It’s more fun in the Philippines?

We recently came back from a one month vacation in the Philippines. My plan was to update the blog while there, but we had much more limited access to the Internet than I thought we would, as well as a quite full-packed time-schedule.

This was my second time in the country, and I just got more aware of the contrasts that exist there. There’s two very different sides of the Philippines, and I have had the privileged to see both of them to some extent.

On one hand we have the Philippines that tourists see; paradise. The parts with all the resorts, white beaches, waterfalls and so on, everything beautiful that the country has to offer. On the other hand we have the lives of the many people living in poverty; in homes that would barely be called homes here in Finland – or even without a home at all – with storms and floods as a part of life, without enough money to feed the family.

The reality of a country with so much natural resources and so much talent saddens me. With a government full of corruption the people who call Philippines their home struggle to stay above the surface, and it breaks my heart. Seeing kids walking around hungry in the street without shoes or proper clothes, hearing how badly workers are treated and how little rights they have, how expensive it is to get your children proper education, and how huge the gap between the rich and the poor is… the list goes on an on.

I love the Philippines. I have family there now, I have friends there, I have friends who have families there, I have people I care about in this country on the other side of the world. The more I love, the more I care, and the more the situation breaks my heart. The people of the Philippines are strong, they always work hard, and they always have a smile on their face even though how bad their circumstances get. They deserve so much better.

Are we learning anything from super storms like Haiyan/Yolanda?

No one has probably missed the typhoon that hit the Philippines last week, causing enormous devastation. The winds almost totally wiped out the city of Tacloban and destroyed many other communities on the island of Leyte as well. Many people have died, even more are homeless and starving.There’s no law and order and getting help to the victims is complicated.

People generously give money to help out, money which is greatly needed to save the people there and rebuild their city and their lives again. But this is not a post about asking you to donate money – even if it would make me very happy if you do – instead I want to ask everybody a question: Are we learning anything from storms like this one?

I’m not talking about developing better plans for how to handle the disaster when it strikes, even though that is also important, and something that should have been paid more attention to in the Philippines knowing that this storm was approaching. However, what I’m talking about is climate change. There’s absolutely no doubt in my mind that these storms are getting both worse and more frequent because of the damage we do to our nature. We are all partly responsible for what happened in the Philippines. Just like we are all partly responsible for any other natural disaster that has happened or will happen in the future.

The lifestyle people in the developed world are leading is not sustainable – we are living above our resources – and we all know that. We use the nature as a resource instead of living in harmony with it, instead of treating this planet as the home it is. It is the only planet we have, the only one we are ever going to have. Unfortunately life is not fair, and the consequences of the lifestyle we are leading does not always (never) hit the people most responsible.

We need to change and we need to change now. It’s not enough to change our light bulbs to energy-saving ones or closing the lights or the TV when not in the room. We need to change our way of living; consuming less, traveling less and more energy-efficient, eating more environmentally friendly foods (aka plants), and so on. We cannot anymore reverse what we have done to this planet of ours – and with that to millions of humans and animals –  but we can stop it from getting worse.

You might be thinking that changing your own lifestyle will not make a difference, because you’re only one person among billions, and along with that the many corporations and political leaders who only seek power and economical gain – often on the expense of the environment or the health of humans or animals. But you know what? You can change that. We can change that. Because people together are powerful, together we can change anything.

If not you, who? If not now, when?

Still alive

I’m still alive, even though the blog has been quite dead for the past month. I’m sorry for that, but I have been very busy.

We came home from a month in the Philippines on Monday evening, after a long and stressful travel. It’s been an amazing trip, I’ve done and seen so many things I’ve never done or seen before, and I’ve met a lot of great people. But it still feels so great to be home again.

I will try to post something about the trip when I’ve had the time to process all my thoughts and experiences (and to go through all the 3000+ pictures). But for now I just wanted to tell you that I haven’t left the blog for good, I’m still here, just some experiences richer and a few shades darker.