Last Sunday my friend Leah and I were on a speeding jeepney that sounded like a machine gun on our way to the National Museum. And then we hit traffic. The air stopped rushing in so it sat with us in the mid-afternoon heat, waiting to be carried off again. We inched our way toward Quiapo, a place where just a few days before millions of devotees had converged around a black statue of Jesus Christ. They call it the Black Nazarene. I wondered why millions flocked to see him every year. I entertain the idea that they find comfort in a Jesus who looks like them.
Last month I was asked to come up with new designs for “e-cards” in our adopt-a-seedling campaign. It was pretty tough. I’ve never designed Christmas cards before. I’m also more of a graphic designer who works with fonts and colors and not a holiday card illustrator. One of Haribon’s on-going projects is to bring back the forest cover of the Philippines. So this was something I had to see myself through. If I am to work alongside the very people getting their hands dirty planting these trees for the benefit of future generations, why can’t I put in some work to help sustain that?
A few months ago I was asked to take photos and video of a march to the house of representatives. It’d be for a coalition of environmental groups fighting for 3 “green bills” in congress. It made me reflect a lot on my transition from corporate or commercial designer to non-profit advocacy designer. I once wished that money grew on trees, but today, I wish more people grew an appreciation for what trees already give us.
2 weeks ago my colleague, Haribon’s resident biologist Kevin Artiaga, sent over a job order for 4 posters and a t-shirt design he needed. The posters were going to be infographics used to inform people living in a town that just so happened to have within its domain a sliver of forest belonging to the Philippine’s longest mountain range: the Sierra Madre. But that’s not the only superlative this town has.
I’ve been squeezing a lot of creative buko juice from my brain the past 2 weeks. I’ve never designed with so much Olympic intensity. If there was a design Olympics, i’d get the best medal one can ever have placed around their neck: a platinum-encased diamond battered in gold and deep fried in coconut oil from coconuts Bill Gates himself climbed a tree for.
It’s been a crazy two weeks for me here in Metro Manila. As a “Fil-am”, particularly one who was born and raised outside of the Philippines, it’s been a crazy ride. I started my first job here in the Philippines with my first non-profit, had to find a place without knowing anyone locally (and not knowing the language), and lastly, for some reason the universe had notified me that another Fil-am just a few miles (or kilometers) away was doing the exact same thing.
When Haribon notified me that I got the job I immediately did the first thing I usually did back in the US when looking for a place to stay: Craigslist (yup it’s a verb, I “googled it”!) The postings on Manila’s Craigslist though are mainly composed of temporary stays with hourly rates, making the search for a place with a specific monthly rate more difficult.
What have I been doing all week besides working? Eating. Almost every night after work I’d walk around the neighborhoods looking for something new to eat for dinner. One of my favorite visits is on a street I call “food cart start-up alley”. There’s a fishbol cart (fried fish ball cakes) named “Facebool”, and a Yahoo! food cart too.
I’m in Manila looking for a place at the moment. It’s hot, sweltering, and dusty, so I couldn’t help but reminisce on a trip I made to a place that was the exact opposite of where I am today. A place so different that it now feels like a distant dream to me now. I had no other choice to write about it here before I’d forget, or start to wonder, did it really happen??