Handbook for Gaia stewards
By Earl D.C. Bracamonte
Agam, a collection of 26 images and 24 narratives in eight languages, was launched recently at Victorino’s in Quezon City. The first Philippine literary book on climate change, its title was culled from an early Filipino word for ‘foreboding’ and ‘memory; which in daily parlance is more often used twice (agam-agam).
“We started chewing on the notion of this book way back in 2011, when the head of the group that published this book, Red Constantino, broached the idea. And then things came together last year. We wanted a balance of literary people, journalists, scholars, and those from pop culture; a group we thought would reflect the broad cultural and artistic potential of the project. We began sending out invites in August or Sept 2013. Our first submission was from Merlie Alunan, and she gave a beautiful piece (Tatlong Habilin or Three Souvenirs). It was a reaffirming sign that we were into something great! The list shifted as we went along and we’re all incredibly happy with the final roster. What Agam has now is perfect!” shared executive editor Regina Abuyuan.
“In my 20 years as a journalist and editor, this is the first time I’ve worked on such an issue using an innovative approach. Many of this 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,” Abuyuan continued.
Time for serious musing
The book’s cover design is calligraphy in stylized Baybayin script, which was commissioned exclusively for the front cover. The artist, Kristian Kabuay, is a Filipino-American from the Bay area in California. He is an active proponent of the ancient script and strives to keep it alive by using the same as art whilst teaching and promoting it around the world.
“The book aims to contribute to the effort of recreating and re-articulating the slow-onset impact of climate change through jargon-free creative thinking and photography,” intoned theater artist and poet Joel Saracho.
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 photographer Jose Enrique Soriano.
“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,” enthused award-winning poet Marjorie Evasco, who read to attendees her Cebuano narrative entitled “Krutsay.”
Other works read during the book launch included Padmapani L. Perez’s Mothers Speak and Ramon C. Sunico’s Dpitych, Hindi Selfie.
The book was launched last June 28 in Tacloban City followed by launches in Berkeley, San Francisco and Manhattan (New York) this month. It will be available at all branches of Powerbooks and major outlets of National Bookstore throughout the country.
“Agam is more than just climate change. We have to embrace uncertainty; draw out ambiguity, avoid clichés of disasters and victims; the bad guys haven’t won. We chose the writers and tasked them to read the images but avoid using words from a list of forbidden terms, like climate change. The book does not have prescriptions, rather a call to citizenship. We cannot shop our way out of crisis.
“Adaptracker.org was set up to help trace the money that poured in for disaster relief from all sources. Handa tayong pumuna, pero hanada tayong tumulong,” declared Red Constantino.
All proceeds from the sale of Agam will go to the RE-Charge Tacloban project. The Institute for Climate & Sustainable Cities (iCSC) is a pioneering climate policy group that approaches big problems sideways by incubating ideas, innovating approaches, and implementing solutions.
The iCSC connection
The crisis spawned by super-typhoon Haiyan has offered Eastern Visayas a chance to build back better.
RE-Charge Tacloban is an integrated solar and transport response project for post-Yolanda Leyte. Once in place, clean and green energy systems can power up electric jeepneys that can replace rickety, inefficient, and unreliable public transport vehicles.
The iCSC is a non-profit group working on sustainable energy solutions and fair climate policy. Under the RE-Charge program, the iCSC aims to bring a fleet of eJeepneys to the coastal city. Combined with solar panels that will allow the carriers to swap batteries, the program will also provide training for local female drivers, dispatchers, operators, administrators, and technicians. RE-Charge will help generate green jobs and draw more investments towards local sustainable enterprise while attending to reconstruction needs of super-typhoon hit areas.
In May 19, 2014, construction of the RE-Charge Tacloban facility commenced in a 750-square-meter lot along Padre Burgos Street in the city’s downtown district. Aside from the solar panels, the facility shall also house a full service center for the maintenance of the eJeepney fleet and the conversion of multicabs’ engines to run on rechargeable batteries. The front part of the facility shall host small enterprises that will function as a community charging center as well.
“The Climate Change Act was passed for legislation in 2009. Last year, Yolanda affected 2.7 per cent of our gross national product (GDP). Lawmakers are confronted by statistics. Agam is an innovative way to bring climate change consciousness to a national and even international level. Agam is about people; it is about what was, what might be, and/or what is. It is the story of all of us,” said Sen. Loren Legarda, chairman of the Senate Committee on Climate Change, during her keynote speech.
This book must be read! It ends with tenacity and hope, with each narrative confronting more than a few realities. For more inquiries, simply get in touch with AC Dimatatac through mobile #s 0906-2192313 and 0998-5317949. You may also log-on to the book’s Web site, www.agam.ph.