Monday, April 07, 2008

Wonders of the world

This is my column today.

I grew up in a household where kids were regularly trundled out to entertain guests.

To prepare ourselves for these occasions when our parents would have guests, we would have “cultural programs” practically every night after dinner. In addition to the singing, dancing, and playing musical instruments for the delight of the grownups, we were also expected to show off whatever could pass off as knowledge that we had acquired by then. This often meant defining acronyms and regurgitating facts. I guess all those mini-quiz bees stoked my interest and continuing fascination with trivia.

Fortunately for me, my maternal grandmother was a teacher who was a voracious reader. She had a lifelong subscription to National Geographic and Reader’s Digest, two magazines that would qualify as my surrogate nannies. Yup, I was the nerd child who could be left alone in a corner for hours and hours with only a National Geographic and a Reader’s Digest to keep me company. I was the child who actually knew where Timbuktu was and what a Black Mamba could do.

Thus, the seven wonders of the ancient world were sites that I knew like the back of my hand. I researched on them and even memorized all the details around them: The lighthouse of Alexandria, the Statue of Zeus inside the Parthenon, the Colossus of Rhodes, The Temple of Artemis, The Hanging Gardens of Babylon, The Pyramids at Giza, The Mausoleum at Halicarnassus.

I could even recite some interesting trivia around the seven wonders such as for example how they came about. They were selected by only one man, Philon of Byzantium in 200 B.C., primarily as a travel guide for fellow Athenians, which explains why only those around the Mediterranean area were picked to be on the list.

Of the original seven wonders, only the Pyramids at Giza in Egypt remain standing. All the rest have crumbled mostly due to earthquakes. Of the seven, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon is the only one that remains a mystery since no archaeological find proves that it ever existed.

There’s a reason why I am talking about the Seven Wonders of the World in this column.
I’m going to cut to the chase and state the main reason: I want you to vote for Philippine sites for an ongoing campaign for the Seven Wonders of Nature. The three Philippine sites that are nominated for the list are the Tubbataha Reef in the Sulu Sea, the Chocolate Hills in Bohol, and the Mayon Volcano in Albay. One can cast votes at this site: http://www.new7wonders.com
As of writing time, the Chocolate Hills was ranked number 13th in the voting while the Tubbataha Reef was ranked 14th. The Mayon Volcano was in rank 39.

The process to select the seven wonders of nature mirrors the same process used to select the New Wonders of the World. I am sure that you’ve heard that a campaign to choose a new list of seven wonders was held and that the results were released last year, on Aug. 7, 2007 (7 –7-07). The new list is composed of The Great Wall of China, The Taj Mahal of India, The Machu Picchu in Peru, The Petra in Jordan, The Pyramid at Chichen Itza in Mexico, The Christ Redeemer Statue in Brazil, and The Colosseum in Italy. More than 100 million people from all over the world cast their votes to choose the seven wonders.

The other sites that came close to being on the top seven included such wonders as the Angkor Wat in Cambodia, the Kremlin/St. Basil Cathedral in Moscow, the Kiyomizu Temple in Japan, the Stonehenge statues in Easter Island, the Statue of Liberty in the United States, and the Opera house in Sydney, Australia. It’s a spectacular list but what makes it really noteworthy is the fact that people from all over the world chose that list. Like I said, the original wonders were chosen by only one man. The current list was arrived at using a more democratic process.

It must be pointed out though that there are certain downsides to democratic processes and that it is not infallible. The Pyramids at Giza in Egypt—the only monument that remains in the original list—failed to land in the top seven. Naturally, this has angered the Egyptians. How did that happen? My guess is that most people were confident that the site would land in the top seven they did not vote for it anymore.

I know what some of you are thinking: Why are the Banaue Rice Terraces not in the short list? We’ve all been conditioned to think that our rice terraces are the eighth wonder of the world although such a claim never had any basis.

The quick answer is that no one, certainly not our government, actively campaigned and promoted the inclusion of the Banaue Rice Terraces in the list. I am not saying that the rice terraces should have been included in the list, although I think it is comparable to the new seven wonders in certain aspects. It probably is not in the same league as the Machu Picchu in terms of overall grandeur but it certainly is comparable if not better in terms of majesty and breathtaking beauty. Of course I am biased.

But my point is that it could have been in the short list. It certainly deserves being cited as a heritage site that’s comparable to the rest of the sites in that list.

Like many others, I also have certain reservations about winning certain awards or distinctions simply because people voted out of blind loyalty or national pride. This is particularly true when it comes to beauty contests where certain awards are decided on by voting through the Internet. In case you don’t know, candidates from the Philippines invariably win awards such as Miss Photogenic because of the deluge of votes from Filipinos all over the world. Please do not get me wrong, I am not saying that those candidates did not deserve to win. All I am saying is that it would be nice if the votes were cast using a more enlightened thinking process.

However, voting for Philippine sites for the Seven Wonders of Nature is an entirely different thing altogether. Some people have anchored their campaign on the grounds that getting the Philippine sites in the list would translate into a more vibrant tourism industry. I am sure that there is some wisdom in that.

But the main reason I am campaigning for the sites is for heritage protection.

The campaign aims to preserve natural heritage sites all over the world; getting into the Top 21 ensures that attention is focused on the sites. Hopefully the attention would translate into increased awareness and appreciation for these natural wonders—enough to encourage people to help preserve them.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

hello hello hello sir bong,

grabe sir,to the highest level ka talaga... andun ka sa pinakatuktok... grabe di ko kinakaya ahaha..., hindi lang nose bleed ito pati brain ko nag bleed din hehe...

na miss ko ang blog mo sir. (hmmmnnn... blog lang?). Miss na kita sir, ako sir, miss mo rin? ahahaha... wag mo na pong sagutin, natatakot akong "no" ang sagot hehe... pero syempre, happyness un pag nalaman kong mimiss mo ko, come on sir, make me happy, say u miss me hahaha.. ;p

sir, i really want to personally give you my long overdue happy birthday gift kaya lang lagi ako o.t., eh tuesday and thursday k lang sa school waaaaah... basta, one of these days... promise, pag di ako nakatiis, papaabot ko na lang, pero sana talaga madala ko ng personal ;(

sige po, nagparamdam lang ako baka lang makalimutan mo na ako ;p syempre ayoko mangyari yun, kalimutan na ako ng marami, wag lang sana si Mr. Austero, naks. totoo yun sir ha...

sige, ingat.

tess lao

p.s.

i left my cp (no not my treo smart phone) again for the nth time at a taxi last week ;( bili pa lang ako ng sim maya, kaya iba na number ko ulit hehe...

Anonymous said...

i thought the pyramids from egypt were taken out in the voting process. they were given the honourable status, instead. that's why there are 8 wonders of the world now: the 7 "new" ones and the pyramids of giza.