Here is a letter I received from esteemed scientist and environmentalist Dr. Michael Bengwayan, from Baguio and the Cordillera region of Luzon, in the Philippines. For those of you who are from Baguio, there needs to be no further explanation. For those who have heard about Baguio, let me say this. We lived in a Shangri-la and then things happened and things fell apart.
Dr. Bengwayan is one of many grassroots change makers who continue to work for the restoration of the natural habitat that once was prolific in our mountain region.
If you can be generous, you can be assured that every penny and centavo will be accounted for. A generosity of drops makes a river.
If you only knew what it was to smell the pine trees and see the sky on a daily basis,
if you only knew what it was to see the fog roll in,
if you only knew what it meant to be from the mountains…
It isn’t too late for our childrens’ world.
A pleasant day to you! May this letter find you in cheerful spirit.
On December 13 – 14, 20013, our online community, A TREE A DAY (ATAD) and the Cordillera Ecological Center (PINE TREE) will once again sponsor and implement the Third Cordillera Pine Tree Festival. This time, it will be held in Sagada. The Festival intends to recognize the ecological, economic, and socio-cultural contributions of the Benguet pine tree (Pinus insularis) to the people of the region.
The Philippine pine tree Pinus kesiya/insularis, a relative of the Burmese Khasya pine and the Chinese Huangshan pine tree is native to the Cordillera region. For almost a hundred years, the trees have been cut for housing, lumber, firewood, business construction, furniture, timber for mining and even sold abroad. It has covered the fragile mountains of the Cordillera region and prevented landslides and soil erosion. It has provided the badly needed oxygen for respiration by humans and other animals. It has kept the water table up, ensuring adequate water supply. It has cleansed the air of smog and particulate pollutants and equally kept the climate in the region cool.
Today, that is no longer the case. The trees are being cut at a deforestation rate of 175 to 200 hectares a year. It is resulting to deaths and destruction due to landslides and erosion, air pollution, and increase of upper respiratory tract ailments due to asthma, The temperature in the region is no longer as cool as it used to be and water supply is diminishing. Despite our tree planting efforts, the rate of deforestation is faster than reforestation. We have only ourselves to blame.
I come to you to seek your support and kind understanding of the fact that we have to double efforts on reforestation, protection and rehabilitation of the remaining forests. We have all worked in the past few years but we need to do more in face of the apathy of majority of the population.
With your help in the past few years, we have produced and planted thousands of seedlings and led reforestation efforts. But we equally need to educate more people in this concern. Although I can happily tell you, many people and groups now are more aware and are being involved in tree planting than six or ten years ago. Let us thank ourselves for this.
The yearly Pine Tree Festival is trying to change all that, by increasing educational activities on tree conservation and forest regeneration. In the past two years, some 10,000 people participated in the Festival with representatives from the different provinces and cities in the Cordillera Region. Most participants were our youth. We conducted seminars, public fora, exhibits, nature study and forest regeneration activities. There were essay writing contests, photography, song and poem-writing and cultural dances all geared towards promoting tree protection, care and management. Family tree planting was carried out, forest fun runs and workshops were also held at Longlong Communal Forest.
We will be do similar activities this year in Sagada, Mt. Province. The decision to hold the Festival in Sagada was based largely on the municipality’s unique relationship of nature, culture and it’s people. The three are enmeshed together to foster unity, solidarity and sustainability. One cannot exist without the other.
The pine trees of Sagada, most especially, and for any Cordilleran town, for that matter, more than symbolizes what Sagada stands for. The trees are not merely there as assigned by the Creator, but also, the pine trees are there because of peoples’ love, care and concern for the trees. They have developed an indigenous forest management system called “lakon” that enures that the pine forests (batangan) are cared for and passed on to the future.
We have a lot to learn from this and the peoples’ culture as well and the holding of the Festival in Sagada offers that opportunity, especially for the young, and of course, our leaders (political, agency or otherwise), and businesses (like SM, Moldex etc), who are ignorant of this.
But then in any endeavor such as this, there is always the problem of logistics. We are a volunteer group and rely mostly on your donations. And again, this year, we are praying for donations. In this regard, I am personally writing you financial assistance to make the activity, once again a reality. In exchange for donors’ help, we will provide you seedlings and plant trees in your land. You can send your donations through any of the following:
1. Send to the bank Account of the Festival: Account No. : 487124000019
Bank: Philippine National Bank, La Trinidad Branch
Account Name: Palmer D. Demot and Dobbels Wallang or
2. Send to me thru Western Union, La Trinidad, Benguet, Philippines
If you are overseas, you can also opt to send through any of our following ATAD members:
USA: Annie Banig
UK: Remina Bastian Tollet ____
Australia: Lalita Reddelor Redj Smith
Israel: Virginia Pediten
As in the past two years, all donations are acknowledged, recorded and a financial statement is prepared and audited by an independent auditor. Then this is posted in the A Tree A Day page and the Cordillera Pine Tree Festival website, http://www.cordillerapinetreefestival.org. All expenses are accounted for.
You will be able to know more of the Festival by visiting the following links:
Thank you so much once again, well wishes and kind regards.
MICHAEL A.BENGWAYAN, Ph. D
Cordillera Ecological Center
Third Cordillera Pine Tree Festival
‘A Community With A Culture that Nurtures Nature, Will Have an Environment that Can Sustain People’