Sunday, August 13, 2017

#SDGtalents #UNLEASH-ed

Barely a few weeks after the India trip, I found myself on the road again... this time to take on a different challenge: help find solutions that could contribute to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations. I flew to Copenhagen to meet with 1,000 fellow talents in a10-day innovations lab called UNLEASH. With me was IRRI post-doc fellow, Nitika. It was yet another great adventure!

After 27 hours since we left Laguna, we finally reached the Copenhagen Central Station. The platform reminded me immediately of the Z├╝rich Central Station and Harry Potter depictions of London's Kings Cross Station. I was so excited because I was raring to see if the Denmark vision in my head, based mostly on my experience in Solvang.

Exiting the train station, however, I was kind of surprised that I seemed to be in the middle of an ancient industrial area, similar to my first impression of Nottingham after I got out of the train station. August is supposed to be summer in this part of the world so I brought lighter clothes. However, I quickly realised that summer here is cold for me, with temperatures hovering around 15 deg C. 

After a brisk walk, which saw me pass by the Tivoli Park and the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek (a fine arts museum), I finally arrived at my home for the next few nights: Danhostel Copenhagen City. Inside, it had a most modern elevator assignment facility: Tap your keycard on a touchscreen and it would assign an elevator for your use. Once I reached my room, I had my first taste of Danish interior design. The room was bright, with a large window, and the beddings were a white-on-white match to the wall and ceiling. It felt cold, were it not for the wooden floor.

Looking outside my window, I saw that I had a picturesque view of the city. I wasn't sure about what I was looking at but I certainly was interested on exploring this part of the city on foot, before jet lag set in. 

After settling in, I went with Nitika to the city hall, which is close to the convenient stores. With the rain going on, I decided to buy an umbrella. 

After our impromptu shopping trip, we were joined by a girl from CIMMYT, Danila, to the Meat-packing District in Vesterbro, Copenhagen for dinner.  The walk was hilarious because we ended up being followed by other UNLEASH participants who didn't have maps with them. I, naturally, was carrying a city map and was basically orienteering. Nitika kept on asking me to verify on the map if we were going in the right direction (she herself didn't even have a map open). It was quite obvious though, even without a map, because we were essentially following other people wearing UNLEASH badges. 

Rounding a corner of seemingly empty brownstone buildings, we finally reached where we were eating dinner. 

Dinner quickly turned into a meet-up with other SDG talents. Many of them were excited to talk about their work, where they're from, and why they're interested in UNLEASH... reminding me so much of those interview rolls in reality TV shows. Although the evening was young, I opted to go back to the hostel straight after eating. I was starting to feel the exhaustion caused by jet lag and I didn't want to sleep walk all the way to my bed. 

Monday, August 7, 2017

DIY Manila heritage tour: University of Santo Tomas

The last stop in our Manila field trip was at the Philippines' oldest university: the University of Santo Tomas. I visited the university previously as a resource speaker in a seminar. But it's during this field trip when I was able to take some time to really see the exterior in a relaxed pace. It also helped that Krishna, Shiela, and Herlyn are all connected to the school as alumnae and as a current student. Listening to them talk about their school gave another perspective... it gave the campus a more human feel to it. They talked about student traditions, jokes, and urban legends. It was so similar to UPLB students talking about the "never-ending bridge" and the mysterious statue of Mariang Banga.

As we wound our campus tour to a close, our UST friends brought us to a monument that features the likeness of Piolo Pascual and Charlene Muhlach. Not sure what the monument was all about, but I'm sure it means something significant for its students.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

DIY Manila heritage tour: Luneta

Okay, Jose Rizal's life has been put under the microscope because he's been the inspiration for the Filipinos looking for liberation from Spanish rule. Of all the patriots this country has produced, he has always been the most discussed in class, to the point that he became a villain for some people... an American hero construct (claimed by those who opposed the USA's colonisation of the country).

No matter how we look at it though, this man was a genius and was so advanced for his day and age. His death was such a waste of talent; a mistake that the narrow-minded Spanish colonists never recovered from. Luneta for me, as black and white turn to grey, is a testament of two perspectives being played out in school: (1) a reverence for a man portrayed as the model of patriotic perfection; and (2) a lesson on what happens when people in power fear that they are losing control over the others.