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Metro Manila's Bolsita Campaign

Updated on July 4, 2014
I thought she will never get to experience the beauty and goodness of the Bolsita.
I thought she will never get to experience the beauty and goodness of the Bolsita.

Going back to Bolsita

Bolsita is a childhood item that unexpectedly brought memories rushing back. It is a tiny version of Bolsa-de-Papel, paper bags in English-speaking countries. It has been there for quite sometime and did not go away in some places, but in mine, I lost touch with it for so many years, and I just realized it a week ago. I did not know I had missed Bolsita a lot, as a childhood mainstay.

I did not expect feeling such nostalgia upon seeing these paper bags again. All of sudden, I felt a deep longing to have my mother by my side. That was entirely surprising, and that was just because I saw a Bolsita. I felt I was hearing her sweet voice again asking me to go to the biggest store in our place, a kilometer away from our house. Once more, I went back to being an eight-year old girl.

Oh yeah, the memories came rushing and I remembered that "good-for note", a short note that I would hand-over to the store owner containing the list of all the essentials we need for a week, and that was not cash either. We put it on credit, and pay whenever possible. Mama would always get a weekly pay from tilling and maintaining somebody else's piece of land, a hand-to-mouth existence that opened our eyes to the realities of life. The pay sometimes was not enough, but we were getting by. Most of the time, that good-for note was for three kilos of rice, two cans of sardines, 1 pack of flour noodles, 1 sachet of seasoning called vetsin, and a box of match. Amazingly, everything had fitted in that brown Bolsita, which would later on serve as my sister's lunch box bag going to school.

We didn't have that much, but now I realized how happy I was with that simple, less-complicated, and laid-back kind of life.

Origin of the Term Bolsita - The Memories it Brings

Bolsita and Bolsa de Papel are Spanish terms we used to refer to paper bags, even though we are not spanish. Our language contain some spanish words, an influence of that 300 years of Spanish colonization. Bolsita was partly removed from our system for over two decades, as people from my town and even all over the country started adapting the use of plastic bags. I almost forgot the existence of Bolsita until few weeks ago when severe flooding brought it back to my life. It was a nostalgic reunion, but I'm glad Bolsita is here to stay. My parents aren't here anymore, they're both dead; and seeing the Bolsita once more is like having a part of them by my side. I am too glad to share the memories of that bolsita with my daughter, so she too can partake of the unconditional love I had gotten from my mom when she was still alive.

Earlier this week, I couldn't help but cry silently seeing my daughter hugged that two Bolsita bags the salesgirl in the Department Store handed over to her. I had mixed feelings about it, but one thing is sure, I'd better get used to having the bolsita around, a happy turn-around of events brought about by that tragic incident we had back in July (2012).

Severe Flooding Brought Back Bolsita

I must admit, there is something else that I am thankful for upon seeing the bolsita once more. It means "back to basic", "safety", and "less worry" on my part.

Three years ago on this month, Typhoon Ondoy, known Internationally as Typhoon Ketana severely hit the Northern part of the Philippines. The government that time, declared a state of calamity, as the typhoon brought forth heavy waters, killing 747 people and damaged around 1.09 billion of properties. That was the worst typhoon that hit Metro Manila, the most devastating so far in the history of the nation. It called on government agencies to pass series of Legislative Agenda that would impose environmental policies including the move to lower than the use of plastic in the city.

Plastic was one of the major causes of the heavy floods that damaged the entire metropolis. Rich or poor, no exemption, crawled on the mud of despair as houses, cars, appliances, clothes, jewelry, and and other important belongings went down with Ondoy.

What is a Recyclable?

True to their words, the legislative bodies came up with these life-saving .resolutions, including the use of RECYCLABLES. This is the new item that came out after the "no plastic" policy was passed and approved by the Legislative Body, and implemented by the local government. I thought that was it. The date was early 2011.

Sadly, the "Recyclable" policy did not prevail. Implementation was not that strong. People were too busy working to get over the pain that Ondoy brought to their lives, fosucing more on livelihood and so many ways to earn, to be able to stand again. People started forgetting the strong whips and lashes of Ondoy, and began living the same old careless life prior to that event, setting aside the goodness of "recyclables". There, the "recyclables" had become an overnight sensation that was set aside the morning after, as the sun began smiling again, erasing the bad memories of Ondoy.

Filipinos are known as pliant people, bending but not breaking. However, this nature is not as good as how it should be. Pliant becomes the new version of laxity and procrastination.

One fateful night of July 2012, I and my daughter having worked until 11pm, was shocked by a super-heavy downpour, the heaviest in my entire life. But since rain was a mainstay for over a week and there was no announcement of a typhoon, we thought it was ordinary until we had to swim in that big river of flood on our way home. We struggled towards the safest side of the street, as our jeepney broke down and started going down with the flood. I feared more for my daughter's life. I started invoking all the angels and saints, the Virgin Mary, and Jesus Christ for what I tagged as my daughter's near-death swimming lessons.

For two days, heavy rain did not stop even for a second. Torrential rains once again brought forth heavy flooding, leaving all people in shock, as water level surpasses that of Ondoy. Many people feared for their lives, and this time, goverment agencies found it hard to lay out a rescue plan. There were just too many to save. Around 90 percent of the city submerged.

There was just the two of us, and even when we had memorized our "what-to-do's", I couldn't help but fear for my daughter's safety. For two days, I went through a few handful hours of sleep wanting to make sure that the waist-deep water wouldn't reach our doors. Fortunately, we live in the second floor, and still lucky to have shopped for instant foods the day before the flood widened and the rain intensified. We could have been stranded, hungry as a dog, just like the others.

We could see through TV News Break some people stranded on their roof, dripping wet, without any food, helplessly calling for rescue. Each time they were flashed over the television, I could only start blaming myself and all of these people for being so laxed about mother nature. I was asking myself how could we only remember these things when we're already confronted by danger? How could we dismissed such significant calls to stop using plastic bags and stop throwing the bags anywhere, leaving open canals to clog, and eventually caused water to overflow? That was very irresponsible of us.

My recyclable

Recyclable bags distributed by SM Malls in the Philippines as part of the mall's environmental campaign.
Recyclable bags distributed by SM Malls in the Philippines as part of the mall's environmental campaign.

Each One Should use RECYCLABLE

The second-time-around devastation of Philippine's major metropolis was not a stand-alone situation; barely a week after, some other places in Asia were severely hit by storms and therefore floods and landslides. Taiwan, China, Japan, S. Korea, and N. Korea followed suit. A month after, Louisiana, in the US, was brought down again by torrential rains, leaving thousands of people homeless.

Quezon City, Philippines acted on. Being one of the major cities in the Metro, Quezon City government had in full force imposed the law against using plastic bag within the city. Anyone caught violating the policy will face the necessary charges. Upon learning about this wonderful news, I regained high hopes that other cities will soon follow. As for me, personally, the law brought me face to face again with a familiar childhood bag, the Bolsita, and knowing bolsita for so long, a big percentage of trust was reestablished amid my scarred spirit. This policy helps ensure the no come-back-show of those dreaded floods that killed people and damaged properties. The implementation coincided with the world's NO PLASTIC BAG DAY, on September 12, 2012.

Hearing about the flood in Louisiana weeks ago, made me wish that one day, not only that this policy will hold firmly unto the ground locally, but also internationally, as everyone is facing a great danger of severe flooding and rising water level. I hope that the word "recyclable" becomes a household name, and stays as a major household item forever, until eternity.

As for me, I have my own RECYCLABLE, my daughter has her own, and in case we have to shop for more, we have our own big RECYCLABLE.

I hope you too will have your own RECYCLABLE!

How to Recycle Plastic Responsibly

In the midst of all these, I gear my life now towards a safer future, for my daughter, for my daughters daughter, and my great granddaughters. So I began taking significant moments to think of what I can do to responsibly use plastic bags.

Below is something that I and everyone else could use to turn plastic bags into something useful than harmful.

Let's Recycle Plastic bags

  • A Christmas Tree and any all-year-round decors made of Plastic Bag can be a good re-cycling idea.
  • Let's re-use plastic bags by using the bags to keep our trash and dispose properly only in designated places.
  • Let's re-use plastic bags by using them to segregate items in our closet.
  • Let's neatly fold them and keep them in one area and give them back to street sellers who will in turn responsibly re-use the bags.
  • Let us re-use the colorful plastic bags as confetti during special occasions. (Note: They have to be disposed properly after using)

There are so many ways to recycle a plastic item, anything possible at your disposal can help combat this pressing issue about plastic waste.

Now, its time to hear your ideas below.


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    • go-barbara-go profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago

      Thanks Michele for dropping by.

    • Michele Travis profile image

      Michele Travis 

      5 years ago from U.S.A. Ohio

      This is amazing. How much damage plastic can do. It takes so long for plastic to basically decompose. Recycling is very important.

      Thank you for writing this.

      Voted up.


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