Category: News

Why Stories Matter

by: Regina Abuyuan for ABS-CBN News

Big words, facts, and figures don’t mean jack if you want to impart lasting lessons to anyone, about anything

On a balmy night in August 2011, in between rums and beers and whisky, good friend Red Constantino, executive director of Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities, said we should do a book on climate change from the perspective of writers and poets. Their work would accompany that of Jose Enrique Soriano, a retired photojournalist who recently mounted an exhibit in the Senate that helped push the People’s Survival Fund bill.

“Sure!” I said, not knowing what I was signing up for. “Let’s do it.” Then we went back to drinking.

We would have the first official meeting for the book exactly two years later. Palanca award-winner Nori de Dios was to be project manager. I was still in a haze, which peeled away as the months wore on and made me realize, “Teka teka, di lang pala ‘to usapang lasing…parang totoo na ‘to ah.”

Ten months later, this is what we have. A groundbreaking book entitled “Agam,” a collection of creative narratives from 25 artists (the photographer included), writers, journalists, and poets.

Groundbreaking because you have stuff by Merlinda Bobis, Arnold Molina Azurin, Merlie Alunan, Ramon Sunico, Hermie Beltran, Michael Tan and other Filipino literary and intellectual figures talking about one subject, in their own ways, all in one place. Groundbreaking because it features eight languages (with English translations) and three local literary forms.

“Period-defining,” says Red, because Agam takes a sideways approach and is different and risky. It takes an issue “that threatens the very viability of our country,” as he likes to say, and brings it to a level that can be understood and appreciated by the majority.

Putting together the book was agonizing, ovaries-in-throat work, but it had to be done. The timing of its message, and what it means as a teaching and learning tool represents everything I believe every parent and teacher should think hard about:

It is through stories that we best learn and remember things and events by, especially when those stories are about you and me.

That’s something we’ve forgotten in our impatience, wanting to win the next pissing contest, and the overly-huge importance we place on impressing others.

We’ve been missing that in the way we teach our children, and ourselves, about the way to live, and in the way we think we learn.

We pound our kids to memorize facts and figures to test-to-pass. We believe fear is the best teacher, that conformity is good because it is safe and risk-free, that success is measured by rank and bank accounts, that questioning the status quo will lead to embarrassment and humiliation, the being different is unacceptable.

And “climate change”—what a buzzword. Mention that and you’re bound to sound relevant. You’re also bound to put others to sleep.

It’s become our punching bag and scapegoat, our ticket to sounding knowledgeable—even if we don’t know jack. Yolanda: climate change. A farmer’s crop gets inundated in the unlikely month of June: nako, climate change. Your tan fades earlier than expected, but you can’t hit the beach because it’s raining in Bora: wow, hasselhoff-naman-hashtag-climate-change.

Precipitation. Salinity. Acidification. Carbon emissions. Big wonky, words that can be memorized and, said the right way in the right company, will make you seem very, very smart and socially-aware indeed.

But what does the scientific data and constipated NGO-speak really mean? What does it matter to you and me, to our children? Why should we even care?

Great and lasting lessons have always been taught and received through good narratives. We’ve all always known this, but we just forgot.

Agam—also an old Filipino word that means foreboding, uncertainty, and remembrance of a memory—will make you remember. Hopefully, the book will also make you want to pass on knowledge—about climate change, the environment, our literary culture—in a way that matters.

Each of us has a story to tell, whether it’s fiction or non-fiction, in verse or prose, in song or in photographs.

“Literature and narratives help teach concepts,” says another very good friend, Zeena Pañares, education director of Blended Learning Center, which is taking the equally-bold approach of teaching the usual subjects (including Math and Science) via stories and literature. “It has been proven that if facts are put into a logical sequence and given context, a person is better able to remember and evaluate information.”

If we want people—not just children—to discover and understand things better, we should learn how to present those facts and issues as a narrative, and in their own language. In their own context. One of my sons, for example, is an origami enthusiast. He tunes out if you try to teach him math the traditional way, but if you bring up mathematical concepts in grids and tessellations, the context he is enthusiastic about, his eyes light up and he becomes actively involved in the learning process.

Narration is also not mere reporting, it is not using words and images to shock and stir pity to ask for relief goods. Words and images can do more. Stories can inspire you to think, they can get under your skin and shape how you act and move.

Maybe they will even make you care.

 

Regina Abuyuan is the executive editor of “Agam: Filipino Narratives on Uncertainty and Climate Change.” She is also executive director of Blended Learning Services, Inc., which runs Blended Learning Center, and edits Manila Bulletin’s Business Agenda section.

 

Editor’s Note: This is article is re-posted from ABS-CBN News.com.

About the featured image:

June 24, 2014 – Manila, Philppines – Dr. Michael Tan, Chancellor of University of the Philippines Diliman sign a book during the launch of the book ‘Agam’ published by Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities June 24, 2014. 26 Images by Jose Enrique Soriano and 24 writers are featured in this book that tackles issues on climate change and stories of hope.

Photo by Veejay Villafranca for Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities

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‘Agam’: Showing the effects of climate change through storytelling

by: Kim Luces for GMA News

Melting polar ice caps, rising sea levels, increasing temperatures, extended droughts, devastating super typhoons: the effects of climate change have been written about so much that many of the stories are starting to blur into each other.

“When we talk about climate change, listeners are forced to choose between wonky, constipated jargon or cliches of disasters, victims, and easy formulations of what the problem is. And that’s unfortunate because the problem is so complex and so big that it requires deeper engagement with the public,” said Renato Redentor “Red” Constantino, executive director of the Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities, a non-profit group working on sustainable energy solutions.

“[We thought,] surely there are ways to engage the public to talk about the issue in a story-telling way, in a way that captures the magnitude of the problem, but also how personal it should be,” he told GMA News Online.

One of these ways is “Agam,” a collection of 26 narratives about climate change that do not classify as scientific pieces or sob stories.

The book is the brainchild of Constantino and Manila Bulletin’s Business Agenda section editor Regina Abuyuan. The two came up with the concept in 2011 after attending a photo exhibit pushing for the passage of the People’s Survival Fund Bill, which would create a fund that local governments could use to put climate mitigation practices in place to lessen the impact of natural disasters.

The exhibit featured portraits of people affected by climate change. But Constantino and Abuyuan thought that more could be done with the photos presented to them. “Why not present the issue in a different way?” said Abuyuan in an interview with GMA News Online.

Some of the photos from the exhibit made it into “Agam,” taken by photographer Jose Enrique Soriano. The written pieces collected in the book were based on the photos.

“The images are all portraits of Filipinos across the archipelago, and you will notice from the photos that all of them reflect ambiguity. There are no easy narratives there. The book could be about anyone,” Constantino said.

Different perspectives

The book’s contributors—24 writers from different backgrounds—were each assigned a photo that served as a prompt for the piece they were to write. They were free to write in any literary genre and use any language. The result is a collection of fiction, creative non-fiction, and poems in eight different languages: Sinama, Maguindanao, Bicolano, Cebuano, Tagalog, Ilocano, Waray (English translations were provided for all of these) and English.

Three writers used local literary forms. “One used a children’s rhyme in the Sinama language. One from Tacloban used the ‘panawagan’ form—it took the form of a radio call—and the other used a ‘krutsay,’ parang story-telling,” said Abuyuan.

“Some wrote about the people in the photo, some wrote about the hat that the person in the photo is wearing, some wrote about the river in the background. Gina [Abuyuan] wrote hers from the perspective of a dog looking at the person at the photo,” Constantino said.

The submissions could not be longer than 1,000 words. And while this is a book about climate change, the writers were forbidden to use the phrase “climate change,” as well as words that are often used when writing about the topic: “adaptation”, “mitigation”, “temperature”—”…all the words that the world of NGOs (which I belong to) and the scientific world often use, but which also often separates them from the public. And so you have a book about climate change without none of such words,” Constantino said.

“The message also is that we better start telling stories about this issue rather than talk about the technicalities only. They’re important, but if you don’t get engaged, it doesn’t really matter much,” he added.

Among those who participated in the project are poet and bookstore owner Padmapani L. Perez; Cultural Center of the Philippines Intertextual Division Director Hermie Beltran; Carlos Palanca awardee and distinguished anthropologist Arnold Molina Azurin; former PAGASA Director Leoncio Alhambra Amadore; 2003 Magsaysay Award for Journalism, Literature and the Creative Communication Arts winner Sheila S. Coronel; and University of the Philippines-Diliman Chancellor Dr. Michael Tan.

“We tried to put into one book something that is unique, that crosses some of the conventional boundaries in publications, largely because the content of the book is about articulating stories, views, on an issue that has really not enjoyed the kind of depth it deserves,” said Constantino.

The complexity of climate change

“Agam” lays out its objective right away. “The introduction tells the readers, if you’re looking for the glib 10-things-you-can-do-for-the-climate, this is not the book for you,” said Constantino. “The book wants to reader to pause, to take a deep breath, to see how complex the issue is, and to tackle the issue in a deeper, more personal way. Because there is no single solution to this problem, and it won’t be solved overnight.”

Climate change will be with us for a while, Constantino added.

“It requires far more than just switching off your lights or switching to renewable technology because it questions the very trajectory of our development, the way they’ve organized our economy,” he said. “And so the response to climate change must be more enduring. This is not only about disasters. It’s about slow-onset impacts that are not necessarily confined to the definition.”

“Agam” will be launched on Tuesday, June 24 in Quezon City. The book will soon be available in major bookstores and in major online booksellers. There will also be a launch in Tacloban and three in the US: in California, New York, and Washington DC. At the DC event, the book launch will be accompanied by an exhibit.

The proceeds from the book will go to Re-Charge Tacloban, a project that funds the building of e-jeepneys and integrated solar sustainable transport facilities in the Yolanda-hit city.

 

Editor’s note: This article is re-posted from GMA News Online (June 22, 2014, 8:15PM)..

10 Reasons Why We Love Agam, A Book on Climate Change for the Benefit of Yolanda Survivors

Originally published in Spot.ph

On June 24, 2014, the who’s who of the literary world gathered at Victorino’s in celebration of the first Philippine literary book on climate change. However, Renato Redentor Constantino (Executive Director of the Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities and a contributor to the book) clarified that it is more than just a book about the weather. It’s not even really an anthology. It’s a book of interpretations and insights. Filled with poems and narratives from different perspectives, Agam: Filipino Narratives on Uncertainty and Climate Change is a work of art that breathes new life to the dying word unique. Reading through the pages offers an experience unlike any you’ve ever had in Philippine Literature.
 
Here are 10 reasons why we love it.
 
1. A giving book for Tacloban.
All proceeds from the sale of Agam goes directly to the Re-Charge Project, which seeks to build a renewable energy source to the devastated parts of Tacloban through solar panels, which would then be used to “fuel” a fleet of electronic jeepneys. The enterprise hopes to provide jobs for the survivors, while also creating a more sustainable and cleaner form of transportation service in the area.
 
2. The multilingual approach: poems and stories in eight Philippine languages
Stories written in Tagalog/Filipino, Waray, Maguindanao, Bicolano, Ilocano, Sinama, Cebuano, and English? Count us in. The book not only supports green causes, it also promotes Philippine literature, not just Filipino literature. More books in our local languages, please.
 
3. The impressive lineup: 24 critically acclaimed writers.
We were star-struck at the book launch, in the presence of these titans: Regina Abuyuan (also the Executive Editor), Merlie Alunan, Dr. Leoncio Amadore, Arnold Azurin, Romulo P. Baquiran Jr., Herminio S. Beltran Jr., Merlinda Bobis, Renato Redentor Constantino, Sheila Coronel, Honorio de Dios, Daryll Delgado, Grace Monte de Ramos, Ricardo M. de Ungria, Marjorie Evasco, Alya B. Honosan, Susan S. Lara, Padmapani L. Perez, Mucha-Shim Lahaman Quiling, Joel Saracho, Jose Enrique Soriano, May Ling Su, Ramon C. Sunico, Mubarak M. Tahir, Dr. Michael L. Tan, and Criselda Yabes.
 
Among these authors are winners of the Carlos Palanca award, a Magsaysay Awardee, a SEAWrite Awardee, the Chancellor of the University of the Philippines-Diliman, public intellectuals, and pop culture experts. All of them in one book.

4. The stories, of course.
As a rule, the writers were asked not to use specific words, including “climate change.” The results are a poem about a wife who wants to let her husband know that she is alright (but fearing that it is he who was washed away when the super typhoon hit), a tale of a child who comes home after a storm, and a rainbow-colored plastic sheet fashioned into a skirt for warmth.

5. Love instead of fear.
The topic seems grim but the book devotes an entire chapter to hope. In between sorrow and whatever feelings the inadequacy in disaster preparation/management stirs in you, Agam contain narratives that aim to inspire change. After all, it all begins with desire-to improve and to help.

6. The striking images.
Behind the lens is Jose Enrique Soriano, who took portraits of people he met. He imposed no story or caption behind their faces-no unnecessary drama, just “the people at the forefront of climate change.” In this case, it means those who live with its effects. There is no sweeping background of the devastation. The pictures are about the people, as the stories are too.
 
7.  The cover: a mix of new and old typography by Kristian Kabuay.
It’s not very apparent, but the calligraphy is baybayin with modern techniques from the Hanunuo Mangyan tribe in Mindoro. (The black “squiggles” on the front cover reads “A-Ga-M” and on the back, the more traditional “A-Ga” is written.)
 
8. Revitalizing the role of literature in influencing social movement.
Beyond expressing one’s own heartaches, poetry and other forms of literature were always meant to not just capture emotions but to effect them as well. The collection of poems, stories, and photographs in Agam strengthen the idea that art is for the community. The readers benefit from the stories and those in need benefit from the purchase. That’s more than anyone can ask for from a book.

9. The impact it will have.
This is a first. We’re hoping it’s not the last. Nearly everyone involved in creating the book found the experience overwhelmingly pleasing, despite the heavy themes. The publishers gave the contributors room for creativity, the advocacies weren’t lost in translation, and, if enough people purchase a copy, it would shape a better Tacloban.
 
10. You get what you pay for.
The book is 10 x 10 inches and the 26 images by Jose Enrique  Soriano are printed in crisp colors. There are 24 narratives for you to enjoy and be moved by and you’re going to help the rebuild of Eastern Visayas. That’s P1,600 spent well.

ARTS AND CULTURE Mothers talk to mountains, farmers read clouds, fishers warn of the sea in ‘Agam’

Originally published in Interaksyon

After a landslide triggered by Typhoon Pepeng wiped out his home and killed his entire family, a man was going to build a new house where his old one once stood.

Padmapani Perez drew on this story told to her by a Benguet local as she was writing her poem “Mothers Speak” for the book Agam, launched in a Quezon City restaurant Tuesday, June 24.

As with the 23 other writers contributing to the book showing the human face of climate change, she was given a photo taken by Jose Enrique Soriano as a prompt for her work. In her case, the photo was of a woman carrying a child whose eyes were closed. The sea was their background.

Baguio-based Perez had a child of her own. “That’s why I decided to write about the effects of climate from a mother’s point of view,” she told InterAksyon.com. In the poem, a mother speaks to a mountain, the same one who has seen her child grow, the same one who has taken her child away.

“I was recalling his story and his grief,” she said of the Benguet resident who went back to his old habits after tragedy struck. “No matter what climate change does to people, what else are they to do but what they know how to do?”

The Cebuano poem “Unsaon Pagbasa ang Panganod?” (How Do You Read the Clouds?) by Grace Monte de Ramos, tackles a similar theme.

“People have traditional knowledge. Even if they are uneducated, they know how to read the weather. If they spot a certain cloud or feel a certain temperature, they know what will happen next. But now things have changed. You can no longer predict when it will rain. That’s the problem,” de Ramos told InterAksyon.com.

Her prompt was a photo of a woman staring suspiciously at the camera, a tricycle painted with the words “Saint Isidore” behind her. The holy man is the patron of farmers, which is why the poem has a farmer as its persona.

The same poem is a prayer to the saint, interspersed with the farmer’s stories.

Another Cebuano poem in the book is “Krutsay” by Boholana Marjorie Evasco. The title comes from the word—and a song—people in Visayas and Mindanao use to call the wind.

It is about the man in the photo assigned to her, a fisherman, Evasco gathered, by looking at his muddy shorts. “I realized that he just came from work, from the sea.” She also found out that the man was a survivor of Tropical Storm Sendong. This dictated her choice of language.

The song “Krutsay” was the spine of the narrative poem, Evasco told InterAksyon.com. The four-part poem ended with the fisherman warning the people, because “He knows the sea.”

Other contributors drew from their own experiences. Ramon Sunico, who wrote “Diptych, Hindi Selfie,” was on his way to a funeral when Tropical Storm Ondoy struck. “The water was waist-deep outside our subdivision,” he told InterAksyon.com. “Our dog almost drowned.”

He was given two photos of the same woman in ankle-deep flood, one with what looked like a sari-sari store behind her, and the other with a house and palm trees as her background.

Meanwhile, Arnold Molina Azurin wrote the essay “Agayayos” with a photo of an old man wearing a salakot (native hat) and a dirty shirt, a boy peeking from behind him. Palm trees surrounded them.

“Agayayos,” said the Vigan-born writer, was Ilocano for “ever-flowing, as water down a river, or blood in the veins, or memories in a lifetime.”

He pictured himself on the highest promontory on the way to Vigan, with a view of the entire landscape, the sea, and the mountains leading to Abra. “Sometimes there are even monkeys in the trees,” he said of his vantage point.

“You can see the changes of croppings in the farms. Oh, they are planting melon there! And there, on the way to Abra with the hills, there are the cornfields. Per weather, per season, you can see the changing productivity and the changing generations too,” Azurin told InterAksyon.com. From there too, one could see the sea encroaching upon the poblacion because of black sand mining.

He imagined the elderly man and the boy as grandfather and grandchild, farming together. Just as the livelihood was handed down from one generation to another, so too were the tales of their ancestors. A falling star creating the mouth of a river, a pair of giants who were the first couple.

“I’m thankful to have been given the opportunity to write in a very comprehensive sense the memories of my own youth or my own people, whether you can validate them or not. The memories of the people about the landscape, how it was formed, I was able to revive them. Make them alive,” he said.

Along with the scientists, humanitarians, and disaster risk reduction and management workers, storytellers like these five were important players in the issue of climate change.

“We need to recreate discourse. We need to introduce narratives, storytelling, into such an important issue. It’s not enough to use big words or send a barrage of numbers to the people,” said Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities executive director and publisher Renato Redentor Constantino during the launch of Agam.

Added Senator Loren Legarda, who chairs the Senate Climate Change Committee, “I truly appreciate the fact that narratives, poetry, prose, images, photos, and eight languages in our great country are being utilized in this book. I think this is one of the most novel and innovative ways of bringing climate change to the national and international consciousness.”

The book is Constantino’s way of rallying Filipinos to participate, to act. “For us, involvement starts with information,” he said.

The photos “avoid the cliché of disaster.” Soriano was instructed precisely to not look for victims as he came up with the 26 images that are included in Agam.

This is how the book tackles uncertainty, as in “agam-agam.” It is not a negative thing, said Constantino, because it meant that “the bad guys haven’t won, and… we can still prevail.”

“Some are harrowing,” he said of the stories. “Some are haunting. Some are really moving. Some are playful. Some are like a paper cut when you’re reading them; you don’t know that you’re already wounded.”

Book on climate change launched in Tacloban

TACLOBAN CITY–The first Philippine literary book on climate change was launched in UP Tacloban here on Saturday, June 28, 2014, the second in a series of launches set in Quezon City, Berkeley in San Francisco, and Manhattan in New York City.

Titled Agam, an early Filipino word for foreboding and memory, the book broke new ground with its collection of 26 images and 24 narratives in eight languages.

Inspired by the drama and desperation resulting from typhoon Yolanda’s aftermath, Agam has been called “audacious and groundbreaking” since it raises awareness about climate change through narrative pieces, poems, and photographs.

Agam is composed of original creative narratives by 24 Filipino writers, minus the crutch of scientific and NGO jargon. Works were submitted in the languages of Tagalog, Waray, Maguindanao, Bikol, Ilocano, Cebuano, Sinama, and English, together with 26 images taken by the photographer Jose Enrique Soriano.

“If we are haunted by what has come to pass, by the things we’ve neglected, we can also be guided by what ought to be. I hope the stories of Agam can provide the reader a compass to guide them through these harrowing times,” said Merlie Alunan, an award-winning poet and one of Agam’s contributors.

More than 50 people—including Alunan, herself a Tacloban native—attended the Tacloban launch at the multi-purpose hall at the campus of the University of the Philippines in Visayas, whose structures were destroyed by supertyphoon Yolanda.

The book is published by the Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities (iCSC), the same organization that will soon be bringing eJeepneys in Tacloban City.

The Katig Writers’ Network, an organization of literary artists in the Visayas, helped organize the book launch in Tacloban.

All proceeds from the sale of Agam will go to the RE-Charge project, an integrated solar and sustainable transport services and training facility that is being set up in Tacloban City. iCSC is a pioneering climate policy group that approaches big problems sideways, by incubating ideas, innovating approaches and implementing solutions.

It will be available in all branches of Powerbooks and major outlets of National Bookstore throughout the country.

Photo Caption:
Tacloban, Leyte – June 28, 2014 – The Institute for Climate ans Sustainable Cities hosted the launch of their book entitled ‘Agam’ in the University of the Philippines Tacloban campus today June 28, 2014. Proceeds from the sales of the book will help fund Re-charge Tacloban project where they will bring in electronic jeepneys in the city as part of their mitigation project for the survivors of Typhoon Yolanda.Photo by Veejay Villafranca for iCSC

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Philippine literary climate change book launched, called “Audacious, Groundbreaking”

Quezon City, June 24 – The first Philippine literary book on climate change was launched today in a jam-packed restaurant in Quezon City. Titled Agam, an early Filipino word for foreboding and memory, the book broke new ground with its collection of 26 images and 24 narratives in eight languages.

“In my 20 years as a journalist and editor this is the first time I’ve worked on such an issue using such an innovative approach. Many of the book’s writers have been part of noted anthologies but this is the first time they’ve worked on a literary piece on climate change. I was very humbled and happy that they took the direction and concept and just ran with it. The result is grand; the book is grand,” said Regina Abuyuan, the executive editor of Agam.

Over 100 people attended the event, surprising even Agam’s publisher, the Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities. Sen. Loren Legarda, chair of the Senate’s Climate Change Committee, attended the launch and gave a short address. Among the notables are Dr.Michael Tan, Chancellor of University of the Philippines Diliman, Dr.Leoncio Amadore former PAGASA director,Kidlat Tahimik, a renowned filmmaker, and Yeb Sano from Climate Change Commission (CCC).

“I’m mighty pleased to be part of such an audacious, creative project, despite the harrowing nature of the issue we were asked to write about. The literary community must play a bigger role in getting more people thinking about and acting on climate change,” said Marjorie Evasco, an award-winning poet and one of Agam’s contributors.

“The book aims to contribute to the effort of “re-creating” and “re-articulating” the slow- onset impact of climate change through jargon-free creative narratives and images”, said Joel Saracho, theater artist, poet, former mediaman and another Agam contributor.

The book will be launched on June 28in Tacloban City, Leyte followed by launches in Berkeley, San Francisco and Manhattan, New York in July. It will be available in all branches of Powerbooks and major outlets of National Bookstore throughout the country.

Agam is composed of original creative narratives by 24 Filipino writers, minus the crutch of scientific and NGO jargon. Works were submitted in the languages of Tagalog, Waray, Maguindanao, Bikol, Ilocano, Cebuano, Sinama, and English, together with 26 images taken by the photographer Jose Enrique Soriano.

All proceeds from the sale of Agam will go to the RE-Charge project, an integrated solar and sustainable transport services and training facility that is being set up in Tacloban City. iCSC is a pioneering climate policy group that approaches big problems sideways, by incubating ideas, innovating approaches and implementing solutions.

Caption of the featured image:

June 24, 2014 – Manila, Philppines – Dignitaries and other personalities of the literary and journalism field gather in Victorinos restaurant in Quezon City for the launch of the book ‘Agam’ published by Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities June 24, 2014. 26 Images by Jose Enrique Soriano and 24 writers are featured in this book that tackles issues on climate change and stories of hope.

Photo by Veejay Villafranca for Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities.

‘Agam’: Showing the effects of climate change through storytelling

Originally published in GMA News

Melting polar ice caps, rising sea levels, increasing temperatures, extended droughts, devastating super typhoons: the effects of climate change have been written about so much that many of the stories are starting to blur into each other.

“When we talk about climate change, listeners are forced to choose between wonky, constipated jargon or cliches of disasters, victims, and easy formulations of what the problem is. And that’s unfortunate because the problem is so complex and so big that it requires deeper engagement with the public,” said Renato Redentor “Red” Constantino, executive director of the Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities, a non-profit group working on sustainable energy solutions.

“[We thought,] surely there are ways to engage the public to talk about the issue in a story-telling way, in a way that captures the magnitude of the problem, but also how personal it should be,” he told GMA News Online.

One of these ways is “Agam,” a collection of 26 narratives about climate change that do not classify as scientific pieces or sob stories.

The book is the brainchild of Constantino and Manila Bulletin’s Business Agenda section editor Regina Abuyuan. The two came up with the concept in 2011 after attending a photo exhibit pushing for the passage of the People’s Survival Fund Bill, which would create a fund that local governments could use to put climate mitigation practices in place to lessen the impact of natural disasters.

The exhibit featured portraits of people affected by climate change. But Constantino and Abuyuan thought that more could be done with the photos presented to them. “Why not present the issue in a different way?” said Abuyuan in an interview with GMA News Online.

Some of the photos from the exhibit made it into “Agam,” taken by photographer Jose Enrique Soriano. The written pieces collected in the book were based on the photos.

“The images are all portraits of Filipinos across the archipelago, and you will notice from the photos that all of them reflect ambiguity. There are no easy narratives there. The book could be about anyone,” Constantino said.

Different perspectives

The book’s contributors—24 writers from different backgrounds—were each assigned a photo that served as a prompt for the piece they were to write. They were free to write in any literary genre and use any language. The result is a collection of fiction, creative non-fiction, and poems in eight different languages: Sinama, Maguindanao, Bicolano, Cebuano, Tagalog, Ilocano, Waray (English translations were provided for all of these) and English.

Three writers used local literary forms. “One used a children’s rhyme in the Sinama language. One from Tacloban used the ‘panawagan’ form—it took the form of a radio call—and the other used a ‘krutsay,’ parang story-telling,” said Abuyuan.

“Some wrote about the people in the photo, some wrote about the hat that the person in the photo is wearing, some wrote about the river in the background. Gina [Abuyuan] wrote hers from the perspective of a dog looking at the person at the photo,” Constantino said.

The submissions could not be longer than 1,000 words. And while this is a book about climate change, the writers were forbidden to use the phrase “climate change,” as well as words that are often used when writing about the topic: “adaptation”, “mitigation”, “temperature”—”…all the words that the world of NGOs (which I belong to) and the scientific world often use, but which also often separates them from the public. And so you have a book about climate change without none of such words,” Constantino said.

“The message also is that we better start telling stories about this issue rather than talk about the technicalities only. They’re important, but if you don’t get engaged, it doesn’t really matter much,” he added.

Among those who participated in the project are poet and bookstore owner Padmapani L. Perez; Cultural Center of the Philippines Intertextual Division Director Hermie Beltran; Carlos Palanca awardee and distinguished anthropologist Arnold Molina Azurin; former PAGASA Director Leoncio Alhambra Amadore; 2003 Magsaysay Award for Journalism, Literature and the Creative Communication Arts winner Sheila S. Coronel; and University of the Philippines-Diliman Chancellor Dr. Michael Tan.

“We tried to put into one book something that is unique, that crosses some of the conventional boundaries in publications, largely because the content of the book is about articulating stories, views, on an issue that has really not enjoyed the kind of depth it deserves,” said Constantino.

The complexity of climate change

“Agam” lays out its objective right away. “The introduction tells the readers, if you’re looking for the glib 10-things-you-can-do-for-the-climate, this is not the book for you,” said Constantino. “The book wants to reader to pause, to take a deep breath, to see how complex the issue is, and to tackle the issue in a deeper, more personal way. Because there is no single solution to this problem, and it won’t be solved overnight.”

Climate change will be with us for a while, Constantino added.

“It requires far more than just switching off your lights or switching to renewable technology because it questions the very trajectory of our development, the way they’ve organized our economy,” he said. “And so the response to climate change must be more enduring. This is not only about disasters. It’s about slow-onset impacts that are not necessarily confined to the definition.”

“Agam” will be launched on Tuesday, June 24 in Quezon City. The book will soon be available in major bookstores and in major online booksellers. There will also be a launch in Tacloban and three in the US: in California, New York, and Washington DC. At the DC event, the book launch will be accompanied by an exhibit.

The proceeds from the book will go to Re-Charge Tacloban, a project that funds the building of e-jeepneys and integrated solar sustainable transport facilities in the Yolanda-hit city.

Literary Climate Change Book “Agam” To Be Launched On June 24

Originally published in Orange Magazine TV

A “period-defining publication” will be released this June 24 (Tuesday) by the same pioneering group that launched the ejeepney revolution in 2007. Titled Agam, an early Tagalog word for foreboding and memory, the book brings together new work from Filipino writers across diverse disciplines, focused on the confrontation between climate change and cultures across the archipelago.

The book launch will be held at the Ilocano restaurant Victorino’s in Quezon City from 3:00 to 6:00 PM. It will be followed by similar events in the US in mid-July, in Berkeley and New York.

“Agam represents story-telling at its best. More than climate change, the book is about people, about what was, what might be, and what is. It is the story of all of us,” said Renato Redentor Constantino, publisher and executive director of the Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities (iCSC).

Agam is composed of original creative narratives by 24 Filipino writers, minus the crutch of scientific and NGO jargon. Works were submitted in the languages of Tagalog, Waray, Maguindanao, Ilocano, Bisaya, Sinama and English, in response to images taken by the elusive photojournalist Jose Enrique Soriano.

Agam contributors include distinguished poets Merlinda Bobis, Ramon C. Sunico and Padmapani Perez, Dean of Columbia School of Journalism Shiela Coronel, UP Diliman Chancellor Dr. Michael Tan, and anthropologist Arnold Azurin.

According to Dr. Leoncio Amadore, considered the godfather of Philippine climate science and who provided the book’s foreword, “The work is nothing short of compelling, moving and provocative — a body of work the scientific community urgently needs.”

“I am glad that the literary community of the Philippines has taken notice,” wrote Albay Province Governor and Green Climate Fund chairperson Jose Ma. Sarte Salceda, in his review of the book’s manuscript. Citing stories of “tenacity and hope,” Salceda said he looks “forward to the time when climate change will be the overriding theme of songs and poems.”

All proceeds from the sale of Agam will go to the Re-Charge project, an integrated solar and sustainable transport services and training facility that is being set up in Tacloban City. ICSC is a pioneering climate policy group that approaches big problems sideways, by incubating ideas, innovating approaches and implementing solutions.

Pinoy writers, poets tackle climate change

Originally published in ABS-CBN News

A “period-defining publication” will be released this June 24 by the same pioneering group that launched the ejeepney revolution in 2007.

Titled “Agam,” an Tagalog word for foreboding and memory, the book brings together new work from Filipino writers across diverse disciplines, focused on the confrontation between climate change and cultures across the archipelago.

The book launch will be held at the Ilocano restaurant Victorino’s in Quezon City from 3:00 to 6:00 PM. It will be followed by similar events in the US in mid-July, in Berkeley and New York.

“Agam represents story-telling at its best. More than climate change, the book is about people, about what was, what might be, and what is. It is the story of all of us,” said Renato Redentor Constantino, publisher and executive director of the Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities, or iCSC.

Agam is composed of original creative narratives by 24 Filipino writers, minus the crutch of scientific and NGO jargon. Works were submitted in the languages of Tagalog, Waray, Maguindanao, Ilocano, Bisaya, Sinama and English, in response to images taken by the elusive photojournalist Jose Enrique Soriano.
Agam contributors include distinguished poets Merlinda Bobis, Ramon C. Sunico and Padmapani Perez, Dean of Columbia School of Journalism Shiela Coronel, UP Diliman Chancellor Dr. Michael Tan, and anthropologist Arnold Azurin.

According to Dr. Leoncio Amadore, considered the godfather of Philippine climate science and who provided the book’s foreword, “The work is nothing short of compelling, moving and provocative — a body of work the scientific community urgently needs.”

“I am glad that the literary community of the Philippines has taken notice,” wrote Albay Governor and Green Climate Fund chairperson Joey Salceda, in his review of the book’s manuscript. Citing stories of “tenacity and hope,” Salceda said he looks “forward to the time when climate change will be the overriding theme of songs and poems.”

All proceeds from the sale of Agam will go to the Re-Charge project, an integrated solar and sustainable transport services and training facility that is being set up in Tacloban City. ICSC is a pioneering climate policy group that approaches big problems sideways, by incubating ideas, innovating approaches and implementing solutions.

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