BEYOND THE FOUR WALLS: “Let our powers combine!”

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/19 January) – Environmental advocacy of the youth figured in what I thought was a déjà vu experience last week.

Our university radio station has initiated a participatory development project where we invited the colleges, units, and offices to take part in what we dubbed “Isibya-Ipaambit 2016” (broadcast and share).

Professor Nornie Micayabas of the Secondary School Laboratory was among the first to respond. She was passionate about their initiative with Grade 9 and Grade 10 high school students on the environment. She proposed a radio program where students would discuss the findings and their recommendations about an environment research project.

While she was giving details, my mind was trying to process the reality of the conversation. The traditional move is to have an expert say something about the environment and a citizen perhaps who is encountering effects of an environmental issue. The professor was telling me it is the students who will discuss based on the lessons they developed in class and their interaction with the community.

At one point, I thought, “ka hilas ba ning mga bataa!” They are still students and they can already go on air to talk about the environment!

Of course that was only a B-side to a thought of a déjà vu.

Prof. Nornie was the same biology teacher who taught us about the 3Rs (reduce, reuse and recycle) back in 1991. She made us do an environmental scanning and interaction with the community – if 3Rs were practiced then. Part of the process was for us to broadcast our findings and recommendations on radio through a “School on the Air” arrangement with a local radio station.

We made rounds in the town (Malaybalay was still a town by then). To top it all, I traced my first radio broadcast on station DxDB in 1991, the year the church-run station went back on air after it was ordered closed during Martial Law.

Through the “school on the air” we shared to the community our lessons in the classroom and our learning insights from community interaction.

Ma’am Nornie used an integrated curriculum as early as then. In my understanding, it’s so called because scientific knowledge was introduced to us while applying it in community-based learning.

I believe it was an influential and unforgettable learning experience.

It was also providential because there were other factors that contributed to my appreciation of tapping the youth and media to educate the public.

I remember that we grew up in a time of Captain Planet and the Planeteers and other TV programs that tackled environmental issues.

I have already forgotten about the names of the five teenagers who composed the Planeteers.  What I could not forget is that they need to combine their powers before they could summon the super hero, Captain Planet. It was popular, such that their faces were on the covers of the notebooks that many of us used.

The five teenagers did not only represent the different races of the world but also the elements earth, fire, wind, and water, and a fifth one, heart.

Together they fought the “Eco-Villains,” a group of antagonists who brought pollution, deforestation, and poaching and who enjoyed destroying the earth.

The Planeteers’ magic word was “Let’s Combine our Powers” and cheered “Go Planet!”

This sounds like the “Power Rangers” who were also popular at that time.

Don’t get me wrong. I enjoyed the TV series but I also drew inspiration from what was happening around Bukidnon at the time. As part of our activities in social studies, our teacher Dr. Lourdes G. Dela Torre exposed us to the barricades in Sayre Highway against legal logging concessionaires. That was indeed a social study.

From 1987 to 1991, the people of Bukidnon, starting from those in San Fernando town were, as the book by Karl Gaspar said, “struggling for creation.”  After a long story of pickets, walks, prayers and fasting and all sorts of protests started by PSK or the Pagbutaw sa Kamatuoran (To be awakened to Truth) and then the “Bukidnon 13” in Manila, a logging moratorium was imposed in 1990.

Yet, there were violations of the ban so much so that the Department of Environment and Natural Resources had to deputize 45 members of the Bukidnon clergy as forest officers. One of the 45, unfortunately, was Fr. Nery Lito Satur, who was killed doing his job as a priest, whose duties include taking care of God’s people and other creations.

I thought, in the eyes of a second year high school student, Fr. Satur’s funeral procession was one of the biggest and longest I witnessed in Bukidnon. I thought as early as then and continuously up to now, that environmental protection is one of the struggles that people in Bukidnon “most cared about”.

In 1990, as part of our physical education class, I was in BSC’s contingent to the Kaamulan street dancing. Two years later, Dr. Dela Torre and Prof. Norma Quisil included me among my batch mates in the BSC contingent to the 1993 Global Youth Earth Saving Summit in Quezon City.

In that conference, we performed traditional Bukidnon dances in several occasions. I was in the team performing a war dance. But since we were in all the sessions, we listened to all discussions. We learned science. We also discovered that the struggles of indigenous peoples in the province against environmental abuse were shared around the world.

It was there where I learned more about “Global Warming,” CFCs and others. We also met indigenous peoples from around the world. I think 1993 was declared as a year of the world’s indigenous peoples.

For the first time, I was able to understand what “think globally, act locally” means.

In our science lectures, we learn about the greenhouse effect and the other theories.  But it was with our interaction with the community that we learned how the science affects people and how people use science.

Back there at my seat listening to Prof. Nornie, I have to mentally affirm our young would-be programmers. This week, we will be providing them an orientation on the role of media in the community and the how-to of speaking on a radio broadcast.  At the end of January, we will have our maiden airing for a 10-episode season. I am excited to hear what they have to say. It’s their turn.

“Hilas?” Yes, they are “as if somebody”. I think they need to be. If they don’t, who will?

(Walter I. Balane/MindaNews is station manager of DXBU 104.5 FM of Bukidnon State University where he teaches journalism and economics.)