Friday, November 04, 2011

Read-along becomes real-life tree planting

Read-along becomes real-life tree planting
By Hendrix Gil B. Lato
Inquirer Visayas
November 4, 2011

Twelve-year-old Kaye Hanna Inocando has seen thousands of reforestation volunteers in a yearly trek to their mountain barangay of Tabunan in Cebu City since she was 5 years old, but she, a farmer’s daughter, had never experienced planting a tree before.

“It’s my first time to plant (a tree). I go to school when Mama plants trees,” said Kaye, a Grade 5 pupil.

Her mother, Rowena, is a member of the Pungol Sibugay-Cantipla Farmers Association, one of the 13 cooperatives and farmers’ groups tasked with raising seedlings and monitoring the growth of trees planted within the Central Cebu Protected Landscape (CCPL), Metro Cebu’s source of potable water.

Some of the farmers used to be illegal loggers and charcoal makers. Others have found alternative sources of livelihood in building nurseries and monitoring the growth of the trees apart from growing vegetables and fruit trees.

The communities have been working with the Philippine Business for Social Progress (PBSP), a foundation that aims to alleviate poverty in four focus areas—environment, education, health and sustainable livelihood and enterprise development

“It is ironic really. My child has never planted a tree. This is her first time to plant one although she’s not new to tree-planting because she knows I am a farmer and this is my means of living,” Rowena said in Cebuano.

It was the same story for most of the 34 children who joined the read-along session organized by PBSP and the Inquirer on Oct. 15. They were all raised by farming parents.

“It is essential for these children to understand what their parents do because their parents are contributing so much for the environment. This is also a way of informing them that to be a farmer is not useless at all,” said lawyer-environmentalist Gloria Estenzo Ramos, a coconvenor of the Philippine Earth Justice Center.

Ramos, who also served as one of the readers, stressed that the children must be taught that the place where they live and play had a special contribution in the life and growth of Metro Cebu.

Wildlife habitat, too
Tabunan is located within the CCPL or the “Cebu Hillylands,” a protected area that spans 29,062 hectares of land and nurtures three watersheds (Buhisan, Mananga and Kotkot-Lusaran) and two national parks (Central Cebu and Sudlon).  It provides water to the cities of Danao, Talisay and Toledo, and the neighboring towns of Balamban, Compostela, Consolacion, Liloan and Minglanilla.

“Cebu Hillylands is also a home to birds and tree species found only in Cebu,” according to forester Orlyn Orlanes Roxas. It is the habitat of the Cebu Black Shama (“siloy”), Cebu Flowerpecker and the Cebu Cinnamon tree, all endemic to Cebu.

After three books—“Diola: The Heroine of Philippine Eagles,” “Munting Patak Ulan (The Little Raindrop),” and “The Crying Trees” were read, Roxas talked about the relationship of trees, animals and water cycle.

“This is a rare experience for us because we saw a good way to educate children about the environment. We started by reading three stories, then Miss Orlyn wove everything for better understanding and then the children had their practical experience in tree planting,” said Marnie Racaza, representative of The Outstanding Students of the Philippines Alumni Community in Central Visayas.

Racaza joined fellow TOSPians and grade school student Hannah Isabel Lapurga of Saint Theresa’s College in reading to the children.

Maria Luisa Largo, PBSP program coordinator of Metro Cebu Poverty Reduction program, said this was the first time for the annual reforestation caravan to culminate with a conservation education. Her group plans to do more of this format in the succeeding months, she said.

The children were treated to food and beverage from My Joy/Wanna Eat and Shangri-La’s Mactan Resort and Spa. Toys and books were given as prizes and giveaways.

To Rowena, as well as with the other mothers, the experience helped her explain to her children what she was doing.

“It is important that an early age children already knows how to take care of the environment. By planting trees, they help Tabunan, they help Cebu. What will happen to the world if trees are gone,” she said.