Women and World Water Day

By Virginia Jasmin Pasalo


IT would have been a day for dancing, singing and poetry if the pandemic did not happen. Women’s Month celebrations across the years were happy occasions, a combination of intellectual discussions and lively festivities. The event, “Women, Environment and Poetry” is in celebration of the Women’s month and in observation of the World Water Day on March 22 as declared in a resolution first adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 22, 1992.

We have accepted this new normal and we are taking every opportunity to be together as women, as ecowarriors especially, taking stock of the priorities of these challenging times. There was no hugging, no kissing, no close contact of any kind with friends you missed for so long. This was a time when you have to do all these, virtually, and use your imagination to communicate longing and camaraderie.

Anabelle Plantilla, Project Manager, DENR-UNDP Biodiversity Finance Initiative, spoke of Philippine Biodiversity where she discussed the evolution and current status of biological diversity in the Philippines, comparing it to Brazil and Spain, and the rest of the world. She noted that we are the number one country in terms of biodiversity. Further, she reported that the national budget for the year 2021 is in the vicinity of 3.3T pesos but less than one percent is allocated for biodiversity protection and conservation.

As Executive Director of the International Visitor Leadership Program-Philippines (IVLP-Philippines), I shared my experiences in Community Engagement in Environmental Protection, focusing on two social organizing projects: The Bolinao Experience (1995-1997) of the Women in Development (WID) Foundation and IVLP’s initiatives in the Coalition to Save Trees (2015-2017). In this talk, I focused on the eight key operational areas common to both experiences highlighting the critical role of intelligence networks and the spiritual/ meditative anchoring of all organizing efforts on the principle of making work, a prayer.

After both talks, the conversation focused on Lake Lanao, a lake found in Marawi City, “formed by the tectonic-volcanic damming of a basin between two mountain ranges and the collapse of a large volcano.” Elin Anisha C. Guro mentioned that the lake needs rehabilitation as it is now home to an invasive fish and exposed to serious biological threats. She expressed desire for the guests to share their expertise in this endeavor as Mindanao State University (MSU) may soon initiate a plan for the rehabilitation of the lake.

We were supposed to read poetry during the last portion of the webinar, but we used the time to expound on the subject matter at hand, since the internet was slow and the reception lagged behind, making it necessary to repeat some presentation that were garbled. Some of the participants were not able to log in owing to this situation. I was able to read a poetic prose I wrote for Marawi entitled, “The Silence of the Flowers”, which reads in part: 

“Winds, stronger than their voices, blew the stories away, and brought them to the sea, where the mermaids kept them as songs, composed by others, from a distance, where the grass was green, once. And then I listen to the silence. I listen to the silence of the flowers.”

The webinar was co-anchored by Elin Anisha C. Guro, Director of the American Corner Marawi, MSU and Ailannie Macagaan, Chairperson of the English Department of the MSU College of Social Sciences and Humanities. The event is a collaboration of the American Spaces Philippines, American Corner Marawi, University Library, MSU-Main, Ranaw Speak and IVLP-Philippines.

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