In November each year, millions of Filipinos flock to cemeteries to visit their departed loved ones, bringing flowers, lighting candles, and offering prayers.
Unfortunately, the occasion is often marred by wasteful practices. In 2013 alone, 120 tons of garbage were collected from various cemeteries in Metro Manila, according the Metro Manila Development Authority or MMDA.
To avoid this, the environmental watchdog, EcoWaste Coalition, gave 10 tips for an environment-friendly undas:

1) Take public transportation or share a ride to the cemetery.
Carpooling or taking a jeepney, bus or train can lessen carbon emission. To avoid traffic, you may also walk to your destination.
2) Choose the right candles.
Pick clean-burning candles that do not give off black fumes or ash. Also, shun candles with metal wicks, which may contain harmful chemicals such as lead.
3) Light candles a few a time.
Burn just enough candles to save on money and energy. This also lessens pollution.
4) Offer locally-grown fresh flowers.
Imported flowers are costly and require tons of energy to get them flown to you. When you support locally-grown flowers, you lesson your carbon footprint, while supporting the livelihood of locals.
5) Refrain from putting flowers in plastic wrap.
Plastics eventually end up clogging waterways. Oftentimes, plastics also cause floods, injure and kill animals, and poison communities with hazardous chemicals when burned.
6) Eat and drink right.
By not bringing excessive amounts of food and beverage to the cemetery, you cut down, not only your expenses, but also your wastes.
7) Bring your own tumbler.
Drinking water from reusable jugs saves you a few bucks, as opposed to buying bottled water. Discarded plastic bottles also add to the country’s garbage problem.
8) Don’t forget the eco-bags.
Pack everything you wish to bring to the cemetery in reusable bags and baskets instead of single-use plastic bags and containers.
9) Throw garbage properly.
Throw all discards into proper recycling bins. Remember that littering in the cemetery—as elsewhere—is a no-no.
10) Reuse and recycle.
Take home all your discards for reusing or recycling. You may also bring leftovers for your pets or dump them into the compost pit with other biodegradable wastes. Non-biodegradable discards should be recycled.

“Hindi natin inaalis ‘yung posibilidad na ito ay maging super typhoon. Sa ngayon, nakikita natin ang kaniyang patuloy na paglakas.”
These were the words of PAGASA Weather Forecaster Robert Badrina on Typhoon Lawin in an interview with PanahonTV today.

Lawin, the Philippines’ 12th tropical cyclone of the year, entered the country’s boundary under typhoon category in the afternoon of October 17. It had maximum sustained winds of 175 kph (kilometers per hour) and gustiness of up to 215 kph.
In less than 24 hours, it gained strength while traversing the Philippine Sea. At 11:00 AM today, it was located 950 kilometers east of Daet, Camarines Norte. It had maximum sustained winds of up to 185 kph near the center and gustiness of up to 230 kph, moving west northwest at 25 kph.

A super typhoon is a classification of a tropical cyclone with maximum sustained winds of more than 220 kilometers per hour. It is as powerful as 120 nautical miles per hour or more, comparable to the speed of a bullet train.
This category was formally adopted by PAGASA in 2015 after Typhoon Yolanda caused massive destruction to lives and properties in the Visayan area on November 2013.
Lawin is yet to have any direct effect to the country but as early as now, four areas in Luzon remain under tropical cyclone warning signals while moderate to heavy rains are expected within the 650-kilometer diameter of the typhoon.
Lawin is expected to make landfall in the Cagayan Area by Wednesday evening or Thursday early morning, October 20, 2016. Based on PAGASA’s forecast track, it is expected to intensify further into a super typhoon before hitting the landmass.
“Bukas ng gabi inaasahan natin na posibleng magkaroon ng landfall ang bagyo, at doon magiging napakalakas ng hangin at mga pag-ulan sa bahagi ng Northern Luzon,” says Badrina.
After hitting the country’s landmass, it is expected to cross Apayao and Ilocos Norte before leaving Philippine boundary on Friday.
According to Badrina, Lawin could affect Metro Manila if it expands in diameter: “Kung aabot ito ng 800 kilometers, medyo bababa nga. Kung bababa nga ‘yung track, pwedeng abutin ‘yung Metro Manila pero sa nakikita natin, hanggang signal number 1 na lang siguro. Hindi naman ito tataas pa d’un.”

Here are ways you can prepare for the typhoon:

Maybebkas kan mayanien
Makenem as masalaosao
Pachivanan ko sa aya
Ta imo mian du nakem ko.

(Mighty waves and thunderstorms
Heavy clouds and stormy skies
All of these may come my way
Still I strive for love of thee.)
– Lines from “Beautiful Batanes Isles”, a traditional Ivatan song

Batanes is located at the northernmost tip of Luzon, situated near Taiwan, separated by the Bashi Channel. The merging Pacific Ocean and the West Philippine Sea produce powerful currents, making Batanes inaccessible to small sea craft.

The province is a tiny archipelago composed of six municipalities including Basco (the capital), Mahatao, Ivana, Uyugan and the island municipalities of Sabtang and Itbayat, with a total of 29 barangays.

According to the local Government of Batanes, the current population in the province is around 17 thousand. Being the smallest province in the Philippines, it has a landmass of about 1/3 of Metro Manila.

Located at the northernmost tip, Batanes weather is relatively cooler than the rest of the Philippines. The people of Batanes recognize two seasons: rayun (tag-init), which lasts from March to May, and amian (taglamig) from November to February, where temperatures usually drop to below 10 degrees Celsius.

Northern Paradise

If you’re looking for paradise, Batanes is a perfect destination. There are lots of scenic spots that will leave you in awe.

Feast your eyes on dramatic landscapes mapping out the entire province. Equally eye-catching are the liveng, the Batanes version of hedgerows. These small trees, shrubs or tall grasses like talahib or bamboo, protect the crops against animals, and serve as windbreakers that protect against soil erosion and boundaries that mark land properties.
Almost half of the land area in Batanes is composed of steep hills and mountains, showcasing a picturesque view.
There are three lighthouses in Batanes. One of these is the Basco lighthouse, which was inaugurated in 2003 and the first to be installed in the province. It is located in Naidi Hills, where one can see the views of the West Philippines Sea and the Basco town proper.
The coastline’s rich blues and greens glitter in the sun like jewels, also creating a soothing music of waves crashing on the shore. Tranquillity at its finest!
Batanes is also known for its Ivatan culture. The Ivatans are an ethnic group found mainly in the Batanes group of Islands. Being peaceful in nature, the inhabitants are proud of its zero crime rate.

Photo Courtesy: My Costume Page
Courtesy: My Costume Page

Magnet for Typhoons
Despite its beauty, Batanes faces challenges whenever a bagyo enters the Philippine Area of Responsibility (PAR). Situated within the typhoon path, Batanes is often mentioned in weather reports because it is used as a point of reference for weather disturbances. It also houses the northernmost synoptic station of PAGASA located in Basco.

These small islands are frequently alerted by the weather bureau when cyclones are expected to move toward the north-western quadrant of the PAR line, where weather disturbances usually exit.
Just within the month of September this year, three cyclones affected Batanes—Typhoon Ferdie, Typhoon Gener, and Typhoon Helen. Among these, Ferdie was the fiercest.

Ferdie entered the PAR on September 11, 2016 as a severe tropical storm. As it came closer to land, it was upgraded into a typhoon category, packing winds of 220 kph and gustiness of 255 kph.
On September 14, it made landfall in Batanes, particularly Itbayat. Ferdie affected thousands of families and damaged more than 2,000 houses, mostly in the municipality of Basco.

Based on the last report of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), the cost of damage was estimated at more than P240 million. The entire province was placed under a state of calamity.




PAGASA Radar Tower in Basco, Batanes
PAGASA Radar Tower in Basco, Batanes

Together with my cameraman, I flew to Batanes to cover the devastation, and assist with relief operations. We also had the chance to visit Itbayat, which was isolated for three days.

On the same day when Ferdie made landfall in Batanes, Gener entered the PAR. Though it did not hit the landmass, it still posed a threat to the province where Tropical Cyclone Warning Signal Number 1 was hoisted.

In a span of less than two weeks, another typhoon prevailed within the boundary. Due to Helen, the islands of Batanes were once again in danger, this time at Signal Number 2.

For the locals, this was not the first time that they experienced the extreme wrath of typhoons. Batanes was also battered by Typhoon Odette last 2013, which was the strongest in 25 years—until Ferdie came.

Odette garnered winds of 215 kph and gustiness of up to 240 kph. Like Ferdie, it made landfall in Itbayat. The typhoon’s fury also unroofed houses and flattened crops.

Unparalleled Resiliency

Despite the widespread damage brought by Ferdie, there was no loss of lives.
“Wala pong casualty, ‘yan ang good news. At ang grasya na rin po, ang aming runway ay nadadaanan kaya patuloy po ang pagdating ng relief goods. (Zero casualty, that’s the good news. We are still blessed that the runway was spared from the damages, making way for the relief operations.)This one is a very strong typhoon, but because we have a tradition of community resiliency, we were able to clean up our national roads. No one died despite the damage to properties and many of our homes.

With the help of national government agencies and our people, we will be able to respond collectively to all these challenges. We will be able to rebuild Batanes, a community known for its resiliency and cooperative response.”
Batanes Representative Dina Abad

“Habang may buhay nga raw po, may pag-asa.” (As long as there’s life, there is hope.) Catherine Abella, a mother of five, who had her birthday in the wake of Typhoon Ferdie

“Pasalamat na lang kami, walang namatay sa amin. Buhay pa rin hanggang sa ngayon.” (We can do this. We are very thankful that no one died.)Teng Cabizon

Despite the dreadful experience, Nanay Claudia and Tatay Daniel, parents of Teng, held on to their faith. “Daanan man kami ng mga ganitong pagsubok, andoon pa rin ‘yung pananalig sa Diyos.” (Challenges may come but our faith in God will remain.)

As I looked at the smiling faces of the locals, I realized that Filipinos are indeed strong and resilient. No matter how ferocious typhoons are, we always quickly get back on our feet.

Preparing for disasters – the Ivatan way

The Ivatans have unique skills in weather forecasting and survival because they are constantly exposed to the risks of tropical cyclones. The Ivatan term for natural disaster is makamumua mapaparin. Typhoon is called anin, referring to extraordinary winds that are strong and destructive. Storms are classified as:
Anin nu vanyeveh or coconut typhoon- strong enough to destroy coconut palms
Adipogpog– tornado without rain
Salao-sao– bad weather or windy and rainy
Dipanchi– sudden changes in the weather, from rainy to sunny and vice versa
Nisu– a windy day without rain

Ivatans are able to determine if there’s a coming typhoon using these signs:
Du-taw: sign from the sea
Duaraw: sign from the sun
– Plant and tree signs
– Signs from the clouds and sky
– Animal signs

These natural signs help them prepare for the changing weather. Once Ivatans have observed these signs, they immediately attend to their houses, fields and ports.

Experts say that no other culture in the Philippines has mastered the fury of tropical cyclones more than the Ivatans. Throughout history, they have constantly struggled and adapted to strong winds and rough seas.

Something that’s also unique to their culture is their famous Ivatan stone houses, which were introduced by the Spaniards. The walls of these houses are made of limestone, enabling them to withstand even the strongest typhoons. The roofs are made from thick cogon grass.

The Ivatans also wear vakul, a traditional headpiece made from fibers, which are used to guard them from the sun and rain.
Photo Courtesy: Choose Philippines
Courtesy: Choose Philippines

https://www.scribd.com/doc: Indigenous-Peoples-Filipino-s-key-of-the-Past
NDRRMC http://www.ndrrmc.gov.ph/attachments/article/2913/SitRep_No_13_re_Preparedness_Measures_and_Effects_of_Typhoon_FERDIE_(MERANTI)_Covering_the_240600H_to_250600H_September_2016.pdf

When was the last time you visited a museum or gallery near you?
Museums and galleries allow us to get up close and personal with events and works of art that we usually see in textbooks. According to the website of Southwest Museums and Libraries Associations of America, those who get firsthand information are more likely to retain knowledge later in life.
As we observe Museums and Galleries Month in the Philippines, let’s take a look at some budget-friendly museums in the metro that offer free admissions or at least an entrance fee of P200 and below.


The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Museum portrays the rich and glorious Filipino martial traditions. It aims to showcase the vision, ideals and glory of Filipino soldiers and the heroic contributions of the AFP to nation building, and the country’s sovereignty and integrity.
Inside the two-storey building is a collection of war relics, weapons, and documents dating back to the Spanish colonial period. The uniform of the Philippines’ first president, General Emilio Aguinaldo, is also displayed in the museum.
source: heritageispeople blogspot

ADDRESS: Bulwagang Heneral Arturo T. Enrile, Camp General Emilio Aguinaldo, Quezon City
OPERATING HOURS: Monday to Friday | 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM (by appointment on Saturdays and Sundays)
students – P20 for student | P25.00 for adult | P10 for military dependent | free for veterans, retired and active military members
CONTACTS: 912-7664 or https://www.facebook.com/AFP-Museum-191933287536900/


Located within the walls of Intramuros, the Bahay Tsinoy Gallery and Museum documents the history, lives and contributions of the Chinese to Philippine culture and history.
Lifelike dioramas are used to depict lives of the Chinese during the different eras. Old coins, porcelain, and photo collections can also be found in the museum.
source: bahaytsinoy.org
courtesy: bahaytsinoy.org
ADDRESS: KAISA HERITAGE CENTER 32 Anda St. cor. Cabildo St., Intramuros, Manila,
OPERATING HOURS: Tuesday to Sunday | 1:00 PM to 5:00 PM
ENTRANCE FEE: Adults – P100 | Students – P60
CONTACTS: 527-6083 | 0922 8901357 | http://www.bahaytsinoy.org


Based on its website, the National Museum is an educational, scientific and cultural institution that acquires, documents, preserves, exhibits, and fosters scholarly study and public appreciation of works of art, specimens, and cultural and historical artifacts representative of our cultural heritage and natural history.
Its collections include Fine Art, Archeology, Ethnography and Natural History. It also houses one of the country’s most famous paintings, the Spoliarium by Juan Luna.
source: http://www.nationalmuseum.gov.ph/

source: http://www.nationalmuseum.gov.ph/
ADDRESS: Padre Burgos Drive, City of Manila, Philippines
OPERATING HOURS: Tuesday to Sunday | 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM
ENTRANCE FEE: Free but a reservation must be made for 20 or more visitors
CONTACTS: 527-0278 | http://www.nationalmuseum.gov.ph/nationalmuseumbeta/Visit/Booking.html


The Metropolitan Museum of Manila was originally built as a venue for international art exhibitions in 1976, aimed at expanding the exposure of Filipinos to the visual arts of foreign cultures while enhancing cultural diplomacy. Recently, in partnership with the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), it refocused on showcasing contemporary art by Filipino and international artists.
source: metmuseum
ADDRESS: Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Complex, Roxas Boulevard,
Malate-Manila, Philippines
OPERATING HOURS: Monday to Saturday | 10:00 AM to 5:30 PM
ENTRANCE FEE: Children above three years old, students, adults & foreign guests – P100 | senior citizens and persons with disabilities – P80
CONTACTS: 708-7829 | http://www.metmuseum.ph/


MOWELFUND stands for Movie Workers Welfare Foundation, Inc, which is a non-stock non-profit social welfare, educational, and industry development foundation organized and established in 1974. The Mowelfund complex houses photos, props from films and other memorabilia of Philippine cinema.
source: http://trash-of-facts.blogspot.com/
courtesy: http://jelsisante.blogspot.com/
ADDRESS: 66 Rosario Drive, Cubao, Quezon City
OPERATING HOURS: Tuesday to Fridays | 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM
CONTACTS: 727-1915 | 727-1961 | 0928-7213883 | http://mowelfund.com/


The museum gathers together the works of Filipino traditional artists in an effort to preserve Filipino artistic traditions. Nestled in the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP), the museum presents special changing exhibitions, provides curatorial assistance, and organizes workshops on indigenous art forms.
source: culturalcenter.gov.ph

ADDRESS: Cultural Center of the Philippines, CCP Complex, Roxas Boulevard, Pasay City, Metro Manila, Philippines
OPERATING HOURS: Tuesday to Sunday | 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM
ENTRANCE FEE: adults – P40 | students and children – P30
CONTACTS: 832-5094, 832-1125 local 1508 | http://culturalcenter.gov.ph/


Located in San Juan City, the Katipunan Museum was specifically built to showcase the contributions of the Kataas-taasang Kagalang-galang na Katipunan ng mga Anak ng Bayan (KKK) formed in 1892 to fight the Spanish colonists. Apart from the usual life-size figures in museums, this one has an e-learning center, a stereopticon room and mini-library, which make learning fun, especially for kids.
source: http://www.mymomfriday.com/
source: http://www.sanjuancity.gov.ph/
ADDRESS: Pinaglabanan Memorial Shrine (Museo ng Katipunan, Pinaglabanan Street, San Juan City
OPERATING HOURS: Tuesday to Sunday | 8:00 AM – 5:00 PM
CONTACTS: 576-4336 | 385-5896 | http://nhcp.gov.ph/museums/pinaglabanan-memorial-shrine/


Unlike traditional museums where items are displayed behind glass, Museo Pambata features hands-on exhibits that encourage children to explore and discover various concepts while they play.
source: http://www.museopambata.org/
ADDRESS: Museo Pambata Foundation, Inc.Roxas Boulevard corner South Drive, Manila
OPERATING HOURS: Tuesday – Saturday 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM | Sunday 1:00 PM to 5:00 PM
ENTRANCE FEE: Free for museum workers and teachers with IDs | Free for Manila residents every Tuesdays | P250 regular rate for children and adult
CONTACTS: 523-1797 | 536-0595 | +63 918-382-2212 | http://www.museopambata.


The Philippine Science Centrum houses over 100 interactive exhibits in 10 galleries. It is known as the country’s pioneer interactive science museum for children and adults, who want to touch, twist, play, hear, and see science while having fun.
source: http://www.science-centrum.ph/
source: http://www.science-centrum.ph/
ADDRESS: E-Com Building, Riverbanks Center,Barangka, Marikina City
OPERATING HOURS: Monday to Saturday | 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM
ENTRANCE FEE: Php 130 | Teachers (with ID) and children below 2 years old – FREE of charge | Senior Citizens with ID – 50% discount
CONTACTS: 942-5136 | 0917-526-6356 | http://www.science-centrum.ph/


This contemporary art space is located at the Silangan Gardens inside a private subdivision in Antipolo, Rizal. Several art galleries can be found in the open-air Mediterranean-inspired villas.
source: Paul Michael Caisip

source: Paul Michael Caisip
ADDRESS: 1 Sierra Madre St., Grand Heights, Antipolo, Rizal
OPERATING HOURS: Tuesday to Sunday | 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM
ENTRANCE FEE: P200 for regular ticket | senior citizens and PWD with valid IDs – P180 | children and students with proper school IDs – P100 | children below 3 years old – free
CONTACTS: 6971015 | https://www.facebook.com/Pinto-Art-Museum-281376918562097/


Quezon City Experience is an interactive museum showcasing the city’s rich history and transformation as the country’s premier city. With the use of technology, QCX also provides visitors a chance to interact with the displays and allows them to take selfies in each gallery.
source: http://quezoncity.gov.ph/
ADDRESS: Quezon Memorial Cirlcle, Elliptical Road, Barangay Central, Diliman, Quezon City
OPERATING HOURS: Tuesday to Sunday | 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM
ENTRANCE FEE: Students with ID – P80 | Quezon City resident – P100 (must present valid ID with address) | Non-Quezon City resident – P150 | Free admission for children 6 years and below
CONTACTS: 0906 566 9382 | 988-4242 | http://quezoncity.gov.ph/


The Yuchengco Museum has the primary goal of fostering a greater public appreciation of the finest international, national cultural, historical, design exhibitions and programs through its rooms: Sino-Filipino Expressions; Bridging Cultures; Design as Art, Art as Design; and Culture and Development.
source: yuchengcomuseum.org
ADDRESS: RCBC Plaza corner Ayala and Sen. Gil J. Puyat Avenues, Makati City
OPERATING HOURS: Monday to Saturday | 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM
ENTRANCE FEE: adults – P100 | students, children, seniors, and PWDs – P50
CONTACTS: 889 – 1234| https://yuchengcomuseum.org
So the next time you find yourself with a tight budget, remember you can still have your unlimited fill of the culture and the arts with these museums. Celebrate our culture and history with these affordable must-visits.

Tropical Depression “Aere” (formerly “Julian” inside the Philippine boundary), has weakened into a low pressure area (LPA). At 4:00 AM today, it was last estimated at 625 kms. west of Basco, Batanes.

Aere has no direct effect on any part of the country, but it continues to enhance the southwest monsoon, locally known as hanging habagat. This weather system will particularly affect the western section of Northern and Central Luzon.

Meanwhile, another LPA was spotted at 1,030 kms. east of Mindanao. According to PAGASA Weather Forecaster Samuel Duran, it may enter the PAR today and has a high chance to develop into a tropical cyclone or bagyo. If it does, it will be named “Karen”, the 11th cyclone to enter the Philippine boundary.


Today, residents of Metro Manila and the regions of CALABARZON, Cordillera, Ilocos, Central Luzon, Zamboanga Peninsula, SOCCSKSARGEN, Davao and the provinces of Occidental Mindoro and Palawan are alerted against cloudy skies with light to moderate rains and thunderstorms. The remaining parts of the country will have generally fair weather, apart from isolated rain showers or thunderstorms.

Fisherfolk are advised to prepare for moderate to occasionally rough sea conditions in the northern and eastern sections of Luzon, while the rest of the country will have slight to moderate seas.


Meanwhile, Typhoon “Songda” continues to move farther away from the country. It was last seen at 2,550 kms. east northeast of Extreme Northern Luzon, with maximum sustained winds of 165 kph and gustiness of up to 205 kph. Moving north at 17 kph, PAGASA said it is no longer expected to enter the PAR due to its proximity and course.

World News: Death toll rises in Haiti

Hurricane Matthew, dubbed as the fiercest Carribean storm for almost a decade, directly hit Haiti, Tuesday last week. The powerful hurricane caused 1,000 deaths and affected more than a million people, with at least 300,000 in need of immediate assistance.

In the wake of Hurricane Matthew, health officials warned about the spread of cholera. Cholera is a bacterial infection, highly contagious in areas with contaminated water. It can cause severe diarrhea and may cause death if untreated.

Authorities are concerned about the rising cholera cases, but are keeping their focus on giving primary needs to the victims of the calamity. These include water, food, medication and shelter.

What do you have in your emergency bag or go bag? Aside from the usual items such as a flashlight, whistle, and a first-aid kid, a shot of caffeine through your system can do wonders during emergencies.

Instant coffee, often consumed in the office as an instant perk-me-upper, can also be your best bet during the typhoon season. In fact, during relief operations after typhoons, instant coffee is one of the items distributed to evacuation centers. By simply mixing 3-in-1—which contains coffee, creamer and sugar—with water, instant energy, warmth and comfort can be felt even during stressful and disorienting times.

This drink crosses social borders as it is consumed by farmers, firemen, fishermen, teachers, technocrats, taho vendors, entrepreneurs, environmentalists, and elevator operators. The affordable 3-in-1 coffee can be found everywhere—from hotels to homes, from management boardrooms to the mountains.

To make sure you get more bang for your buck, Panahon TV has listed down the available instant coffee in the market. After a day’s work, we took time to taste and rate them according to our taste.

(Photos during the experiment proper)
A- Hi Coffee (Oishi)
B- Café Puro
C- Great Taste Original
D- Blend 45
E- Nescafe Blend & Brew
F- Kopiko Brown
G- SanMig Original

(The total results are the computed average from the ratings of 1 as the highest and 7 as the lowest.)
The team who conducted the experiment is composed of five female coffee lovers. They tasted each coffee without knowing the brands to give objective results.
The experiment shows that when it comes to taste and color, Kopiko Coffee is the best. Meanwhile, Hi Coffee of Oishi tops the packaging and price. Nescafe gives the best aroma of coffee.
What instant coffee is the best for you? Let us know!
(Note: All 3-in-1 coffee sachets were brought from Landmark Makati on October 7, 2016)
By Donna May Lina, Panahon TV Executive Producer
With assistance from: Nikka Bacalso, Sunshine Mendoza, Julie Abejo, Shayne San Juan, Love Lacanlale and Krizia Gayo

If you’re immersed everyday in Metro Manila, a busy jungle of high-rise buildings and car-jammed roads, it’s difficult to imagine a serene paradise that soothes the eyes, and is bursting with biodiversity.

But the good news is that you don’t have to go to far-flung provinces just to see unique species of birds and marine animals. Just several minutes away from the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, you can already delight in such a paradise.

The Las Piñas-Parañaque Critical Habitat and Ecotourism Area or LPPCHEA is divided into two islands, the Freedom Island and the Long Island, jointly known as the Freedom Islands. Both serve as temporary homes to migratory birds from different countries such as China, Japan, and Siberia.

Courtesy: http://www.s1expeditions.com
Courtesy: http://www.s1expeditions.com

When the Manila-Cavite Coastal Road was constructed in 1973, the Freedom Islands were formed alongside it. The islands were part of the master plan for the Southern Reclamation Project that intended to expand the island in the future.

At present, the topography of the place helps birds like Little Egrets and Black-Crowned Night Herons in adjusting before entering the warmer regions of the earth. This is the main reason why a diverse species of birds can be observed in the area, making it an awesome site for bird watching.

Aside from this, the LPPCHEA is the only remaining mangrove frontier in the metro. Fishes still swarm the area, which is highly beneficial to the fisherfolk of Parañaque and Las Piñas. Other features in the Freedom Islands’ terrains include marshes, ponds, and lagoons, which make it an ideal breeding place for a variety of animals.

However, this breathtaking beauty faces threats. First are the tons of waste that end up in the seas and penetrating the waters of the islands, endangering marine biodiversity as well as potentially killing the fisherfolk’s livelihood. Another major threat are the plans of both the government and private sectors to develop the area surrounding the islands and reclaim it for commercial use.

If these plans push through, buildings and mid-rise residences will be built around the area, threatening wildlife. This action would require filling the waters with rocks and land for them to be able to accommodate buildings. This will pose a great danger to the residents of nearby places and provinces because apart from serving as home for animals, the Freedom Islands also serve as an effective catch basin for floodwaters. If the waters have already been converted into land, where else will the floodwaters go? It’s no wonder that the plans to reclaim the area have induced protests initiated by several civic groups and organizations.

Meanwhile, to ensure that the place remains suited for biodiversity, keeping it clean is of key importance. The Save Freedom Island Movement not only opposes the plan to convert the Freedom Islands, but also helps in organizing coastal cleanups and partnering with other groups or institutions that believe in the same advocacy.

The importance of these islands can’t be stressed enough. They serve their function in the ecosystem. They also provide means of support to the townspeople and lastly, they are majestic sights to behold amidst the rowdy city setup of Metro Manila.

As someone who has been to the place a couple of times, I can personally attest to the charm of the place, filled with greenery and the rich sounds of nature. Now, the challenge confronts all of us. Will we allow this gem to go to waste?
Environmental advocates, including Philippine Coast Guard and Miss Earth Philippines beauty candidates, conduct coastal clean-up along the shores of Freedom Island to mark World Earth Day Wednesday, April 22, 2015 at suburban Las Pinas, south of Manila, Philippines. The Freedom Island, which is home to about 80 species of local and migratory birds, is the receptacle of wastes, mostly plastics, that were washed ashore especially during rainy season. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)
Environmental advocates, including Philippine Coast Guard and Miss Earth Philippines beauty candidates, conduct coastal clean-up along the shores of Freedom Island to mark World Earth Day Wednesday, April 22, 2015 at suburban Las Pinas, south of Manila, Philippines. The Freedom Island, which is home to about 80 species of local and migratory birds, is the receptacle of wastes, mostly plastics, that were washed ashore especially during rainy season. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)


Written by Shain Bianca C. Epanag, Panahon TV intern from the University of the Philippines-Diliman