Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Epifanio de los Santos: Filipino polymath

(Published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Dec. 4, 2011)

IF IT WEREN'T FOR the dogged determination by a group of intellectuals in 1958, the historic Metro Manila landmark we call Epifanio de los Santos Avenue (or EDSA) might well have been named “Avenida 19 de Junio” instead. Or “Pres. Ramon Magsaysay Avenue.” How does “Gen. Douglas MacArthur Highway” sound?

And if EDSA wasn’t named EDSA, what would we have called the People Power Revolution of 1986?

Epifanio de los Santos Avenue honors a man who, despite his relative obscurity today, was described by noted historian Gregorio Zaide as a rare genius because of his encyclopedic knowledge and talents, and by others as the greatest Filipino intellectual after Dr. Jose Rizal.

Epifanio de los Santos

The words “Polymath” or “Universal Genius” come to mind when one considers de los Santos’ achievements as a lawyer, historian, journalist, scholar, jurist, philosopher, bibliophile, biographer, philologist, painter, poet, musician, literary critic, politician, librarian, biographer of Spanish literature, translator (Spanish, English, French and German), linguist (Ita, Tingian, Ibaloi), researcher and philanthropist.

He was hailed as the “First Filipino Academician” and few scholars could match his extensive knowledge about the Philippines. At his death in 1928, he was honored as “Great among the Great Filipino Scholars,” a magnificent tribute to one of the greatest intellectuals this country has produced.

Fervent Patriot and Writer
Born to a rich family in Malabon on April 7, 1871, de los Santos or “Don Panyong” studied at the Ateneo Municipal de Manila where he graduated Bachelor of Arts, summa cum laude, in March 1890. In 1891, he took jurisprudence at the Santo Tomas Law School and obtained his Licentiate in Law 1898.

School uniforms and a classroom at the Ateneo Municipál de Manila

De los Santos was considered one of the best Filipino writers in Spanish in his time. He was the first Filipino to become a member of the Spanish Royal Academy of Language (a position denied Rizal), the Spanish Royal Academy of Literature and the Spanish Royal Academy of History in Madrid.

Despite his love for the Spanish language, de los Santos was a fiery patriot who championed Philippine independence through journalism. He became associate editor of the influential revolutionary paper "La Independencia" in 1898 using the pen name, G. Solon. He co-founded the patriotic newspapers “La Libertad,” “El Renacimiento,” “La Democracia” and “La Patria.” Among his famous patriotic essays were “Filipinos y filipinistas” and “Filipinas para los Filipinos”.

De los Santos also wrote extensively in Tagalog and was an eminent scholar of a group called the "Samahan ng mga Mananagalog" founded by Felipe Calderon in 1904. His peers in this circle of great Tagalog writers were Lope K. Santos, Rosa Sevilla, Hermenigildo Cruz, Jaime de Veyra and Patricio Mariano.

A passionate bibliophile, de los Santos’ Filipiniana collection was rated as the best in the world by foreign scholars, according to Zaide. This because de los Santos searched Europe, Asia and the Americas for rare Philippine documents in museums, archives and libraries. He also amassed a personal library comparable to Rizal’s.

Don Panyong’s art collection consisted of some 200 paintings and sculptures by famous Filipinos masters such as Juan Luna, Felix Resurreccion Hidalgo, Fabian de la Rosa, Arellano, Pablo and Fernando Amorsolo and Guillermo Tolentino. In Europe, he was recognized as the premier philologist and biographical writer about the Philippines.

A rich Filipino mestizo family in the early 1900s.

First Civil Governor of Nueva Ecija
As a politician, he was a member of the Malolos Congress, served as fiscal of Nueva Ecija (his father’s province) and was the first provincial Governor of Nueva Ecija in 1902 under the American civil government. His election made him the first democratically elected Governor and head of the Federal Party in Nueva Ecija.

He was re-elected Governor 1904. After his term as Governor, de los Santos was appointed provincial fiscal of Bulacan and Bataan. In 1907, he wrote an essay with the interesting title, “Fraudes electorales y sus remedios,” (Electoral fraud and its remedies) for the Philippine Assembly.

In 1918, he was appointed Technical Director of the Philippine Census. His last and most significant government position was Director of the Philippine Library and Museum, to which was appointed by Gov. Gen. Leonard Wood in 1925. By tradition, this post was reserved for Filipinos of learning and scholarship.

As head of the museum, de los Santos abandoned his personal collecting to build the museum’s collection of paintings, sculpture and all other art forms to an extent that his contributions exceeded that of his predecessors. He was still Director when he died from a stroke at the age of 57 in 1928.

A Triumph for Intellectuals
The North and South Circumferential Road, which Commonwealth President Manuel Quezon envisioned as the country’s most beautiful highway, began construction in the late 1930s. For reasons that remain unclear, the Americans renamed this road Highway 54 after the end of World War II.

In 1959, by virtue of Republic Act 2140, Highway 54 was renamed Epifanio de los Santos Avenue (EDSA), in recognition of Don Panyong’s genius and contributions to the country’s intellectual and artistic heritage. Epifanio de los Santos Avenue, however, was not the favorite choice for Highway 54’s new name.

It competed against three formidable alternatives: “Avenida 19 de Junio” (in honor of Rizal’s birthday); President Ramon Magsaysay Avenue (in memory of Pres. Magsaysay who died in 1957) and Gen. Douglas MacArthur Highway (for the man who led U.S. forces in liberating the Philippines from Japanese tyranny in World War II). Compared to these great men, Epifanio de los Santos was the dark horse in the race.

De los Santos’ assistant at the Philippine Library and Museum, Eulogio Rodriguez (who would later become Senate President), however, vigorously spearheaded the move to rename Highway 54 Epifanio de los Santos Avenue. After Rodriguez’s death, Juan Francisco Sumulong (de los Santos’ classmate at the Santo Tomas Law School), continued the campaign.

EDSA champions: Eulogio Rodriguez, Sr. and Juan Francisco Sumulong

His lobbying and that of the Philippine Historical Committee, the Philippine Historical Association, the Philippine Library Association, the Association of University and College Professors, the Philippine National Historical Society and the Philippine China Cultural Association won the day for Epifanio de los Santos Avenue. It was a triumph for the Filipino intellectual.

The text of Republic Act 2140 approved on April 7, 1959 reads:” The name of Highway 54 in the Province of Rizal is changed to Epifanio de los Santos Avenue in honor of Don Epifanio de los Santos, a son of said province and the foremost Filipino scholar, jurist and historian of his time.”

Historic EDSA
EDSA today is the country’s most historic highway, its name being indelibly linked to the People Power Revolution or EDSA I that restored democracy in 1986 and EDSA II or the EDSA Revolution of 2001 against Pres. Joseph Estrada. It is sometimes referred to as “Freedom Highway” because of these momentous events.

EDSA is the main circumferential highway in Metro Manila and runs some 24 kilometers (or 15 miles) from Caloocan City in the north to Pasay City in the south. EDSA is a 10-lane expressway that also encompasses the Metro Rail Transit (MRT) Line 3 extending from Taft Avenue in the south to Monumento in the north by 2011.

It forms the major portion of the Circumferential Road 4 (C-4) in Metro Manila and runs in a semicircle through the cities of Pasay, Makati, Mandaluyong, Quezon City and Caloocan.

In August 2009, Senator Mar Roxas filed a bill seeking to rename Epifanio de los Santos Avenue “Cory Aquino Avenue.” According to Roxas, “It is but fitting to offer in her memory the road that had made her famous all over the world.” Mrs. Aquino, Philippine President from 1986 to 1992, died on August 1, 2009.

Whether Pres. Noynoy Aquino will forcefully push the bill renaming EDSA after his mother remains unclear at this time. But it will do well for the President to consider who Epifanio de los Santos was, and why naming Metro Manila’s longest highway after him honors the Filipino as an intellectual.

The EDSA People Power Revolution of Feb. 1986 that toppled Ferdinand Marcos

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Green and healthy buildings are on the rise

(Published in Enrich, magazine of Mercury Drug Corporation)

IT'S KIND OF KIND hard wrapping your head around data showing that buildings, yes, buildings are a major man-made source of unhealthy carbon dioxide (CO2) pollution, and also use up most of the world’s electricity every year.

Buildings emit about 40% of the total amount of CO2 in the U.S., according to government data. While comparable data is absent, it can perhaps be reasonably assumed the percentages are almost similar for the Philippines. Residential, commercial and industrial building operations also consume 75% of total electricity generated in the United States. Evidently, the building sector (industrial, commercial, residential and others) should be a primary target in any national effort to combat climate change and enhance human health.

“The world is putting 30 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every year. The building industry is responsible for half of the total carbon emissions,” said architect Amado de Jesus, a founder of the “Philippine Green Building Initiative (PGBI)” launched this March. “One way to promote sustainability in the building sector is to raise awareness among building owners, developers, architects, engineers, contractors and occupants.”

Makati City
PGBI’s main activities include the adoption of a Green building rating system and standards adapted to the Philippines’ humid climate. PGBI will also promote sustainable building practices in aid of legislation and formulate public policy relating to climate change. New buildings are its main target group; retrofitting of existing buildings is also a goal.

PGBI pushes “Green Architecture,” which is a sustainable method of Green building design. Green Architecture is design and construction with the environment in mind. Green architects generally work with the key concepts of creating energy efficient and environment friendly buildings.

Energy Efficient Buildings
Energy efficiency over the entire life cycle of a building is the most important single goal of Sustainable or Green Architecture. In the Philippines, however, the fight for Green Architecture has only just begun. “To reduce carbon emissions we have to design and build Green buildings that use energy efficiently,” de Jesus explained. The Philippines is 48th among 212 countries in man-made CO2 emissions.

He noted that Green Architecture has two objectives: cut building operating costs (including energy consumption and maintenance) to minimize a building’s negative impact on the environment, and promote a healthy lifestyle to ensure the health and well-being of building occupants.

The Green Architecture movement in the Philippines involves construction design that is environmentally sensitive; in harmony with natural features in a project site; is energy efficient in that it emphasizes passive systems and uses materials that are recyclable and derived from sustainable sources that can be replenished or replaced so there is lesser wastage. It is basically the intelligent use of materials for the right purpose.

“It is the role of the Green architect to be able to meet these two objectives with as little compromise between protecting the earth and meeting human needs. The whole point of green architecture rests on accomplishing these two general objectives. Green architecture is proof that both man and his natural environment can live in perfect harmony,” de Jesus said.

“Green Architecture is very promising. It is the future,” said architect Anna Siao Ling, president of the 23,500-member UAP, the driving force behind the Green Architecture movement in the Philippines. “Currently, the prime considerations of Green Architecture are minimal energy use, as well as utilizing eco-friendly products—ideas which are already visible (in) Filipino designs in the past.”

She noted that sustainability is a trait which is very Filipino. “Just by observing how local homes are insulated with nipa and make use of bamboo blinds and rolling windows, we can attest that Green concepts are not foreign to us,” she said.

Green Rating Systems
The Philippines does not have its own building rating system and prefers to use the U.S. LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Green Building Rating System). It was only in 2009 the Philippines had its first Green building certified to LEED. This is an assembly and test building of Texas Instruments in Baguio City that received a Silver certification for maximizing the use of natural daylight; extensive water recycling and a reflective roof that significantly cut heat gain.

LEED is a Green rating tool and consists of a suite of standards for environmentally sustainable construction. Established by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), LEED is a means to rate the environment-friendly designs and energy efficiency of buildings that want to reduce negative impact on the environment. Since it began in 1998, LEED has reviewed over 14,000 projects in the U.S. and 30 countries.

The United Kingdom rates buildings according to the BREEAM environmental assessment method. In Asia, some of the existing rating systems are Japan’s CASBEE, Australia’s Green Star, Taiwan’s Green Building Label, Singapore’s Green Mark and Indonesia’s Green Building Council.

Europe is the world leader in Green Architecture and environmental awareness. But it is wise to remember that Green or sustainable architecture is a fairly recent phenomenon, even in Europe. In Germany, for example, it was only in January 2009 that the first German certificates for sustainable buildings were handed out.

In France, the government has put forward recommendations—the "Le Grenelle de l'Environnement,”—that provides a rating system to accelerate the pace of transforming new and existing buildings into sustainable structures. The first zero carbon office building in France opened in December 2009.

Other members of the European Union (EU) have their own national standards as regards Green Architecture. All of these, however, are guided by the greater goal of helping Europe reach its 2020 targets of 20% energy saved, 20% energy from renewable energy and 20% greenhouse gas reduction.

Mandatory European standards also address new or existing buildings, while the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive aims to promote improvements in the building sector.

How You Can Help
By altering his individual behavior, the average Filipino has a key role to play in pushing efforts promoting sustainable energy and infrastructure. “Earth Hour” and the Philippines’ shift to compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) are cases that prove the individual Pinoy is important in pushing a sustainable lifestyle.

Some 15 million Filipinos took part in “Earth Hour 2010” last March 27 to support the growing nationwide commitment to the environment. Organizers said the fourth staging of Earth Hour involved 4,000 cities in a record 125 countries turning off their lights for one hour thereby saving a huge amount of electricity.

During Earth Hour 2009, some 10 million Filipinos in 647 cities and municipalities saved an estimated 611MWh of electricity, the equivalent of shutting down a dozen coal-fired power-plants for an hour.

The government early this year again urged Filipinos to switch to more energy efficient CFLs, thereby cutting their monthly electric bills and reducing CO2 emissions. CFL use falls under the enhancing energy efficiency and conservation component of the Philippine Energy Efficiency Program (PEEP) whose aim is attaining a sustainable 60% energy self-sufficiency level beyond 2010.

The government plans to distribute 13 million CFLs nationwide this year, thus saving 611,000 MWh annually. By adopting CFLs nationwide in 2010, the Philippines became the first Asian country to completely ban incandescent bulbs.

PGBI is an initiative among professional building organizations that signed the “PGBI Declaration of Commitment.” Signatories include the United Architects of the Philippines, Philippine Society of Ventilating Air Conditioning Refrigerating Engineers, Institute of Integrated Electrical Engineers of the Philippines, American Society of Heating Refrigerating & Air Conditioning Engineers Philippine Chapter, Philippine Institute of Interior Designers, Geological Society of the Philippines, Heritage Conservation Society and International Council of Monuments & Sites Philippines.

(Published in Enrich, healthy lifestyle magazine of Mercury Drug Corporation, 2010.)