Thursday, October 22, 2009

Toastmasters Speech No. 2: Urban Dwellers, Get Involved

Urban Dwellers, Get Involved! We can plan our future!
Toastmasters Speech Project No. 2: Organize your speech
By: Faye F. Melegrito

A day before typhoon Ondoy unleashed its wrath in Metro Manila and nearby provinces, I was preparing my and my six-year-old daughter Luce’s week-end gear. We were to spend the next two days in Makati, as we were supposed to join the 3-km event of the New Balance Power Run. Makati was a more convenient take-off point to the event at the Fort on September 27, rather than our home in Marikina, a couple of hours away. As an afterthought, I placed her Enchanted Kingdom poncho raincoat atop her I Can Serve Foundation shirt. “In case it drizzles during the run,” I told myself.

As we all know, it did not drizzle that week-end of September 26 and 27. The gates of heaven opened wide and poured far-from-heavenly rain on Filipino urbanites, drenching not just our bodies and our homes, but our souls as well. In the aftermath, as the people waded through floodwaters, as they dug through their belongings mixed with mud and garbage, different sectors started blaming each other, pointing an accusing finger on each other’s negligence and supposed role in the tragedy that Ondoy brought us.

The Ondoy experience now proves to be a good wake up call for all of us, whether we are mere citizens of the Philippines or officials, policy drafters, or lawmakers of the land. All of us, no matter our status in life, are stakeholders in our planet, in our country, in our habitat, in our urban dwellings. And as stakeholders, we hold responsibility for our future.

Allow me to share with you these passages from the UN Habitat website: “The United Nations has designated the first Monday of October every year as World Habitat Day. The idea is to reflect on the state of our towns and cities and the basic right of all to adequate shelter. It is also intended to remind the world of its collective responsibility for the future of the human habitat. This year’s theme “Planning our urban future” aims to raise awareness of the need to improve urban planning to deal with new challenges of the 21st century. This is because urban settlements in all parts of the world are being influenced by new and powerful forces. In both developed and developing countries, cities and towns are increasingly feeling the effects of climate change, resource depletion, food insecurity, population growth and economic instability.”

I now take this opportunity to challenge you, my fellow urban dwellers, to take action towards a well-planned future in urban Philippines. For starters, I share with you three circles of influence within which we can start planning our urban future.

The first circle of influence is the easiest, as it involves only our individual selves.

Perhaps, we can start by taking stock of our personal practices. Do we drive our self to the community mall when we can walk instead? Do we ride the elevator two floors up, while we can take the stairs? Do we run our errands crisscrossing the metropolis, while we can plan our route and maximize our errand time? Do we throw our small items of rubbish here and there, while we can keep them in our pockets and later throw them in a garbage can somewhere? Do we lavishly take long baths and showers, when we can use timba and tabo? Do we prefer motorcycles over bikes, battery-powered items over wind-ups, plastic bags over eco bags? I hope we can proudly answer, “No, I don’t. I care for my habitat.”

A caring individual carries the good habits with him or her, constantly practices them, and eventually becomes their embodiment, possibly inspiring the bigger circles around him or her.

The second circle of influence is not that far from us, as it includes our family and friends.

Let us now widen our circle and invite our families and friends to join us in our quest for a better urban future. Do we place our garbage in one bin instead of segregating them? Do we use separate cars instead of carpooling? Do we spend much time on television or video games instead of playing electricity-free and creative-rich games? Do we prefer a concrete backyard over a greener one, new items over recycled ones? I hope we can proudly answer, “No, my family and friends don’t. We care for our habitat.”

A caring family passes on to the younger generations and even future generations the traits of responsibility and accountability, creating generations of individuals who care.

The third circle of influence is much wider, as it now encompasses our community, be this our residential community, office community, or online community.

Let us next enlist our respective communities in our move to have a better urban future. Do we confine ourselves inside our houses rather than go out and participate in community endeavors? Do we practice kanya-kanya, tayo-tayo, or sila-sila, rather than join forces as one community? Do we tend to complain rather than suggest alternatives or passively receive benefits rather than actively participate in planning? I hope we can proudly answer, “No, our community don’t. We care for our habitat.”

A caring community leads to stronger and more collective action, an advantageous leverage if we want our Congress Representatives to hear our calls for a greener district.

A little over a week after typhoon Ondoy left the Philippine area of responsibility, the world celebrated World Habitat Day last October 5. This year’s theme: “Planning our urban future” now sounds more personal to us, Filipinos. The Filipino urban dwellers face the seemingly unsurmountable task of rebuilding our homes and our lives.

A mere raincoat will not surely protect us from future typhoons, as our urban kingdom has lost its enchantment. However, no mud-filled floodwater could wash away the Filipino people’s strong spirit. Let us be caring individuals from a caring family, in a caring community. Let us do our part as individuals, as a family, as a community. Let us get up, get out, get involved!

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