In transition | Inquirer News

In transition

/ 11:01 AM November 19, 2012

Singapore – Thank goodness it rained for it brought us to Nathan Sawaya and his unique artwork that uses a most-unlikely medium, Lego bricks. Yes, the toy-building blocks that brought endless stimulating hours of childhood have now given passion, commitment and unwavering dedication to one’s craft a new, fun and delightful look.

It was a distinct treat to be at the opening day of Sawaya’s “The Art of the Brick” exhibit at Singapore’s Art Science Museum. It is considered one of CNN’s Top 10 Global Must-See Exhibitions. The world famous and award-winning creator was on hand to do a guided tour of his awe-inspiring toil and interact with the star-struck audience. His life-size sculptures included the hugely popular “Tyrannosaurus Rex”, “Yellow”, “Parthenon”, and my favorites, “Open-Heart”, “Mask”, “Apple” and “Grasp” and portraits.


A lawyer who now plays full time with his magnificent creations, Sawaya has no regrets of leaving behind his profession and with it, the perceived sense of security and comfort.  For sure, he grappled in the process and his works reveal part of the journey that brought him to where is he is now. He admits, “A lot of my work suggests a figure in transition. It represents the metamorphoses I am experiencing in my own life. My pieces grew out of my fears and accomplishments as a lawyer and as an artist, as a boy and as a man.”

The most amazing thing is he is where he loves most, with the full support of his loved ones, for in the end, that’s what matters. Being globally admired for his daunting creativity is an unexpected perk perhaps. Visit for a glimpse of his passion.


Indeed, passion defines your life and who you are. Sawaya showed it brick by brick, layer by layer, one labor of love after another. His works compel you to go on an inward trek, to ask and challenge yourself if you are willing to be who you really want to be, shedding away the fears, inhibitions and the self and societal limitations that perhaps hampered you from becoming who you are.

That is likewise the challenge I hurl especially at the young generation whose future is absolutely more uncertain than at any period in the anthropocene era. Policies and programs such as continuing dependency on fossil fuels like coal and insane reclamation projects that further destroy our already vastly degraded sources of life are prioritized by the national and local governments and put our future in jeopardy.

We have also to accept the blame. For so long, we have allowed political authorities to act as if they alone own our country, to put our people under their absolute whims and caprices and carelessly toy with our future in plans, programs and projects that prop up their image and fail to deliver the essential services to the ever-patient public.

By our silence and inaction, except for a handful, we have allowed our laws to be openly trampled or to remain unenforced and human rights continuously violated. The culture of impunity is our downfall and a perennial source of shame and embarrassment to us, Filipinos.

Despite Republic Act No. 9485, the empowering Anti Red-Tape Act, bureaucrats impose red tape to stifle our right to know and to act accordingly. The standards for ethical conduct had been lowered by allowing neglectful and remiss public servants to continue to stay in office without further accountability. That is such a great disservice to our nation.

We are in a state of transition. We now have more spaces for real public participation and to be involved in decisions that concern all of us. The ball is now in the hands of the citizens.

More than ever, we must know how to fully avail of the tools for engagement and use the Law to change behaviors and empower not just ourselves but those without the voice to speak out their anguish and dreams.


I am privileged than most to be with individuals who are selfless and sincerely concerned with our present and future. Some are in public office and private sector but largely are with the dynamic civil society movement. Being with them is always a great learning, sharing and inspiring experience. Such was the feeling when fellow participants and I converged from various parts of the world in Singapore for the Workshop on REDD+ and Legal Regimes of Mangroves, Peatlands and Other Wetlands: ASEAN and the World. It was also a chance to re-connect with the much-admired mentor, Prof. Nick Robinson, who is the leading light in Environmental Law in the world, and indefatigable Environmental Law stalwarts Prof. Koh Kheng Lian and Prof. Lye Lin Heng of the National University of Singapore (NUS) and the Asian-Pacific Centre for Environmental Law (Apcel).

REDD+ or Reducing emission from deforestation and forest degradation is one of the key strategies to address climate change as they account for nearly 20 % of the global greenhouse gas emissions. REDD and the plus meaning conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancements of carbons stocks contribute to both mitigation and adaptation goals of fighting climate change, apart from addressing the challenging and intertwined environmental, social, equity and governance issues. “In addition to carbon sequestration, REDD+ efforts applied to the mangroves could provide a number of ecosystem services, such as local climate regulation (cooling through transpiration, shade, and wind protection), local erosion control (such as slope stabilization), and coastal protection, increasing the adaptive capabilities of local communities.” (Workshop paper)

Organized by the NUS, APCEL, and the National Climate Change Secretariat, Prime Minister’s Office Singapore, the event helped distill the varying views and issues on REDD+ and achieved what the workshop aimed to attain, that is, to assist developing nations put into place legal frameworks and a system for implementation of REDD+ for mangroves.

We are grateful to the organizers for the invitation to represent the University of Cebu College of Law and my co-author, Rose Liza Eisma Osorio, in presenting our paper “REDD+ in the Philippines: Legal Status and Conservation of Mangroves Forests”. Our legal framework, local experience, best practice such as the San Fran purok system of governance and the private sector participation in mangroves conservation programs, as well as the continuing challenges, were rich sources of materials for the paper. It was a well-planned and executed Workshop that ended with a pleasant surprise for the speakers – a token of appreciation in the form of a work of art from the “world’s first and only historian painter,” Marcus Lim. (

* * *

A reminder for the University of the Philippines’ College of Law Alumni:

The celebrating class 1987 guarantees a memorable and entertaining UP Law Homecoming event on Nov. 23, 2012. It will be held at the Makati Shangri-La Hotel with Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile as the guest speaker.

Subscribe to our daily newsletter

Read Next
Don't miss out on the latest news and information.

Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.

For feedback, complaints, or inquiries, contact us.

© Copyright 1997-2022 | All Rights Reserved

We use cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. By continuing, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. To find out more, please click this link.