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Ep.2 on Arts for Activism with Gab Mejia and Mich Rama

Updated: Mar 19

This episode is brought to you by Forest Foundation Philippines. It was produced by MUNI, hosted and written by Jen Horn and Ayen dela Torre, edited by podwiz.com.au, with music by Diego Mapa and branding by Serious Studio. You can find the MUNI on This Podcast on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or listen directly via muni.com.ph/podcast.

About this episode


In our first episode on eco-anxiety, Anna Oposa of Save Philippine Seas said that people don't respond to data, but they respond to stories. And in our second episode, we ask: what role does art and creativity play in telling the story of our ecological and social crises? #MUNIonThis

We talked to Gab Mejia, a conservation photographer, and Micheline Rama, co-founder and executive director of Dakila, about their work in arts for activism.


Our guests


Gab Mejia's love for nature started when he was 13, when his father took him in his brothers to climb Mount Kota Kinabalu in Malaysia. He failed to reach the summit that day, but it gave him the push to explore more wild spaces and document the beauty of nature that he witnessed. In 2018, he shared a story about the wetlands of Nueva Ecija, and this photo won a competition that eventually propelled his journey from just fun and adventure to advocacy storytelling. Now, he's 23 and he's a National Geographic Explorer. He has covered stories from the receding glaciers of Patagonia to the critically endangered dwarf buffaloes in Mindoro.


As a young girl, Mich Rama often found herself having conversations about political issues at the dinner table, thanks to her parents who both worked in government and grew up during the Marcos era. Although her parents specifically told her not to become an activist when she went into up as a Fine Arts student, the seeds they had sown at the dinner table. These were germinated by a lot of drinking sessions that Mich would have with her friends at UP, where they would always have conversations about changing the world. And while inebriated conversations are often forgot that the next day, in the case of Dakila, it really gained momentum. And so, several inuman sessions later, Mich and her friends marry their love for creative expression, and the need for activism through Dakila.


Show notes

INTRO

  • Ayen talks about Suwag o Suko, a documentary about crititcally endangered tamaraws that moved her to tears [0:36]

  • Jen talks about Story of Stuff and Objectified, two films that got her started on thinking about her environmental impact, and eventually led her to start MUNI [1:23]

GAB MEJIA

  • Ayen introduces Gab Mejia [2:28]

  • Gab shares a story that cemented his drive use his photography for conservation [4:20]

  • Ayen and Gab talk about his viral story about the fires in Agusan Marsh [5:49]

  • Jen asks Gab if he's every worried for his safety [8:10]

  • Gab talks about how he hopes his photography will change the situation, and how "if you're not creating to change something, then you're not fighting" [9:26]

  • Gab on why he loves wetlands + how it's an undervalued natural climate solution [10:35]

  • Gab's advice for creatives who want to go deeper into their craft: find a community and find a story that matters to you [12:29]

  • Gab on how money helps in fighting for things you believe in, but it is not always a prerequisite, citing the example of the tamaraw rangers [12:57]

MICH RAMA

  • Jen introduces Mich Rama of Dakila [14:44]

  • Mich shares a story that really showed her the strong impact of art in pushing for a cause or advocacy - the work of Ralph Eya with detainees of the war on drugs [16:05]

  • Mich on the power of film vs. other formats [17:59]

  • Mich talks about how social justice issues are related to ecological issues, citing how climate change also leads to the loss of life, livelihood and lifestyle. [18:51]

  • Mich talks about one of the key less big wins, with the Kurdapya Jones campaign against a coal fired power plant being built in their area. [21:46]

  • Mich on development and ecological consciousness going hand in hand [23:55]

  • Mich: "Artists should talk about the things that are affecting them. They shouldn't, they shouldn't try to fit the mold of what a "socially conscious" artist is." [23:52]

  • Mich shares how her privilege offers her a level of safety to pursue her activism, unlike others who are really at the front line. "I think I'm too privileged to be worried about my own safety." [27:10]

  • Mich: "What's more dangerous than going out there is self censorship. We shouldn't stop doing what we're doing because of a perceived fear of being blocked." [28:28]

  • Mich giving advice to people who know what they care about but are hesitant to put it out into the world: "Nobody who's set out to change the world has not been met with any resistance or criticism. That's just going to be part of it." [29:11]

CLOSING

  • Ayen and Jen closing the episode with their takeaways. [29:57]


About this podcast

We started MUNI on This to deal with our personal and collective distress about the state of our planet, but more importantly, we created this to give ourselves and you guys more reasons to hope and more motivation to act. In the show, we talk about the challenges and possibilities in creating a more mindful and livable world. It was created by MUNI, a purpose-driven company that creates conversations and builds community through online content and offline events on mindful, sustainable living. You can find the MUNI on This Podcast on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or listen directly via muni.com.ph/podcast.


People / organizations mentioned

Gab Mejia

Dakila

Mich Rama


Arts and films mentioned / other links / resources

Al Jazeera (2019) Philippines "deadliest" country for environmental, land activists

Interaksyon (2018) Drug rehab patients speak out on drug war through their public art installation - A project by Dakila member Ralph Eya

Kurdapya Jones (2016) Silingan ni Ludo Ep.1 - A project by Dakila member Chai Fonacier

Kurdapya Jones (2016) Silingan ni Ludo Ep.2 - A project by Dakila member Chai Fonacier

Objectified trailer (2009) - A film by Gary Hustwit, maker of Helvetica and Urbanized

Suwag o Suko trailer (2019) - A film on the tamaraw rangers of Mt. Iglit Baco

The Story of Stuff (2009) - The full 20-minute film by Annie Leonard