The Inbox

A lawyer champions the trees and the forests

Lawyer and painter Kay Malilong Isberto

Text and photos by Elizabeth Lolarga, VERA Files

Now here's a lawyer who puts a shine on that litigious profession: Kay Malilong Isberto.

By continuing to make trees and forests the subjects of her paintings (she recently held a solo show at San Beda Museum in Alabang Hills, Muntinlupa City), Isberto is able to promote a passionate advocacy to overhaul Philippine forestry laws.

"I never thought of abandoning law (to be a full-time painter). Painting was just another way (of expression) that if words did not work, maybe pictures will," she said.

Just last year, she met another visual artist, Aze Ong, while she was setting up for a solo exhibit at Likha Diwa in UP Diliman campus. Ong asked her if she wanted to exhibit in another venue.  Her exhibit then at Likha Diwa was entitled "Rainforest Caravan."

Without hesitance or even considering her load as lawyer and mother to young children, she immediately said "Yes!" without knowing where the venue was (in far-flung Alabang).

AbundanceShe explained that she wanted to bring her forest advocacy to a wider audience. She submitted an exhibit proposal to San Beda Museum curator Joseph Renta. He challenged her, saying  that she just had a month to get ready.

She didn't panic; instead, she focused on painting "until I felt I had enough to tell the story of the Rainforest Caravan. I painted as soon as I woke up and painted at least eight hours a day for the next found weeks. It helped that acrylic dries fast."

Isberto, 38, who has degrees in economics and law from UP Diliman, had always been keen on the arts. She took an art workshop at age13 in Cebu under Meowix Flores, then another one at 17 at run by fine arts students of UP Cebu. When her son took art classes under Mimsy Sermonia Jundis in 2008, she did some of the exercises that the workshop teacher gave him. The young mom also had a few drawing classes with Jundis.

This persistently studious women was already working on her masters in art history, also at UP Diliman, but temporarily stopped when she got pregnant with her second baby in 2010.

As for her deep concern for the country's dwindling forest cover, she said, "I worked on a project to amend the Philippine Forestry Code. I learned that our forest cover is estimated at 21 percent when the ideal should be at least 45percent or for some scientists, 54 percent. When I think about the implications of that for the future in terms of availability of clean air and water, biodiversity, prevention of landslides and the threats from climate change, I realized that we have to work fast to change paradigms about the forest and to act accordingly."

While she worked on that draft bill, she realized that "the idea that the forest is valuable in itself, not merely as a source of timber, is abstract for a lot of people. It is so different from the attitude of indigenous peoples, the same attitude that chroniclers wrote about when the Spanish colonizers arrived here."

Orange Gypsy Dancer, acrylic on canvasShe added, "There was reverence and love for the forest. I thought that I should depict what the Philippines would look like if we found that love for the forest again. I imagined a Rainforest Caravan moving across the country. Through this, we could connect the forests and forest communities in the Philippines, share stories about them, including best practices on taking care of them, the hopes and dreams of communities taking care of them, and find ways for people in urban areas, even abroad, to help with forest conservation. Helping a forest community send children to school, for example, is one way to do that. When we make the lives of people taking care of the forest easier, we indirectly help take care of the forest."

Isberto considered herself lucky because her husband Dominic is very supportive. “He not only buys my art materials, he gives me space and time for my forest advocacy and art,” she revealed.

Her  teenage son Francis Ruben critiques her work. “He and my toddler Leandro are daily reminders that I need to keep going on my forest advocacy,” she said.

She seizes opportunities "to tell the story of the forest and of the need to take better care of it." The recent show at the museum was meaningful for her because she was able to reach more children and young people.

She said, "It is their future at stake. I want them to enjoy the ecosystem services that forests provide. If I can convince them of how important it is to love our forests and to take care of them, maybe they can influence the adults in their lives to act differently."

(VERA Files is put out by veteran journalists taking a deeper look at current issues. Vera is Latin for “true.”)

Loading...

Editor’s note:Yahoo Philippines encourages responsible comments that add dimension to the discussion. No bashing or hate speech, please. You can express your opinion without slamming others or making derogatory remarks.

  • US-Philippines wargames to start under China's shadow
    US-Philippines wargames to start under China's shadow

    Thousands of American and Filipino soldiers on Monday will kick off expanded wargames, showcasing a deepening defence alliance as alarm bells ring over China. The 10-day exercises in the Philippines are an annual affair between the longtime allies, but this time they will involve double the number of soldiers as last year in a sign of their expanding military partnership. The Philippines is seeking more US military and diplomatic support to fend off China's increasing forcefulness in its bid …

  • Bar ban for US troops in Philippines amid murder trial
    Bar ban for US troops in Philippines amid murder trial

    The US Pacific Command has banned its troops in the Philippines from bars and nightclubs, a spokesman said Saturday, with the trial under way of a US Marine accused of murdering a transgender Filipina he met in a bar. Thousands of American and Filipino soldiers will on Monday kick off 10-day annual military excercises, according to Captain Alex Lim, a spokesman for the US forces, but there will be strict controls on their free time. Lim would not say why the restrictions were imposed but …

  • Biker Beauty: Honda and David's Salon Pampering Day
    Biker Beauty: Honda and David's Salon Pampering Day

    Honda Philippines Inc. (HPI), and David's Salon recently held the awarding ceremony for the Metro Manila winner of the David's Salon Scooter Raffle Promo at the 5th level of SM Megamall Building A. Loyal patron Maria Theresa Guevara took home a brand new Honda Click 125i. Present to grace the occasion were David's Salon Creative Director Laura Charlton and HPI Assistant Vice-President for Sales and Marketing Hideo Nishinaga.To the delight of all those in attendance, guests were treated to …

  • ‘Next leader must not be newbie’
    ‘Next leader must not be newbie’

    Vice President Jejomar Binay believes the next president of the Philippines must have vast experience and a long track record in governance and in dealing with crises. “I am very much convinced that the local government is the best training ground for those who want to run for national government positions,” he said. Binay said he is determined to run for president in 2016 on the strength of his competence and track record. …

  • Massacre suspect tests negative for poisoning
    Massacre suspect tests negative for poisoning

    A suspect in the Maguindanao massacre case who had been examined at the Philippine General Hospital (PGH) tested negative for poisoning, medical records released yesterday showed. However, the Quezon City court handling the multiple murder case resolved to isolate Police Officer 1 Pia Kamidon from the rest of the accused detained at Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig for his safety. In a two-page order, Regional Trial Court Branch 221 assisting Judge Genie Gapas-Agbada ordered jail officials to …

  • ‘Homework first before Facebook’
    ‘Homework first before Facebook’

    President Aquino elicited laughter from students here as he reminded them to open books first before Facebook. “Finish your assignments first before making a raid in the Clash of Clans,” Aquino said, referring to a popular online game. In a speech during the turnover yesterday of two new three-story buildings at the Tarlac National High School, he said the government could only provide opportunities for learning but the rest of the work would be up to the students. The new school buildings …

  • Espina resignation confirmed; Noy looks for replacement
    Espina resignation confirmed; Noy looks for replacement

    President Aquino ended speculations yesterday and confirmed that Deputy Director General Leonardo Espina had indeed resigned as officer-in-charge of the Philippine National Police. As of this time, we are conducting various interviews and checks on the various candidates,” Aquino told reporters at the Tarlac National High School in Tarlac City. Aquino had kind words for Espina, saying that he stood by and defended the 44 slain police Special Action Force (SAF) commandos in the operation in …

  • Palace welcomes G7 concern over sea reclamation
    Palace welcomes G7 concern over sea reclamation

    President Aquino welcomed yesterday the Group of Seven industrialized countries’ expression of concern over rising tension in the West Philippine Sea and South China Sea, calling it a clear indication of the global scope of the problem ramped up by China’s massive reclamation activities in disputed waters. In Tarlac City where he led the turnover of new classrooms, Aquino told reporters that goodwill and not tension must prevail in the West Philippine Sea and South China Sea, where territorial …

POLL

Should Aquino be held accountable over the Mamasapano operations?

Loading...
Poll Choice Options