Before I met him, I knew absolutely nothing about Howie Severino except that he was a broadcast journalist at one of either of the two largest TV networks in the Philippines. I use the term “met” loosely here, as our meeting consisted of a handshake and me mumbling something about how far I came to attend the event where he gave his talk, before we had our photograph taken by my friend.
Now I know that his real name is Horacio Severino and he is (gasp!) a Vice President at GMA 7, with a long and illustrious career in journalism, and several prestigious awards under his belt. (Forgive my lack of knowledge about Philippine television, as I didn’t like watching it and up until a few months ago, didn’t even own a TV). This man, who spoke in front of us in such a friendly, non-gesticulating (he had one hand in his pocket for most of his talk), almost subdued manner, is one of the most trusted and respected names in the industry. This bespectacled man, who was 54 years old but didn’t look a day over 45, who blinked his eyes a bit too much as people asked him questions, is probably the best environmental documentary filmmaker and journalist in the country, and seems like a genuinely humble and awesome human being. I was lucky enough to have been invited to an event where he was the guest speaker.
My first event as a blogger
The event was called Blog Talk: Green Bloggers’ Meet-Up, held yesterday afternoon at the Cocoon Boutique Hotel, a lovely little “eco-friendly” hotel in Quezon City. It was in celebration of World Environment Day (June 5) and Philippine Environment Month (June). Organized by the Environmental Management Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, it aimed to increase awareness among bloggers about the environmental issues facing the country today. At least I think that was the objective, as sadly I was a bit late (curse you, Aguinaldo Highway!), and missed the introductions, welcoming remarks, and most of the first talk (about illegal trade of wildlife, by Director Mudita Lim of the Biodiversity Management Bureau of DENR).
Updates from the Environment Chiefs
The affair was not so much a meet-up (there wasn’t much chance for us bloggers to exchange anything other than smiles and excuse me’s as we passed each other’s tables) as a seminar where head honchos from the EMB told us how dire the environmental situation was in the Philippines, and that we were all headed for doom (slightly kidding about the last part). There were some good news though, like the improving trend in the air quality in Metro Manila and the adoption of the Euro IV standard in petroleum products, according to the Air Quality Management Section Chief of EMB.
I don’t know why they make the Chiefs present these things, as I believe they are not that well-versed about the technical things. They are probably good managers, but I just get the feeling that if there were no Power Point presentations flashing on the screen, none of them would be able to say anything, at least nothing substantial. I mean, for example, I asked one of them what the government was doing to make clean sources of energy like solar panels more accessible to people, and the guy said something like renewable energy is on the list in one of the slides. I suggest that next time, they truly get to know their presentations or ask someone who knows it better to give the talk.
Songs to sooth the environmentalist soul
Fortunately, the one and only Mr. Noel Cabangon was there to perform songs about the environment. I’ve seen him perform a few times already, but this was the closest I got to him (I was only maybe 3 meters away). Man, he had a beautiful voice! His songs can really send powerful messages that will echo for generations to come. One of the songs he performed was “After the Deluge,” which he dedicated to typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) victims in 2013. He wrote it in English, one of his few songs in a foreign language, thinking that James Taylor might be interested to record it, but the American singer wasn’t. He finished his number with a rendition of his most famous song “Kanlungan,” made even more popular by the McDonald’s ad in the early 2000s. Oh my God, I do love that song. *sigh*
Be Kind and Friendly
The definitive highlight of the entire afternoon was Mr. Severino’s talk, in which he gave tips on writing blogs. One of the most striking tips he gave was “Be kind and friendly to strangers.” It was striking for its simplicity and sensibility. And I truly believe he lived by that, as he patiently and happily answered questions from the audience, and gave anyone who was eager a chance to take a photo with him. And look, he even liked my tweet!
I’d like to thank my friend and former co-teacher Mr. Dennis Dolojan for extending the invite to me (do visit his really award-winning blog Love Mindanao), and the EMB, especially the secretariat, for putting this event together.