by Danize Marie Lukban

Visayas State University (VSU) is approximately 264 miles away from where I live—far from home, yet the beauty of surrounding mountains and seas makes the discomfort from traveling such a distance worth it. We were welcomed by clear and bright skies, clouds enveloping the tall mountains, and at a distance, you can hear the crashing ocean waves. Nature, at its best, was peaceful company.

Sea side at the Visayas State University, Baybay, Leyte © Danize Lukban/ICSC

Baybay City gives you a glimpse of the wonders of nature of the Visayan region, and more so of the Philippines. It is heartbreaking to imagine that these same wonders are threatened by climate change. This reality makes VSU a fitting place to showcase climate awareness to the youth and vulnerable communities through Klima Eskwela: Climate Science, Adaptation, and the Arts.

This two-day event was initiated and organized last August 25-26, 2022 by Institute of Climate and Sustainable Cities (ICSC), The Climate Reality Project Philippines (Climate Reality Philippines), and VSU to inspire stronger climate action, knowledge capacity, and youth involvement in the region. The second day was dedicated for artists from Baybay City Senior High School and VSU to draft the third Poets for Climate mural in the country.

Danize Lukban moderating Day 1 of Klima Eskwela: Climate Science, Adaptation, and the Arts © Ira Guerrero/ICSC

To be honest, I had minimal to zero understanding of Climate and Disaster Risk Finance and Insurance (CDRFI) and climate science, and it was a bit overwhelming to hear many unfamiliar technical terms. However, the speakers and organizers truly made it their mission to effectively communicate the complexity of climate science to the event participants. This further inspired the art created by the student-artists, helping them truly capture the urgent call to climate action.

I documented three significant takeaways from the event.

Keeping to 1.5ºC warming by 2100 is a critical mission

In January 2022, the global surface temperature was already at 0.89 centigrade, the sixth highest for January since the 1800s. The 21st century is among the top 10 warmest years, according to the National Centers for Environmental Information. It is, without doubt, making it difficult to achieve the Paris Agreement goal as we are already three years away from 2025, the ten-year mark after its adoption. Yet, climate action continues to stagnate as climate denial and ignorance are still rampant in many parts of the world.

Year 2100 is still far from today, but as Filipina climate scientist Lourdes Tibig pointed out, “The change we do now would have to take effect only after one generation. We cannot expect that the action we do now would affect the present global temperature.” We don’t know what the world will be like 78 years from now, but recent extreme weather events are an indication.

ICSC climate science advisor Lourdes Tibig talks about the latest climate science findings in Klima Eskwela: Climate Science, Adaptation, and the Arts © Salie Agustin/ICSC

CDRFI can minimize loss and damages, but it must be part of the culture.

The Philippines ranked as the 17th most vulnerable country to climate change in 2021. Local communities bear the brunt of extreme weather and slow onset impacts, while still coping with the effects of systemic inequality, such as poverty and malnutrition. The Multi-actor Partnership (MAP) for CDRFI looks into different forms of risk transfer mechanisms, such as examples being used within the agricultural sector, that help farmers bounce back and minimize the possible losses they might bear from droughts, typhoons, and flooding. As explained by Danica Marie Supnet of ICSC, universities and academia, such as VSU, can help develop a people and locality-centered perspective of CDRFI that can be integrated into better development planning in local government units.

Risk transfer mechanisms, such as climate risk insurance, must be an integral formal intervention for resilience building and development for the farmers, as mentioned by Dr. Eduardo Mangaoang of VSU. They must be widely practiced to empower the agricultural community to be direct agents in ensuring their livelihood security.

Mural paintings do more than spread climate awareness.

Mural paintings don’t just help spread climate awareness, but also visually complement the complexity of climate science, rearticulate the advocacy and incite something within all of us. Public mural paintings have the potential to unite people in a climate justice movement, as evinced by Greta Thunberg’s transformation from being a lone ‘school strike for climate’ activist to inspiring waves of youth climate activism around the world.

Young artists and youth leaders from Baybay City, Leyte act on climate change through arts by brainstorming ideas for a mural in Klima Eskwela: Climate Science, Adaptation, and the Arts © Salie Agustin/ICSC

Inspired by a When Is Now poem, responding to the climate emergency by Kriti Dhanania, the invited student-artists highlighted threatening climate effects to the province by incorporating a fish as their common motif with visual undertones of loss of species, pollution, and rising sea levels. The mural’s goal was to showcase both the causation and comparison of the natural environment’s original state to its eventual degradation due to extreme anthropogenic activities. From the short time I was with them, I witnessed the eagerness of the young students to inspire a positive change, through the simplest act of creating art, is also inspiring us in return.

Even as a young adult, it is painful and scary to witness the restlessness of younger generations for the future they are already deprived of. While it’s distressing to see the youth pour their hearts and hope into the future they can only imagine, we are called on to respond to the cry of helplessness. I believe the greatest lesson that life can teach us is that, we never truly live for ourselves, but living is to live for beyond who we are—our love for our families, our children, our communities, our countries, our planet. The fulfillment of living not just simply living for ourselves, but pushing the boundaries of making the world more than liveable for others—that is the value of paying forward.

In a short span of time, ICSC gave me an opportunity to experience new ways of paying forward, to connect with some members of communities, and to experience the wonders of nature in Leyte. The province was a sight to behold, even more so meeting its locals there. I am glad to have taken the long journey, and I hope to be back again with more lessons to learn and stories to share.


Danize Lukban is an intern of ICSC’s Climate Finance Team. She grew up in Daet, Camarines Norte and is currently a graduating student taking up Bachelor of Arts in Consular and Diplomatic Affairs at the De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde as her undergraduate degree.