Sunday, November 18, 2012

“Bayong” mentality*

DON’T even try to change your spouse, pragmatists advise. I agree, preferring quiet co-existence to a fool’s quest for perfection.

However, after this week’s quick stop at a supermarket, I witnessed how even the 20-year-old habits of one’s roommate can be changed.

My husband picked up the tote I unrolled to hold our few purchases. Holding at some point books, shoes, used clothes, canned goods and newspapers, this tote has flowers plastered all over in a carnival riot of fuchsias, oranges, emeralds and purples.

The flowers, not so much the history, of my tote would scare away any man. That it didn’t daunt my roommate is proof that marriages can surprise and laws demand compliance.

Shoppers in Quezon City have to shell out P2 for every take-out plastic bag if they don’t bring their own tote. The P2 goes to the Green Fund, “in compliance with Quezon City Ordinance SP 2140 SP 2012,” reads the paper issued along with the official receipt of our purchases.

Although ignorant about how City Hall will use the Green Fund, I support the passage of an ordinance to reduce dependence on plastic. While it’s not plastic per se but the improper disposal of garbage that contributes to flash floods, discouraging the use of plastic may be a step towards this end.

Due to its convenience and cheapness, plastic is ubiquitous. It’s not indispensable.

In southern Luzon last summer, I saw how the “bayong” or the native tote made of woven fronds is a common sight in the streets, particularly in Lucban, known for its Pahiyas Festival that showcases farm produce and local crafts. Pahiyas visitors need no reminder to take away goodies in a bayong, plain, handpainted or embellished.

The bayong, used for trips to the wet market, was carried also by Lucban men. It was even more conspicuous than knapsacks in the narrow streets. In Cebu, the bayong with specially made holes is also used by men to transport fighting cocks. In Metro Manila, the “man bags” slung by the trendy share the form and sensibility of the bayong.

Though a thing of the past, the bayong remains contemporary. Its relevance is tied up with its sensibility: more than a single-use utility, it is a necessity bucking the trend of runaway consumerism and throwaway consumption.

When Maynilad workers recently transferred the water meter of homeowners in Parañaque, I spotted how one man carried his heavy implements and materials in a work bag converted from a nylon sack that once packed detergent. He cut out holes for hand-grips so he could more easily bring the sack turned bayong.

For those of us who need more incentive than practicality, the green consciousness uniting public and private sectors should spur men and women to pack away totes, modern remakes of the bayong.

In Cagayan de Oro, supermarkets began collecting last Wednesday P1 for every plastic carry-out bag requested by customers.

Nicole J. Managbanag of Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro reported last Nov. 14, 2012 that the Cagayan de Oro City Council mandates this “pass-through charge” in its Eco-bag Ordinance to discourage single-use plastic bags, reduce the plastic that contributes to flooding, and turn bag-making into a source of livelihood for typhoon and other calamity victims.

In both Quezon and Cagayan de Oro Cities, business establishments support the green ordinances. Even before the passage of one, the University of the Philippines Press bookstore in Diliman, Quezon City expects customers to take away their purchases in their own tote.

With commuters needing to carry totes for their packed lunch, laptops, exercise gear and other daily necessities, there are opportunities to earn from producing and selling these totes. The Christmas bazaars in Greenhills and Divisoria display a rainbow of ingenuity and craftsmanship in the totes that are eco-friendly options to gift-wrapping.

One criticism against the bayong is that it has a limited carrying capacity. Green bags are not only about using and reusing materials that degrade naturally and don’t upset the balance of the ecosystem. These also should make us think about not getting more than we need.

( 09173226131)

*First published in Sun.Star Cebus Nov. 18, 2012 issue of the “Matamata” Sunday column

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