In early August, I submitted a story called “Bayanihan in Redux” to an international writing competition. A month later, I realized that this was the set-up to an ecological disaster of a punchline.
The Future Folklore Climate Fiction Contest, held by the indie publisher Stories to Change the World (STCW), challenges writers to write positive futures that we could eventually recreate in our reality. This contest asked me to think of what kind of future I wanted to see for the Philippines. It wasn’t difficult picturing what I wanted. I wrote about a place that understood the effect of climate change on its geography and its society; a place that moved towards more scientific solutions; a place where scientists and farmers were respected caretakers of the land; and a place that cared about the generations coming after them.
Most of all, though, I wrote about a place where Manila wasn’t clogged with traffic because who isn’t sick of the traffic here? I even said that by the 2060s-70s, Pasig River would have been fully rehabilitated because it felt like a fun little detail back in August, back when I thought that my story could actually become reality.
In late September, a few days after my story won the contest as a Special Mention, the news of the Pasig River Expressway (PAREX) bombed on social media and environmentalists fought to get their voices heard. Nature conservationists reported that the proposed skyway will undo the years of rehabilitation they’ve done to coax life back into the “dead river”. Urban city planners predicted that it would stimulate the use of private vehicles and encourage air pollution. Experts said that it will only heat up and flood Manila further as if the tropical weather was not enough.
And yet this project passed despite the protests and research that detail how PAREX would only worsen class inequality, standards of living, and local ecology.
The universe loves a good joke now and then. It especially loves a cruel, mean one. As I read the news, I was quietly comparing the future I wrote to the future that was coming in faster than my social media feed could deliver. Instead of clean streets with oceans of bikes, Manila would choke on exhaust fumes and heat. Instead of PETase cocktails being released into Pasig River to eat at the plastic, it would only be more urban waste. Instead of the climate-conscious future that I and many other young Filipinos envisioned, we’re facing a step backward as we ignore the evidence that screams against this project. I almost felt cheated.
Put a pin on that; we’ve had enough of fear, anxiety, and anger these past two years. Instead, I’d like to thank STCW for giving me the opportunity to write about the future I wanted to see and making me believe that my silly little story would make a difference in the world. Most of all, I’d like to thank them for giving me a reason to believe that things will get better. If not in my lifetime, then in the lives after mine.
STCW’s entire purpose is to give people hope. After these few months, I realized why they did: they dare people to dream of a better future to make it easier for people to fight for that future. If you’ve read this through and felt the rage and fear I felt, I urge you to act now to make the future that could be into the future that will be.
If you haven’t already, check out this petition to fight back against the creation of PAREX and find ways to support the rehabilitation of Pasig River. If you’re into voting, let the names of the officials who approved this project burn into your mind like a tattoo. If you want to know more about this issue, check out the research behind the original petition.
READ Io Carpiso’s Bayanihan Redux for Stories to Change the World in this link and SHARE THIS ARTICLE to gather more support for a positive climate-conscious future!
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