First Cordillera Pine Tree Festival A Success

Following the success of the First Cordillera Pine Tree Festival, the second is being clamored to be held again December next year.

First Cordillera Pine Tree Festival

By Carl Taawan

Thursday, December 22, 2011

ABOUT a thousand people from different organizations and Facebook groups joined the first Pine Tree Festival. The opening parade started at the Benguet Capitol to BSU gym where the main program was held.

Guest speaker Presidential adviser on Environment Protection Nerio Acosta arrived late but delivered a speech that left some of the audience misty-eyed.

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The two-day festival includes literary competitions, (poem, essay, songwriting), photography, painting, battle of the bands and cultural dances. Also conducted were seminars on Ethno-Cultural Values of Pine Tree, Forestry Situation in the Cordillera Region Indigenous Conservation Practice like Lakon and Muyung, Environmental Laws and pine tree researches.

There were 97 competitors from two cities (Baguio and Tabuk) and the provinces of Benguet, Ifugao, kalinga, Apayao and Mountain Province. The cultural dance regional championship was won by Kalinga. Baguio City won the battle of the bands.

There were also an Eco-Fun Run, Forest Eco-Trekking, tree planting and Eco-ducation at Puguis Communal forest, “dancing in the Forest,” and Picnic at the Longlong Communal Forest.

The festival was conceptualized by Dr. Michael Bengwayan in recognition to the importance of the pine tree. “My intention is that the Benguet pine tree (Pinus insularis) should be recognized for all its contributions to the people and land of the Cordillera region,” said Bengwayan.

“My goal is to celebrate through a community-participated, educational, recreative and entertaining festivity with relevance of the pine tree and to spark widespread propagation, sowing and planting of pine trees to the Cordillera region, in particular, and to the country, in general. The long-term goal is to widen and in-depth-ly support education, conservation, research of pine trees.”

“The festival’s mission is to provide leadership, education, service and creating awareness among Cordillerans, that pine trees are integral part of our lives and that these and their habitats must be protected and conserved.”

The earlier part of the event was a tree planting activity by about 170 volunteers from Cordillera Ecological Center to stabilize the sinking slope in Mankayan destroyed by Lepanto Mines.

As promotion to the objectives of the activity, seventy-two eco-bikers biked from La Trinidad to Tublay to Kapangan and back to La Trinidad. Ten mountain climbers also went to Mount Calawitan in Sabangan, Mt. Province.

The festival was organized and implemented by Cordillera Ecological Center, a group established by Dr. Bengwayan.

The events were funded by members of the Facebook group “A Tree A Day (ATAD)” that was also founded by Dr. Bengwayan which has about 3,000 members in 37 countries.

Secretary Acosta’s Tearful Speech

Speaking without notes, Acosta’s impressive speech emphasized the importance of the pine tree and the rain forests in the balance of our ecology.

He explained the connotation of ecology from its Greek root word “oecus” meaning “house or home.” “Economy means the management of a home or household,” he said. “Ecology is the management of the planet we call our home.”

He stressed the difference of economy against ecology. “Economy is our needs in our home. We can mine, we can fish, we cut the pine tree so that we can have money for the management of our home. That is economy.”

“If economic growth is our primary goal, as long as we gain money, we don’t care what we destroy. But we are finding out now more and more that even as we grow on economy and exploit the earth’s resources, we will not be able to sustain life, we cannot maintain economy if ecology is destroyed,” he said.

“We have to put ecology ahead of economy, not the other way around. Because if the balance of ecology is upset, there will be no more economy to speak of,” he added.

Acosta’s story on the work of the Philippine Eagle Foundation (PEF) where they released in the rainforests of Bukidnon an eagle they nurtured and was shot dead by poachers left some of the audience teary-eyed.

He pointed out that each pair of Philippine eagle needs 7 to 10,000 hectares of rain forests to survive. “The eagle is nature’s bio indicator. If the eagle is critically in danger, it means that our rainforests are degrading. There are only nine pairs left in the Philippines’s wild,” he said.

“Mt. Kitanglad used to be 200 hectares, now it’s only 30 hectares,” said Acosta. He said even inside the protected area, he was surprised to see that some are converted to vegetable gardens and some of those farmers are from Benguet.

After the eagles are gone, he emphasized that “humans will be next as the highest in the food chain. If you lose the pine tree, you will not just lose the biodiversity, you will lose the culture. If you lose the water, you will not only lose the fishes, we will lose ourselves.”

“Only when the last tree is cut, and the last fish has been poisoned, and the last river has dried up, and the last ocean has been degraded, that we realize in the end that we cannot eat money,” said Acosta.

Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on December 23, 2011.