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Meet the young Filipino who makes elegant maps of the PHL

Geographer, urban planner and geospatial analyst David Garcia is a man who makes maps for breakfast. He recently depicted the Philippine archipelago at night, and the result is a glimmering and insightful — if not poetic — piece of work about our country.

“We are a nation of islands; of cities scattered and sprawling across islands; and of islands within our cities,” he says about his recent work.

On his Facebook page Mapmaker, where he would post Philippine maps illustrating different sets of data, Garcia is giving the Philippine nighttime map away as a free downloadable graphic.

“Geographic knowledge should be shared with everyone," Garcia tells GMA News Online in an email interview.

"I observed that it is easier to raise the awareness of citizens about environmental, social, economic, infrastructural, and governance issues when the visualization, such as a map, is compelling. I really want to make truthful, beautiful, and useful maps," he continued.

Garcia, who taught geography and mapping in UP Diliman, also worked as an urban planner and mapping specialist for places affected by Haiyan including Tacloban and Guiuan before flying to London to study under the Chevening scholarships program.

He started Mapmaker to complete his masteral thesis and continued working on it to show that complicated data can also be pretty and easily understandable.

"For a start, I hope that the reasonable design and aesthetic part of the map will help people start thinking and exploring the topics depicted by the maps. When a map possesses a certain level of beauty, then people can be motivated to ask about its truthfulness and usefulness," Garcia said.

The Philippine nighttime map is one of his most shared works to date. "With the map, I wanted to share how urbanization is changing and distributed across the country.

"Maybe, it will help us realize that the problems that beset Metro Manila today can happen in other parts of the country, and that we should prepare as a society to address those problems," he said.

Garcia said he created his maps using Geographical Information Systems (GIS) software for processing the coordinates, drawing features and exploring satellite imagery, he obtained most of his data from National Aeronautics and Space Administration and Philippine GIS for the island boundaries data.

He said his work isn't just mere illustrations of data. His practice also aims to make great changes in the lives of his fellow countrymen.

"Having an open philosophy about my mapping practice can help make a difference in terms of improving the quality of life of Filipinos. Here's my favorite quote: 'Geography is too important to be left to geographers' - David Harvey," he said. 

— LA, GMA News

Tags: maps, philippines