Do We Deserve This Kind of Graduation?

This article contains a few Filipino words from the interviewee but his message can be understood nevertheless. Original title of the article: “Deserve ba namin ‘yung ganitong graduation?”

Mark Sahagun, 22, felt relieved following the announcement of Mayor Isko Moreno suspending the classes from March 9 to March 15, 2020. Just a few days after defending his architectural thesis, a break is what he needed the most. Little did he know that the class suspension is only the start. As days passed, the government announced community quarantines measures, lockdowns, and eventually affecting their graduation at the PICC supposedly last May 5.

The Start of His Future

Before the lockdown took place on the midnight of March 15 to April 14, Mark went back to his hometown in Laguna. At that time, he was still optimistic that they would have their graduation rites on May 5. But with the continuous extension of community quarantine measures after the lockdown, his dreams of graduating at the PICC did not happen. “Gusto namin na ma-experience ‘yung PICC eh. Isa sa bucket list mo ‘yun na maglakad ka sa PICC.” he stated.

However, the pandemic did not only affect his May 5 graduation but the start of his future as well. While in Laguna, Mark tried looking for jobs through JobStreet and he realized how little his chances are to land a job because he is in a province. He was accepted for a job in Manila but he rejected it. He had a job once when he was still an undergraduate student and he used it as his basis. “Yung ino-offer kasi sa akin lower than the salary [of my previous job]. ‘Yung travel, sobrang layo din. ‘Yung compensation, hindi din okay kasi mas mababa siya compared dun sa first job ko.” He also considered the safety of his family and himself. 

Mark mentioned that during this pandemic, the design industry felt smaller. “Sobrang limited talaga ‘yung possible work. Sobrang swerte mo, if makahanap ka ngayon, and maswerte ka or sobrang galing mo talaga to the point na kahit hindi sila opening, bubuksan nila yung slot for you kasi they want you na mapunta and ma-hire sa kanila,” he stated. “‘Yun lang ‘yung isa sa mga factors na sa tingin ko na iha-hire ka ngayong pandemic.”

With his future looking uncertain and nothing left to do, Mark started his own business, Plaintaire PH, a plants store offering air plants with holders. He felt grateful that amidst the circumstances that constrained him to go outside, he still found an opportunity to help his family financially through an activity that he finds joy in.  

Is This It?

Before their supposed graduation on May 5, there were talks that it would be virtual graduation and since it’s a new thing, they were clueless about what they should do. Some of the graduates took pictures because they thought that the administration will ask for their photos to be inputted on the presentation. However, they did not. They conducted the virtual graduation last September 30 and it looked like it was an ending credit of a film.

Mark spent about six years in PUP because he had to retake Design 10 and that is why he can’t help but be dismayed. “Sa totoo lang in-open ko ‘to kay Ma’am Lutap, “[Ma’am,] deserve ba namin ‘yung ganitong graduation?” Mark shared. ”Sabi din naman niya, we cannot force na magkaroon ng physical graduation kasi nga pandemic. But sa tagal na tinagal niyo sa PUP, hindi ni’yo deserve yung ganoong virtual graduation.” Mark does not degrade the recognition that they received through the virtual graduation but he believes that they deserve better than that. “Meron pa kaming mas dapat na ma-receive na better recognition kasi degree ‘yung tinapos namin.”

They would have been happier if the virtual graduation was a temporary one, Mark suggested, and there would be a real one next year or when the circumstances allow it. They were willing to wait as long as it is in a “deserving ambiance, deserving ritual, [and] deserving rites.” But, the virtual graduation that occurred is already “the graduation”. It’s done. He now shifted his focus on his future.

We All Are In Different Pacings

Currently, Mark focuses on Plantaire PH but still, he wants to use his degree. “Itong lockdown nag open siya sa akin para matulungan ko yung family ko dito sa bahay. Also, na-experience ko din gumawa ng sarili kong business,” he concludes. “It’s one in a million chance na pwede mong i-grab na hanggang ngayon, existing si Plantaire, existing ‘yung business ko and masaya ako dun sa ginagawa ko. But I don’t want to leave my degree kasi siyempre sayang naman ‘yung six years na ginugol ko sa PUP.” He wants to take a risk next year, 2021—if transportation is readily accessible—and look for a job in Manila. Though he knows not to pressure himself too much on finding a job related to his degree but rather, just doing things that he is happy with and is making progress in.

“May kanya-kayang pacing talaga lalo na ngayon pandemic… Keep striving. Keep working basta as long as nagkakaroon kayo ng progress. Its a good thing pero ‘wag din kakalimutan ‘yung mga na-una niyong dreams and in time, magagawa niyo din sila after this pandemic.”

Hospitals in the Eyes of a Mother, and a Cancer Patient

This article contains a few Filipino words from the interviewees but their message can be understood nevertheless.

In this article, narratives of two women who had experiences in hospital environments were shared: one is a mother of a 3-year old, and the second was a patient herself. (1) Jessa Roque-Medina was an intern for Philippine General Hospital and mother of Saab, a three-year-old who was diagnosed with Billary Atresia. On the other hand, (2) Irish Jain, a 20-year-old who had been cancer-free for 3 years now. 

It is not surprising information that spaces inside a hospital, in general, feel cold. It is mainly due to the blank walls and eerie silence that fills most spaces. After spending some time inside hospitals due to chemotherapy and frequent checkups, Irish confessed that there was a time that she had been scared to go to a hospital. She feels like someone’s giving a death sentence somewhere whenever she goes inside, and that thought makes her uncomfortable. Even the seats that lined up on both sides of the corridor—where she had to sit for about 2 hours to see her doctor—add to her growing discomfort as those seats become chilly over time and they make your back ache.

Having gone to India for 18 months for a liver transplant for Saab, Mrs. Medina shared that whenever they are en-route to the hospital from the hotel, as soon as Saab sees the facade of the hospital, she starts to cry. She observed that her three-year-old daughter had developed “trauma sa mga taong naka-scrub suits.” Recently, she noticed that Saab’s reacting differently whenever she is enclosed with a few people in a room (i.e Mrs. Medina, Saab, and someone unfamiliar). Currently, in Manila, Saab starts to plead to her mom to go home whenever she sees the building of the National Kidney Transplant Institute (NKTI). Even as a three-year old, Saab had learned to associate pain to hospitals and people wearing white, but it’s still early to know if it had other impacts on her mental health too.

Private and Public

Although hospitals, in general, feel unwelcoming, unfortunately, as Mrs. Medina concluded, “It always goes and boils down to budget. How much are you willing to pay; that is the exact treatment you’ll get—not medical—pero that’s the exact thing you will get in a hospital.” As a former intern at PGH, she witnessed how beds, beddings, and air conditioners are always inadequate to the crowd of people wanting to get treated. But, she is aware that the environment isn’t exactly the main priority for public hospitals. 

Irish once had a check-up at Philippine Children’s Medical Center last 2017, and one of the reasons why she did not have her chemotherapy there was because of the environment. She described that the hospital is currently under renovation during that time, and the building looks so old. The walls were not blank white walls, but they do not have paint at all. The doctors in the hospital do not have their personal clinics; they were inside a huge room, and the only thing that separates them is curtains. The patients of other doctors were visible, and once it’s your turn, you had to check every curtain to look for your doctor. Although she liked her doctor at PCMC, the environment itself did not make her feel that she can get treated well. Hence, she chose Mary Mediatrix Medical Center, a private hospital near her home, to receive chemotherapy.

Both women mentioned that they feel that they are well-taken care of if they are in a private hospital, but they still feel uneasy inside a hospital.

Coping Up

No one wants to go to a hospital, or even spent a lot of time there, but that is neither an excuse nor a reason to not design an environment that eases psychological tension for patients and their family. 

Saab and her parents had come to the point where they spent six months straight in the hospital in India, and Mrs. Medina suggests that having rooms designed with a homey feeling would be helpful. She also mentioned that accent walls are great additions too. In the past,  Mrs. Medina had her check-ups at St. Luke’s Medical Center – Global City and she compared it to a 5-star hotel. Almost everything feels like a hotel, from the chandeliers to the consultation areas of the doctors. But underneath these un-hospital-like environments that make the spaces feel less traumatizing is the cost of treatment. “Siyempre they cannot give a first-class and world-class treatment kapag hindi enough ang pumapasok na income,” she stated.

Having spent time in a hospital when she was 17 years old, Irish highlights the importance of community to her well-being. She did her treatment at a private hospital owned by Catholics (which is good for her because she’s a Catholic as well), and because of the tight-knit religious community, she became close with the nurses. But she suggests having a common room wherein patients can interact and support one another in each other’s healing journeys. Also, the feeling of belongingness has a huge positive impact on a person’s overall well-being. 

Irish described how ecstatic she is whenever she is in UST hospital for her regular checkup, especially if it’s the holiday season. The lobby of the said hospital is adorned with fairy lights and other Christmas decors. She mentioned that the feeling itself inside the hospital changes when it’s nearing Christmas. When it’s not the holiday season, Irish is delighted by all the paintings that hung on every wall. “Dito kasi sa [hospital sa] Lipa, minsan mo lang makikita [‘yung mga painting] tapos sa pediatrics pa siya and luckily, 17 pa lang naman ako nung nagka-cancer, so dun ako sa pediatrics.” she shared.

The Lesser It Feels Like A Hospital, The Better

Watching how her three-year-old daughter developed a trauma after being in hospitals most of the time, Mrs. Medina stated, “The lesser it looks like a hospital, the lesser traumatizing it would be [and] the lesser fearful it would be.” Interestingly, even Irish reached the same conclusion, “[Basically] parang lahat na makakabawas na feeling na you’re in the hospital. Kasi may common na feeling kayo kapag nasa hospital. It is sullen. Parang feel mo lahat ng tao dun may problema. Pero kunwari [kapag] may library, may magandang cafe, parang hindi mo masyadong feel [na nasa hospital ka].” 

Saab is still very young to determine how her experiences in hospitals affected her mental health. On the other hand, Irish had been scared of going to a hospital for some time because it would remind her of her breakdowns— the moment when she learned that she has cancer. Fortunately, Irish began to heal, especially when the environment of the hospital became joyful due to the Christmas decorations. 

The environment has a huge impact on one’s well-being. It can make you feel that you are being sentenced to death, or it can uplift your spirit and can ease a bit of tension that you are feeling. It makes a huge difference being in an environment that makes you feel that you are welcomed, and it doesn’t add to the agony that you are feeling but still allows you to feel joy alongside the distress.

Lessons from History of Architecture: What I Perceive As Truth May Not Be The Truth At All

A huge part of the beliefs ingrained in my subconsciousness is there because I live in the Philippines. I would have a different set of beliefs or truths if I live in Japan or was born in India.

What if I grew up in a Muslim environment?

Taj Mahal, India
Taj Mahal, an example of Saracenic Architecture

If I was born in a Muslim family, I would most probably be a Muslim too and I will grow up going to mosque that are adorned with abstract patterns. Because for Muslims, any form that depict human or animal figure on or in a mosque is considered as idolatry. Hence, their places of worships are always decorated with abstract art. So, if I grew up in that kind of environment, I will consider human or animal statues in a place of worship as idolatry.

What if I grew up in Japan?

If I was born in Japan, I will grow up being surrounded by Shinto shrines wherein statues of animals (like kitsune and shika) stands on the site of the shrines. If I grew up in that kind of environment, I do not consider that I am committing idolatry because I do not worship kitsune and shika. Kitsune simply serves as a guardian of Kamis while shika is a direct messenger to sun goddess, Amaterasu.

What if I was born into a family whose religion is Roman Catholic?

If I was born into a family whose religion is Roman Catholic, I will grow up going to a Catholic Church every Sunday and being surrounded by statues of Jesus, Mama Mary, and other saints. My belief would be that even though there are statues in our church, we do not commit idolatry because the statues serve as a visual reminder and a way to connect. As BBC writes, “Catholics do not worship Mary or the saints, but ask them to pray to God on their behalf. This is known as intercession.” We are not committing idolatry because we know that we are worshipping God.

So what does this all mean?

This essay will not answer the question, who’s beliefs are more right or more wrong because as I was studying the architecture of different countries, I began to realize that what I perceive as truth may not be exactly the truth at all but it is only considered as truth because its what a collective group of people in my area believed in.

My current truths are shaped by the people and the built environment around me. But it may not be the truth at all.

So what’s the truth? Honestly, I don’t know and I have no intention of wasting my energy on finding out what’s the real truth.

But I am writing what I noticed here today because I know that having this kind of awareness—that what I perceive as truth may only be a truth because that is what most people in my location believed in—makes me more empathetic, understanding, and open-minded to other people who do not share the same beliefs as I am. The people who do not share the same beliefs as I am, they grew up in an environment that told them that this is what’s right and what’s wrong, just like how I am, hence I do not have the right to judge them for that because what I believe in may not be even the truth at all.

Culture shapes architecture and the built environment, in turn, is what shapes the beliefs of the future generations of that land. For instance, the Shinto shrines of Japan are established by people who are now centuries dead. But Shintoism is still practiced because the tangible idea of what they practice in the past is still here in the present and hence, they continue to shape the beliefs of the Japanese people.

We are largely shaped by our environment and sometimes, it makes us a bit more kinder if we have that kind of awareness every time we interact with someone.

Noticing: Plumbing-Related Objects In Our Home

You may noticed that the kitchen sink and lavatory both have p-traps underneath, instead of just a straight one. The purpose of these p-traps is to block the smell. If these pipes are just straight ahead, the smell of the discharged liquid will continue to come out of the drain of the sink/lavatory. Hence by curving the tubes, it will block the smell from coming out of the drain.

Also you may have noticed that the p-trap in the lavatory has a little circular on its curved area which is called cleanout. The purpose of a cleanout is—from its name—to clean the tubes. A brush can fit through the area and through that, you can scrub the insides of the tube.

But in kitchen sinks and lavatories, cleanout has another purpose—to obtain an object that fell of the drain. This is another reason why p-traps are important. In case that something valuable fell of the drain (such as ring or earrings) it does not directly go to the septic tank or sewer line or cause problems inside the drainage system, it will end up in the curved part of the p-trap and you can obtain it through the cleanout.

What is commonly known is bidet is actually shutoff spray (though the shutoff spray has almost the same function as the real bidet). Then there is the faucet, floor drain, and water closet (aka toilet!).

I am currently learning more pumbling-related concepts (it is super interesting!!!) and if there is anything that you would like to add or correct from this post, please feel free to comment. I still have a lot more to learn and any new information would be great!

Hopefully this post will encourage you to notice things around your home too!

Things I Noticed in Hayop Ka! As An Architecture Student

Hayop Ka! (‘you son of a bitch!’ in English) is a Filipino romcom animation film produced by Rocketsheep Studio and Spring Films, distributed by Netflix.

The film runs for a bit after an hour but I spent around two hours watching this because I kept stopping it and taking screenshots. I want to understand certain things about the design of the environment and also, the animal puns (which I’ll get into below).

Watching this got me so excited because of the insane amount of details!! And here we go:

Nimfa’s Clothes (Protagonist)

Nimfa is the main character of this animation film and I noticed that her clothes, or should I say, work uniform is what she wore in most scenes of the film and they used the color red to have her stand out in almost all of the scenes. There were a few scenes wherein she wore a bright violet dress. Nevertheless, still allowing the character to stand out.

Nimfa in a corporate tower. Credits to Netflix, Rocketsheep Studio, and Spring Films.
Nimfa in a clinic. Credits to Netflix, Rocketsheep Studio, and Spring Films.
Nimfa with her family. Credits to Netflix, Rocketsheep Studio, and Spring Films.
Nimfa with the rich character. Credits to Netflix, Rocketsheep Studio, and Spring Films.
Still wearing a red clothing even out of work. Credits to Netflix, Rocketsheep Studio, and Spring Films.
The only time she did not wear any “red” clothing but still stood out. Credits to Netflix, Rocketsheep Studio, and Spring Films.

The clothes of other characters pale in comparison with Nimfa’s clothes except Jerry’s (the one who she ended up with). I think having neither of the two men wore red throughout the film is a clue that neither of them will be with her in the end. According to someone from Rocketsheep Studio, the end signifies “a new start in her life and her relationship with Jerry did not start as a lust or pursuit of material wealth”

Nimfa and Jerry. Credits to Netflix, Rocketsheep Studio, and Spring Films.

Environment

The overall environment of the film is influenced by Manila, the capital of the Philippines. It’s like having a bit of a field trip in Manila (the slums as well as the place where the rich are).

Credits to Netflix, Rocketsheep Studio, and Spring Films.
Is this EDSA? Credits to Netflix, Rocketsheep Studio, and Spring Films.
Quiapo Church in the background. Credits to Netflix, Rocketsheep Studio, and Spring Films.

Baybayin

On the upper left reads, “Tatas” from the word Patatas (meaning potato) and on the right, the sign of the coffee shop reads “Kahe” or Cafe. Credits to Netflix, Rocketsheep Studio, and Spring Films.

Baybayin is the alphabet that our ancestors used and although it is not the alphabet that we commonly use today, I saw that they used a bit of it in the film!

Cell Tower

Cell Tower inspired from the Eiffel Tower. Credits to Netflix, Rocketsheep Studio, and Spring Films

This cell tower seems to be one of the focal points as this is somewhat inspired from the Eiffel Tower (since this is a romance film) and it is in red too, similar to the protagonist’s color of clothes (hinting its importance).

Homes & Kiosks

In the film, we see characters that vary in terms of their socioeconomic status.

In the main protagonist’s home, you would see that there is an abundance of items at home and too many colors.

Credits to Netflix, Rocketsheep Studio, and Spring Films.

And the home of the rich character displays a coordinated color scheme and wideness.

Credits to Netflix, Rocketsheep Studio, and Spring Films.

In other aspects too, we can see how the animators played with sizes and space to distinguish what is something where the rich go/lives. For example, in the screenshots below, there are two perfume kiosks. The first is what you’ll call a luxury brand while the other is not.

Luxury brand kiosk. Credits to Netflix, Rocketsheep Studio, and Spring Films.
The not luxury brand. Credits to Netflix, Rocketsheep Studio, and Spring Films.

In order to give the feel that the first kiosk is a luxury brand, they used size. They enlarged the display to induce the feeling of intimidation and having its own carpet in order to make it “stand out” or better yet, giving a feel that this “kiosk” is different from other kiosks on that floor.

May God Bless Our Trip and others that will give you an idea of Filipino culture

Credits to Netflix, Rocketsheep Studio, and Spring Films.

May God Bless Our Trip is something that you see often in public transport everywhere in the Philippines and I am so happy they included this lol. Also, it shows how religious we are as a country (in general).

Sale Posters

Sale naman lagi poster on the upper left. Credits to Netflix, Rocketsheep Studio, and Spring Films.

In malls in the Philippines, sale posters are everywhere and every time. I laughed so hard when I read the poster, “SALE NAMAN LAGI” (WE ARE ALWAYS ON SALE in English)

The heart struck with an arrow tattoo

Credits to Netflix, Rocketsheep Studio, and Spring Films.

If you are Filipino, there is one moment in your life when you had seen someone with this tattoo. I’m not sure where did this originated but I have seen this tattoo so many times in old Philippine films.

Posters/Banners with a politician name

No Littering poster with a politician name. Credits to Netflix, Rocketsheep Studio, and Spring Films
Banner with a politician name. Credits to Netflix, Rocketsheep Studio, and Spring Films

One thing frequent in the streets of the Philippines (excluding the streets of rich gated subdivisions) is a poster/banner with a politician’s name. It can be a welcome banner, or a reminder not to do “insert bad deed here”. Sometimes, it’s posters for elections.

Animal Puns

Every time I saw animal puns in the background, I paused the film because I want to read and understand them all! And I am amazed by how witty the animators are. I captured a few of them.

Credits to Netflix, Rocketsheep Studio, and Spring Films.
Credits to Netflix, Rocketsheep Studio, and Spring Films.
Credits to Netflix, Rocketsheep Studio, and Spring Films
“Catinko” from Katinko. Credits to Netflix, Rocketsheep Studio, and Spring Films.
Ibonmaya” from Rivermaya (a Filipino band). Credits to Netflix, Rocketsheep Studio, and Spring Films.
“Bisugo” (a fish) from Sogo (a hotel). Credits to Netflix, Rocketsheep Studio, and Spring Films

Additional:

Credits to Netflix, Rocketsheep Studio, and Spring Films.

I laughed when I saw the “somewhere in Batangas, Philippines” in the address lol. Someone got too tired to create a fake address or maybe he/she just wanted to add something funny.

Thoughts

If it had been released in theaters, I doubt that it would even get that much attention. But instead, this film was released on Netflix and that’s a good thing for the filmmakers and the whole Filipino animation industry.

Since a lot of Filipinos are now subscribed to Netflix, the Filipino animation industry would not really worry so much whether anyone would watch what they produced because of how easy it is to just watch a movie on Netflix.

My thoughts on the plot of the film is another story. In this post, I just want to celebrate the effort that they put in the smallest of details. They gave their best in recreating Manila and they accomplished that very well.

Honestly, I feel that our animation industry is only just starting and our animators have so much more to offer given enough experience and more budget.

Also, I want to share how exciting it is to write a blog post like this for an animation film that is made by my fellow countrymen. I had done a few Things I Noticed As An Architecture Student blog posts for foreign animation films but this is the first time that I did it for a Filipino animation film.

It’s very different when writing “what I noticed” in animation films that are influenced by my culture and one that is foreign because the former allows me to resonate with it in a way that I would seldom (or maybe not ever) feel in foreign animation films.

Related links:

Things I Noticed in Zootopia As An Architecture Student

Things I Noticed in Over The Moon As An Architecture Student

Things I Noticed in Over The Moon As An Architecture Student

Over The Moon is a 2020 animation film available on Netflix and here I’ll share the things I noticed while watching the film.

For the first few minutes of the film, I immediately thought that ‘this is Chinese’ pertaining to where the film is set and the characters themselves.

When I had the thought, it got me thinking of how did I instinctively knew that the film is set in China? And so what I did was I looked for clues.

Conclude

Its really amazing how all these details have come together— nature  technological advancement, folktales, and asian culture to craft an amazing story.

Everything sums up and supports the development of the characters. Also, I hope there would be more animation films, not just in Japan, and China but in other countries as well that truly depicts their authenticity. It would be an amazing learning experience to compare different animation films (from various countries) and discuss what’s different in each of them and by then, we will be able to understand each other more deeply through film and design.

Bird by Bird

In the book Creative Confidence, authors David Kelley and David Kelley shared about writer Anna Lamott’s childhood story from her book Bird by Bird,

Her ten year-old brother had been assigned a school report about birds and hadn’t started on it until the night before it was due. “We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my brother’s shoulder, and said, ‘Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.'”

I haven’t read her book yet but its on my TBR. Anyways, these days as one difficult plate after another go in my way, I remind myself of this story of Bird by Bird.

[Note: Plates are referred to as activities in architecture/design school. Basically, its designing, drawing, with explanations on the side.]

During moments of daunted-ness due to a new task ahead, I reminded myself that I do not know yet whether I can’t or can do this task but I will still do it anyway. The only way to know is by doing it.

A plate that I had three weeks ago which is Watercolor Ink Rendering of a museum I chose to draw. I haven’t fully figured how to do watercolor but I chose to do it. First, I told myself to just sketch first. I took a deep breath and started sketching the museum. After that, somehow, I felt better, knowing that I get past the first barrier. And I left it for a few days because I waited for the ink to arrived.

Finally, when the ink arrived, I told myself to apply in the lightest wash first. Then let it dry. And so on, until I get to the details.

When I finally finished, I’m so proud of what I have done. My work improved a lot and I’m looking at it objectively. There are still many things to improve but I’m grateful that I am growing.

And onto my next plates, this is what I do: I focused on a certain portion of the task. I don’t think of the whole pie but focused on eating up one slice first. Somehow, as I finish one after another, I feel completely satisfied and less stressed. I am moving forward even though I am taking it step by step, nevertheless, I am still making progress towards the end.

The bird by bird concept helped me get through a lot of things these days. And even though I haven’t finished the work today, I am satisfied that I made progress.

Looking back, ever since I read the book Creative Confidence, I am happy that I took whatever life brings Bird by Bird and will go on with that in mind.

To end, authors David Kelley and Tom Kelley provided an advice to particulary anyone,

Whatever creative goal you choose, it is important to build on your experience and not let fear and inertia hold you back. Putting ideas on a page and getting past that first hurdle is progress. Then you’re ready to take another step forward. Just take it “bird by bird.” Pretty sure, you’ll start to feel more creative confidence.

Rethinking Prisons

Imagine kids going to a school designed like a bunker: drab walls, bare concrete, metal bars everywhere. How can we expect children to learn and enjoy being in school in an environment that isn’t conducive to learning at all? Similarly,how can Persons Deprived of Liberty (PDLs) rehabilitate and improve their behavior if they live in a hostile environment?

According to the Section 2 of the Revised IRR of RA 10575 aka The Bureau of Corrections Act of 2013, “It is the policy of the State to promote the general welfare and safeguard the basic rights of every prisoner incarcerated in our national penitentiary by promoting and ensuring their reformation and social reintegration creating an environment conducive to rehabilitation and compliant with the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for Treatment of Prisoners (UNSMRTP).”

However, according to the account of Marco Toral, a former inmate and former consultant for the Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center (CPDRC), the prison he spent in is anything but conducive to rehabilitation. “I find it very frustrating na wala kang ginagawa. Day in and day out, nasa loob ka lang, nakaupo ka lang.” Marco Toral shared his thoughts during the 7 years that he spent inside a prison.

FULL: https://philippines.makesense.org/2020/10/08/rethinking-prisons/?fbclid=IwAR3rPGT8aO7mHZ5J6ilZbrNJUr_8_IrDq52nONtS21tOHO0ghWcSML-ARNw

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My article is published yey! Anyways, I had an idea for this article around July and I started working for this article mid-August and finished it last month. I almost reject this idea because I have no confidence in writing this article at all. (James Clear: Lack of confidence kills more dreams than lack of ability. Talent matters—especially at elite levels—but people talk themselves out of giving their best effort long before talent becomes the limiting factor. You’re capable of more than you know. Don’t be your own bottleneck.) Good thing I did not. I followed my inner soul even if its scary. It feels good to overcome something— to have done something I thought I cannot do.

This speaks so much to my future endeavors and ideas. This year, I followed my gut more and I had never felt more alive and joyful.

Also, I had read about human-centered prisons around April. And I have come to realize that the prisons we have in the Philippines barely even meet the basic human rights of prisoners. As an individual, I wonder how can I help? And this is something that I tried to answer on the article.

Just a reminder that prisons are built not to punish but to rehabilitate people deprive of liberty. How we treat an individual is how we treat all.

Various Social Distancing Visual Cues Around the World

Various artists are commissioned to paint social distancing markers in public places. I find it fascinating that visual cues for social distancing i various places are different– not just in colors, but in symbols as well.

b
High Line Park © Timothy Schenck

a
High Line Park © Timothy Schenck

 

The common shape for social distancing visual cues is a circle. The photo above shows how the High Line park in New York looks like with all those green circles designed by Paula Scher. I loved how the circles are colored green– perfectly blends in with the landscape.

social-distancing-Italy-COVID-19-Caret-Studio-4
Pizza Giotto © Francesco Noferini | Caret Studio

In Piazza Giotto, the shape that used was square. And it fits with the landscape as well. Piazza Giotto is located in Italy, the birthplace of the Renaissance. A word to describe Renaissance architecture is symmetrical. Hence, square fits the overall historical context of Piazza Giotto.

Social Distancing Murals
© Stella Artois

Social Distancing Murals
© Stella Artois

Social distancing visuals cues can be public artworks as well. Some visual cues can be anti-social. This public artwork in London promotes a sense of community, hope, and freedom while keeping people safe. Contrasting colors and geometric shapes are indications of where people should sit or stand. This artwork is a branding campaign for Stella Artois.

Marketing Director of Stella Artois, Ali Humphrey said, “Social distancing doesn’t need to be anti-social for it to be safe. We’re using art to bring people together, safely, rather than using barriers to keep them apart. Using street art we can make sure this moment we come together again is still one we can savour,”

Moreover, museums and galleries are not yet accessible to the public due to the still eminent COVID-19, hence, co-founder and creative director of Studio Number One, Shepard Fairey explained the artwork, “With galleries and exhibitions closing their doors during lockdown, people have been unable to experience and appreciate art in the usual ways. My team collaborated with Stella Artois to create socially-distanced art to be publicly accessible, but also to facilitate safety as people reunite.”

When Social Distancing Visual Cues Are Ineffective

In the Philippines, the LRT Line 1 and 2 trains have markers on the seats. However, it was ineffective in reaching its supposed purpose.

Image
© Lucas

In 2020, Arapoc, J., and Savage, D. studied the various visual markers of the trains in the Philippines. The markers in MRT Line 3 has been proven effective based on how well the passengers follow the said markers. The opposite thing happened in LRT Line 1 and 2 trains. The markers had an X sign on them, which the authorities mean that this is where they should sit, but the majority of the public interpreted this as this is where they should NOT sit because of the X symbol.

Conclusion

When designed ineffectively, social distancing visual cues may do more harm than good. The goal of social distancing is to keep people safe from the virus and not to disconnect them from their surroundings and other people.

Visual cues can provide novelty during this quarantine wherein we can only travel to places familiar to us. It can be an opportunity to bring people together without risking their health and be a breath of fresh air to the monotonous day of a passerby this quarantine.

 

 

References:

Arapoc, Jefferson & Savage, David. (2020). When a Nudge is not a Nudge: Why GCQ Visual Cues in Metro Manila’s Main Train Systems Fail. 10.13140/RG.2.2.34201.65122.

Gibson, E. (2020, July). Paula Scher covers High Line in green dots to encourage social distancing. Retrieved from Dezeen: https://www.dezeen.com/2020/07/21/paula-scher-graphics-high-line-social-distancing/

Hitti, N. (2020, May). Caret Studio installs gridded social-distancing system inside Italian piazza. Retrieved from Dezeen: https://www.dezeen.com/2020/05/12/caret-studio-social-distancing-stodistante-installation-vicchio/

Lucas (2020, June 2). The “wala kayong disiplina” crowd is blaming these people for not following instructions, BUT
the real problem is bad design. Sino ba kasing nag-isip na X ang sign for “pwedeng umupo/tumayo dito”?
[Tweet]. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/bashgita/status/1267750120935718914

Robin. (2020, July). Stella Artois supports pubs’ safe reopening with social distancing floor art installations. Retrieved from Net Imperative: http://www.netimperative.com/2020/07/06/stella-artois-supports-pubs-safe-reopening-with-social-distancing-floor-art-installations/

 

Integrating Nooks Into School Designs

When I was a kid, I love to play under a table. I imagine that the table, where I am under in, is my house. Under the table, I could take on whatever roles I wanted: a mother, chef, teacher, bank teller, and a businesswoman. Together with my peers, we would imagine that the table is either a castle or a mansion. For most kids, they felt the same way but not necessarily under a table. Kids, today, create makeshift tents out of blankets or use a playhouse to execute their role play ideas.

Apparently, architects today had integrated playhouses or little nooks into their school designs.

The new Sandy Hook School has playhouses, or what they call tree houses, in various areas of the school. Jay Brotman, managing partner of Svigals + Partners explained that this is one of their efforts to, “…encourage compassion, prosperity, collaboration, and joy.” These small spaces allow young children to collaborate with each other.

In Japan, AN Kindergarten has little reading nooks shaped like playhouses are at the center of the space. Little nooks are located on the glass balustrades, independently standing on the ground floor, and even under the stairs. They added these features into the design as the architects explained, “In recent years, when children’s physical ability and creativity have been decreased, we expect that they can start improving by setting a variety of playgrounds indoors at different places.

Flower Kindergarten by Jungmin Nam
Flower Kindergarten | © Kyungsub Shin

Flower Kindergarten in Seoul, South Korea has a similar play den under the stairs. Architect Jungmin Nam, head of OA Lab (the studio that designed that school), said that “The stair itself becomes a playground. The space created below and above the stair is utilized as a children’s play den at children’s scale.”

Aside from being a place where collaborative play and learning can thrive, playhouses or little nooks are where children can do free play. Free play is an act where anyone who plays will not be intervened by an authoritative figure.

Why are playhouses and even as simple as makeshift tents out of blankets are loved by kids

From the book, Raising Curious, Creative, Confident Kids: The Pestalozzi Experiment in Child-Based Education, principal and author Rebeca Wild wrote,

“Playhouse provides a place for secret games and undisturbed conversations in an atmosphere of privacy.”

She explained further why playhouses are important,

“In such a prepared environment that offers many stimulating attractions but excludes the possibility of any pressure exercised by adults, it becomes surprisingly clear that each and every child, provided that it has no severe disturbances owing to disrespectful or inattentive treatment, possesses a clear inner direction or guiding force, as it were. This is what leads the child in its choice of activities [free play], makes it possible for the child to find its own rhythm and allows the child to achieve a new balance with each new activity, if permitted to– follow this inner directive force, the child is able to act and react as a self-confident, happy, and helpful human being, despite its tender age and to enjoy each day to the fullest.”

Lastly, “Even at only three or four years of age, many have lost confidence in their own inner direction as a result of the constant intervention and know-it-all behavior of the adults who love them. Some may not even had the complete love and attention of their parents when they came into the world. The purpose of which is to enable them to have basic truth and confidence in life itself.

Playhouses provide children an opportunity to do their own choice of activities without being intervened by an adult. In little reading nooks, children can read and even talk about the book that they are reading to their peers without being conscious of an authoritative figure (if they were in a library). They could even role-play the books that they read, using the little nooks as their backdrop.

What if young students aren’t given an environment where they can play freely?

Author and psychologist Peter Gray wrote in an article entitled The Culture of Childhood: We’ve Almost Destroyed It,

“By increasing the amount of time spent in school, expanding homework, harping constantly on the importance of scoring high on school tests, banning children from public spaces unless accompanied by an adult, and replacing free play with adult-led sports and lessons, we have created a world in which children are almost always in the presence of a supervisor, who is ready to intervene, protect, and prevent them from practicing courage, independence, and all the rest that children practice best with peers, away from adults.  I have argued elsewhere (Gray, 2011, and here) that this is why we see record levels of anxietydepressionsuicide, and feelings of powerlessness among adolescents and young adults today.

In conclusion, rather than writing little nooks or playhouses must be integrated into school designs, designing spaces where children can play without an intervening adult, and a space that has a lot of affordances (ways for it to be used) are a must. Designing spaces where kids can grow holistically is an investment for a better world tomorrow.

 

References:

Frearson, A. (2016, February). Flower Kindergarten by Jungmin Nam features curvy classrooms and colourful corridors. Retrieved from Dezeen: https://www.dezeen.com/2016/02/26/flower-kindergarten-oa-lab-curvy-colourful-classrooms-seoul-south-korea/

Gray, P. (2016, October 31). The Culture of Childhood: We’ve Almost Destroyed It. Retrieved from Psychology Today: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/freedom-learn/201610/the-culture-childhood-we-ve-almost-destroyed-it

Wild, R. (2000). Raising Curious, Creative, Confident Kids: The Pestalozzi Experiment in Child-based Education. Shambhala.

Winston, A. (2016, March). Hibino Sekkei and Youji no Shiro’s kindergarten features house-shaped reading nooks. Retrieved from Dezeen: https://www.dezeen.com/2016/03/03/hibino-sekkei-youji-no-shiro-atsugi-nozomi-kindergarten-house-shaped-reading-nooks-kanagawa-prefecture-japan/

Yalcinkaya, G. (2017, October). New Sandy Hook school is designed to “prevent unwanted intrusions of any kind”. Retrieved from Dezeen: https://www.dezeen.com/2017/10/26/new-sandy-hook-school-designed-prevent-unwanted-intrusions-kind-news-architecture/