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Last ‘SONA’ Of President Duterte Frustrates The Protesters


PHILIPPINES. Quezon City: President Rodrigo Roa Duterte delivers his last SONA (State of the Nation Address) with the achievements of his administration. However, a large number of protesters vented their frustration before the SONA began. Protesters gave an outcry of their frustrations about broken promises and the poor performance of President Duterte.

President Duterte promised to end illegal drugs in the Philippines in six months. His campaign against illegal drugs leads to more than 12,000 deaths of Filipinos. Human Rights Watch found out that police falsified evidence to justify the killings of innocent victims. His campaign also leads to the red-tagging of indigenous people and his critics.

The Philippine President’s critics were falsely labeled communists (or terrorists) and red-tagged as targets. The President orders the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to “finish off” or kill these targets. Most often, these targets are poor communities, indigenous people, journalists, activists, and more.

Protesters and activist groups assembled and marched towards Sandiganbayan

President Duterte delivers his last SONA inside the Sandiganbayan on 26 July 2021 before the next election on May 2022. However, protesters and activist groups gather for the last time for his last SONA. Protesters and activist groups march toward Sandiganbayan with their outcry against President Duterte.

They march in large groups on Commonwealth Avenue towards Sandiganbayan with their frustration against the President. Their frustration for the poor performance and undelivered promises motivated the groups to march one last time. President Duterte promised to help the poor, resolve poor traffic conditions, work on the territorial dispute, and many more.

The Alliance of Concerned Teachers protests on the last SONA of President Duterte. Photo Credit: George Buid
The Alliance of Concerned Teachers joins the protest on the last SONA of President Duterte. Photo Credit: George Buid.

Instead, the national budget focuses on his campaign against illegal drugs cutting off funds for education. Also, a campaign against terrorists leads to the silence of his critics tagged them to be false terrorists. This red-tagging endangers the indigenous people, like what is happening to the southern indigenous groups or the Lumads. Lumads displaced from their homes and their schools are burned down instead of formal education for their children.

Police barricade blocks protesters on Commonwealth Avenue. Photo Credit: George Buid

The protesters outcried a long list of their frustrations besides the red-tagging and underfunded education. The protest groups marched towards Sandiganbayan on the long road of Commonwealth barricaded by the police. Yet, they continue with their protest program in the middle of Commonwealth Avenue.


Filipino Muslims Observes Eid al-Adha Amid COVID-19 Pandemic


PHILIPPINES. Manila: Filipino Muslims observed Eid al-Adha for the second time during the pandemic. The festival resulted in a declaration of a regular holiday all over the country. Meanwhile, the presence of the COVID-19 Delta variant is quite prominent in the Philippines.

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte signed Proclamation No. 1189 on 15 July. The proclamation declares Eid al-Adha a regular holiday nationwide this 20 July. Filipino Muslims are allowed to observe Eid al-Adha as long they follow community quarantine health protocols and social distancing measures.

Filipino Muslims assembles outside the Manila Golden Mosque and Cultural Center. Photo Credit: George Buid

Earlier, National Commission on Muslim Filipinos recommended Eid al-Adha as a national holiday before the president signed the proclamation. This proclamation allows the Muslim community to gather and observe Eid al-Adha. This is the second feast this year that Manila city allowed but modified in alignment with quarantine health protocols to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Filipino Muslims gathered for Eid al-Adha with the risk

Manila City expects attendees to gather in a large crowd in front of the Manila Golden Mosque and Cultural Center for the Eid al-Adha. The Muslim community of Manila mostly lives around the Manila Golden Mosque. The Eid al-Adha is one of the two feasts that the Muslim community of Manila observes every year.

Police officers line up the Filipino Muslims for the Eid al-Adha assembly. Photo Credit: George Buid

Police officers and barangay officials monitor and assists the large crowd going to the Manila Golden Mosque. Filipino Muslims gathered outside the mosque as police segregated them into groups and made sure that they wear a face mask. This task helps to make sure that everything is in order and prevents the spread of the virus.

The Philippines detected the COVID-19 Delta variant in the country. Therefore, the government discourages large social gatherings similar to Eid al-Adha to prevent the spread of the Delta variant. The Delta variant has so far infected 35 individuals with three deaths in the country. The reason President Duterte aggressively pushes the Filipinos for vaccination against COVID-19.


Fossil Fuel-Free Asia Gets A Dragon Dance


PHILIPPINES. Manila: Fossil fuel dominates the list of contributors to air pollution in the world. It powers our vehicles, cooks our food, and provides electricity, but it can cause health problems and the greenhouse effect. Yet, an enormous amount of investments poured into industries using fossil fuel.

The sun is about to set covered with thick dark clouds over factory area in 2018 at Laguna de Bay. Photo Credit: George Buid

Three of the world’s largest banks are responsible for investing around $5 billion in fossil fuel. In 2018, Oxfam reported that World Bank, Asian Development Bank, and Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank invest in the 10 Asian countries with fossil fuel belonging to the Climate Vulnerable Forum. In the Climate Home News report in November 2020, Asian Development Bank and Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank have opposed signing a commitment to phase out coal financing.

Advocates call for a clean environment in Asia this Lunar Year

Developed Asian countries have pledged to commit against fossil fuel finance. In November 2020, Greenpeace reported that China, Japan, and South Korea have pledged to net-zero fossil fuel activities overseas and locally. Therefore, the Asian Peoples’ Movement on Debt and Development (APMDD) calls for a firm commitment from other Asian countries to stop using them.

AMPDD and other advocates call out for the end of coal and fossil fuel financing. Photo Credit: George Buid

Lidy Nacpil, Coordinator of APMDD, shares her statement on why they held a protest on February 7. She said, “We now suffer from devastating effects of climate change, and will become much worse if the world does not take an urgent ambitious action far beyond the current pledges of the governments. Therefore, we call the Asian countries to commit to a swift and just transition from fossil fuels to 100 percent renewable energy for people and communities in celebrating the Lunar New Year this decade.”

Mayor Francisco ‘Isko Moreno’ Domagoso of Manila City has canceled all Chinese New Year activities from February 11 to February 17 along with other holidays and celebrations due to the COVID-19 pandemic. APMDD and other advocacy groups have gathered at the New Chinatown Arch to protest fossil fuel financing.

A dragon dance in front of the protesters at Chinatown Arch on February 7. Photo Credit: George Buid

Oriang and Sanlakas are among the environmental advocates gathered in the protest with Asian Peoples’ Movement on Debt and Development. A dragon dance leads the protesters, just before the Chinese New Year that is on February 12. The protestors have also asked China to take decisive steps and urged US President Joe Biden to fulfill his climate pledge to take action against fossil fuel.


Devotees Celebrate The Black Nazarene Amid The Pandemic


PHILIPPINES. Manila: The pandemic couldn’t stop the devotees of the Black Nazarene from paying tribute on its feast day. The local government of Manila had previously canceled the Traslación on January 9. However, instead of that the Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene (or Quiapo Church) held masses on the feast day.

The Black Nazarene is the life-size image of Jesus kneeling and carrying a cross on his right shoulder. They say the religious statue of the dark-skinned Jesus carrying the cross gives a ‘blessing of luck’. Interestingly, very few people are familiar with the fact that the image of Jesus was crafted and shipped from Mexico.

Devotees pull the ropes of the Andas (Spanish “move forward”) or palanquins, where the Black Nazarene sits on, as it moves on Ayala Bridge on 9 Jan. 2021. / Photo Credit: George Buid

The history of the Traslación

Annually, devotees of the Black Nazarene flock to Manila City for the solemn transfer, or Traslación, from the Quirino Grandstand in Rizal Park to the Quiapo Church. This tradition commemorates the donation of the Order of Augustinian Recollects of this holy statue transferred to Church of the Camisa (one of the original names of Quiapo Church) through a procession now called Traslación in 1787. However, the holy statue used in Traslación is a replica where the original image sits on the main altar of the Quiapo Church.

A Mexican sculptor crafted the image of Jesus Christ with a cross from mesquite wood, thus it was named the Black Nazarene. This image enshrined in San Juan Bautista Church, before the church destruction in 1762, in Rizal park was owned by Augustinian Recollects. Later, they donated a copy to Quiapo Church through a procession called Traslación on 9 Jan. 1787. Now, devotees have made an annual tradition to touch it to receive its blessings and good fortune.

Police officers lined up for briefing before they take their post around Quiapo on 9 Jan. 2021. / Photo Credit: George Buid

Faith prevails over the pandemic

Last year, about three million people flocked to the newly designated route of the Traslación of the Black Nazarene. The religious statue leaves the Quirino Grandstand in Rizal Park at 4:10 AM traveled to Quiapo Church for 16 hours and 35 minutes. The first case of COVID-19 patient confined in San Lazaro Hospital in Manila City on January 20, days after the Traslación.

Mayor Francisco Domagoso had signed an Executive Order to cancel the Traslación because of the COVID-19 pandemic in October 2020. The Executive Order includes the All Saints Day with Feast of the Black Nazarene that no Traslación will occur. However, the Quiapo Church and Manila City government perceived that devotees are persistent in visiting the holy image at any cost.

Therefore, the local government and the Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene discussed an action plan weeks before January 9. The church held masses for thousands of devotees that come to visit the religious statue. Around 7,000 police officers who are assigned around the area will impose COVID-19 health protocols and secure the area.

Devotees of the Black Nazarene gathered on Quezon Boulevard observing COVID-19 health protocols just outside Quiapo Church on 9 Jan. 2021. / Photo Credit: George Buid

The health protocol allows the church to hold 30 percent capacity of its total capacity, which amounts to around 400 devotees. However, the devotees outside can attend the 15 masses with LED walls and an audio system. However, children and the elderly over 65 years old are advised to participate from their homes.


Christmas Lantern Brightens The Philippine’s Holiday Season


PHILIPPINES. Metro Manila: The holiday season begins when people see the Philippine Christmas lantern or parol hanged outside the windows, doors, street posts, and everywhere in the Philippines. It represents the star that guided the three Wise Men to Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus Christ. Now, artisans and artists creatively craft the star-shaped lantern into different sizes and forms.

Filipinos hang these parols a few months before Christmas. People in the Philippines anticipate Christmas earlier than most countries in the world. However, few Filipinos know the history of the Christmas lantern and its tradition.

The history of the parol.

Augustinian friars introduce the practice of Hispanic Christian procession in the country in the 16th century that people carry a light source. The townspeople hang lanterns, made from Japanese paper and bamboo sticks, to light the nine-day Christmas Novena procession that reenacts the biblical scene of Joseph and the pregnant Virgin Mary searching for a place to stay. Thus, the word parol got adopted from the Spanish word ‘farol’ is now associated with the Christmas lantern.

Francísco Estanislao, an artisan from Pampanga, crafted the Christmas lantern into the star-shaped in 1908 that defined the parol today. The lantern gives lights with a candle or carbide lamp inside this structure made of bamboo strips and Japanese papers. Now, Filipino artisans earn a living as parol-makers.

A happy parol-maker enjoys crafting a Christmas lantern in Las Piñas City on 11 Nov. 2020. / Photo Credit: George Buid

Parol-makers keep the tradition alive.

Parol-makers craft the Christmas lantern into a more creative form or shape. Now, they use different mediums and materials to build modern parol. Yet, they kept the familiar star-shape of the parol to maintained the Christmas tradition.

The most colorful or massive size parols attract more Filipino buyers. Parol-makers gain more profit with the most creative design of the Christmas lantern. However, the industry became a financial casualty when the COVID-19 pandemic struck.

Roger Cuevas, a parol-maker in Las Piñas City, keeps the industry alive amid the pandemic. Only a few customers go out that are brave enough to buy a parol for their homes. So, he shares to Transcontinental Times his experience as a parol-makers with lips stretched ear to ear and the white teeth showing.

He happily said, “I make parols since 1963 as a kid. However, we use Japanese paper and bamboo sticks. Now, my children make Christmas lanterns covered with plastic for three years.”

Roger Cuevas happily shares his story of making Christmas lanterns as a young boy in Las Piñas City on 11 Nov. 2020. / Photo Credit: George Buid

A creative dress the Christmas lantern with a barong.

Jodinand Aguillon, a Filipino-Canadian creative, turned the Christmas lantern more Filipino with a traditional Filipino vintage cloth. He used a piece of old barong Tagalog, a traditional Filipino clothing, wrapped around the parol. Thus, its creativeness caught the eyes of people from social media that Transcontinental Times asks his inspiration.

(Left) Pieces of vintage barong used for a Christmas lantern and (Right) round ornaments. / Photo credit: Jodinand Aguillon

He said, “ Most barongs spend most of their lives hidden in the closets. So,  this is a simple way to bring them out into our every day [as a parol].”He adds, “I leave certain vintage barongs as is if it’s still or wearable or too precious to upcycle. I try my best to salvage parts of the ones that are beyond repair. So, I turn them into earrings, pinafores, wall decor, or sometimes a Christmas lantern.“


News Network Disregards Photojournalist’s Profession


PHILIPPINES. Quezon City. A Philippine news network disregards photojournalism as a profession. GMA Network profit billions of Philippine Pesos in the third quarter of 2020. Nevertheless, a large corporation with big profits can’t provide proper financial compensation to the work of a photojournalist.

GMA Network holds a division called GMA News And Public Affairs (GMA NAPA) that produces news, public affairs, infotainment, and now entertainment. Before, the news network carries the name Greater Manila Area Network (in 1950), then changed to Global Media Arts. Now, they earned their profit three times to ₱2.94 billion in the third quarter of 2020.

GMA Network’s billboard on the sidewalk of EDS in Quezon City on 8 Dec. 2020. / Photo credit: George Buid

High-profit news corporation freeloads content(s) from professionals.

The world recognizes photojournalism as a respectable profession under journalism and art. The photojournalists are always on the front line to capture current events, public affairs, and news coverage. Yet, big news networks like GMA Network overlook this profession without giving proper compensation and ask for content.

Photojournalist Ezra Acayan exposes the malpractice of a high-profit news corporation on social media. First, he posted screenshots of GMA Network’s messages asking for typhoon Vamco images with waived fees on 13 Nov. 2020. Instead, the news network offers to credit the photographs under his name.

The incident continued for the different programs of GMA News that also involves GMA News And Public Affairs. The news network targets other photographers without proper compensation for their work that Mr. Acayan shares on his Facebook. Then, GMA Public Affairs released an official statement that they will stop the practice and leave private information unexposed.

Therefore, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines demanded the owners of the news networks end their exploitation and degradation of the profession. The statement dictates, “We are afraid this has increasingly become an excuse to avoid payment of content creators and proper compensation of media professionals. At the same time, we call on media professionals to band together to push our right to just compensation and working arrangements.”

A Philippine news network’s front gate with two passers-by, with one giving a tap on the back, walks by it in Quezon City on 8 Dec. 2020. / Photo credit: George Buid

Philippine law protects the rights of artists like photographers.

Attorney Tim Calumpong shares to Transcontinental Times how the practice of the news network reflects in Philippine’s labor law. He said, “If the company is only interested in the output without regard to how the artists achieve the final product, then they are independent contractors (freelancers) and not employees. But, if the company controls how to achieve the final product, then they are employees covered by the Labor Code. The Labor Code sets the minimum benefits applicable to the artists (photographers) considered as employees.

Further, a virtual public forum discusses the news network asking for free content and copyright issues. PonD News Asia invites lawyers Atty. Rache Mayuga, who used to work for Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines (IPO Philippines), Atty. Tim Calumpong and Atty. Edward Chico in the forum entitled Copyright as a Human Right: Issues and Challenges for Photographers and Videographers.

Atty. Mayuga said, “The constitution obligated to protect the rights, and (the rights) inherited. You own the control to Copyright (rights to an original copy). However, owning a copy differs from a copyright where a purchaser is not the owner.”

The forum discusses further the sharing of content in social media and news networks with the use of “credit to the owner” (CTTO). Atty. Chico said, “The sharer is not liable online, but only the person who uploaded it is liable. Yet, recognizing the owner is not enough or the use of CTTO.” News networks that give no recognition to the work of photojournalists can be emotionally distressful. Photojournalists get a short supply of work in this COVID-19 pandemic that adds emotional stress to them. Thus, laws could protect them like the Unjust Vexation Act.


Mitochondria Implicated In Impaired Health Of Astronauts

Valery Boyko, lead of NASA GeneLab's Sample Processing Lab, is setting up automated liquid handling instrument to quantify the amount of sequencing material in a sample. Credits: NASA/Dominic Hart / Photo Credit: @NASAAmes

UNITED STATES: National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) found mitochondrial breakdown as root of many health problems of living in space. A team of scientists based their findings on data collected for decades of research in the space station.

The mitochondria, a powerhouse of the cell, experiences changes in activity during spaceflight. Scientists collected samples from 59 astronauts for decades of experimental research.

The first clue found between mitochondria and spaceflight came from rodent research. The data NASA found on humans support this hypothesis that the breakdown inactivity of mitochondria contributes to health challenges in space.

They identified the changes in astronaut Scott Kelly’s immune system from each year in space since 2015. Further evidence was found in blood and urine samples of other astronauts, further confirming that space life alters mitochondrial activity in the human body.

Astronaut Scott Kelly. / Photo credit: NASA

Mitochondria produce energy for the cell

The mitochondria work as a digestive system for a biological cell. It uses oxygen to convert chemical energy into energy, adenosine triphosphate (ATP), that the body needs.

The change in altitude of space reduces the amount of available oxygen, especially at high altitudes, which impairs the function of mitochondria. The mitochondria adapt to these conditions observed in some people living at high altitudes like the Tibetan highlanders; however, this adaptation is absent in space.

Impact of microgravity

In an interview with Transcontinental Times, Dr. Afshin Beheshti, lead author of NASA’s research, explained, “Based on our results and former research, there exist lower diffusion rates (of solutes) that will reduce the hydrogen gradient in the mitochondrial region. Also, it will reduce energy production through ATP synthesis in microgravity. Similarly, microgravity will affect changing the biology in the body to reduce the efficiency and effectiveness of the mitochondria to produce the required energy that the body needs. So it still has activity in microgravity conditions, but the space environment impairs the activity (which also includes space radiation damage).”

He added, “We should think of how the space environment will impact the body completely. There are systemic impacts on biology because of the changes that occur in the body in space. We found that mitochondria are one of the key players. Yet, the mitochondria in the body are still trying to be active, one reason that an astronaut can still function, even though the space environment severely impairs mitochondrial functions.

“Depending on how long they spend on the moon, [astronauts will incur] long-lasting damage to their health. Thus, there are current steps to elevate and boost their energy that astronauts need to do. One, they can exercise for a couple of hours every day. Exercise boosts your mitochondrial functions! But, this isn’t enough in space. So, the next step for researchers is to use existing therapy for boosting mitochondria in the clinic and apply it to astronauts. So, an effective countermeasure applied against the damage of the space environment.”


Body Necklaces: Treasures Bloom From Trash


PHILIPPINES. Dumaguete: Body necklaces are sold as luxury items but crafted from the dumpsite of Dumaguete. A community of skillful women creates all the beautiful jewelry for a sustainable and ethical crowd. Although some of these women earn a living as waste pickers, they now promote a circular economy through Lumago Designs with their upcycling skills to reduce pollution.

The named social enterprise,  Lumago Designs, came from the Tagalog word of bloom. The social enterprise helps these women to earn a living wage creating the jewelry that they love. Thus, their body necklaces are one of the best designs you could see.

Not only do these eight women craft their body necklaces as jewelry, but they also reduce the amount of waste thrown into the dumpsite. Like a sustainable trophy, their actions aid a clean environment. Besides, they sustain their community along with a handful of donations.

This initiative runs thanks to the collaboration of Becky Stanbridge, from the United Kingdom, and Spencer Dempsey, from the United States, with the eight women of Lumago Designs. However, Whitney Fleming started it back in 2011 after a typhoon devastated the community in Dumaguete. The women found a livelihood through jewelry making with the dumpsite as an inspiration of their raw materials found that shapes their body necklaces of vibrant colors.  They intercept the materials before they reach the dumpsite.

Waste pickers scavenge for useful trash / Photo Credit: Lumago Designs

The love of jewelry innovates them to be resourceful jewelers

The eight women work from their home while they create jewelry like the body necklaces. Stanbridge, in an interview with Transcontinental Times, said, “They work to earn a fair living wage while looking after their families. Yet, they have refined their specialized skill of paper bead making for over a decade now.”

She added, “Even though we have tried out other upcycling products like home decors items, they love jewelry. That is what they know and do best. So, we further enhance the skills they own to allow them to learn and progress (as artisans).”

Stanbridge spoke of the materials they use in their body necklaces and other jewelry. She said, “We use a mix of aluminum, plated copper wires, stainless steel chains, and other findings with our signature hand-rolled recycled paper beads. But, our artisans dip and dry each bead in resin.”

Standbridge also noted that the environment is an essential part of what they do. Besides, what they do unifies and benefits their community. She said, “The use of upcycled materials is a big part of what we do, why we do, and who we are. We uplift the community and give back to our environment. In the meantime, we educate people about protecting our planet through the stories and beautiful wearable pieces of art, like the body necklaces.”

Body necklaces design both for men and women / Photo Credit: Lumago Designs

Inspiration behind their artistic jewelry

The initiative creates an impact on their community. The designs were born from their love of jewelry.

Transcontinental Times asked Stanbridge about the source of inspiration for their body necklaces and jewelry. She said, “Our interest in working with bigger intricate pieces (body necklaces with a unique festival vibe) for a while to cater to high-end markets. But, we struggled to support families during the pandemic. Our sales depleted considerably, since march with the pandemic that restricts people from buying.”

Women crafting a body necklace / Photo Credit: Lumago Designs

She continued, “With the extra time on hands, we found an innovative and necessary way to adjust to the new normal. We worked towards these pieces (body necklaces) to inspire our customers for better days ahead. Thus, to remind them that there will be a time we can socialize and look forward to the future.”

Lumago Designs continues to create beautiful body necklaces and other jewelry. They are grateful for the help and support of donors and consumers to keep the initiative alive.


Upcycled Trophy For Sustainability Awards


SINGAPORE: European Chamber of Commerce (EuroCham) in Singapore went a step further in its Sustainability Awards 2020 with a nature-inspired trophy. They granted the design task to an award-winning designer who understands the aesthetics and sustainability message.

Also Read: Philippine President Duterte Continues To Eschew Domestic Response To COVID-19 And Recent Typhoon Destruction

EuroCham Singapore has taken a keen interest in sustainability, which they believe will further only accelerate after the COVID-19 pandemic. Thus, European and Singapore business communities inspect the idea of sustainability, and many have taken steps to shift their business practices towards sustainability.

EuroCham has chosen their theme of European Excellence in Sustainability for 2020, with an awards ceremony and trophies highlighting business practices under the categories of Smart Mobility, Green Finance, Clean and Efficient Energy, Sustainable Food and Nutrition, and Circular Economy. 

Green development across the world

Grace Fu, the Minister of Sustainability and the Environment for Singapore, presented the sustainable trophies to the winners. She also gave her remarks at the virtual seminar. She said, “Singapore and the European Union (EU) are important trade and investment partners. Including strong rules on sustainable development in the landmark EU-Singapore Free Trade Agreement (EUSFTA) confirms that we share common goals to protect the environment.”

She adds, “I commend the EuroCham for embracing sustainability as your focus this year. Singapore is similarly committed to putting sustainability at the core of everything we do. Even as we battle the COVID-19 pandemic, we continue to press ahead with our plans to understand, mitigate, and adapt to climate change, and to realize our vision for a climate-resilient and sustainable Singapore.”

Minister Grace Fu awards the winners (L – R) Evonik (SEA) for Circular Economy, ING Bank for Green Finance, Michelin for Smart Mobility, City Developments Limited for Clean and Efficient Energy, and Yara Asia for Sustainable Food and Nutrition / Photo Credit: EuroCham Singapore

Sustainability inspired trophy and awards

The program launched ten sharing sessions in the first quarter of 2020, the Sustainability Whitebook, and the EuroCham’s Sustainability Awards 2020 on 17 November. It brings together different companies to showcase their sustainability efforts. Therefore, each of the five winners, from 29 nominations of 25 companies, received a sustainable trophy in their respective categories.

Johanna Tay, the Marketing and Events Manager of EuroCham Singapore, said in an interview with Transcontinental Times the inspiration behind the design of the sustainable trophy, “We requested a nature-inspired shape. And, we’re pleased with the structure suggested by Willie Garcia because it is reminiscent of a drop of water and the budding leaves of a new plant.”

She adds, “The bamboo base of the structure and the recycled packaging wrapped around the metal frame adds color and vibrancy to the sustainable trophy. Thus, it emphasizes our message of a circular economy where ingenuity and innovation give life to discard waste.”

Meet the award-winning designer of the sustainable trophy

EuroCham chose award-winning interior designer (IDr.) Willie Garcia because they have known her to turn junk into aesthetic functioning artworks. Her artworks satisfy her desire to solve plastic pollution. She turns her frustration into a social enterprise, a livelihood that empowers communities through a site called JunkNot.

Tay highlights Willie Garcia’s work and ability, “She showed her ability to understand the aesthetics and message required for our trophy. Her community work is evidence that a sustainable future can be economically viable. Her efforts to educate and enrich the lives of the villagers she works with are just as admirable.”

IDr. Garcia shares her emotions as they grant her to design a sustainable trophy. She said, “I felt honored, commissioned in such a prestigious event. And, a wow feeling – why me?” She giggles.

IDr. Willie S. Garcia and her JunkNot designs / Photo Credit: JunkNot

She adds, “Each project is an exciting new challenge. I’ve done this storytelling of what sustainability is all about to transform into a trophy. This one is a tremendous impact because they are awarding this to top sustainable companies in Singapore. But, they are a welcoming and very supportive group even when I felt pressured at first.”


Philippine Technological School Wins Prestigious International Award


PHILIPPINES. Makati: The technological school iAcademy was awarded the Most Innovative Education Provider honor. It is the only educational institution in the Philippines to win the prestigious award. iAcademy, along with Johns Hopkins University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and other top-notch schools were also honored.

Vanessa Tanco, the President and CEO of iAcademy, considers the technological school a game-changer in local education, and now globally. She said, “We feel super ecstatic for winning a prestigious and global award.”

She added, “We come up with new things for the technological school and a ton of hard work. Then, we got an invitation to join and gave it a shot. The award surprised us and made us happy.”

iAcademy’s building front / Photo credit: George Buid

Innovation starts with a game-changing goal

Students from most schools graduate unprepared to work in the tech industry. Therefore, the goal is to bridge that gap between academe and industry. The technological school addresses this gap by working closely with corporate partners.

Tanco said, “The technological school stands in Makati, the business district of the Philippines. We align our courses with the industry. We create a close relationship with different corporate partners.”

The technological school gives its students the opportunity to hear from industry practitioners as teachers and faculty members. Then the students get a six to eight month internship program directly with the companies to get practical experience. Many companies hire their student-interns directly.

Tanco added, “Our school runs a lot of courses and is specialized. We invite corporate partners quarterly for a school dialogue to help us improve curriculum. We develop extracurricular activities to strengthen our students’ skills and better prepare them for the workplace. As a result, our technological school has a 96% job placement rate.”

Responding to the pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic forced 865 private schools to close in the Philippines, including a century-old school. However, iAcademy continues to stand as an award-winning technological school.

About their success in a difficult time, Tanco said, “I think we got the award for the most innovative school because we responded and prepared for the pandemic. It required a lot of effort and there were many challenges to shift online. Yet, our technological school quickly made the shift.”

The faculty members shifted online with their Learning Management System (LMS). Aware of the effect of online learning, the professors of the technological school developed Guided Online Autonomous Learning (GOAL).

A student can learn with the professor and other students online (synchronous learning) and learn on their own (asynchronous learning). The school provides both synchronous and asynchronous learning, along with workshops and webinars to keep both students and parents informed.

Tanco added, “We want to create more jobs, help small communities grow, and be self-sufficient in this pandemic. Therefore, the technological school reaches out to corporate partners to offer jobs to our students who need financial support.”

Corporate collaborations

Several corporations collaborate with iAcademy for different projects and programs. There are partnerships with IBM, Alibaba, Wacom, Toon Boom, and many more. iAcademy continues to look for strong partnerships.

The school earned many firsts. They developed the Philippine’s first social distancing app (MAZE), they were the first educational partner of Price Waterhouse Cooper, designated the first IBM Center of Excellence in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) regions, and more. Their programs and courses aligned with their partners to provide real opportunities in the Philippines.

Their programs aid the students to get certified with their partners. Students in animation can get certification from Toon Boom. Certification for Wacom stylus and tablet devices are also available. New courses are always being planned, such as sound and design production.

While many schools failed during the pandemic, those institutes that were nimble and created partnerships managed not only to survive, but to thrive. iAcademy is an example of just such a school.