Draw, Explore, and Serve the People: Mapping the Philippines and I

Google Mapmaker

Ever since I was a kid, I held fascination over maps. I buy maps—err; I let my parents buy me some maps. From the cheapest school maps to book atlases perhaps. Geography is my favourite subject in school. This is where you get to memorize the provinces of the Philippines and its capitals, per region, their culture and history. I sleep with the old Manila book maps back in the 1990s. I bring them at school. Maps have been my obsession-seeing places, imagining places and even memorizing the way how to get there. In other words, GPS has been programmed already since the 1990s, hehe!

Maps have given me comfort. It is one way to see the world—for me. Atlases at least gave me some glimpse. Yet it’s not enough. Postcard perfect photos, very shallow write-up, outdated facts and not so detailed maps were the limitations of these. Internet back then was still very limited and expensive—and was turtle slow if we compare it on today’s standards. So, I just go to the library and browse every atlas or any other books relating to culture, history and geography of the places. I’m not also that rich to go to Disneyland or Paris or NY…these were my humble flying carpets.

Gensan--One of my first computer-aided maps, using Photoshop

Yes, I am a nerd—a geek of maps and atlases. I am a disciple of Masters Eratosthenes, Ptolemy and Alexander von Humboldt. Yet I chickened out when I found out that BS Geography has intensive math on it. I went to history instead—but never lost sight of the maps. I guess Herodotus has found a way to incorporate geography with history and society. Therefore, my life goes on.

During high school and college, I started making maps: from MS Paint, from my own bare hands, from Adobe Photoshop. My first “survey” was with my old subdivision at Imus in Cavite Province wherein my map I created became “the official map” of the community for several years. Armed with the bicycle, a notebook, a pen and memory, I went around the community till I came up with my very own map. Later I would found out that this method would be so important in future cartography and map-making—both Open Street and Google.

My collection of maps and travel brochures

College came in. I took some brochures with maps on it and practiced making my own version. Our campus in Iloilo was big; therefore I made some for the campus on my scratch book. When Mindanao saga came, mapmaking went into a whole new level. Drawing areas of cities in which I tend only to memorize. Doodle it then that’s just it. Then when the thesis days came, Photoshop, overlaying and mapping skills came handy.

Then I graduated. I still do doodles on any notebook or paper that I see. Just doodles but I want I like it as specific as possible. I didn’t have GPS devices or any tech stuff that would aid in a more specific mapping.

My old tickets--my keys of exploration

Then came Google Mapmaker. With high resolution imagery, local knowledge and some leftover maps that I used when I was at college, I was able to map several places in the Philippines—most particularly Iloilo and Cotabato areas. Now, I’m on my 2nd year, I still work to refine and make my community visible to the world. I know that in process, this is my great contribution for my locality and for the Philippines. For businesses and for those who need help.

The rest, I’ll tell you on this video by Inquirer.net

For me, mapping is one of my life missions. Maybe in the near future, I can now map too using GPS data thru KML. Whatever mapmaking platform I may contribute—even just doodling, I don’t brag it as an achievement, but it is a service that I render back to the people who’ve paid for my education and to whom I would serve—even if this is just voluntary work.

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