Happy 2012!

Being an aspiring non-profit, we have undergone numerous changes and challenges on how to succeed in our over-abundance of goals. Initially, my ambition was not to favor one cause in particular, but to allow those with the desire to give, the access to make a change in whatever subject they desired.

Having initially discussed our intentions with 2 other girls with different passions, I thought it might be possible.

Dream big! Right?

I’ve come to realize, after much stubborn denial, that the range of causes is far too great for 3 individuals to handle. Perhaps, it would have been slightly more realistic if PGP were to be our full time job… However, living in Los Angeles, all aspiring artists who need on average 2-3 separate part-time jobs to survive… Perhaps a little narrowing down may be in order.

So, during my couple of weeks in Manila, my mind has been in hyper-drive. Reading up on various topics and causes, trying to figure out which I’m most passionate about. However, upon discussing success in various business projects with my father, I realized that not only should our array of causes be narrowed down… We must distinguish ourselves from the hundreds of other organizations that exist today.

So, with that aside… I hope to see some major changes in PGP. In fact… By the end of the year, I’m not even sure if we’ll still BE “PGP”. GASP! Sad, however, possibly necessary.

One of our main goals will be to gather a powerful team of talented, innovative, and dedicated individuals to help make this happen.

Hopefully, soon, we’ll be able to provide you with more insightful blogs to read!

We look forward to big changes this year, and we thank you all for your wonderful support despite our unorganized array of events! 🙂

 

Love,

Trix

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Ethical Journalism.

When I was in college, my favorite class of all 4 years was my Media Ethics class. I’ve always been one to over-think my ethics and morals in every situation, and here was a class that graded me for what I do naturally each day.

I guess I should’ve known then that there was a little journalist in me eager to get out.

During one of our earlier lessons, we were shown a photograph of a homicide victim lying in the arms of his weeping wife.

My teacher asked us if we thought it was ethical of the photographer to take such a candid and morbid shot.

I was stumped.

“Yes! Of course! We need to create awareness in the readers/viewers about the harsh realities of the world!”

“No… That is disrespectful, not only towards the victim, but his family as well.”

Filmmakers are often accused of hiding behind the camera. Using it as a shield to keep them separate from the real, existing world before them.

Where is the line drawn between reporting and exploiting?

I came across this question once again, 6 years later (2 days ago).

Every holiday season, my mom puts together little gift bags containing a variety of local snacks to give to the street children in the Philippines. These children range from ages 6 to their late teens, roaming the streets, begging for money. Usually, they’re monitored by adults, not-so-hidden on the sidelines, who collect the money received by the children.

This is an everyday occurrence in the Philippines, which can be seen from almost every corner of the city. Naturally, most of the locals are jaded by the dusty, barefooted children pressing their faces against your car windows.

With the knowledge that these children beg for money, only to be given to the greedy adult hawks around the bend, this method of generating income is proving to be increasingly less effective.

As some have discovered, giving food may benefit the children far more than money.

So, each year, as these kids knock on my mom’s car window for money, she gives them a bag of snacks. Soon after the first child receives his “gift,” it’s only a matter of seconds before the car is swamped with children reaching in for more.

Last Monday, while at one of Manila’s lengthy stop lights, we had the usual plethora of children surrounding the car.

“Perfect photo opportunity!” I thought to myself.

I turned on my camera, raised it up, focused it on the child next up for either a snack bag or canned goods, and for the life of me… I couldn’t get myself to pull the trigger.

As his eyes focused on me, camera in hand, I felt an enormous sense of guilt.

Was I exploiting this child by taking his photo? By photographing him in this moment of desperation for food?

Time was ticking as our stoplight was going to turn green at any second. I hesitated for a little longer before putting my camera back down. A split second later, the car was in motion, and the opportunity was lost.

HOW DO JOURNALISTS DO IT??? I’ve seen numerous pictures, taken by various journalists and photographers, of the struggling life of the impoverished, victims of trauma, humans lost in desperate emotion… I’ve never thought once that these photographers had the slightest intent to exploit anyone… And yet, I couldn’t overcome the impending guilt.

Tomorrow, I’ll be visiting a center dedicated to caring for victims of sexual assault, and I’m concerned about getting cold feet once again. I’ve spent my evening researching journalism tips on interviewing such victims, to reassure myself that what I’m doing isn’t crossing that fine line.

Fortunately, tomorrow’s experience will be in a controlled environment, where I can ask for people’s permission before taking photographs and asking questions.

Maybe that’s where the problem lies. Is it ethical to photograph, document, or question a person about their personal life without getting their approval first? Then again, would the photograph be able to capture the truly raw essence of the moment when the person is expecting to be photographed? If not, how are we able to convey the truth of that moment?

Murphy’s law always comes into play, I guess.

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Everyone Has A Voice.

It’s that time of year again, when I return to the Philippines to visit my family. The perfect opportunity to record my experiences in the developing world.

Having grown up in Manila, life out here was all I knew. The segregation of classes, the drivers and maids, the traffic, the pollution, the overflowing population, the (what foreigners would consider) “exotic” foods…

After moving to the US and living from Boston to Los Angeles, every return to Manila is met with a different perspective.

Many of the things that barely phased me as a child, now flashes in red before my eyes. Most especially, the segregation. The segregation of classes, of perspectives. Service elevators. “Dirty” kitchens for the “help” to use while the employers use a separate, and more modern kitchen for themselves. Segregation so contrasting that the mentalities of the upper-class grow increasingly more demanding, while the lower class remain submissive.

I remember my mentality as a child… As ashamed as I am to admit it, I remember the demands, the feeling of superiority, mimicking that of those around me. This was how it worked. This was the lifestyle. Fortunately, I was never popular in school. So, I easily found myself on the receiving end of being ostracized. Criticized. Discarded.

My mother had a temper, more often than not, and I lived with her and our maids and driver. So, most of my free time, I spent with our live-in maids and driver. Back when my tagalog was far more fluent than it is today, we would joke around, tell ghost stories, eat together in the “dirty” kitchen. They taught me how to cook, to de-scale and gut fish. We strolled around the neighborhood as they pointed out which trees bore leaves that could be used for stews, and we would climb them, and pick vegetables for dinner.

Together we trained my dogs. We cared for all the stray cats (against my mother’s will). We exchanged knowledge. I discussed with them what I learned from school, since few of them ever had an education, and they introduced me to their philosophies of acceptance. Being grateful for what they’ve been given, regardless of the amount.

One girl, Maria, was working for us when she was 18-years old. I was around 14, if I recall correctly. She was a cute, lively girl, smart, with plenty potential to make a name for herself. One day, at church, as they passed around the collections bag, she tossed in 25 centavos. 25 centavos at the time was equivalent to even less than a penny. Sure enough, ignorant little me laughed, “25 centavos??”

Maria just smiled and responded “It might just be 25 centavos, but if EVERYONE here donated even that much, it would amount to so much more.”

(She said this in Tagalog, of course)

I’ll never forget that moment and I’ll never forget her. It was that life altering moment when I realized that regardless of the incredible education I was getting from one of the best schools in Southeast Asia… I still really knew nothing.

I knew nothing of the wisdom that could be gained only through experience.

Textbooks my teach us what’s logically right from wrong, but our experiences form our minds beyond the words of a book.

I learned some of the most valuable and life-altering lessons from men and women who didn’t have the opportunity of an education. Many of whom had been treated as “less than” their employers and the rest of the upper class.

Returning to the Philippines, year after year, since I graduated high school, I see that hasn’t changed.

I see the difference in personalities when people return to visit after spending years living independently abroad. My US based siblings and cousins, for example. The service from having a maid is actually greatly discomforting.

“No, really, it’s ok! I can get my own glass of water…… oh… Um… Thanks.”

Walking through the mall, saying “thank you” and “excuse me” (as you barrel through the hoards of people) are met with looks of confusion.

It’s a humbling and impassioning experience. It angers me and motivates me. It saddens me and fills me with determination.

Everybody deserves a chance. A chance at an education. A chance to do something great with their lives, regardless of the situation you’re born in.

Many organizations are fighting for this right. Working to empower those who feel they have no voice.

And we are ready, to join this fight.

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The Fight Against Monsanto!

PGP READERS!!!

We are in desperate need of your help!

If you aren’t familiar with Monsanto, a U.S.-based multi-national agricultural biotechnology corporation, I do urge that you look them up. This corporation is quickly taking over the world’s crops as it is the world’s leading producer of herbicides. For those who are unfamiliar with the impact genetically modified foods have on our health, I also urge that you research on that as well.

The following documentaries are available at FreeDocumentaries.org:

The World According to Monsanto

Supermarket Secrets

The Corporation

Food Inc.

The reason I’m writing this panick-stricken post is because just last month, corporations belonging to the “organic elite” have now surrendered to Monsanto!!

What does this mean?

It means that we are going to have a much harder time finding and distinguishing certified organic products! And THAT means, we are unknowingly ingesting poisonous material daily.

Please PLEASE watch the videos above if you aren’t familiar with Monsanto’s desire to monopolize the world’s agricultural industry.

For those who wish to support and want to know how to help, go to Millions Against Monsanto and join us in the fight for organic foods! All we ask is that grocers properly label their products. We have the right to know what we’re really putting into our bodies!

The world needs your help!

-PGP

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Meet Felix.

Well, I’m back in Los Angeles. I’m afraid to say that due to a loss in the family this holiday, our plans to visit the women’s correctional facility in the Philippines had fallen through. I tried to make an appointment to visit Gawad Kalinga (a “Philippine-based poverty alleviation and nation-building movement”) with a friend of mine who works for the UN, but due to the holidays, none of the staff were on duty to show us around. Same goes with getting to visit my sponsor child. 😦

Le sigh.

With the majority of the Philippines being Christian-Catholic, everything shuts down for the holidays. I suppose I will have to schedule a trip at a different time.

Regardless of the setbacks, I realize that things will always occur that are out of our control. It’s important not to lose motivation.

Although our schedules may be hectic, we can always find 20 minutes in our day to at least educate ourselves of the various charitable organizations and philanthropic individuals who continue to fight (peacefully of course) for change.

In my browsing of the various stories of impact, I came across a number of videos from Save the Children.

Here’s one that I’d like to share. 🙂

Everyone, meet Felix from Guatemala.

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A Journalist’s Perspective.

The first 18 years of my life in the Philippines had been stained with such unpleasant memories, that for years after, I was willing to fight to the death just to avoid returning to it.

Being a weird, quirky, ADHD-ridden, and awkward teen, I struggled to fit into any social circle there was in my high school. International School Manila was known to have one of the best educations in South East Asia but was also one of the most expensive. So, the unfortunate side-effect was that the number of spoiled, pretentious rich kids flooded the hallways each day.

I grew up in ISM, switching from one social circle to the next from grades K-12, and after 13 years in that school, never felt liked I “belonged.” I was too nerdy, too nice, too weird, too quirky, too hyper, too obnoxious, too quiet, too inexperienced, too vocal, too submissive, not submissive enough, dressed funny, too tomboyish, too insecure, too honest… You name it, I got it. The only place I felt normal at, was in the theatre or in the guidance office.

Avoided, ostracized, bullied, threatened… No matter what went on during school hours, I had spent 6 years in the Fine Arts Theater of International School Manila, and that was my one home base. It was there that I took on another character, another role, ones that were scripted for me, so any of my actions and inactions could be blamed only on the character. Nobody else. I guess it makes sense that I’ve been determined to pursue a career in acting. It was the only thing I could trust to love.

The day our H.S. graduation pictures were taken, my mother let out a shriek of fury when she couldn’t find me in the Class of 2002 photo she had purchased.

“I’m not in it,” I said blandly.

“Why not?” she responded, oblivious to my disconnect from any ISM spirit.

“Because I didn’t care to be.”

High School was finally over. I didn’t want to prolong it any more by standing in a group of people who never accepted me, just to have the memory printed out to last in an oak wood picture frame for the rest of my life.

I enrolled in an east coast school in the U.S. The furthest I could possibly get from the Philippines, and every summer, dreaded my obligation to return to that life, forcing conversations with people I didn’t know to live up to the expectations my mother had created for me. A bitter young adult, I was constantly angry about the conditions of the country, waste filling the streets, the air, and the rivers, which often smelled so potently of sewage, you could drive by with your eyes closed and know which part of Manila you were in. The blind faith and ignorance that led people to settle for inheriting the family business, or just choosing to live the path that was easiest. The corruption. The lack of drive. The crowds of people. The thick smog. Every bit of this was like a whip to my mind when I would involuntarily return to the Philippines. Hate spewed out of my mouth. To the point that I managed to offend every family member, and the few friends I actually did have.

Until about 2 years ago. Hit by a gust of revelation… All of it changed.

I returned to the Philippines with a friend who was born and raised in a small town in Massachusetts. Kara, my roommate, as white as one could possibly be, she joked that she was sometimes see-through. Being in the Philippines with a tourist helped me changed my perspective. I was now forced to look back at what I’d learned in my past, and sieve through it to find what I was most proud of. Despite my resentment, I knew that the country in itself wasn’t awful… It was just my personal experiences that left such a putrid taste in my mouth and I wanted my guest to appreciate my country in the way I failed to.

Together we toured the city. Watching her marvel at the differences in culture taught me to re-live my own fascination. I began to re-educate myself on the country so as to educate her. The way the Spanish influence continued to linger on in the architecture and food made me see beyond modern day Philippines into the heart of the culture. The strong passion for family was one aspect I realized I had taken for granted. The joy that lives in the eyes of the impoverished, despite their struggles.

My perspective was changing… I was no longer viewing the Philippines from the eyes of a formerly outcasted teen… But as a tourist. Fascinated by the culture.

2 years had passed since that life changing trip and now, I’m back in Manila, again without the bitterness that once consumed me. Although I still felt anxious pre-arrival in Manila, I was curious about what my experience would be like knowing that I’ve changed considerably in the past couple of years. Having defined myself more this year, matured more, developed my career more, and grown a larger set of balls, I found myself anticipating and surprisingly excited to face my demons in Manila.

This year, however, I wasn’t returning as a resentful kid or tourist… I was intent on returning as an amateur journalist.

The past year and a half has had me undertaking many activities that I have even the slightest interest in… All in the attempt to discover what it is I really want to do with my life. Having a successful acting career continues to hold the #1 spot, but I was surprised to find journalism coming at a close 2nd. The 6 months leading up to the launch of PGP sent me on a frenzy. While I wasn’t acting, I was reading up on world-wide humanitarian issues, registering for every humanitarian, environmental and animal rights organizations I could come across, and volunteering wherever I was needed.

I noticed that when reading news headlines, I was drawn most to the humanitarian and environmental concerns: Unfair or possibly inaccurate trials of those convicted of murder,  child abuse, pollution and waste, disaster relief, and genocide plaguing much of the 3rd world.

As the holidays approached, I knew my trip to Manila was coming up, and saw it as the perfect opportunity to document life in a 3rd world country.

At the airport, I spoke on the phone with Viki. She expressed that she planned on volunteering during the winter break, and I told her that my mom and I planned to do the same. She mentioned that she had recently watched a documentary on North Korea, which sparked a discussion about journalists Laura and Lisa Ling. Viki said the documentary on North Korea was so thought provoking and within 30 minutes I had downloaded the Kindle App for my iPhone and bought the Ling sisters’ “Somewhere Inside.”

Since my arrival in Manlia, I have not been able to put this book down. Learning about how  the sisters came to develop a passion in journalism was just as intriguing to me as Laura’s experience in North Korea. The courage that it takes for a journalist to risk their lives to be able to report on issues that others hesitate to touch upon really inspires me.

It’s near impossible to take a break from reading this book and not see the world in a completely different perspective. Every time I raise my eyes off the page and gaze out of my window into the smog infested skies, and stained, rusty buildings, all I see is hope.

Amongst the millions living their lives, blissfully ignorant of the harsh realities and struggles of many others… There are few willing to step out of their comfort zone and fight for those afraid to speak up. The beautiful thing about it… Is that anyone has the ability to be one of these people. You don’t need a degree in journalism, or a news casting background, or even connections with major public figures… All you need is a voice. Or… Something to write with. And of course… A passion to bring honest awareness to the world in the hopes that we will one day finally understand each other.

So, on that note… Here I am in the Philippines with my laptop and camera, hoping to find some answers and create some awareness. For my self and hopefully for others.

Signing out for the day,

Jenny

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Heal the World, One Beach at a Time.

Here it is, the video we’ve all been waiting for…

Cue Drum Roll….

Curious George at the Beach!!

Oh. Damn. I mean, PGP at the Beach!!

Heal the Bay‘s Nothin’ But Sand Beach Clean-Up!

We know. It’s a little crazy, but hey! We’re learning here! You gotta admit though… Doesn’t it look like a helluvah lot of fun? Yeah. That’s right. It was. 🙂

For realz though, guys… Volunteering that day really brought to light the kind of crap that collects on our beaches… And we didn’t even encounter half of what gets washed up on beaches that DON’T have groups like Heal the Bay cleaning up monthly.

We’re most aware of the issues that are right in front of our faces… That’s if we even manage to see that… But life extends far beyond what’s within our range of vision.

I know, it’s tough to maintain awareness of all the issues plaguing our world… There are a lot of problems, a lot of causes in need of support, and it’s easy to get overwhelmed feeling like we have to tackle each and every one of them.

But as we always try to stress… It’s not about being a superhero… Or being a perfectly good samaritan… Or giving up your life for a cause…

It’s as simple as just having that awareness and knowledge. Trust me, just having that… It’ll subconsciously start leaking into your daily lifestyle. You’ll find yourself remembering to bring that reusable shopping bag next time… Or recycling those used bottles… Or picking up a piece of trash you come across while walking over to the beach volleyball nets. All these little things add up. 🙂

Love,

PGP

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