"..a bardy view!"


dodoThe Dodo, an ungainly flightless bird, is extinct. “As dead as a dodo” is a phrase synonymous with finality. Yet in truth it also represents mankind’s ignorance, exploitation, and failure to recognise natural and delicate balances of ecology and habitat.

Today we can frown upon those early seafarers who during the course of trade and exploration systematically devastated indigenous wildlife on their travels. The Dodo was just one of many creatures which provided easy meat. Just as the giant tortoises of the Galapagos Islands fell easy prey to hungry jack-tar and matelote – the rough sailors who had suffered long sea journeys with maggot ridden food, and succumbed easily to sickness.

Charles Darwin surmised, through his theory of evolution and natural selection, that species will invariably lose their original design if no predators exist to threaten them.

Hence why does a bird need wings if it doesn’t need to fly? All creatures, having evolved over millions of years, will adapt to their surroundings. If the Dodo felt threatened in its environment, it would not have lost its wings.

The Dodo, endemic to the island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean, was a bird over three feet tall, and nested on the ground, which is indicative of it’s perceived security. It would never know that a ruthless predator would pounce one day. These predators came as passing seafarers and found easy pickings. Sailors tell tales, and the news of their experiences would soon spread.

Early explorers and colonists would not have considered the long term environmental impact of their enterprise. Nor would they have seen that introducing domesticated animals like cats and pigs to their new found land would have such a detrimental impact.

The Dodo, having never encountered a cat before, would be at a loss to defend itself. Having no wings was a significant drawback. Similarly, livestock required land, and as harmless as a pig may appear, they were much more dominant in foraging than the humble dodo which survived on fruit and lived in harmony with the tambalacoque tree.

Together with rats which were always unwelcome stowaways, and the deforestation of land to clear areas for human habitation, the Dodo’s peaceful and harmless existence was severely under threat.

Maritime exploration is laced with stories about sightings of strange creatures on land or at sea. The dodo was first sighted during the mid 17th Century in Mauritius by Dutch sailors. Back then conservation and protection would have been as remote a concept as satellite navigation.

Whilst modern man may wring his hands and lament about the extinction of a species, everything must be viewed in the historical context of the times. The dodo is dead, but not forgotten. It’s a permanent reminder – a symbol – that man is the custodian of Earth’s flora and fauna. This is the legacy of the Dodo.

June 16, 2015 Posted by | Conservation, Culture, Education, History, Travel | , | 3 Comments

Philippine Land Grab – disguised as eco-tourism



Jacques Cousteau the famous explorer and conservationist once described Palawan as the last frontier. For good reason. Here was an archipelago of outstanding natural beauty, and he, more than most, understood that protection was the legacy for future generations.

So how does big businesses, and big property developers, justify their mercenary exploitation of the unspoilt?

To them, natural beauty is a golf course waiting to happen, a resort complex, and an emporium squatted by retail multi-nationals selling designer goods.

They do it by dressing it up as sustainable eco-tourism. The catch all phrase. The tart with a heart. Conservationist capitalism. Mercenary magnanimity. Philippine Profitable Philanthropy.

Ayela Land Inc (ALI) intend to build (purely for altruistic motives of course) a “100-hectare development that shall feature hotels and resorts, tourism and commercial establishments and residential communities with world-class amenities that blend with the natural landscape.”

These are not Cinderella’s, but the ugly sisters which squeeze their feet into jewelled slippers. Convinced that any fit is better than none, and an ounce of blood is worth shedding – even if a scar is the result. After all surely any commercial enterprise which aids the economy is better than none? Right? Wrong!

100 hectares is a substantial chunk of real estate, the first 25 hectares is to become the Lio Beach Village “featuring bed and breakfasts, resorts, shops and dining establishments amid civic spaces” which will be developed by Ten Knots Development Corp, which just happens to be a subsidiary of Ayala Land Inc. (The parent. Keep it in the family!)

This has naturally been lauded and applauded by the Philippines Department of Tourism, whose secretary Ramon R. Jimenez Jr. describes it as “a new jewel of sustainable tourism in the Philippines.” Note the word sustainable – synonymous with ecology and conservation. These are the key words which mask the reality. Cousteau will be turning in his grave.

The problem with the Philippines however is that in a land with over 7000 islands it’s surprisingly difficult to find a free beach. Most pieces of beach, be it white sand, black sand, or volcanic sand is owned by someone, who charge money just for the privilege of sitting on one. A resort takes away the freedom, and more importantly removes the locals. Especially the fisherman, who will no doubt be expected to pay a premium just to sail out and sail in – with a catch or not!

That’s not progress, that is exploitation, and it is ruthless because it has the support of the government, whose raison d’etre is not sustainability or culture, but greed and the fast buck.

You see, resorts are victims of the global economy i.e. how many bangs for the buck! It’s a volatile and precarious business, and when a downturn happens the infrastructure suffers, people lose jobs (non jobs associated with service: rooms, restaurants, etc totally dependant on the number of visitors) and invariably when the bottom falls out, the land is sold on. It’s a downward spiral, which cuts into the very ecology which was promoted in the first place. The land has been raped and the agriculture such as coconut trees, bananas, and most indigenous farming and fishing are lost.

What the Philippines government should be doing, and is always decidedly incapable of, is investment in the people. Ensuring that they have proper sustainable employment, encouraging and maintaining the skills that have been garnered over a thousand years, and if necessary subsidising them, because investing in the people and caring for their greatest asset – the land and the seas around it – will ensure worth, value and ultimately self sufficiency with profits all round. Technology may be the future, but a reputation of being the call-centre capital of South East Asia doesn’t really cut the mustard. Like India it will only exist for cheap labour and the service industry.

UNESCO have been threatening for the past five years that the famed rice terraces of the Cordilleras are losing their integrity and will inevitably lose their status as a world heritage site. The terraces which are unique, have been farmed and maintained by skilled tribal people for over two thousand years. They argue that “the terraced landscape is highly vulnerable because the social equilibrium that existed in the rice terraces for the past two millennia has become profoundly threatened by technological and evolutionary changes. Rural-to-urban migration processes limit the necessary agricultural workforce to maintain the extensive area of terraces.”

In simple English this means that the young generation are not following in their fathers and forebears footprints and heading to Manila to seek their fortune. Between the lines it also says that this “migration” makes the land redundant, cannot be sustained, not fit for purpose and therefore prime targets for commercial land grabbers. If you want to know what that is and the horrors it produces, just go to the city in the sky: Baguio – where concrete is king.

A responsible government should be sustaining it’s heritage, not destroying it systematically for short term financial profit, nor pandering to wealthy developers whose hearts are purely mercenary, and leave a legacy of shame, exploitation and avarice.

It will get worse before it gets better – but time is running out, and it will have probably ran out before the people of the Philippines wake up – perpetually somnambulist – perpetually sleepwalking – and whilst they sleep, the politicians, the investment bankers, the fund managers and the speculators are wide awake – singing, celebrating and dancing obscenely on the land!

April 14, 2014 Posted by | Coconut Trees, Conservation, Culture, Current Affairs, Education, Politics, The Philippines, Travel | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Tree Slaughter – More Fun in the Philippines……

“Mile after mile, trees have been felled, and mile after mile those still standing have been marked with the executioners axe – a strip of bark sliced from the trunk – the condemned waiting for death.”
There is a disease that is rampant in the Philippines. It’s a virus, spreads like the plague, and infects all that come into contact with it.
It is unforgiving, affects millions of people, destroys livelihoods, and causes blindness. It’s a virus which is unforgiving, because there is no way back from it. The damage it causes can never be recovered. It is a killer.
It’s not airborne, nor is it a bacterial strain, yet it is man-made. It is a disease born of corruption, greed, and ignorance. There is no cure. It is called Environmental Slaughter.

Along the MacArthur Highway, over 2000 Acacia and Mango trees have been destroyed, many more than 100 years old. It is an unprecedented act of vandalism in the name of progress. The Philippines government decreed that the highway needed widening and with ruthless abandon they embarked on a cultural assault, devoid of any regard to heritage.

Mile after mile, trees have been felled, and mile after mile those still standing have been marked with the executioners axe – a strip of bark sliced from the trunk – the condemned waiting for death.
Businesses, small shop-keepers, homes, communities will all be displaced in the name of progress. Perhaps the highway does need widening? Perhaps there was no alternative?Perhaps nobody thought of an alternative? Why does it matter?

It matters because it’s not just about trees. It’s about heritage. It’s about a country which shouts loudly about culture, yet is prepared to abandon it in the name of progress. It’s about a country which has a superficial regard to it’s history, and whose slogan to attract the tourist is suffixed with…”it’s more fun in the Philippines”. “Beaches are more fun in the Philippines”, “Shopping is more fun in the Philippines”, “Food is more fun in the Philippines”, Scuba Diving, Bird watching, trekking…they are all “more fun in the Philippines”. “Tree slaughter is more fun in the Philippines!”

Corruption is more fun in the Philippines.There is a very serious point here.
Greed is more fun in the Philippines.
Exploitation is more fun in the Philippines.
Poverty is more fun in the Philippines.
This is not quite the message the country wants to project. 
A government which destroys it’s trees and allows (or is too impotent to prevent) deforestation on a massive scale  –  uproots it’s fundamental heritage, riding roughshod over it’s flora and fauna, and employs the word conservation as a euphemism for development. It’s the BIG Lie! The Big Con!
A Government which destroys it’s trees with impunity has no respect for life, culture or heritage. 
Still, no matter. It’s fun that matters.  “Fun…it’s more fun in the Philippines!”

Related articles

Philippines Land Grab – disguised as eco-tourism
More trees to be cut for Makiling road
The Pope, the Philippines, Argentina and the British……
1,829 trees to be killed for road plan
Deadline to finish off trees for road: Feb. 12

January 28, 2014 Posted by | Conservation, Culture, Education, Politics, The Philippines, Travel | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mount Mayon erupts – with fatal consequences………

"Mayon volcano is an enigmatic personality. The more she
does this, the more they will come. The more the danger, the more the

So says Albay Governor Joey Salceda, after Mount Mayon gave a 73-second explosion killing five climbers on 7th May 2013.

MayonThe state seismologist said the explosion was triggered when the
rainwater made contact with hot ash deposits on the crater mouth. That makes
sense - a bit like adding water to a sizzling frying pan.

It's rather unfortunate that Governor Salceda couldn't have
chosen his words more appropriately. eg "This is a terrible tragedy. My
sympathies go out to the victims and their families. We will do everything to
learn from this, and investigate how this appalling accident occurred."
– it's a stock response, in the files of
every person in a high position of public service – but not in Salceda's. No, to him it
will bring more tourists. If that’s not what he meant it’s certainly how it

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May 8, 2013 Posted by | Conservation, Current Affairs, Education, History, Mount Mayon Volcano, Politics, The Philippines, Travel | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Captain Cook and the USS Guardian…

USS_GuardianIn 1770 Captain Cook's HMS Endeavour grounded on the
unchartered waters of the Great Barrier Reef and got stuck.

Through exceptional seamanship he lightened his load and with a severely
damaged hull was able to free his ship, and nurse her towards a safe harbour
for repairs.

He had no state of the art navigation, no electronic devices, no
sea-bed imaging and no satellite communication.

On January 17, 2013, the USS Guardian, a 223ft minesweeper,
costing $277 million, commanded by Lt. Cmdr. Mark Rice, ran aground on the
Tubbataha Reef, in the Philippines.

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April 2, 2013 Posted by | Arts, Books, Conservation, Current Affairs, Education, History, The Philippines, Travel, United Kingdom, USA | , , , , | Leave a comment

Crocodile Tears for Lolong


King croc
In September 2011 I wrote about the largest saltwater
crocodile captured alive (King Croc Down Mindanao Way).

 That post highlighted the efforts of the villagers in
a remote area of Mindanao in the Philippines, to hunt down the creature because
it was extremely dangerous.

Having ensnared it, the local mayor proposed to turn it into
a tourist attraction, much to the consternation of wildlife groups.

Sadly 16
months down the line, their fears have been realised. Lolong is dead.

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February 12, 2013 Posted by | Conservation, Culture, Current Affairs, Education, The Philippines, Travel | , , , , | Leave a comment

Janine Tugonon brings the House down!

janine tuganon

As if the Philippines House of Representatives didn’t have enough to discuss, they found time recently to suspend business in order to honour Janine Tugonon.

What has the 23 year old achieved in order to earn this prestigious commendation?

Did she win the Nobel Peace Prize? Is she in the vanguard to alleviate poverty? Does she head up a charity to fight world hunger? Has she discovered a cure for malaria? Has she devoted half of her life to campaign on the environment? is she a UNICEF Ambassador?

Sadly none of these things – she has in fact achieved something much more worthwhile, she was the first runner up in the Miss Universe pageant.

Note the term “first runner up” – a euphemism for coming second. Yes, she didn’t even win it!

Ms Tugonon’s claim to fame is that she is a beauty queen.

So beautiful in fact that House Representative Lani Mercado-Revilla of Bacoor City introduced a resolution to honour her, which was easily passed by the lower chamber, resulting in the lawmakers suspending their
sessions in order to meet and applaud her. Apparently her achievement has “earned the admiration of Filipinos around the world”.

What, one wonders, would have happened had she won? No doubt a public holiday would ensue, preceded by President Aquino pinning a medal to her ample bosom.

The proposer (Mrs Mercado-Revilla), other than being a member of the House of Representatives, is also an actress, married to fellow actor and senator Bong Revilla.

Her recent exposure was last December when she became embroiled in the Reproductive Health Bill; appealing for “sobriety to avoid making reckless actions” during one of the proceedings of the Bill (no 4244).

It was notable because she asked for certain portions of the transcript to be removed. She took particular umbrage to the remarks of a fellow representative (Rodante Marcoleta) who said that her husband “is so
fertile that just passing him by can make you pregnant”

Every Bong is good for a Bang presumably.

Anyway, her emotional dramatic performance didn’t wash with the deputy speaker Lorenzo Tanada III, whom she accused of being arrogant (too bad there isn’t a TV Channel for all this), who was heard to say “I don’t
care if she gets angry, she must learn to follow the rules”

Since then Marcoleta has apologised for Bong bashing, and Tanada also apologised saying he didn’t mean to hurt Lani’s feelings.

The deputy speaker implied that he was rather tired – having presided for two consecutive days on the RH Bill, “which may have made his tone condescending”.

Since then of course, Lani has popped up again, this time proposing a very important cause – ie recognising the fact that Miss Philippines came second in Donald Trump’s Miss Universe competition (which incidentally was won by Miss USA) in Las Vegas.

(If you are exhausted reading this, I admire your constitution for getting this far, but spare a thought for your humble author who chose to write this stuff.)

What does it all mean? Before I answer that, it’s important to know that I am an advocate for the Filipino people, that I am a concerned observer, and that I care deeply about that country.

But as an intelligent and fair critic, modest and without malice, I fear for the nation because it is led by people who are at best naive or ignorant, and at worst just downright self-serving.

Senators are more likely to be personalities from television and film, or the sporting arena, who rely on the electorate to vote for them because of the image, and not the substance.

There are major issues confronting the Philippines. Corruption, over population, poverty, conservation, exploitation, health care, unemployment, deforestation, marine destruction, deprivation, slums, housing,
terrorism, infrastructure, territorial disputes, and an exported workforce doing menial tasks around the world who are not protected by their government and used and abused, yet still expected to pay their dues to the

The Philippines Tourist Agency proclaims the country as the place to visit, yet fails to mention that there is not one direct flight from Europe, and the last (KLM/Air France – Amsterdam to Manila) has suspended
its service.

It fails to mention that Philippine Airlines (PAL) is not permitted by the European Union to operate in it’s airspace. It fails to mention that PAL is controlled by the huge conglomerate San Miguel Corp.

A brewery controlling the national airline! It’s enough to drive you to drink!

In the meantime that seat of state, with all its incumbency suspends it’s activity to ogle and reward a beauty queen.

It’s as if the Philippine Islands are a mere playground for the elite.

It is in fact the world’s largest and best golf club. Full of privilege for the wealthy and the rest merely wander aimlessly around it seeking the lost balls.

Update: PAL finally met EU status in November 2013 and are now flying direct non stop from London Heathrow to Manila twice a week.



February 6, 2013 Posted by | Arts, Conservation, Culture, Current Affairs, Education, Europe, Events, General, Humour, Politics, Religion, The Philippines, Travel | , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Life of Pi

Life-of-pi-poster2"The reason death sticks so closely to life isn't
biological necessity — it's envy.

Life is so beautiful that death has fallen in
love with it, a jealous, possessive love that grabs at what it can."

The quote comes from "Life of Pi" and continues…"But life leaps over oblivion lightly, losing only a thing or two of no
importance, and gloom is but the passing shadow of a cloud."

Determined to see the movie, I've decided to read the novel

By coincidence I received it as a Christmas present.

It's an
enthralling, intelligent and evocative tale, beautifully written, rich with
insight and challenging to the senses.

That's probably why it was the Man
Booker Prize
winner 10 years ago.

I meant to read it then. I was late getting
there – but better late than never.

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January 7, 2013 Posted by | Arts, Books, Conservation, Culture, Film, Religion | , | 3 Comments

Supermarkets, Globalisation and Marmite – a Caveman Perspective….

Marmite1Regular readers of this humble blog will know that I advocate the Paleo Diet aka the Caveman Diet.

The fundamental truth being that prior to the arrival of agriculture 10,000 years ago, man, ie homo sapiens, and even his ancestors in one hominoid form or another, ate only fresh meat, fish, wild vegetables and fruit.

He did this for at least 2.5 million years. Starch, wheat, yeast, grain and cereals, milk, butter and cheese simply did not exist.

They did eat eggs, but only by sneaking up on a nest and nicking them.

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July 22, 2012 Posted by | Books, Conservation, Culture, Current Affairs, Diet, Education, Europe, Events, History, Italy, London, Olympic Games, Politics, Religion, Science, Sport, United Kingdom, USA | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Here, Now – A Queen of England and a Philippines President!

I'm not going to talk about the Queen's Diamond Jubilee – the internet is awash with chat about it all, and I have nothing to add…yet!

My attention has been drawn to some other news: on the evening when there was a brilliant Jubilee concert at Buckingham Palace, President Aquino of the Philippines was due in London to begin a three day official visit and promote his country's tourist slogan "It's more fun in the Philippines".

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June 4, 2012 Posted by | Coconut Trees, Conservation, Culture, Current Affairs, Education, History, London, Politics, The Philippines, Travel, United Kingdom, USA | , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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