‘Agam’ sparks conversation on climate change

Originally published in GMA News Online

Acclaimed book ‘Agam: Filipino Narratives on Uncertainty and Climate Change’ last week reached a new audience as the authors featured on its pages convened to help relaunch the collection at Mt. Cloud Bookshop, Casa Vallejo in Baguio.

The bookshop’s co-owner Padmapani Perez, a poet and an anthropologist, wrote one of the 24 literary pieces featured in the book.

‘Agam’, first published in 2014, is a pioneering anthology of stories about climate change. Portraits by Jose Enrique Soriano taken in Tacloban — devastated by Supertyphoon Yolanda in 2013 — put a face to the narratives told in eight different Filipino languages (Tagalog, Ilocano, Cebuano, Waray, Maguindanao, Bikol, Sinama and English).

The stories do not discuss the science of climate change, but instead presents its effects in varying degrees on daily life. Bringing the book and the discussion to Baguio was only fitting, as the city has weathered a number of storms.

“Baguio is a disaster-prone city. Both history and science confirm this. We’re hoping that getting people together to talk about a book like ‘Agam’ will encourage locals to assert the value of their own experiences of coping with and surviving typhoons, earthquakes, closed roads, dwindling food and water supplies, and the losses that come with the disaster,” Perez said.

“Without meaning to draw a doomsday picture for Baguio, we want to say that giving value to human experience—writing about it, speaking about it, listening to it—will be so important in facing the challenges that climate change will bring,” she added.

Joining her during the launch were Ramon Sunico, a National Fellow for Poetry at the University of the Philippines Creative Writing Center; Renato Redentor Constantino, executive director of the Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities; and Romulo Baquiran Jr., professor of the University of the Philippines College of Arts and Letters.

“Climate change affects all Filipinos and it is urgent that each of us finds our own voice and uses it. This is a key message that Agam seeks to deliver, that the poetry of our hopes to survive and thrive in the midst of this crisis can help carve out a path forward for the country,” Constantino asserted.

‘Agam’ was published by the Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities. It has won a National Book Award from the National Book Development Association in 2015 as well as two Gintong Aklat awards in 2016 for Literature in English and Book Design. — TJD, GMA News