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I will love the light for it shows me the way, yet I will endure the darkness for it shows me the stars. — Og Mandino

on march 29th, for exactly one hour, the world celebrated earth hour.

earth hour, a project spearheaded by the world wildlife fund (wwf), started with a question — how can we inspire people to take action on climate change?

the answer was an overwhelming response from over 2.2 million sydney residents and over 2,100 business in sydney, australia who turned off their lights on March 31, 2007 for one hour. just one hour. earth hour.

with sydney icons like the harbour bridge and the opera house turning their lights off, and unique events such as weddings by candlelight, the world took notice. this was a powerful statement against the greatest contributor to global warming — coal-fired electricity. It led to a 10.2% energy reduction across the city.

inspired by the collective effort of millions of sydney residents, the rest of the world joined earth hour in 2008, turning a symbolic event into a global movement.

hence, on march 29, 2008, over 24 global cities participated in earth hour from 8 to 9pm. Manila and more than 30 cities nationwide joined the world for earth hour. it is rather unfortunate that cagayan de oro is not among those on the list, but across the archipelago, filipinos switched off their lights for earth hour. malls, museums, offices, monuments, households and streets were plunged into darkness. even the presidential palace of malacañang switched off. dozens of big corporations, such as the sm group, the ayala group, fastfood chains like jollibee and mcdonald’s, smart, globe, and many more, also pitched in.

the switch-off was even supported by local governments including those in pasay, manila, makati and parañaque. earth hour was highly publicized and covered by the local and international media. thousands of articles on earth hour are strewn all over the world wide web.

i, too, joined earth hour. i was 20 minutes late though. i was only able to start at 8:20 because a few hours before, the supreme court released the names of the new lawyers who hurdled the bar exams. i got lost in the list and forgot all about the time. when i realized that it was already earth hour time, i was frantic! i hurriedly shut down the computer and turned off all the lights. i was in such a rush that our househelp Grace, who was the only one in the house with me, thought i had gone crazy.

Then she realized it was the earth hour that was reported in the news. she said, “aw, apil diay ka ana? abi ko sa tv ra na.” because i started 20 minutes late, i felt that i had to make up for it and end 20 minutes later than 9pm. i didn’t want to cheat on the number of minutes because that would have been a cop-out. besides, the idea of earth-40-minutes didn’t appeal much to me.

in the darkness, with only three candles burning, i not only lessened my carbon footprints, i also learned some valuable insights.

first — while turning the lights off for earth hour is a great and noble first step, if we really want to see a difference then we should make earth hour part of our everyday life.

simple things like turning off our lights and appliances while not in use will help us reach our goal of reducing our annual emissions by 5%. There are other suggestions for households too, like switching to compact fluorescent light bulbs, using less hot water, and contacting your electricity provider, in our case cepalco, and asking them to switch to green power — a cleaner, more renewable form of energy that does not contribute to global warming.

with the lights turned off, and i was sitting in our sala while grace was seated across me, i could hear different sounds like crickets chirping,dogs barking and cars passing through the highway. amidst the chorus of chirps, barks and honks, grace popped the question which i was avoiding -the “why” question. she asked in her sprightly voice, “para unsa man diay ni? kita man ko ani sa tv pero wala man ko kabalo para unsa ni uy.” I didn’t want to answer the question because i knew it would take up a lot of time but i felt obliged to do so. after all, i thought to myself, it wouldn’t be earth hour if i evaded talking about the earth and its problems.

and so i explained. i had to go as far back as how electricity is made, particularly electricity from coal-fired power plants. she was nodding so i gather she understood. i told her i’d lend her reading materials so she would understand better. But she replied at once without batting an eyelash, “kanang bisaya ha. ayaw nang english uy kay di gyapon ko kasabot.

Hence, the second thing i realized from this experience — that not everyone knows the problems of climate change and global warming. further, not everyone cares about these things. i don’t know which is worse — not caring or not knowing. either way, they both seemed equally alarming to me. i felt that if we really want projects like earth hour to work, it would have to be understood and felt by grace and every other person who outrightly dismisses ideas they hear of or see on tv because they do not think this has any relevance to their daily grind. i thought, perhaps it might be a good idea to translate al gore’s an inconvenient truth to bisaya. and maybe a komiks can be made out of it.

in the darkness, with only three candles burning, i made a mental note to make these my future projects.

after grace told me she couldn’t read and understand english that well, i was prompted to ask her what year she was able to finish in high school. “second year,” she replied. grace has been with us for almost a couple of months now. yet, i’ve never really found time to get to know her better. that night, i discovered that she’s only 23 but she already has a 6 year-old. her child is in siquijor where she is originally from because the parents of the father refuse to give her custody. she once worked at angel chaves complex selling dvd players for a taiwanese businessman. i tell you, she can pick the good dvd players from the lemons and even tell you their wholesale prices.

this leads me to my last point — taking an active role in something, no matter how big or small, may not only teach us about the relevant stuff, it will also give us little pleasant surprises — like being able to hear the crickets chirp, getting the chance to play with melted wax from the burning candles and having an opportunity to get to know another person better.

on march 29, 2008, for exactly one hour, i joined the world in celebration of earth hour.

and in the darkness with only three candles burning, i became more enlightened, i became more purposeful, i became more human.

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August 2020

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