Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Kundasang in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah

This is where the Kinabalu National Park is located. Really like the place, very windy and nice temperature. I think we can call this the new Cameron Highlands. This particular area is the vege place. Not difficult to notice as its right next to the road. Though that I would get some interesting pictures there so we (the family) stopped there for a while.


Thursday, December 17, 2009

Thinking about Tondo

This what this organisation, the Philippine Christian Foundation does. They take kids off the streets and give them an education. Visiting that place about a month ago was such an inspiring journey, looking at how they run things and the difference they are making in those kid's lives.


I guess I have a soft spot for kids. Seriously, its hard to imagine having to go through so much at such a young age. I had the luxury of not worrying about food as my parents would always make sure that food will be on the table. In fact, I think I live to eat compared to those kids who eat to live. Imagine, these kids are born with malnutrition.


Mind boggling isn't it? While I was complaining about my sucky broadband connection, out there are kids who are rummaging through garbage searching for tin cans to sell.

Yet these kids seem so happy, which made me a little confused. I kind of expected miserable kids sitting at a corner and staring at you with tears in their eyes. *sigh* I blame the media....

I did not expect to see a bunch of kids playing around like other normal kids here would in the playgrounds. Only difference is that they have the dumpsite to play around with.


And that day I've met two amazing women, Jane and Lynie who've poured so much into this. Jane visited this place years ago and just decided to do something about it.

Yeah, people do that all the time you might ask.

But I can still remember a quote by Lynie, when I asked her why she went into this line of work. Clearly, I remember her saying something like this "If Jane, a foreigner could care so much for Filipino kids, what about me a local?"


The thing that struck me was that Jane is someone from halfway around the globe, came to the Philippines and started this organisation. No political reasons, no personal gains as far as I know (what other things you gain from social service other than satifaction), no other reason other than to lend a helping hand.

This is why our world is so messed up. Agreements made have ulterior motives- political, money, etc. Things are made so much more complicated than it actually is. Was there ever a time where a nation helped another nation just for the sake of helping? (Oh my, how did this blog turned into a "greater good" speech??) ANYHOW.....

Life really is simple. We just complicate things. (Who ate the forbidden fruit?)

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Helping Out in Tondo, Manila (Published article)

This is an article I wrote (and shamelessly promoting). Its about the an organisation that my school, Kolej Tuanku Jaafar raised funds for as one of our projects in the United Nations Foundation Global Debates competition.

Basically, its a competition where schools all over the world raise awareness regarding issues and marks are given based on many criterias. Press coverage is one of them, so thank you to the Star Rage team especially Ivy who was so kind to help out by publishing the article.

The organisation that we raised funds for is the Philippine Christian Foundation that rescues child laborers in the Tondo dumpsite, Manila and give them a proper education. The article practically explains everything so check it out =D

Click here to read the article on the Rage website

or read it here!

Wednesday December 9, 2009
Helping out in Tondo, Manila


“Eww ... ,” exclaimed my school mates in disgust.

The driver has just opened the door of the van and the stench was the first thing that hits us. This is one of the dumpsites in Tondo, which is an hour away from Manila, in the Philippines.

We had arrived at the Philippines Christian Foundation (PCF). This organisation’s mission is to improve the quality of life for poor Filipinos through education and family enhancement, regardless of religion, race, and political boundaries.

Our school, Kolej Tuanku Jaafar, had raised funds in support of this project recently as a part of the "Global Debates" competition, which currently has the participation of more than 90 other schools across the globe.

A few of us had the opportunity to visit Tondo. We were in Manila for the Fobissea Music Festival 2009 which brings passionate singers and musicians from British schools all over South-East Asia together.

The Tondo dumpsite is not hard to describe as the word "dumpsite" is pretty much self-explanatory. There really was rubbish everywhere.

How could people live in such a place like this?

Such is the reality for around 700,000 people living in the area which makes Tondo the world's most densely populated district.

Moments after arriving we were greeted by a very vibrant Jane Walker, the founder and CEO of the Philippines Christian Foundation. She then brought us on a tour around the place.

"Back in 2002, I came to the Philippines during a sabbatical from work," she said.

"I was curious about the level of poverty in the Philippines and I came here to investigate."

She followed two boys to the dumpsite, and seeing the conditions that they were living in, Jane decided to do something about it. After getting approval from the government to use a building near the dumpsite, she raised funds through contacts in Britain and renovated the place.

"In those days, every room was filled with filthy garbage. We were shovelling out the dirt, painting and trying to make it a nicer place for kids to come."

Jane got the community involved as they were able to tell her what services they need.

So her initial idea of a daycare centre for children eventually evolved into a school.

"In the early days we were using bed-side table for the kids because we did not have much money."

But over the years this initiative has gained more support and has enabled them PCF to upgrade and improve to the point now that they’re building a new school.

Several engineers have helped to design the new school, a four-storey building made out of container vans. Not only is it cheap, it is environmental friendly, too.

It would have its own kitchen, canteen, clinic, computer room and library. There will even be a roof deck that will be used as a recreation area.

Jane adds, "The best thing about this is that we could take the children out of this building and give them a proper school to study in."

So far the children have lost 36 teaching days due to floods. Well, dumpsites don't have proper drainage systems and it floods every time it rains.

"The water comes out through the ground and it floods for kilometers. You can even see it squirting out from the ground. The roof is okay though despite the occasional problems with rusty roofs," she explains.

Currently, most of the children attending the school established by PCF have been rescued from child labour. Often the only hot meals that they will receive is at school - breakfast and lunch.

As an incentive, PCF gives the children rice for attending school. Besides that, the children get canned food, too, for academic excellence. This motivates the children to be serious in their studies.

PCF had their very first graduate last year, who came back to serve as a teacher. They also have 26 students who are on a ballet scholarship with Ballet Manila. One of them is being trained for an international competition.

Some have joined football teams and went on to win international competitions.

"We've got many talented children as they pour all their heart and soul into what they do," Jane shared.

One of the traits that set PCF apart from other organisations is their active involvement in conserving the environment. PCF has a training centre which equips adults with the skills to make jewellery and accessories out of waste products like magazines, cans, and toothpaste tubes. "We have a special product called the 'sexy bag'," says Lynie A. Pispisano, who is the Volunteer and Special Project Coordinator of PCF.

"It is made from toothpaste tubes, which is very strong material. This makes the bags very durable hence the name."

The programme ensures that families earn money above the minimum wage.

This year's Global Debates presented us with the topic "When it cannot do both, the UN should prioritise poverty reduction over combating climate change."

I can't help but reflect on what I've learnt from my experience in Tondo.

What is more important? Poverty reduction or combating climate change? These are two big problems that plague the existence of the human race. Some people argue that the issue regarding climate change should be given priority as it would affect the whole world.

Others would object and stress that poverty is happening right now and people are dying because they could not afford to live. Therefore, poverty reduction should hold a higher priority.

The Philippines Christian Foundation proves that creative measure could be taken to combat climate change without neglecting the need of those stricken by poverty.

Another thing that caught my attention was the way these people live their live, full of optimism.

We are talking about people who are uncertain about their next meal. Yet they can still smile and welcome me into their community with open arms.

The community is very close knit at it is evident by the group of children playing among the rubbish. I saw a teenager transporting charcoal on a makeshift trishaw with his little brother assisting him by pushing from behind.

Our happiness is not determined by how much we have. A man who has nothing can be happier than a man who has everything. These things lingered in my mind as I flew back to Malaysia later that day, my shoes still dirty from the muddy ground of Tondo.

Perhaps what we all need in life is a little bit of what the people in Tondo have - optimism.

Keep updated with the Global Debates team from Kolej Tuanku Jaafar. Visit colourmegreen.wordpress.com.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Final Night Dinner (FOBISSEA Music Festival 2009)

This dinner dance thing was held after our grand gala performance which was on that last night. The hall was packed with people and I had loads of fun performing. We had quite a range of songs so it kept things interesting.


The party was held at the Blue Leaf Pavillion, I'd say that its a place made specifically for people to host parties. Food was gooood! Even then, my compliments is an understatement. You have NO IDEA how good the food was during the whole trip. Everything was just top class.


Best dish among all is the "10 Hour Cooked Beef". I'm even salivating right now thinking about it. Wow, that has to be the best beef I've ever taste! Its so tender and it practically melts in your mouth, and I don't think the cow was massaged with sake. The beef had the right balance of fat and meat which makes it even more tasty. I found out that the fella serving out the beef was actually the chef. Apparently it took more than 10 hours to cook it. 0____0

Later everyone hit the dance floor. They had a space right next to the hall that we were dining in for us to get crazy. The people who arganised this are such pros. Lighting was very interesting which gave me a lot to experiment with, in terms of photography.




It was slightly awkward though, with kids jumping all around you. Well it is like a nightclub minus the alchohol. We have iced tea, as usual. Hmm.....the selection of songs tend to lean towards the Disney-ish side. So yeah, at parts it was wierd but I had fun with songs like I Gotta Feeling and Jai Ho.


Sunday, December 6, 2009

Photographer Of The Year 2009 (Shortlisted!)

Update: Nope, I did not win the title. But still congrats to all the winners, and I'm honoured to be shortlisted in the first place. Thanks everyone for your well wished, its been really encouraging!

This happened so long ago I wondered why it never made its way to the blog, but close family and friends knew. One of my photographers actually made it into Editor's Choice in the Photographer Of The Year competition, organised by Digital Camera Magazine (DCM) UK.


I can still remember the day I found out. It was a random visit to the official site and I found out that the Editor's Choice/Shortlisted entries were out. So I looked through the shortlisted entries, and considering that they mentioned something about having received half a million images, I did not give much thought about getting shortlisted.

Then when scrolling and glancing quickly at pictures, I saw something familiar and almost freaked out at that moment. I got shortlisted! Hhhaha, the last time I got that feeling was when I collected my SPM results.

Here's the picture. Those who frequent this site might recognise it.


The link is here


I really thank God for this. Its such an encouragement to have your work recognised. The results for the winning images will be released this week. All the other images are really impressive as well if not amazing.

Getting shortlisted was such an honour already but I have to say that winning sounds very appealing to me =D Plus it would be an awesome birthday present. We'll find out in the next few days. Oh, and you guys should check out the other shortlisted photographs. There are some really good work there, all by people in my age group.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Caroling in KTJ

We had caroling yesterday. I had such a great time, singing and taking pictures. Everyone was walking around holding candles, some people had angel wings and halos. We started at the art centre and covered all the houses including the principal's.

I think its a really nice way to end the term with everybody just chillaxing. The atmosphere was very relaxed, with the coming term break and Christmas which is just around the corner. Oh! We went past the new boarding house which will be opening next term, Alia. And the place looks like a hotel! They have a garden smack in the middle of their house. lol

Hmm...now I find taking pictures at night rather interesting despite hating it last time. Having a 1.4 lens helps alot, and the D90 is able to go up to ISO 1600. All these pictures were taken at ISO 1600 and some ISO 2000. Need to set everything manually though, right down to the white balance but it was interesting.

Really happy with the results because for the first time I don't have to post-process the photos! Well, I tried but the colours are naturally saturated so boosting it in any way just makes everything too orangy.

HAhah, I have the craziest bunch of friends. Zarif made a wax like structure on his hands. The only way to do that is to drip the wax slowly. *ouch*

This has to be my favourite picture of the day. Thankyou Nishyo for requesting this picture to be taken in the first place. lol I feel like printing dozens of copies of this photograph and distribute it as Christmas card. Hmm.....perhaps I will =D Happy Holidays!