A very long hiatus

Or, trying to explain why I never got back to the blog for months.

I’ve been meaning to write this, and I’ll be inserting this between preparing for my thesis RRL. I’ll try not to be apologetic, but admittedly it doesn’t look good to have only a handful of posts and then nothing for several months.

It all began with my climb to Mt. Apo at the end of March (my first, strangely, considering I’ve lived in the foothills all my life). I’d have posted landscapes and all, naturally, if it weren’t for the outbreak of the very tragic and very preventable brushfire at the peak right as my group was making its way down. Out of respect for the old man (Apo Sandawa, to the native tribes), I decided to withhold my photos. But I’ll reserve some future spots for those, and perhaps a discussion about my thoughts on that unfortunate event, from as close as I can to an environmental management perspective, of course.

After the fire, things got busy, I continued with the first thesis topic I was preparing, which I ended up scrapping after an epiphany I had at Mt. Apo’s peak, and I got recruited to a writing project (a book, actually, which I was asked to co-author. I’ll reveal details later). Meanwhile, the draft blog posts laid in the backburner,  and several more photos were waiting for an accompanying write-up.

For the meantime, though, I’ll give you a satellite image. I’ve been ever more into QGIS and Remote Sensing than ever, since my new thesis topic concerns those, applied to Mt. Apo.


To explain, this is a false-color image, basically putting the Red Channel onto the slot for the Green, and a couple other channels (or wavelengths) into others. This one uses the 5-3-2 band combo, or in Landsat band names, SW Infrared-Red-Green, instead of the usual Red-Green-Blue channels. I won’t go into technical details, but I can say that this was taken by the Landsat 5 satellite back in November 3, 1994, made available for free (A very heartfelt thank you, USGS!). The contrast-brightness/max-min values are sort of a happy accident, as I was just pressing the percent cut button in QGIS and finding a good level.

The overall color palette reminds me of a piece of batik, or malong fabric, with the maroon and flesh tones coinciding with the near-jade shade of green. It also reminds me of a certain painting I saw once, or a book cover, maybe. I struggle to remember what it was, exactly.

Regarding the content, this is an image of the central area of Davao Del Sur. Davao Gulf is the dark water body to the right, with Malalag near the bay & peninsula at the bottom right corner. The jade-like areas to the left are irrigated rice fields in Bansalan, Matanao, Magsaysay, and a couple other towns. Coastal fishponds are also visible. The large ruby rectangles near the center of the image are banana plantations in the town of Hagonoy. The large solid red fields immediately below that are the coconut plantations of Padada & Sulop. Sprinkle a few puffy cumulus clouds, for good measure, though it’d be miles better if they weren’t there.

I’m a self-confessed map geek. I’ve been a fan of Google Earth ever since its early days, and so this is the next natural progression. I’ve been gradually teaching myself GIS, and visual interpretation seems to come naturally to me. It helps that I also know the area quite well.

Ever since the start of this blog, I’ve been grappling with the concept of deceptive views, and how best to express it. By deceptive views, I’m talking about places that we see as beautiful, like the rolling hills of Carmen and Banisilan blooming with cornfields, for example, but when we take a closer look, when we start talking to the people and put the landscape under a more informed light, we start to see the less than palatable reality. In the above image, the colors tell their own story. The jade green rice fields, the flesh tones of bare soil, the various shades of red, all paint a picture of man’s impact on the Earth. And unlike most of man’s works of art, this is a living image, it is a continuing process with no end in sight.

I can say that this image, though I didn’t take it myself, a satellite did, might be a good starting point. This’ll be a recurring theme over the next posts; the idea that behind the idyllic image and the emotions it stirs up in us lies a sadder reality, often one that needs to be addressed as soon as possible. A green hill might have once been greener; a billowing sea of grass might turn out to be all that’s left of a once mighty forest. And in the context of the Philippines, that’s all too often the case.


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