Beyond Brushstrokes


The sunsets of our country are among the most spectacular in the world. The spellbinding and marvelous colors splashed against the sky are unique and difficult to capture on canvas.

One can compare the contrast of sunsets when viewed from a mountain peak amidst the clouds and the pine trees or on a windswept cliff above the merging, clashing waters of the azure West Philippine Sea and the ultramarine Pacific Ocean.

The sun’s farewell is awesome and inspiring.

The shades of the sunset became more stunning and startling after the eruption of the long dormant volcano, Pinatubo. After six centuries, it roared into an explosion of fiery fury. It was the giant whose rage knew no bounds, spewing tons of fine mineral dust, tiny silica sand particles into the atmosphere. The spectacle was an apocalyptic preview beyond our imagination. The towering black clouds stained the sky for thousands of miles as winds carried its dust to distant Pacific islands.

Since that eruption, our sunsets have become more intense, more magnificent. On a color spectrum, the luminous light of Provence and the golden colors of Hawaii’s sunsets are so lovely, but they are pale in comparison to our own.

The wondrous spectacle of light has a dark side, a shadow.


This environmental issue needs urgent attention from the National Government and the private sector.

Smog stings the eyes, causing chronic soreness.

The foul atmosphere threatens not only our natural resources but also public health. It triggers pulmonary ailments, asthma, and allergies particularly among the children and the elderly. The toxic factory fumes and garbage bonfires aggravate respiratory ailments and infections.

Smoke-belching public utility vehicles choke people who are exposed to hazardous fumes that poison the air and the clouds. The particles that linger in the atmosphere become a hazy blanket trapped in humidity.

Many decades ago, rainwater was pure and sweet to drink and bathe in. It did not require complicated filtration, ionization, or distillation. Streams, rivers, lakes, and deep wells had clean water for the fish to thrive in and for irrigation. The vast fields, hills and gardens had a verdant sheen.

Now all we get is acid rain that stains, corrodes and contaminates.

Manila Bay’s famous sunset is the ultimate postcard-perfect spectacle. The seascape is a palette of burnished gold, copper, and tangerine on a cobalt blue sea and indigo violet sky, streaked with vermilion and magenta. The color combinations vary with the many moods of nature.

Gazing at the natural wonders of creation, one wonders why such perfection is being destroyed by man’s callousness to nature. The cavalier attitude is “who cares!” The careless, destructive habits are destroying the rich environmental resources.

Floating debris and waste make the Pasig River so filthy and smelly. It pours out into the bay. The fish resemble distorted gargoyles and shellfish have become toxic. The toxic red tide used to come every summer. Now it seems the scourge is all year round. It is a symptom of our dying ecosystem and the ailing seas. It is nature’s karmic revenge for the abuse of the sea and the environment.

How can we resolve the problem? Through political will and discipline.

The government should intensify the campaign to protect and save the environment through education on all levels, a massive media campaign (next to the overwhelming health crisis management).

Public buses, jeepneys, and tricycles that emit fumes should be grounded. Permits and licenses should be revoked. Their owners and drivers should be fined heavily. Government should enforce laws that protect the environment and penalize the culprits who pollute the air and savage the marine life. Many cops turn a blind eye despite the trail of smoke coming from offensive vehicles.

Factories that spew noxious fumes into the air and disgorge solid and liquid waste into our rivers and lakes should be closed for rehabilitation. These are major crimes against nature.

Informal dwellers who live along the canals and rivers should be relocated and given adequate housing with sanitary facilities.

Fishermen who use dynamite and cyanide should be caught and jailed. Does the Coast Guard catch the offenders?

Passenger ships and inter-island ferries should be inspected (by the port authorities) before the vessels leave port. When these ships arrive at their destination, the authorities should inspect the garbage bins to verify proper garbage disposal procedures. An empty bin means that the garbage was surreptitiously tossed into the sea at night.

Over the past several years, we have written about this problem. There have been suggestions to impose a hauling fee on all sea vessels to cover the expense of garbage disposal whether the bin is full or empty. The official fees with receipts would discourage the ship captains from throwing garbage overboard. Shipping companies have a responsibility to keep our seas clean and safe. The severe penalties would make owners comply.

As good citizens, we can do our share by teaching our families, the staff and community the value of discipline and respect.

We should go green. We should use unleaded gas and conserve fuel. We should recycle, repurpose, reuse, reduce.

Ecotourism is one of our best assets. We should save the powder white beaches, the coral reefs, the emerald isles and turquoise blue waters where the dolphins and whales swim, and the fabled rice terraces.

As we begin the New Year, let us resolve to love and protect Mother Earth. It is our only chance to survive.


Maria Victoria Rufino is an artist, writer and businesswoman. She is president and executive producer of Maverick Productions.