Friday, March 09, 2012

Green light from the start:
Women drivers and eJeepneys
Red Constantino, Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities
March 8, 2012 

Climate change is not just about crisis. It provides us an incredible opportunity to reassess the way we look at development. It forces us to rethink strategies and it gives us space to redesign the way we live our lives.
The electric jeepneys project was conceived by climate change activists not merely as a response to global warming but to present an array of working models that can be scaled up and replicated, and to trigger integrative approaches to development.
For starters, the electric jeepneys form a mere third of the project called Climate-Friendly Cities, which promotes the rechanneling of organic waste streams to waste facilities with biodigesters that promote decomposition, which produces gas that is in turn captured and fed to turbines that power an ever growing electric public utility vehicle fleet. A closed loop. A green loop.
On its own, the electric jeepneys project was also designed to address a bevy of issues. Because it is not enough to produce a smoke-free, noise-free public ride. When we crunched the numbers and crafted the architecture of our social enterprise, we had in mind fleet management models that would create multiple co-benefits:
·      Better tourism and better work place conditions for host cities due to reductions in air and noise pollution.
·      Higher income for ejeepney operators.
·      Energy security, protection from oil price volatility.
·      Jobs generation - allied green jobs - in the services (drivers and electric vehicle technicians) and manufacturing industries (for electric vehicles).
·      Drivers with regular pay and regular benefits, which means more stability for their families.
·      The promise of better traffic conditions, because salaried drivers no longer have any incentive to stop wherever they want to fill up their vehicle or disgorge passengers.
Most importantly, the eJeepneys project deliberately sought out and recruited women drivers.
Every day should be March 8, International women's day. Easy as this assertion sounds, its practice is far more difficult if initiatives do not build in gender concerns from a project's inception.
Women drivers form the core of iCSC's low emission vehicles agenda, because better technologies, and more efficient and sustainable means of transport, should be gender-neutral. A gender-sensitized project, on the other hand, requires the identification of specific demographics to whom benefits are to be channeled to.
Women remain the most economically, environmentally, socially, politically and culturally vulnerable sector in the Philippines. The eJeepneys project was drawn up in recognition of this facet and the opportunity it presented -- that climate-friendly green social enterprise can be of direct benefit to women, that men do not have any specific attributes that make them more atuned to the steering wheel, or the maintenance of low carbon vehicles.
If the objective is the creation of jobs, women must be at the center of the effort. Women are better managers of household income, and it is no stretch to say they can do this even better if they are also in a breadwinner position in the family.
We in iCSC have taken a proactive position on the gender issue in order to demonstrate our robust belief in the lasting changes that the climate crisis can engender. Solutions we craft today in response to climate change can recreate the social space through which our lives are lived.
Climate change provides us an incredible opportunity to drive home the gender equity agenda. It forces us to rethink development strategies that deliberately locate women in the driver's seat. #
Originally posted at the British Embassy in Manila website. Photo by iCSC, February 27, 2012. With thanks to Joan "Basta Driver, Sweet Lover" Meris standing on the foreground, hand on hip.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

I was asked to contribute an essay as one of 52 global Resident Thinkers of the new nation, Nowhere Island, a public art project of London's Cultural Olympiad 2012 which imagines how a new nation should begin. An expedition team set sail to the Arctic in September 2011 and will travel until the final weekend of the Cultural Olympiad in September 2012.

According to project organizers, "Over 4000 people have already signed up to become citizens of Nowhereisland and will begin colelctively writing the island's constitution from January 2012... This is a real place on the move. But it belongs to nowhere. It is an island nation that has come from a place that is deeply implicated by global decisions."
I live there too is dedicated to the memory of Gerry Ortega, ecologist and friend, who was killed on January 24, 2011 because of his anti-mining advocacy. Please sign the petition "Justice for Gerry Ortega" here.

January 22, 2012

Dear resident of Nowhereisland,

The question posed by Citizen Hartley, which launched your enterprise -- it is not easy to answer. He asked, if we were to create a new nation, how might we begin?[i] But what if we asked where the starting point should be instead?

I am thinking now of the Tunisian fruit vendor, Mohammed Bouazzizi, who in 2010 demanded dignity before bread, before igniting the fuel that would produce the Thermopylae of his generation.

I recall an entry the poet Vera Inber made in her diary in 1941, while Leningrad reeled from the monstrosities of war.

"I am moved," Inber wrote, "by the thought that while the bombs rain down on this besieged city Shostakovich is writing a symphony... And so, in all this horror, art is still alive. It shines and warms the heart."[ii]

A year later, on December 21, 1942, Harro Schulze-Boysen would calmly write his farewell letter to his parents from Plötzensee where he was conveyed for execution. "This death suits me," said Schulze-Boysen, a Luftwaffe lieutenant who had penetrated the fascist stronghold of Germany's Air Ministry "with the express intent of undermining it."[iii]

To follow the meridian of our time; I wonder if we are up to it.

We dwell too much on the thunderclaps of history that we sometimes miss the minutiae of human agency, our oxygen, the things that define who we are and who we ought to be.

We are not so different, you and I, not as distant from one another as the water that separates us.

You are anchored on the beliefs of a better world, yet, displaced, you bob South in search of your people. The people here -- we're attached to a storied archipelago and yet we drift West and East, seeking tethers and our selves and our North Star.

We are both searching for continuities and the elusive reboot.

I wonder what I can tell you that you don't already know.

I am aware that we are bound by common truths. The ecumenical joy of open windows or a pinch of salt. The grace of Gandhi, The Force and Jimi Hendrix.

We know the great sky as the heavens or a short stretch of atmosphere, and that it is blue or dark depending on the time of day. We know the sun nourishes living and that stars are immortal, because life is long until it ends.

Meantime, seas rise and reclaim entire coastlines, fields wither or drown, and mountains fall in heaps on whole villages as monstrous things burn and dig and burn.

I wonder how we got here, this point where we can imagine the end of the world but not the end of the dictatorship of consumption and accumulation?

The eminent scientist Stephen Jay Gould wrote in 1994 that the word dinosaur should actually be "a term of praise, not of opprobrium. They reigned for 100 million years and died through no fault of their own. [But] Homo sapiens is nowhere near a million years old and has limited prospects, entirely self-imposed, for extended geological longevity.”[iv]

We know Gould is right. We are aware of the great danger we face together but we seem intent on courting it.

Through the magic of technology, we simultaneously revel in pageants of wilderness and the punctual drama of human-induced calamities. "We point to our wildest lands," said the novelist Barbara Kingsolver, "to inspire humans with the mighty grace of what we haven't yet wrecked."[v] And still our drive to acquire, destroy and consume remains unfettered,

Our war is with ourselves - with the amber of our indifference and the obstinate refusal to recognize the annexation of who we are and who we ought to be.

Think about it: thousands of different living things share the space of a cubic foot of earth, governed by the laws of nature. And think about human law, which may be nine-tenths about possession and governed by the metabolism of commerce.[vi]

The writer James Carroll reminds us that it was never enough for our ancestors to merely know. "What made them our actual human forebears was that they came to know that they knew. Conscious of their consciousness, they made a leap on behalf of the entire cosmos, for in them the cosmos became aware of itself. And from then on, humans have been defined by the urge to surpass themselves."[vii]

A transcendence, then. A self-surpassing. An awareness of our place in what Kingsolver called "the sovereignty of the animate land that feeds us and shelters us."[viii] A confrontation with the choice of whether we shall abide by life's ruins and live the sanctioned life - or face the moral reckoning of our age.

There is really only one investigation all along, wrote the novelist Michael Chabon, "one search with a sole objective: a home, a world to call my own." [ix]

I can imagine an Arctic island travelling South - a landscape on the move, where compassion is the currency, where solidarity is the only debt people owe one another, a house of memory built with hope.[x] I live there, too. #

[i] More information about the project here. Though fruits begin as flowers, I extend my thanks to the sharp eyes of reader Neth Daño for reminding me after the essay was published -- Bouazzizi was a fruit vendor, not a flower vendor, as I had originally written.
[ii] The War Diaries: An Anthology of Daily Wartime Diary Entries Throughout History, ed. Irene Taylor and Alan Taylor (Canongate Books Ltd., 2004)
[iii] Anne Nelson, Red Orchestra: The Story of the Berlin Underground and the Circle of Friends Who Resisted Hitler (Random House, 2009)
[iv] Stephen Jay Gould, "The Persistently Flat Earth: Irrationality and Dogmatism are Foes of Both Science and Religion," Natural History 103, no. 3 (1994)
[v] Barbara Kingsolver, High Tide in Tucson: Essays from Now or Never (HarperCollins, 1996)
[vi] Ibid. 5. The concept of competing metabolisms is from John Bellamy Foster, Marx's Ecology: Materialism and Nature (Monthly Review Press, 2000)
[vii] James Carroll, A time for self-surpassing," Boston Globe, June 7, 2010
[viii] Ibid. 5 The phrases "abide by life's ruins" and "the sanctioned life" in the latter part of this paragraph are from Mikal Gilmore's review, "Bruce Springsteen: The Ghost of Tom Joad," Rolling Stone, July 31, 2002. I was listening to the album while finishing the essay and Gilmore's piece came to mind, particularly his description of what to me is the most haunting piece in the set, "Straight time".
[ix] Michael Chabon, Maps and Legends: Reading and Writing along the Borderlands (HarperCollins, 2009)
[x] See "The road from Collevecchio," Renato Redentor Constantino, Paras Indonesia, July 4, 2006 and "Compassion is our new currency," Rebecca Solnit,, December 22, 2011.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

March 8, 2011

The wise men cometh. Here comes the bling. On sale, democracy's dubious offspring.

It's all just a game.

Get the latest version of Freedomware -- blazing guns, star-spangled jetfighters and troops peddling elections and Kool Aid. Democracy expansion sets sold separately.

Get it on the cheap. Everything's a bargain.

"What I think the U.S. needs to do," said former U.S. Ambassador to the UN Bill Richardson speaking on Sunday in CNN, is "covertly arm the [Libyan] rebels. We should take that step. Develop a no-fly zone." (1)  Richardson was echoing the call of U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates who said last week a no-fly zone may be established over Libya and that such a move would begin with attacks on Libya's anti-aircraft capabilities. (2)

Yet Richardson was not asked about the country -- the U.S. -- which not too long ago covertly funneled arms to Afghan mujahideen, which later morphed into the Taliban, Al Qaeda and other cuddly variants. Neither did CNN ask about the quagmires of Iraq or Afghanistan, where nine boys aged 9 to 15 -- the lads were gathering firewood -- were torn to shreds last week by NATO helicopter gunships. (3)

And so the world spins.

That was Jaime Espina's take, a journalist's wry view from Manila just hours after Mubarak stepped down from his post in February.

"Less than a day after Egyptians won back their country," Espina observed, Western powers and their mouthpieces were already telling Egypt "to do this, do that," in a pageant of blather intended to showcase the West's celebration of democracy. (4)

Edicts merged seamlessly with paeans as Washington led the ovation crew, mimicked by the able blowhards of CNN and BBC, all puffed up from sucking on the official line year after year after year.

"Egypt will never be the same again," thundered Obama. (5)

"The arc of history is bent towards justice once more," Obama boomed. (6)

And Western media gamely broadcast the babble.

But did they ask whether history's arc would have bent decades earlier if only the U.S. had not been bending things the other way, with an average, since 1979, of $1.3 billion channeled as annual aid to Mubarak's military? (7)

We are blessed by the televised coverage of the UN's democracy choir in action, fronted today by UK Foreign Secretary William Hague who is now asking for "international humanitarian assistance and support to the international arms embargo" -- and the imposition of a no-fly zone -- on Libya. Hague called on Gaddafi to "put an immediate stop to the use of armed force against civilians." (8)

There is admirable consistency here.

Earlier in February, Egypt in the limelight, it was UK Prime Minister David Cameron's turn at the compassion podium.

"If it turns out that the [Mubarak] regime in any way has been sponsoring or tolerating this violence," squeaked Cameron, "that would be completely and utterly unacceptable... Any attacks on peaceful demonstrators is unacceptable and I strongly condemn it." (9)

Such a shame the UK government will have to forego -- for a while -- the barrage of licenses it issued last year for the "export to Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Oman of riot control weapons including teargas, smoke and stun grenades," including $296 million worth of licenses for small arms, crowd control ammunition and training, on top of military vehicles and thermal-imaging equipment made in the UK, all destined for, yes indeedy, Libya. (10)

Thank goodness Gaddafi is so creepy.

With luck he might just make us all forget about Bahrain, where over 20 percent of its people "have repeatedly taken to the streets, despite the threat of live fire, in a movement for the abolition of the autocratic government of King Hamad ibn Isa al-Khalifa, and its replacement with genuine democratic rule." (11)

Because regime change in Bahrain may be too tricky.

As a secret diplomatic cable released by Wikileaks explains, "Bahrain's national security strategy rests squarely on the presence here of NAVCENT/Fifth Fleet headquarters and Bahrain's close security partnership with the U.S. Unlike its Gulf neighbors, Bahrain does not enjoy the kind of oil revenues that might enable it to buy advanced weaponry on its own." (12)

And so, to promote a more equal co-fondling relationship, the US provides aid that will buy for Bahrain its weapons, from $3.9 million in 2008, the year the cable was issued, "to $8 million in 2009, then $19 million" in 2010. This year the request is for $19.45 million. (13)

And the tiny island nation is likely to get what it's asking for, for the tremors in Bahrain have rippled through Shia Muslim communities in Saudi Arabia.

Already, calls have been issued for 20,000 to mass up in Riyadh -- to demand, according to the region's leading reporter Robert Fisk, "an end to corruption and, if necessary, the overthrow of the House of Saud." (14)

"An indication of the seriousness of the revolt against the Saudi royal family," Fisk tells us, "comes in its chosen title: Hunayn. This is a valley near Mecca, the scene of one of the last major battles of the Prophet Mohamed against a confederation of Bedouins in AD630. The Prophet won a tight victory after his men were fearful of their opponents. The reference in the Koran, 9: 25-26, as translated by Tarif el-Khalidi, contains a lesson for the Saudi princes: 'God gave you victory on many battlefields. Recall the day of Hunayn when you fancied your great numbers.'" (15)  #


1.  "Richardson calls for no-fly zone over Libya," Rebecca Stewart,, March 6, 2011.
2.  Ibid.
3.  "Nine Afghan Boys Collecting Firewood Killed by NATO Helicopters," Alissa J. Rubin and Sangar Rahimi, New York Times, March 2, 2011.
4. Paraphrasing with Espina's permission his Facebook status message on February 12, 2011: "Hmmm...and so the world spins. Less than a day after Egyptians won back their country, we have everyone else saying, 'Egypt must do this, Egypt must ensure that.'" 
5.  "Obama urges 'genuine democracy' in Egypt," Stephen Collinson, Agence France Presse, 12 February 2011.
6.  Ibid.
7.  "F.A.Q. on U.S. Aid to Egypt: Where Does the Money Go—And Who Decides How It’s Spent?" Marian Wang, ProPublica, January 31, 2011.
8.  "UK says working on UN no-fly zone resolution on Libya," Reuters, March 7, 2011.
9.  "David Cameron condemns 'despicable' violence in Egypt," The Guardian-UK, 2 February 2011.
10. "Abu Dhabi arms fair: Tanks, guns, teargas and trade at Idex 2011," Robert Booth, The Guardian-UK, February 21, 2011.
11.  "The Collapse of the Old Oil Order," Michael Klare,, March 3, 2011.
12. Wikileaks.
13. "US Military Aid to Bahrain," Patty Culhane,, February 18, 2011.
14. "Saudis mobilize thousands of troops to quell growing revolt," Robert Fisk, The Independent-UK, 5 March 2011.
15. Ibid.


Monday, December 13, 2010

December 13, 2010

For days Europe was a white mess as snowstorms ploughed across the continent, snarling airports and stuffing railways and highways with snow.

The cold spell came early, disrupting transport across the continent.

On different days, different closures.

In France, heavy snowfall forced civil aviation authorities to cut back flights to and from Paris. London's Gatwick reeled along with Schiphol airport in Amsterdam.

Within days in Germany, Munich canceled 250 flights and in Frankfurt the number reached 150.

On German roads, 2,000 accidents register on a single day.[i] Some parts of the country plunge deeper than others, at -18 Celsius degrees. In Bremen, Advent found my shoes tamping frosted ground in -8 weather, mulling on the irony of Robert Louis Stevenson's muse.

"The great affair is to move," wrote Stevenson in 1878 as he hiked his way across south-central France, "to feel the needs and hitches of our life more nearly; to come down off this feather-bed of civilisation, and find the globe granite underfoot and strewn with cutting flints."

In lieu of hard quartz, perhaps a week of subzero temperatures might suffice, since ice is no pillow to the tropical creature.

A small city, lovely in its size, Bremen emanates the contrast of old-world charms through its Hanseatic references, the severity of arctic shadows cast by a towering dark cathedral, and the analgesic whimsy of Bremen's chosen icon, a rooster standing on top of a cat atop a dog standing on a donkey - the Town Musicians of the Brothers Grimm.

By scale closer to Brussels' Manneken Pis, the animal stack -- the donkey's legs and snout shiny from legions of hands that have caressed them -- greets visitors from one end of the grand Rathaus built in 1410. On the building's other end, a grim Charlemagne rides a massive horse with electors of the Holy Roman Empire.

This is a land of memory and myth.

Across the Rathaus towers the statue of Charlemagne's paladin, Roland, said to be the most famous among 26 other Roland statues in Germany.  Erected in 1404, Roland stands guard over Bremen, "a symbol of freedom" and "a martyr who died in the struggle against heathens." 

At 5.55 meters and clasping the legendary sword Durendal, the statue evokes The Song of Roland, an eleventh century epic written in verse that immortalized Roland's martyrdom a millenia ago at the hands of an Islamic horde.

The poem has become "a staple of Western Civilization classes" around the world which has "schooled generations of Judeo-Christians to view Muslims as perfidious enemies who once threatened the very foundations of Western Civilization." It "provides a handy preface for students before they delve into readings on the Crusades that began in 1095."

Yet the statue is gabled with fable. The army that slaughtered Roland and his Frankish soldiers in 778 was not Muslim; they were "Christian Basques furious at Charlemagne for pillaging their city of Pamplona."

Only later, "as kings and popes and knights prepared to do battle in the First Crusade, did an anonymous bard repurpose the text to serve the needs of an emerging cross-against-crescent holy war."

Despite the chill of winter, festivities curl around the town's centers.

At the Hauptbanhof, booths near the entrance sell organic produce, including special honey beers. Inside the train station, a large mural depicts Bremen's colonialist, maritime past, showing sailors and ships and people from other lands carrying carrying the freight of tobacco and other goods.

Huge crowds mill around the main square till mid-evening, around stalls selling steaming gluhwein -- heated German wine spiced with cinnamon, cloves and honey served hot, sometimes with dash of calvados -- and eggnog spiked with rum and consumed with a straw.

From a storefront, a fragrance of licorice and in another festooned with blinking lights, smoke billows from dozens of grilling bratwursts and steaks.

There is dixie music in the air. Buskers are playing holiday tunes from different corners and a young group tipsy from the mulled wine suddenly break out in song, hands on shoulders and swaying, sticky liquid spilling from their cups, shouting Jingle Bells with the pomp of a football anthem.

Down Herdentor and towards Bahnhoffstrasse, doors open to a small bar called Big Ben, evocative of Manila's Oarhouse. It is warm inside. James Brown is playing and demanding the indulgence of a dozen drunk customers laughing and dancing with abandon, inviting newcomers to join the weird scrimmage.

Was mache ich hier? Bruce Chatwin asked in his seminal collection of essays. What am I doing here?

A humongous German bellows a request at the bartender who smiles and shouts something in return and everyone cheers. Another round has been ordered and it's on the house and Chatwin's question has been answered. #

[i] "Deadly weather hits Europe," International Herald Tribune, December 2, 2010.
[ii] Official Bremen City tourist information map.
[iii] The phrase "a symbol of freedom" is from the text of Bremen's tourist information map. The phrase "a martyr who died in the struggle against heathens" is from "Townhall and the Marketplace of Bremen" entry in the website of the World Heritage Convention of UNESCO. For more details, see
[iv] John Feffer, "The Lies of Islamophobia: The Three Unfinished Wars of the West against the Rest,", November 7, 2010.
[v] Ibid.
[vi] Ibid.

This is for Bremen's daughter, Jessica. Photos by redster.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

October 26, 2010

Perhaps a scroll exists somewhere linking the Akkadian moon deity Sin with worship later forbidden by faiths commanding greater armies.

Lunar veneration as wrongdoing? Who's to know?

Beyond the reach of memory, the moon is still a magical place, the sun remains majestic and life-giving, and the earthbound beetle is still heavenly.

There is in a word a universe of worlds, a doctrine of cosmic ambivalence offering revelation in minutiae and difference.

We embrace what we cannot grasp, and therein lies the evidence of mystery, and for many it is enough.

When the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines asked for mercy from aboriginal peoples in the country, many applauded the act despite the announcement's tardiness of a few hundred years.

"[W]e ask forgiveness for suppressing their spirit as a people," said CBCP Episcopal Commission on Indigenous Peoples chairperson Bishop Sergio Utleg, for "the moments when we injured their personhood as they took on a new identity as Catholics." (1)

"We ask forgiveness for moments when we taught Christianity as a religion robed with colonial cultural superiority, instead of sharing it as a religion that calls for a relationship with God and a way of life," Utleg said.

The pronouncement gave hope that a few centuries thence, say, the year 2400, the same institution might ask for clemency from women denied the pulpit -- equating such interest currently with priestly pedophilia, and from women who professed unordained love for other women, and all those who have received the artillery of scripture and the ecclesiastical cudgel. (2)

Merciful god, are others really fated to live lives of foregone trespasses? The past, a garden of piety, is of little comfort.

There is Arnald Amalric, Cirstercian monk and Papal representative tasked  in the first decade of 13th century France to convert or crush the Cathar heresy. When asked by holy soldiers how heretics were to be distinguished from good Catholics among the thousands of men, women, invalids, infants and priests praying and holding crucifixes and chalices cowering in the city of Beziers, Amalric replied "Kill them all. God will recognize his own." (3)

Annihilated, only fragments were left of the heresy, some existing as stains. Because Cathar envoys often travelled in pairs of the same sex -- both men and women -- they were accused of "unnatural practices," and since "from the Western perspective, the main source of the heresy seemed to be Bulgaria, the heretics were often called Bulgars -- bougres in French, thus buggers in English." (4)

Before the 14th century, Daniel C. Maguire tells us, "many Christians did not share the view that marriage was a reward for being heterosexual, nor that a same-sex union was objectionable." (5)

Maguire, a Professor of Moral Theology at Marquette University, a Catholic, Jesuit institution in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, points to an icon from St. Catherine’s monastery on Mount Sinai as an example.

The image, wrote Maguire, "shows two robed Christian saints getting married. Their pronubus (official witness, or “best man”) is none other than Jesus Christ." Both saints are male, the 4th century Christian martyrs "Saint Serge and Saint Bacchus, close friends in the Roman army who were purportedly singled out for their secret adherence to Christianity before being tortured and killed."

It's quite interesting, but there will be those of course who will insist that the picture is just an image and that different readings of an ancient representation is possible. Unlike injunctions in the Bible which state unequivocally that homosexuality is evil.

And goodness, they would be right, for biblical passages on proscribed affection do exist. But to what purpose?

Are believers today truly expected to take everything in the sacred Book as hallowed prescription? What if some are mere descriptions of life at the time of the writing of chapter and verse instead of the absolute edicts that legates of temporal authority would have believers today obey?

How should Christians respond to Ephesians 5:22-24, which orders wives to obey their husbands as if their spouses were God?

Was not stoning a Christian penalty, according to Leviticus 24:16?

And what should believers do with Leviticus 25:44-46 , which sanctions the purchase, ownership and permanent use of slaves?

What about Leviticus 11:9-10, which prohibits the consumption of shrimp and shellfish?

Discernment is a gift; unless used it stays a package wrapped with ornate ribbons.

To substitute literal text for the example of generosity, a life of grace and spirituality -- the very tenets by which the divine Christ is supposed to be embraced -- is to live on the littoral of conviction, unable to plumb what the ocean of faith has to offer. It is to push the faithful to a reality moons away, articulated in deep space by Star Trek's Lieutenant Commander Worf, who was asked by Col. Nerys to explain Klingon Theology:

"Our Gods are dead," said Worf. "Ancient Klingon warriors slew them a millenia ago. They were more trouble than they were worth." (6)  #

1.  Roy Lagarde, "Church apologizes for sins against IPs," CBCP News, 10 October 2010.
2.  Mary E. Hunt, "Vatican equates women's ordination with priest's pedophilia?", 12 July 2010.
3.  Paul Kriwaczek, In search of Zarathustra (Vintage Books, NY: 2002)
4.  Ibid.
5.  Daniel C. Maguire, "Christian Right Bigots Are Hiding the Truth -- Early Christians Condoned Gay Marriage,", 22 August 2010.
6.  Deep Space Nine, 11th episode, fourth season (1996).

Photos by redster, 2008. The grand Geghard Monastery, in the Kotayk province of Armenia. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, extremely beautiful, carved onto and into the mountain, delicate, haunting and breathtaking. The main chapel was built around 1215 but themonastic complex itself was founded in the 4th century by Gregory the Illuminator, who discovered a holy spring inside one of the caves.


Thursday, October 07, 2010

October 6, 2010

The toughies subscribe to the same edict as the cupcakes. At least most of them.

In the end, mum's the word, as it should be.

You tumble past four decades and arrive at a place that's familiar but a little unglued.

You know you've held aloft a sign too often saying "Daft male seeking a scrap", and too often you've despaired over things that eventually fixed themselves.

Then there's the stomping on cow dung. The fear of weeping. Wiping snot on your arm with or without a sleeve. The alibi of machismo, all muscular and hard-edged, a garland of insecurity.

You try to find yourself after one too many funky times and you wonder how you ever arrived at where you're at despite the occasional smashed face, the head wounds, the knee scars, the stitches and the bruises.

There's a Taoist proverb that speaks about a fundamental law.

"True wisdom comes at great cost," it says. "Only ignorance is free." And it's true. But the truth is freebies are usually nice, and oftentimes it takes a while to realize you're already paying.

For all the learning bling and bluster of younger years, things still boil down to the pot of soup your ma made, waiting on the table after a hard cold day, heated just right and stirred with affection and ladled into a bowl that's yours and no one else's.

You sit down, take a first scoop, and you tell her how your day went and she tells you hers. She ends it with the salt of counsel and a reminder to take a deep breath, because tomorrow's always another day and don't forget to fluff the pillows before the big doze. And somehow it's all ok again.

That's always how it's been, though sometimes you forget. But she doesn't mind. And when she does she'll try not to show it.

Ma, two letters that stand for castle, ear and new land. Ma, who used to squish the creeps before sleep.

Long before the advent of the textbook she already brought an entire armory to the bedside, winnowing from thousands of patronizing attempts by others to talk sense into young minds the actual voice and power of pages: stories about the good and honorable, and how to scramble through rough times with requisite reserve and vigor.

There was Morris the Florist, General Anna and Moe Mammoth in the epic clash between the brawn of kingpins and small folks, in Jean Merrill's The Pushcart War.

Where the wild things are is where a new universe bloomed, watered by Maurice Sendak.

Of romance, solitude and friendship there was William Steig's Abel's Island, which traced the thread of Amanda's scarf, the storm, bleakness and the return to Mossville.

And what about ancient Skara Brae in Orkney, where the boy with the bronze axe drifted to and altered the life of villagers still foraging in the stone age? Kathleen Fidler's work was more than a vivid story; it showed how the past can be brought to life with the seed of inquiry and curiosity.

We like to think that we possess the ability to create our own narratives, too conscious of the constraints imposed by things beyond our control instead of the limits we have impressed on ourselves, and oblivious too often of the patient and habitually invisible nurturing that has allowed our best qualities to shine.

The sense of right and wrong, the ability to rage at unfairness and excess, the joy of puttering around, and the capacity to explore, love and laugh with abandon -- precepts so simple they are almost hymnal, yet so hard to keep -- this architecture of well-being, from the start this has been her lasting gift, just so it may be passed on.

That old chunk of coal, who was a diamond before he knew it, Johnny Cash sang about similar things, about full circles.

"Takin' nothin' back to show there/ For these dues I've paid./ But the soul I almost sold here/ And the body I've been givin' away./ Fadin' from the neon nighttime glow here,/ Headin' for the light of day, Just the other side of nowhere, goin' home."


"In the oyster-light of morning," wrote Tao Chung Yi, describing dawn in 18th century China. That was how it was last Saturday, a weekend unfolding while my daughter slept and I watched a light rain drench the football field, my son swarming the ball with others, mud splattering on their jerseys.

The lads played straight for two hours, back and forth, and then a final rush and one last lunge, and after a closing huddle the game was done.

Sodden shoes squishing with the wet ground, my boy lurched back with a tired grin on his face, said he was hungry breathlessly and then asked if his grandmother was already well.

I said she was doing better. It was her 65th birthday that day but a minor illness required the postponement of her birthday party. It's been reset to tonight, when she will share again her wine and wares to a great and growing house, where everyone will celebrate once more her embrace. #

This is for Dudi, the author's mum, a writer and activist who marked her 65th birthday last October 2.


Friday, July 23, 2010

July 22, 2010

If there is one vehicle in the country that deserves blaring sirens, it's the ambulance called climate action. Its mission: administer public finance at the soonest possible time to communities most vulnerable to increasingly severe climate change impacts.

A team composed of the country's best environmental, scientific and political medics is ready. What the ambulance needs desperately is the best driver in town. His name is P-Noy.

The dangers we confront today in the face of climate change are no longer unknown to us.

Feverish temperatures, intense precipitation and severe drought, rising sea levels and storm surges -- Filipinos have already begun to experience what the future might be like if concerted global action is not taken soon.

We also know who will be hit hardest - impoverished working Filipinos, particularly the most vulnerable among the poor such as small women farmers and urban poor mothers.

Few doubt that action needs to be taken with a sense of urgency equal both to principles of basic justice and the magnitude of the climate threat facing the Philippines. But it is no longer sufficient to just demand dramatic greenhouse gas emissions reductions from developed nations. It is no longer enough to simply insist that funds from those responsible for the problem flow urgently towards victims of the avarice of elites in rich and developing countries.

It's time to take steps that decisively protect our people.

The failure of Copenhagen to deliver a fair, ambitious and binding deal on urgent mitigation and financing issues, and the threat of another dismal, if not collapse, of international climate talks has left developing countries like the Philippines with little choice but to take local action.

Governance chaos currently reigns over the administration of foreign-sourced climate finance that has entered the Philippines. This has skewed domestic action towards the wrong priorities. More international finance has gone to mitigation efforts instead of adaptation activities. Worse, it appears most resources allocated for Philippine adaptation efforts have come in the form of loans. This is the case with the $250 million package approved recently by the World Bank supposedly to help recovery efforts of Filipinos hit by Typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng. What an irony - long after the typhoon-induced flood waters have receded, poor communities will remain mired in debt.

All this is contrary to the negotiating position in the global climate talks championed for years by the Philippines: climate finance is neither aid nor charity but compensatory by nature. But it would be folly to depend on the largesse of developed countries.

Global funds for climate-resilient development appear to be proliferating at unprecedented rates, but the scale of resources so far pledged is far from the magnitude of finance required to meet the needs of countries like the Philippines. In addition, most of the pledges remain just that -- pledges written on water, many recycled from previous commitments.

Among developing countries, mitigation efforts alone are estimated to cost $140 to $175 billion a year over the next 20 years while adaptation investments are projected to average $30 to $100 billion a year over the period 2010 to 2050. Sadly, only $2 billion of the total $19 billion pledged funds have been deposited into dedicated climate funds, with only $700 million disbursed.

This is the reason why new climate-driven public finance initiatives from luminaries such as Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile deserve the public's support. Among other aims, Enrile intends to establish what he calls The National Survival Fund, which will help secure the long-term viability of Philippine development ambitions. It will democratize access to and create predictable, long-term finance streams for adaptation activities and climate-induced disaster preparedness programs. It will also prioritize areas in the country that require urgent adaptation support based on mechanisms that ensure effective fund delivery, with fiduciary requirements that build public trust and which ensure participation by civil society organizations and congressional oversight.

It's time to make adaptation to climate change the national imperative. It's time to ensure domestic policy measures are consistent with such a position, especially the pursuit of low carbon development, which will make our country stronger and more resilient to the impacts of climate change.

In his inaugural address, P-Noy said the people are his boss. He deserved the public's applause for speaking the truth. But because he forgot to mention even once the word "environment", he also failed to remind Filipinos who the boss of humankind is. Right now, God-given nature is hopping mad, and people who have contributed least to the climate crisis are paying for the sins of the rich.

The only Philippine vehicle that deserves blaring sirens is the ambulance called climate action. Its mission: protect at the soonest possible time communities most vulnerable to climate change impacts. The steering wheel awaits P-Noy's hands. #

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

July 12, 2010

On funky days, you see deep blue without exuberance. Gray scales, without nuance. Yellows without radiance.

The world is flat, and that's that. So they say, and maybe it's true.

But some days you get lucky and by chance you open a few files and flip through images of better days.

Here is Photo-A, grainy and generally of poor quality were it not for the instant it captured - a snapshot of the dim and smoky Piano Bar of Malate and two creatures smiling at the lens.

Ink sister G, the girl with a lotus on her wrist, peeks behind the silly mug of D, who has salt on his head and pepper between his ears. They are friends, as intimate as a Salbutamol inhaler is to an asthmatic.

There was a time when D wore the tag "photographer" comfortably, perhaps even the brand "photojournalist", because that was what he mostly did then, in ways better than most -- splicing questions sideways.

There was the minutiae, there was the big picture. And there was the moment.

It's still the same, he'd probably say, yet nowadays he thinks aloud and says he "would probably never go back for fear of repeating himself."

"The circus is overrun by clowns," D says. Geckos upon geckos. But he says he is "thankful for the ride while the ride was still a ride, and he is grateful for the souls who virtually invented" it, like Henri Cartier-Bresson.

G knows this and supplies Bresson's description of the craft free from the blur of posturing: to giants, it's just "the joy of taking pictures... yes, no, yes, no... Yes."

G knows.

She sources words from arcades and fields.

When she has to, shelves are stocked with good things in the right size, color and curve. When she wants to, the grassland yields bones, beads of dew and things that bleed.

In the photograph, D leans on G, which he does in everyday life, and G leans on D, which she does in daily reality. Each one is the absurd vice of the other, an exact dose of excess able to still churning lakes and generate tempests.

On the computer screen there is another image.

It is a somewhat hazy shot of an office scene in Katwarya Sarai in Delhi, taken the day after the annual gathering of social movements in Bengaluru ended.

The Indian intellectual Anil Chaudhry, who delivered the assembly's keynote speech, is sitting on a bed and chewing tobacco. Anil's reputation usually precedes him; he is serious and doesn't suffer fools. But tonight he appears tolerant. A joke has penetrated his usual detachment and he is looking far away and suppressing a grin blooming on his face.

Beside him the gruff militant Willy D'Costa is laughing.

What has triggered the mirth?

After a high noon temperature of 43 degrees Celsius, rain fell like spears that night, which coated roads that began to hiss with the wet tires of auto rickshaws racing with cars and trucks. Sidewalks became muck, leaves and stem plummetting upon contact with the dense force of the shower.

A cold breeze had blown into the room and prodded Guman Singh, pickled defender of Himachal Pradesh, to make a prediction.

"If the wind dies down," Guman muttered, "the water will remain frozen till it hits the ground. I know this wind. It is from the Himalayas."

Willy the atheist turns to him and counsels prayer.

"Let us pray hard for hail then. We have plenty of whisky but we're out of ice." Anil Chaudhry pretends he did not hear Willy but he is unsuccessful.

On funky days, you see deep blue without exuberance.

The world appears flat and remains so till slivers of luck pass you by, sometimes in the form of a postman who sends through snail mail tiny wings.

One day, from good friend Michael Simon a parcel is sent with sunshine from Melbourne, said to be a fine place with odd habits and limericks.

Michael's an interesting man, born with an odd gizzard that turns ale into extra charm and brain cells.

A handwritten note from him points inside the package to a book titled "Clancy the Courageous Cow" -- for Luna, who received it happy and who beamed out a smile that floated up and lingered for days in the stratosphere. #

Photos by redster

Sunday, June 06, 2010

June 7, 2010


Sa okasyon ng pagkakaluklok sa inaheng Gloria Arroyo bilang kinatawan at kuko ng kanyang kalingkingan.

Sa okasyon ng paghirang sa kanyang marangya't mayabang na anak na si Mikey Arroyo bilang Kagalang-galang na Kongresman daw ng mga sikyo at iba pang maralitang kawani sa sa Mababang Kapulungan.

Yayamang, hindi lamang ang Ang Galing Pinoy ng mayamang Mikey ang nakapasok na partylist group sa Kongreso kundi pati na rin ang mga grupong Ang Ganid na Pinoy, Nagoyong Pinoy, Ang Galis Pinoy at iba pa.

Yayamang, lokohan na lang naman yata ang katumbas ngayon ng gawaing dati nating kilala sa katagang "pamamahala".

Tutal, may tatlong taon pa bago mapalitan ang maraming kawatang nagwagi sa katatapos lang na pambansang perya.

Sa harap ng talamak na pambababoy sa Kongreso, sama-sama nating itatag sa araw na ito ang kasapiang kontra-kababuyan sa pamahalaan.

Ang pangalan ng ating partido:

Adhikain ng mga Demoktratikong Maka-Lechon Manok.

Sa madaling salita, Partido Andok.

Ang panawagan natin: tama na, sobra na ang babuyan. (Manukan naman.)

Upang matiyak ang mabilis na paglaganap ng ating organisasyon, simple lang ang mga prinsipyong dapat magsilbing gabay sa atin:

* Paniniwala sa topada ng mga ideya. (Dahil walang iisang wastong doktrina.)

* Katapatan sa pananalapi. (Tulad ng mga kristo.)

* Pagbibigay respeto sa kapwa miembro sa pamamagitan ng paggamit ng fowl language.

* Pagbubuo ng Pambansang Bantayog ng mga Bugok, upang mabantayan ng mamamayan ang mga opisyal na aksaya sa oxygen ng ating bayan.

* Kahandaang hasain at gamitin ang ating mga tari.

* Tiyakin nating mahalal ang mga nominado ng Partido Andok sa susunod na eleksyon. Mas maraming pinaupong manok, mas magaling!

* Mga dorobo lang ang bawal sumapi; lahat ng Pinoy pwedeng sumali sa Andok, tandang man o bata, tindig-itik man o hindi, may kwek-kwek man o wala. (Gender-friendly din pala tayo, kasi "with wings" ang ating partido.)

Mga kasama, gamitin na natin ang ating mga palong.

Huwag na tayong bumalik sa dating buhay-Pinoy na pasa-load sa responsibilidad sa bansa -- "Kung hindi tayo kikilos, baka pwedeng sila? Kung hindi ngayon, pwedeng bukas na?" Bulok ang ulirat na nabubuhay lang pag eleksyon at pagkatapos, natutulog at nagsasarili uli kapag may nahalal na, kontento sa panaka-nakang putak at pag-kikibit-pakpak kahit nararamdaman niyang ginigisa, iniihaw, piniprito na uli siya sa sarili niyang mantika.

Bok! Ang buhay hindi pwedeng panay Chickenjoy.

Kailangang makisangkot pa rin kahit na, o lalo na't lipas na ang halalan, dahil ang pakikisangkot ay sahog sa buhay ng ating bayan.

May eleksyon man o wala, tungkulin nating tumilaok tuwing may panukalang patakaran na baluktot.

Tungkulin nating tumilaok tuwing may katiwalian.

Tungkulin nating sumigaw ng malutong na "Chicken!" tuwing may maaabutan tayong pabaya o nagmamarunong na opisyal sa entablado, telebisyon, dyaryo o radyo.

Sa ating partido, hindi na dapat usapin kung sino ang dati nating kinampanya.

Hindi dapat isyu kung kampi tayo o hindi sa tambalang Penoy-Binay.

Kung sawa ka na sa isang kahig, isang tukang buhay, kung sukang-suka ka na sa pamamayagpag ng interes ng mga baboy, puwes, huwag nang malumbay. Narito na ang samahang mag-aaruga sa iyong mga itlog.

Join ka na, bok.

Maglipat-lipat man ng partido ang mga balimbing sa lehislatura, kung sama-sama tayo, kaya nating pigilan ang rellenong babuyan sa Kongreso.

Huwag matakot, makibaka. Higit sa lahat, makimanok.

Sa pamamagitan ng ating pagkakaisa, maniwala ka, sisiw lahat ng problema. #

Retrato mula sa

Saturday, May 29, 2010

May 29, 2010

Perhaps the future is from yesterday.

It was 38 degrees celsius on Wednesday in Metro Manila. In other parts of the country the heat hit 39. Sporadic showers have come but they say it will be a week more or still before the clouds fully gather.

Scorched may just be the global mode for some time, unless people who think themselves higher on the food chain by virtue of their wealth and power turn things around. And so it goes.

Vinashkale biparit budhi -- here's an Indian proverb that's apt for our seared condition. Proceeding towards danger, we bring contrary wisdom, which heightens the state of menace, and noone can save us.

A week ago, the World Bank approved financing packages "totaling $258.64 million", largely "to support the Philippines’ reconstruction in areas hit by two storms ... which the World Bank described as 'a quick disbursing loan' to enable the government to speed up reconstruction in areas hit by storms Ondoy and Pepeng late last year.

It's a loanshark's racket.

Thugs arrive to burn down a community and later, sifting through the ashes, they offer loans to help the victims rebuild their lives.

Who are the largest country shareholders of the World Bank?

Countries such as the US, Canada, Australia and Japan, who also happen to be some of the world's most notorious climate polluters.

In April, the bank approved a loan to Eskom, South Africa's energy utility, worth $3.75 billion. Around $3.45 billion will go to finance Eskom's Medupi power station, one of the world's largest coal-fired power plants, which is described as "clean" and "climate-friendly" by the bank.

Analysts estimate the Medupi plant will produce around 30 million tons of carbon dioxide each year, adding significantly to potentially irreversible harm to the planet's climatic system.

World bank lending for renewable energy "is still dwarfed by its fossil fuel investments," said the Bretton Woods Project, a group monitoring operations of international financial institutions.

The bank helps sear the earth, raising temperatures that fuel more severe and frequent storms, then grabs the tragedy it has created as an opportunity to push more loans.

What do you say in the face of such naked profiteering?

And what do you tell the Philippine government, which has consistently pursued some of the most progressive positions in the UN-organized international climate treaty negotiations?

Abroad it continues to correctly push polluter countries to pay and channel immediate financing for global warming impacts -- not through loans but as compensation. Domestically, the Philippine government calls for the construction of more coal-fueled power stations while it borrows money to pay for damage wrought by warming-induced extreme weather events -- money that should come in as reparations from institutions and countries it knows are responsible for the climate crisis to begin with.

* * *

Months ago, a good thing took place -- the Philippine Climate Change Commission was created, thus putting in place the "policy-making body of the government ... tasked to coordinate, monitor and evaluate the programs and action plans of the government relating to climate change."

Unfortunately, little has taken place since its formation.

The "body" remains skeletal, its limbs seemingly belonging to separate entities. Since the RA 9729, also known as the Climate Change Act, which also created the Philippine climate body, was signed into law and became effective in November 2009, the commission has convened as a collegial body only once or twice, despite the devastation wrought by the recent drought, and the previous and current intersessional meeting of parties to the UN climate treaty in Bonn, Germany where crucial issues will be tackled.

So far, the way forward appears fraught with risks. On the recommendation of the commission, the Arroyo administration signed the hastily crafted implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of the Climate Change Act, an IRR that contains incredibly absurd sections contrary to law and which displays ignorance of current administrative norms in the Philippine government.

For instance, the IRR gives the Climate Change Commission "the authority to issue rules and regulations governing, but not limited to, environmental pollution, clean air act implementation, solid waste management, greenhouse gases, ozone depleting substances, chemical control orders, conservation, land classification, forestry policies and operational plans, mine exploration and production sharing with government as well as financial and technical assistance arrangements, oil exploration and agreements, energy conservation subjects, and may amend, revise, reverse, revoke or modify existing rules, regulations and issuance which are contrary to or inconsistent with the climate change policies provided for under Republic Act 9729."

Everything, in short. Another superbody. A dictatorial superbody with a grand desire -- for this is just what it is, a desire, since the IRR's formulation will be legally contested for its fundamental infirmities, and rightly so. Its desire is to possess authority over pretty much everything, issuing -- or revoking or revising -- all other rules, regulations and other issuances related to climate change, which is everything under the sky.

As if this was not bad enough, the IRR even carries a provision stating "The DBM [Department of Budget and Management] shall carry out the approved offices, items and positions for the Commission including the national panel of technical experts to be hired by the Commission as provided for under Section 10 of the Climate Act. This formulation demonstrates poor understanding, at best, of relevant Philippine laws, which rightly gives the DBM the say over personnel determinations of agencies, not the other way around, as the current IRR of the Climate Change Act stipulates.

The climate crisis must be faced squarely, not via a handful of decisionmakers but through a coordinated effort that mobilizes all relevant sections of the Philippine government, in collaboration with non-government organizations, academic institutions, communities and the private sector. #


1. Alcuin Papa, "Metro Manila hits 38˚C – Pagasa," Philippine Daily Inquirer, 26 May 2010.
2. Nikko Dizon, "No break from high temperatures ‘til mid-June -- PAGASA," Philippine Daily Inquirer, 23 May 2010.
3. "World Bank OK’s $258.6M to finance RP reconstruction, pollutant management," BusinessWorld, 21 May 2010.
4. "Bank energy lending causes uproar," Bretton Woods Update Number 70 - March/April 2010.
5. "World Bank's Climate and Governance Disaster," joint news release by groundWork, Friends of the Earth-Africa and Earthlife Africa, 8 April 2010.
6. Ibid. 4.
7. As defined in Sec. 1 (p), Rule III on Definition of Terms) of the IRR: "“Policy oversight” shall mean that the Commission shall have the authority to issue rules and regulations governing, but not limited to, environmental pollution, clean air act implementation, solid waste management, greenhouse gases, ozone depleting substances, chemical control orders, conservation, land classification, forestry policies and operational plans, mine exploration and production sharing with government as well as financial and technical assistance arrangements, oil exploration and agreements, energy conservation subjects, and may amend, revise, reverse, revoke or modify existing rules, regulations and issuance which are contrary to or inconsistent with the climate change policies provided for under Republic Act 9729."

Directly related to this is Sec. 4. Oversight and Policy Supervision of the IRR which states: "Pursuant to all the foregoing mandate of the Climate Act, the Climate Change Commission under the Office of the President shall have, policy oversight over the various offices affecting climate change through the concerned member departments of the Advisory Board." See Sec. 4, Rule VI on Powers and Functions of the Commission.
8. Para. 2, sec. 1, Rule V, Climate Change Office of the IRR.

Friday, April 02, 2010

March 30, 2010
For Burrito, Hijack, Pretty, Pooh, Beauty, Choco, Frankie, Gooramee

Monday dawned and the 12-hour sleep was done.

The first freedom act — check out the clock, which read half past nine in the morning.

The Bishkek brandy from Maral was waiting and the kids were already busy downstairs.

It was their first no-school morning and they grabbed a pack of cards and played Pusoy Dos poker at the dining table till noon.

Outside, a pushcart was ambling down the road, past the towering caimito and mango trees and rolling lazily towards the bakery, leaves falling around it as a slow breeze passed through the neighborhood.

Two years after assuming the helm of the NGO Forum on the ADB — the fine network that has been monitoring the ADB's policies, projects and programs since 1992 — my term has finally come to a close.

The last night at the helm — it was spent dancing with a crowd of 90 internationals at Casa San Pablo in Laguna.

A drum chore from Mindanao started the exit rites followed by foot-stomping by friends from Central Asia, South Asia, Southeast Asia, Europe, and North America.

Shouting and silly jigs. Swooning and swaying.

And then it was Creedence, Lou Reed, and The Kinks fueled by a few gallons of 80-proof Liliw lambanog and a bottle filled with Cambodian liquor, ginseng root, marinated cobra and scorpion. Then Punjabi music.

Nina danced with Pieter, Circa danced with Jojo, Pachimu danced with Agar and Gurami danced with Gurami. Then it was a train dance and everybody was a boxcar attached to the person dancing in front, everyone marching and marching round and round until a loud whoop split everyone up and new dancing partners came together like a crazy algebraic equation.

Around three in the morning, everyone was ready for a soft landing.

In comes a Springsteen poem then it's Bob Dylan followed by Field of Diamonds by Johnny Cash and the final click of the sound system powering off.

I slept the sleep of the dead and Monday crept in then Tuesday arrived a day later.

I'm taking things out from the big bag where most of my two years of office stuff from the Forum have been packed.

There are happy things and unused things and reminders of fulfilled and unconsummated desires.

One by one, out they go.

Take out the slippers from Mader and from Lumphini Park, companions in the long slog from somewhere to elsewhere.

Take out the whiskey flasks.

Take out the detritus of NGO conferences — IDs and name tags and IDs and IDs and IDs.

Take out the pillow from Somalia and handle it with care.

It's from Yvette, it's made of wood and ten thousand siesta hours and dreams have passed through it and returned to the soil.

Take out the beer mats stained with ale from countless bars and marked by good thoughts from valued friends. There's a beer mat from The Hague and Berlin and beneath them are clusters from Almaty, Yerevan, and Dushanbe.

Take out the Timbuktu bag and the Yak-Pak from the Strand — each one a comrade that withstood withering summers and harsh winters, carrying immense loads across all sorts of rugged terrain.

Take out the shisha, also called hookah, also called nargillah, also called the week-ending smoke. The apple and capuccino tobacco's all finished.

Take out the wooden cup from Karen, hand-painted by his wife — a reminder of great ties across oceans.

Take out the shiny, red six-ply Indian cricket ball, which has been helping put ideas together since my Greenpeace days.

Take out the books that remained unread — King Leopold’s Ghost, Bone Wars, and ten others that should have been consumed since the first week in my post.

Take out the music CDs, which played the role of daily menu.

At the office, how certain days begin or end is based on the first song that booms out of the speakers.

Is that My Sharona thumping from the top floor? "Sounds like a good week ahead."

Is that Paganini? "Good time for a discussion. He was playing Brijbushan Kabra previously. I think he's read the proposal."

"Oi. It's been Peryodiko all day. Let's roll out the plan."

"It's been AC-DC all day. He's up to something. He must have sent something to Kuroda."

A packet of cardamoms. Ventolin salbutamol. Calvin and Hobbes and Cervantes. Photos of Kala, Rio, and Luna.

In the end, the survival kit's whatever fits and before you know it it's time for the next chapter. #