not only in the mall but even in the wet market. Or by resorting to metal straw while sipping your favourite drink as well as bringing your own metal chopstick while eating that sashimi or sushi. You can also change the light bulbs in your home to compact flourescents or LEDs because the latter actually use up 80% less energy than the conventional incandescents, cheaper also in the long run. For women, please take shorter shower if you can; for men, let’s please use those eco-friendly urinals because saving water can help reduce carbon pollution.

Most of all, speak up. The more we communicate, the more will be involved in preserving our shared natural resources. Know that your voice has power friend. Silence has no place in this ailing nation.

Let us all be reminded that we are part of this ecosystem. Let us make an effort so that our children and the next generation will still experience the beauty of greens and blues we lavishly enjoy today. It will only happen if we will do something to protect and preserve this planet.

P.S. I hope that the LGU of Zamboanga or the City Tourism Office (if that exist) will also give an orientation to the tourists of the Great Sta. Cruz Island about the history of the pink sand. The pink sand is not just meant to be celebrated, it is meant to be communicated. That way, we’ll never know how many tourists will be disturbed and might as well take action as they go back to their respective places.

Jerome Cuyos CPA, is a registered accountant. Aside from ensuring that his financial sheets are balanced, he also advocates for health and environmental causes in the country.

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Mutya bares top-secret story for Lent

This is not a blog about disparaging comments on hotels, restaurants or erring personas who induced me with acute nausea. This is a story fitting for Holy week; a narration and a reflection of something that opened my eyes to the manifold realities of life on Earth.

More often than not, when I and Alfred engage into a conversation, the topic always leads to sex, health and, ultimately the cause of our total annihilation. I can say that you are interested to know more about these three popular topics but to honor the meaning of this blessed season, please let me narrate something you never heard of.

One time, when I was segregating the leaves of Malunggay and Spinach for our viand, I asked Alfred to reveal his greatest mistake in life.

I was afraid because he was holding a sharp knife slicing some frozen fish for dinner. Unlike Ms. Venus Raj, he immediately gave me an answer without circumnavigating.

“My greatest mistake happened during my elementary days when I haphazardly wasted the opportunity to study well, thus missing the wonders of education.”

He chopped the fish heavily.

I held my breath for a couple of seconds but I did not stop there. I dug deeper.

“What were the most difficult events you experienced when you were young? Mine for example was sleeping for two days with empty stomach.” I told him to kickstart the conversation.

I saw him adding too much salt to the boiling water.

“Three things.”, he started to recall.

“When I was young, I had no choice but to help my brothers to harvest corn. Up until now, I could still feel the searing pain when the leaves sliced my small palms. It was like blade after blade, slice after slice, until your whole hand numbs. The pain was excruciating for a 10-year old child whose dream during that time was only to play. I realized that pain is a twin brother of mine. My hands became rugged but strong. I knew God was preparing me for a tougher challenge—a second fruit.”

“Do you want to know the second fruit which changed my life?”, he asked.

“Yes!”, I answered.

“It’s inside the refrigerator. Get it for me.” I opened the fridge and I saw a pineapple.

It was during my second year when I first knew him. He was oozing with wit and a sensational style of leadership which won the heart of many. Aside from these were his skills in peeling the pineapple’s skin. After class hours, without delay, he run to the public market in order help his sister to prepare sliced fruits for their small store. He can remove the eyes of the fruit within one minute preserving its impeccable shape.

“I find it cool.”, I told him.

He looked at me fiercely.

“If being cool would mean having the piercing edges of the pineapple’s crown puncture your skin so deep and having your crotch soaked on the saccharine juice of this fruit for over five hours every day then I would agree with your conclusion.”

I stepped back and returned to my sit. I was wrong.

He minced the pineapple and he dropped it in the mixture. Then, he tasted it it.

“It lacks something. Something sour.” He was referring to the green mango.

I remembered when he told me that there was a time when he climbed a mango tree to harvest its fruits.

Despite the scorching heat of the sun and the pricking bite ants crawling from the his upper torso, he was passionately determined to pick the most unblemished mango he could reach. A wounded mango can’t be sold in the market.

I handed him the green mango. He peeled it perfectly.

I realized then that he taught me one of the biggest lessons in life using the three fruits that formed his being.

Without hard work, dedication and the passion to make seemingly difficult things happen, one can’t change his path and be the person he wanted to become.

Poverty became a popular obstacle and an excuse for many not to pursue reaching for our stars, but the three fruits my friend showed me concretely illustrated that great things are possible for those who learn to endure the suffering and to deduce lessons from it.

While the leaves of the corn wounded his palms, he did not threw his aspiration to become someone who can make a difference to the lives of others, the burning charcoal which he used to cook the corn did not stop him to seek for easy comfort.

The crown of the pineapple was perceived by him as a destination and every thorn which deeply and mercilessly pierced his skin was a reminder that suffering is necessary to hone and to exercise our humanity. The mango on the other hand, thought us to choose only the best.

These three fruits when mixed in one container will make an excellent dish worthy of emulation and inspiration. The next time you come across a corn, a pineapple and a mango, please be thankful on what you have and don’t you dare surrender your stars. As you bite these three fruits, remember the journey of my friend Alfred.

#Mutya

Super Jasper

He has fire in his soul and grace in his heart. He always win, he barely lose.

Every time I am sad and confused, I send him random emoticons at 12AM, 1AM or even 3AM. He would immediately respond . After several exchanges of messages, I felt the compassion. I fell asleep. For me, that’s his one of the many powers. He is better than any relaxant available in the market. His potency to make people happy is 100%.

When God showered the Earth with positivism and energy, I will bet that he acquired it all. His aura is something Earth’s available dictionary can’t define. It is a heaven-bestowed gift that only he can conjure.

If you are unhappy, displeased, and about to surrender— I beg you to hold your horses. Meet Jasper. He will uplift your spirit. He will electrocute you with the barest energy of life. He will add meaning to your existence; he will make you strong using your own faculties.

When he starts to smile and to dance, you will surely see the rotation of Saturn, Neptune and Uranus. He has the ability to send you outside this unfair world and in return, he will create a perfect, ideal world for you.

When I first met him two years ago year, I knew that he is special. I expected great things from him  The dedication oozing from his skin was palpable–real and inspirational. His mere presence makes things and events more positive and lively.

Stronger than any force of evil–he stands tall and confident.

For the record, he is one of my favorites not because he is white, tall, can speak eloquently, smart and energetic but because he is the living Synecdoche of hope and light that our world needs today. Jasper seeks to defibrillate hearts that are already callous and sclerotic, to empower hands that are already timid and weak, and to rewire frozen neurons and synapses because of despair and tribulations.

Jasper won’t hurt you.

He is the best of Philippine Airlines.

Since Philippine Airlines has launched its new philosophy of being the “Heart of the Filipino”, I never had the chance to completely comprehend it. For me, a “Filipino heart” is formed by distinct strands of compassion, hospitality and love. Honestly, I never felt the perfect experience not until my last three flights last week. A flight attendant perfectly embodies the real meaning of “Heart of the Filipino”.

His name is Vincent as stated on his nameplate. I had the chance to witness his unbelievable power three times in a row. In one of my trip, I was very angry because the flight was delayed for almost one and a half hour. I want to shout out loud that could reach the control tower of NAIA from Cotabato but when I entered the plane, it was different.

Vincent stands at the door–confident.  He gave his unique Filipino smile to each guest. That same powerful smile appeased the agitated passengers. I returned the warm gesture, he smiled back and he assisted me to my section. The moment after I fastened my seat-belt, he smiled again.

He won. I was pacified. Everyone from rows 1-15 experienced serenity inside the plane. At that moment, I understood that the heart of the Filipino is reflected in every genuine smile. He nailed it. Vincent perfected the art of smiling. His smile could stop time, could make you feel that you are a Million Miler,  could make you experience that you are the Queen of the Universe.

I want to say to the captain, “Hey Captain, let’s depart tomorrow.”

He also possesses the essential element of sensitivity. He could easily ascertain if someone is suffering from discomfort. He assesses the situation and he renders the appropriate intervention. Afterwards, he returns to evaluate. He will never leave you even you are sitting along the Economy Class. His attention never changes from the head up to the tail of the plane. He is compassionate, his technique undoubtedly comes from a deeper origin—his heart.

When snacks are being distributed and you happened to be sleeping, don’t worry because he will respect you. He will not disturb you, instead he will look at you as if you are Snow White.  He won’t ask you coffee, tea or water. He will not force you to wake up and receive the Banana Bread Slice. He will open the tray and will place your food for you to enjoy once you are awake. Then he will return with a smile and asks you for your choice of drinks. He will never leave you hungry, thirsty or sleepy.

His comforting words will kiss and caress you.

Just like with other flights, the time for deplaning will come—sad. The relationship ends after a passenger leaves the plane. But Vincent is not one of those who easily terminate the relationship. He ends the experience with a smile composed of 99% happiness and wishes of safety and inspiration. He hides the remaining 1% for you to feel that you need to return to discover and to experience over and over and over again. He knows how to connect.

With all of these, I can say that Vincent has the heart of a Filipino, a perfect personification of Philippine Airlines Philosophy and Values of highest costumer service. He made me so proud because he had shown the best of the Philippines and the distinct brand of service marked by heartfelt warmth and hospitality. He is one of a kind, a total mixture of passion, dedication and service. Philippine Airlines must be proud of him.

#Mutya

A ‘rare’ man with a ‘big’ dream.

It was a conversation which led me into realization that good men still do exist. It was a conversation which I wanted you to personally experience. It was more than love. It was deeper and more meaningful. It tickled my humanity. It suppressed my urges, obliterated my prejudices and absorbed my biases.

His name is Warren Flores. He started the conversation by saying; “I’ve known love at the worst of times. I’ve known love at most painful experience.” I looked at him in the eye.

He continued: “What I’m going to share to you is about my love story. It’s a story of how I came to love and why I remained in love.”

“It started when we visited a public school at a remote area of Carcar City, Cebu. Doon kami unang nagkatagpo. Doon namin nakilala ang isa’t isa.”

“The school lacked access to water, and the students had very poor hygiene practices. The students were known to openly defecate, nagtatae lang sa labas (sa damuhan). And they suffered from skin-related diseases and diarrheal infection.”

“And it’s disturbing to know that such miserable things were experienced by these children when in fact sa edad nila dapat nag-aaral lang sila at naglalaro. And what’s worse is that this pain is not just a pain of the children of our community but this pain is shared by thousands of children across the Philippines. Ang daming batang naghihirap sa bansa.”

I questioned myself, “I thought he was going to propose to me.” Anyways, I continued listening to his story.

And with the many visits we had in the community, I knew her even more. I fall deeper, even with the darkest and most painful experiences she had, taught me to love her. I knew I’m in love because of pain. And you will know you’re in love when you desire everything to make her happy.

I asked him. “So Warren, how will you know that you love someone?”

“Yung parati mo syang naiisip. Yung hindi ka mapakali. Yung gusto mong palaging nasa tabi nya. Yung sabihin mo sa sarili mo na gagawin ko ang lahat maging maayos ka lang, maging masaya ka lang.”, he answered.

He continued. He hugged me while whispering the following words, phrases, sentences and paragraphs.

“So I and my friends formed a team and we joined Ideas Positive Run 4 last 2013 to help the community, and pitched our idea of putting up a conventional water system. But it was so unsustainable and costly. It was a big failure. We didn’t make it.”

“Things didn’t work out between us. So we left the community. And I broke up with her. I guess it was the right love but just at the wrong time. Ang sakit ng mga nangyari sa amin. At pilit ko na syang kinalimutan.”

Ako’y napatanong noon, tama pa bang manatili kami sa isa’t-isa? Who am I to love her?

“Who are we to help the community? Ano ba ang magagawa namin para sa kanila eh studyante lang kami? Sino ka ba? Kahit nga assignments mo ay hirap na hirap mo ng tapusin, pati nga mga exams mo ay hirap na hirap mong maipasa. Bata ka pa! Oo nga. Bata pa ako. Bata pa kami.”

I hugged him back. He continued speaking.

“Pero marami kaming magagawa eh. Bata ka pa! Bata pa kayo! Pero ang dami mong kayang gawin! So we joined again Ideas Positive in its 5th run, last year. We made it and got our funding. And here’s what we did to make our relationship work out.”

Warren told me that they constructed water storage and a rain catchment tank using PET Bottles. It was made of about 2000 bottles. And what made it different and better, was that it is cheaper than conventional tanks – like steel or cement tanks. It is more durable. It can even withstand a 7.2 magnitude earthquake since it’s not brittle like that of cement. They also taught the students about hygiene and sanitation through playing, which is more creative and interactive than the usual classroom discussion. And they conducted medical missions and health talks to address the skin-related diseases and diarrheal infections of the students.

I was impressed. Warren did everything he can. He thought of new ways, new approaches to solve problems. He didn’t settle for less. Why? Because when he loves someone, he gives all his best.

He held my hands and said: “Sabi namin, THIS IS IT! Ito na ang #Forever!”

“Oo, naging masaya kami. We had a lot of happy moments together. Pero we’ve been through hard times din that made me quit in the team just few weeks before the finals.”

“Actually, there’s nothing wrong in quitting if it’s no longer worth fighting for. But if you quit for something that really matters to you, for something that you really love…that’s stupidity. Katangahan yan! At naging tanga ako nung iniwan ko ang mahal ko. I was so tired and frustrated, yung puntong binigay mo na ang lahat-lahat, pero parang kulang pa rin – kulang ka pa rin.”

“Warren hindi ka kulang.”, I said to him.

“Actually, when we did our project, I was in Manila working fulltime na, while the team is in Cebu as well as our community. Eka nga LDR. Long Distance Relationship. Mahirap ang communication, mahirap magkaroon ng time for each other. Ang hirap. Ang sakit, bes.”, he replied.

“But again, I was just only tired and frustrated. I realized, I’m still in love with what I did. I still love the children. I still love the community. I still love my team. At mahal ko pa rin sya.” He continued.

I said “Ouch!”

He held my back.

“There’s more to our country. There’s more to us, Filipinos. And I can’t give up on us.” We are not poor, because we have a lot to give. We may lack so many things, but we are not poor.”

I wasn’t able to hold my tears. I sat down on the floor. He sat down with me.

“So you see, all we need is a different set of sight, to view from a different lens, to see beyond poverty and acknowledge the power of the youth, the power of every Filipino!”

“Dahil kung tanging kakulangan lang ng tao ang tinitignan natin, ay di tayo magbabago. Walang pagbabagong mangyayari sa bansang ito.”

“We need to see the greatness in each one of us more than the poverty we are in – to see greatness beyond poverty!”

“Oo Warren, pero paano ako?”, I asked him.

“And with all these things that I have experienced, I learned that love is sacrificing but without losing oneself. Yung gusto mong ibigay ang lahat lahat pero di ka nauubos at di nawawala ang tunay na ikaw, yung mas nakikilala mo pa ang iyong sarili. Yung mas nanaisin mong maging mabuti at mas magaling pa para sa kanya. Yan ang tunay na pagmamahal.”

“Because of this, I wanted to be with her. The relationship I have with her is what I wanted for the rest of life.”

“And so about 2 weeks ago, I quitted my job as an Engineer so I can be with my passion of building a healthier Philippines; I gave up a very huge opportunity in the company. But. It was the best decision that I made. Because there’s nothing more fulfilling than to fight for the one that you love. If you love someone, fight for her, be with her.”

Mahalin po natin ang ating bansa not just because of the pain she has, but because there is more to us, Filipinos. Because the Philippines is worth loving and worth living for.

Warren, despite the short period of time, I learned to appreciate him. During his confession, I prayed to God to guide him. I also asked the Divine Providence to create more persons like him, because his heart is what our country needs—it bleeds with deep humility, selfless service and genuine love to country; these are characteristics which are rare to find nowadays.

Warren is a treasure of his own kind.

-Mutya

The October 28, 2015 wound is still there

The roses aren’t as pretty
The sun isn’t quite as high
The birds don’t sing as sweet of a lullaby
The stars are a little bit faded
The clouds are just a little more gray
And it feels like things won’t ever be the same

-Heaven Got Another Angel (Gordon Garner)

Exactly one year ago, I rushed to the airport to catch the earliest flight for Iloilo. I was hoping that God will grant me the power of teleportation. I know it was very near, it will come very soon. Drafting a special poem while I was waiting in the pre-departure area, I received a text message which weakens my knees. Tears begun to fall, I couldn’t see the letters on my keyboard. My beloved dad passed away because of lung cancer.  He was waiting for me. He was waiting for me. I was late for the first time.

Exactly two years ago, in our round table. He served the most delicious seafood cuisine. It was shrimp and green shells. While eating, he gave me his “YES”, because I asked permission from him if I could practice nursing in Manila. I know, he was sad because he wanted to spend more time with me. He felt that he had less time. But I was too ambitious.

Exactly three years ago, at the seaside, together with my mom, my father said that sooner or later, human life like the sea will reach its low tide, but high tide will soon to follow. I did not took it seriously because I was busy thinking for the results of my board examination. He promised that when I pass the boards, he will launch a large festivity in our barangay. And he made it happen. He always does.

The wound is still there—-painful and still bleeding. It never stops.

I miss his hugs and his praises.

I miss his genuine smile.

I miss his advice.

Serve your country”, he said.

Dad, if you are listening and reading this blog, I am proud to say to you that I am serving my country and please help me all the way.

I love you forever.

Your Mutya.

The “Reid effect” at its best.

Be fearless in the pursuit of what sets your soul on fire.

I became a fan since 2010 when he first appeared in PBB Teen Clash.  I am not fond of chasing celebrities except when it is James Reid.

He is one-of-a-kind, an irreplaceable atom,  who has a unique identical quantum mechanical state. He has this form of energy that can brew inspiration into meaningful actions. The bottom line is, he can place you into motion.

I call this as the “James Reid effect.

For almost 6 years, I communicated with him through my quantum universe (an alternate universe that only I can comprehend and experience).

This universe is safer compared to the universe we were born to live; there, I can manipulate things and thoughts freely without entailing cost and judgement of anyone. There, I got to see persons such as James who helped shape my judgement and my demeanor when the time calls for it.

Giving you concrete examples:

When deadlines are approaching and when anxiety is escalating, I would result to searching for his picture from any source available and pin it on my desk, at the end of the day, I am always amazed on how these little, funny things and activities gave me the energy to “do good for myself and for others.”

In times of heated arguments and troubles, my relaxants are his songs.

When I am about to sleep, my last activity is always to watch his videos.

During difficult times, his sweet, distant smile is one of my motivations.

Yesterday, I got the chance to meet him and the encounter crystalized my positive evaluations of him.

No  existing word in our lifetime (even in the combined dictionary of Webster and Merriam) can describe that moment. Some symptoms include blurring of vision and chest tightness, others are already uncanny, you have to experience it yourself.

My favorite concept in chemistry is the “Pauli exclusion Principle” by Austrian physicist Wolfgang Pauli in 1925, he states that no two particle cannot occupy the same space. I see this applicable because no matter what, James will always occupy that quantum space in me, whatever the circumstances and the conditions will be.

Experience the “James Effect” today.

-Mutya