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Build back better with the Black Swan and some beer


That’s what it says on my business card.

I would have preferred something else—Ambassador-at-Large, Smarty Pants, or even the Escape Goat—if only to add an interesting, if amusing, dimension to what I’m doing now (whatever that might be).

But then again, who’s quibbling?

For one thing, the Home Office in Cubao X—strategically located on top of a popular watering hole, as it happens—wouldn’t have it any other way. And for another, instead of slacktivist, the Home Offce could have indicated that I was A) Flesh-eating bacteria; B) Eczema; or C) Athlete’s Foot; a condition I had been familiar with way back when I was a teenager; unwashed, unkempt, and unctuous.

My hygiene has improved since then.

As proof, no one—not me, family member, nor close associate—has had to report any incident related to and/or involving my kachichas.

As a result, being kachichas-free all these years has enabled me to take up biking without any kachihas-related consequences.

Which is all well and good.

This is because recently, I have decided to take a break from living in the Big Bad City—Yes, I’m looking at you, Metro Manila—to seek temporary refuge in a kinder, gentler urban environment of Tacloban City.

A day or two after arriving, I plan to ride my bike all over the city’s environs and beyond, grabbing a beer or three after scouring Tacloban’s nooks and crannies for narratives of persistence and fortitude, of brightness and squalor, of heroism and citizenship. These are stories only Taclobanons are equipped to tell and retell, having looked Yolanda straight in the eye and never once flinching.

Some Tacloban residents may have doubted their abilities, however temporarily, to defeat one of the world’s strongest storms but that’s exactly what Black Swans do to you.

Popularized by Nassim Nicholas Taleb in a book of the same title, a Black Swan is a random, unforeseen event that has dramatic, life-changing effects.

And a Black Swan is what Yolanda exactly was, killing more than six thousand, rendering nearly two million homeless, and displacing six million people in the Visayas, the Philippines’ third-largest island. (And let’s not even get started on the relief efforts that came after.)

After Yolanda, no one—inside and outside of Tacloban—has ever been the same again.

However, not all Black Swans bring bad luck.

One such Black Swan is my Anchor-branded Bridgestone touring bike.

After buying it used in September last year, I’ve taken it to Novaliches and, just two weeks ago, to Antipolo—destinations I never thought I could visit by cruising around on two wheels.

The Black Swan will be the same bike I’ll be taking to Tacloban; the same bike I’ll be riding as I witness the meaningful, dramatic, and life-changing transformation of a city as it builds back better and takes the first step in an energy revolution.

But that is a story best told through another blog entry.

(caption: The Black Swan in November 2013 during a trip to Novaliches)

Boojie Basilio is iCSC’s “Man in Tacloban” who is humanizing the experience of building back better in super typhoon Haiyan’s ground zero through his blog “Tales from the Slacktivist.”

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