Nowhere to Go

Last November 10, the class tackled the situation of the indigenous people in the Philippines. As I entered the School of Economics Auditorium, what attracted my attention was the presence of children donned in traditional clothing as one may find in textbooks. There were I think more than ten of them. Hence, I assumed that the topic today would be more serious compared to the past ones.

And I was not wrong- it is indeed a serious one.

According to the speaker, there are around twelve to fifteen million indigenous people in our country. They compose about eleven to fourteen percent of the total population. They are located in fifty provinces and is divided into a hundred and ten ethno-linguistic groups. They live in a total of five million hectares of land.

Moreover, they experience national oppression. It is the state’s historical and non-recognition and violation of all collective rights of the indigenous people to their ancestral lands. It also violates their self- determination which means their right to freely pursue their development and determine their political status as they see fit.

Aside from the non recognition of ancestral lands, there is also militarization. This involves the increased military presence which causes unrest among them. According to them, children are not able to study because of the fear towards men who are holding guns. This is due to the encampments situated in their schools . These also cause the rise of extrajudicial killings. From July 2010 to 2014, fifty indigenous people were reported to be killed. Forced evacuation seems to be rampant as seventeen incidents were reported in five provinces.

Another threat they face is land conversion. Private firms use their lands for doing their business such as mining. According to them, these greatly affects their people as they were forced to leave their ancestral lands which they hold dear.

The government who, according to them, should protect them turned against their own people. This is proved by the Mining Act of 1995 which allots eighty-one thousand hectares of land for extracting minerals. Moreover, the Philippine Development Plan states that mining is the key which makes them more worried about their future. The eight megadams is another testament of it. According to them, there are two hundred eighty-one approved mining applications.

After the lecture, the children, wearing the traditional dress of their tribe (Lumad) went in front and showed a skit. It revolved to the situation of their tribe on the hands of the military.

As I watch their presentation, I could not help but admire these children. Despite their young age, they are trying their best to make the voices of their fellow indigenous people heard to the public. With regards to their performance, they presented it well and, in my opinion, chose the right medium to convey their feelings. Also, I can say that they are proud of their heritage .

Honestly, it is rare to see in the columns news regarding our indigenous people. Hence, I do not have an idea what is going on. However, with this lecture and simple presentation, looks like these issues should be the one given priority by the public. They are the living testament on how rich our culture is and ,thus, needs to be protected.

Bryan Martinez


Science and Communication

Last October 13 of this year, starting from twelve noon, the Alternative Class Learning Experience ( ACLE) was held throughout the campus of UP Diliman. As part of completing my requirements in my Science, Technology and Society (STS) course, I went to the College of Mass Communication to listen to a lecture regarding science and media. The lecture will be counted as an enrichment activity.

The lecture was in a room. I believe the room can accommodate at least 30 students without adding more chairs and in a corner an air conditioner was installed. A projector, which was used for the lecture, was in between the white board and the first row of seats.

When I entered the room, it was already crowded . Moreover, the number of attendees were still increasing as time passed by. The organizers, who was probably caught off guard by the crowd of students, hastily brought additional seats. However, it was not enough. Some of the audience sat on the ground as the lecture started.

Starting the lecture, the hosts called their speaker. She, if you ask me, is in her early twenties and has the height of an average Filipina. She currently works as a science journalist.

Her talk focused regarding the life of a science journalist. She said that it is difficult to insert science in our media as the higher ups in the media sees it as unprofitable. The lack of interest of the public makes it even more harder to spread some general information about what is happening in our science industry.

However, though she finds it frustrating, she still enjoys her work. First because she loves science and journalism. For me this situation it is not surprising to hear these words uttered. If you want to excel in your field, you must, to a certain degree, have the drive to see something interesting in your field. However, what interests me is this. In my opinion, science journalists here in the Philippines is quite a rare find. This was further supported by her statement.

She said that there are only three organizations which make science articles. These are the Philippine Science Journalist Association, Philippine Network of Environmental Journalist and Cyberpress. There are only a handful of members and most of them are old. Although there are recognitions being given to her from other countries, this is not enough to solve the current issue.

As you can see, on top of people inside the newsroom who has only a little or no interest in reporting science and also the uninterested public, people who are interested in this field are few and there are only a handful are going to continue what the older generation of science journalists started. With all these problems in hand, I could not help but admire her resolve to continue her present career. Probably this is her dream since she was little that resulted to the intensity of dedication she pours in her work.

Reflecting on what she said in her lecture, it is really gloomy when you realize that there is not so much attention given to science in our society. I believe this persists because we do not know how to start solving the problem – should we start reforming the media or start reforming the opinion of the public towards science. However, media stated to make its move by launching educational shows such as “Matanglawin” and “AHA!” which focuses in general information about science. Hope is not yet lost.

Raising the interest of the public in science has still got a long way to go. It may not end in the current generation and, in the worst case scenario, she (the speaker) may not be able to witness the day science is considered as a major portion in the mass media. However, I still believe there will be young people in the future who, in spite of these situations that may discourage them in pursuing this career (science journalism), will have the same, or even greater, dedication in improving the bridge between science and journalism.

Martinez, Bryan B.


A Trip to Pusod Taal Conservation Center

It was around seven (I guess) in the morning when I arrived to the UP School of Economics. Though I thought I was late, there were only a handful of students who were waiting for the others to arrive. As soon as I realized that, I felt somewhat relieved. A few moments later, the number of students grew and our instructor ordered us to board the bus located at the back parking.

That day (Monday) was set for our class to go to a conservation center. It is somewhere in Batangas and is located near the Taal Volcano. At that time, I do not know what we would do that day until someone handed me a copy of our schedule.

After I exchanged greetings to those who I know, I took a seat beside the windows. It is a habit of mine when I get to travel for such a long distance especially when going to province. Besides, it is a good thing to remember where you pass so that you can at least recall two or three places to help you when going back to your home.

After a very long trip, we finally arrived in the conservation center. In my opinion, the place is not so big yet also not so small for a conservation center. It is located just at the shore of the lake. At the center of it, there is a gathering hall where they conduct most of their activities . Probably since we went there, several tables were placed. From there you can see the Taal Volcano though at first I could not identify where it is until a person from the center pointed it out.

The people from the center welcomed us as soon we settled down. They introduced us to what are they doing here. These included the history of Taal Volcano, the organisms we can expect to find while surveying the area and our current location in Taal. Also, they briefed us what are we going to do. For some of us, they went to a certain area and some went to kayak while the others, including myself, went to the shoreline. For the last two, we were asked to gather organisms found in the area.

As soon as we finished our tasks, we ate our lunch and proceeded to observe what we got during our time in the shore. Mostly got shells and algae(?), but some picked up snails and its eggs and even a frog. With the guidance of them, we used microscopes to be able to see organisms such as plankton which a normal human cannot see with a naked eye.

I can say we finished ahead of schedule and for the remaining time were spent talking with others. As for me, I opted to stay silent due to drowsiness. This continued until we boarded the same bus to go home.

Honestly, I can say that in this trip I learned a lot when it comes to Taal Lake. Though it was not discussed, I observed that plastic bottles, paper and a bottle beer were found along the lakeshore. It seems even this lake, even maintained by the volunteers we met and residents, is not safe from the perils brought by human activities.

As I end my blog, I hope, in the near future, many will be able to help in conserving no only this place, but also other areas in order to promote sustainability.

-Bryan Martinez


A Different Perspective

During the span of my first semester third year, I am very lucky to enlist STS, also known as Science, Technology and Society, as one my classes. I was unable to get it until now and it was because of a raffle conducted during the prerog period. I wanted it not only because it is required for most, if not all, of the students to take it, but also due to its goal of applying science to different aspects of human life particularly in culture and society.

As the semester comes to a close, I can say I enjoyed and learned a lot from this class. Among the topics discussed, one of my favorites is about how science tries to explain some folk illnesses. The talk focused on the local folk illness called bangungut or nightmare.

As for the one who gave the lecture, he is Felipe Jocano, Jr . He is currently an assistant professor under the Department of Anthropology in the University of the Philippines Diliman.

According to him, many kinds of illnesses tend to be considered as folk illnesses or superstition when no explanation can be given by clinical medicine. Examples of which are bangungut, pasma and even possession or sapi. Adding to the fact that it cannot be interpreted in the biomedical model of modern medicine, these syndromes are usually bizarre, at least to someone who hails from outside the cultural setting in which these illnesses are found. These are specific to particular cultures and include both behavioral and biological changes. These are considered as spiritual in nature and, thus, beyond scientific inquiry.

After this he began focusing on the case of nightmare or locally known as bangungut.

Bangungut is a condition where a person who is asleep is suddenly gripped of a sensation of heavy weight on top and is unable to move. It can be fatal if the person is not woken in time. According to him, the survivors have reported another presence in the room, usually a humanoid form sitting on top of their chest.

Aside from the Philippines, bangungut is also known as lai tai in Thailand, pokkuri in Japan, and is widely reported elsewhere in SEA. According to Professor Jocano, it is potentially fatal in males, though women have reported bangungut-like episodes while sleeping.

In the European and American culture, it is known as nightmare. It is simply because it has been depicted as a mare which is a female horse. According to him, In the Euro-American version, the old hag is reported as sitting on the chest of the sleeper, or else choking him.

From the medical point of view, this is now classified as sleep paralysis. As for the cause of the paralysis, many hypotheses have been proposed to explain it. One of it is the Brugada’s Disease.

According to his lecture, Brugada’s disease is a genetically inherited cardiac condition limited to males, in which arrhythmia can be induced by sleeping immediately after a full meal. Sleeping immediately causes a shift in blood chemistry by affecting the sodium level. This, in turn immediately affects the heartbeat. This is widely reported among migrant Filipino males and is possibly due to some factors such as stress brought by life situations.

He ended his talk with a short conclusion. He said that “ not all folk ailments are necessarily relegated to the realm of folk knowledge and therefore beyond the scope of scientific research; many of these ailments may have a physiological basis that is recognized in a particular way in a different culture. “

Personally, I did not like it solely because of the topic but also from the speaker himself. He was, in my own observation, is eager to impart this information among the listeners. His jokes are also a contributing factor though.

For those who have not yet taken STS, I hope you’ll find it enjoyable. The lecturers are very knowledgeable and are good in giving comprehensive lectures. Again, I might be lucky that I got picked only at this point in time.

-Bryan Martinez