Perhaps among the most slippery words to prompt the writing of stories is the word “uncertainty.” But the Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities used it to provoke 24 writers writing in eight languages of the Philippines to illumine this human experience, each writer given a photo-portrait of a survivor of natural hazards, whose voices could now be heard in the narratives and 26 photographs that compose the book “Agam.”Aside from the photo-portrait I was given, which was that of a fisherman who had survived the onslaught of typhoon Ondoy in Mindanao, ICSC also enjoined me to steer clear from using the usual catchwords of environmental science, especially the phrase “climate change” itself. The brief asked each of us to write the human in and with the environment, and to bring to the discourse the problems that have its contexts in specific cultural modes of thinking and behaving within one’s specific environment.
Thus, the book “Agam” is one of the best resources of stories and poems from which to glean the ecological literacy of our archipelagic imagination. How do our people’s stories “read” the seas that unite our islands, and how do we account for the rising waters that would inevitably change our shorelines and marine lifeways in the next five decades? How do our people’s experiences of surviving calamitous storms and typhoons “write” into their very bones and sinews these changes in the natural environment? When a poem asks us to gaze up to the heavens and sense the unseasonal onset of hard rains, how do we learn from the songs and poetry of our people how to sustain our lives and our communities amidst hazards and disasters?
“Agam” does not claim to provide the answers, but it gives a real time-space for the reader’s imagination to dwell consciously on the question of how humans and all living species intricately weave together the life-strands of our earth, this very ground of being that sustains us. More than examination of consciousness, the narratives in “Agam” sustain our interstitial spaces for hope.