The Contributions of the Pine Trees at Luneta Hill to the Immediate Environment By Michael A. Bengwayan

The Contributions of the Pine Trees at Luneta Hill to the Immediate Environment By Michael A. Bengwayan

The Contributions of the Pine Trees at Luneta Hill to the Immediate Environment


By Michael A.  Bengwayan


I am writing my research study on the mitigating effects of Ambuklao Dam and the Upper Agno River Basin. While looking at secondary data in the net, I was surprised to find out that every time you search a topic with the word “tree”, SM’s expensive and misleading advertisement appears where they are trying to convince people that their so-called proposed Garden in the Sky is the best alternative Baguio can have.


This is false and they are poorly advised by whoever experts they have. I have already explained why having a Garden in the sky negates all the CO2, O2 and water-related positive advantages of the 182 trees at Luneta Hill.


Let me go on a little bit more to educate our citizenry especially those in Baguio about the irreversible contributions of those trees and all trees for that matter.


The trees are important in Baguio for four direct and uncontested facts. First, the trees help directly and indirectly in affecting local and regional air quality by altering the urban atmospheric environment. The four main ways that these trees affect air quality are::

Temperature reduction and other microclimatic effects

Removal of air pollutants

Energy effects on buildings


Temperature Reduction: Tree transpiration and tree canopies affect air temperature, radiation absorption and heat storage, wind speed, relative humidity, turbulence, surface albedo, surface roughness and consequently the evolution of the mixing-layer height. These changes in local meteorology can alter pollution concentrations in urban areasb. Although trees usually contribute to cooler summer air temperatures, their presence can increase air temperatures in some instancesc. In areas with scattered tree canopies, radiation can reach and heat ground surfaces; at the same time, the canopy may reduce atmospheric mixing such that cooler air is prevented from reaching the area. In this case, tree shade and transpiration may not compensate for the increased air temperatures due to reduced mixingd. Maximum

mid-day air temperature reductions due to trees are in the range of 0.04oC to 0.2oC per percent canopy cover increasee. Below individual and small groups of trees over grass, mid-day air temperatures at 1.5 m above ground are 0.7oC to 1.3oC cooler than in an open areaf. Reduced air temperature due to trees can improve air quality because the emission of many pollutants and/or ozone-forming chemicals are

temperature dependent. Decreased air temperature can also reduce ozone formation.

It is not debatable any longer that trees cool the City of Pines and those remaining 133 trees are helping out.


Removal of Air Pollutants:Trees remove gaseous air pollution primarily by uptake via leaf stomata,though some gases are removed by the plant surface. Once inside the leaf, gases diffuse into intercellular spaces and may be absorbed by water films to form acids or react with inner-leaf surfacesg. Trees also remove pollution by intercepting airborne particles. Some particles can be absorbed into the tree,

though most particles that are intercepted are retained on the plant surface. The intercepted particle often is resuspended to the atmosphere, washed off by rain, or dropped to the ground with leaf and twig falls. Consequently, vegetation is only a temporary retention site for many atmospheric particles.


Energy Effects on Buildings: Trees reduce building energy use by lowering temperatures and shading buildings during the summer, and blocking winds during rainy season.


When building energy use is lowered, pollutant emissions from power plants are also lowered. While lower pollutant emissions generally improve air quality, lower nitrogen oxide emissions, particularly ground-level emissions, may lead to a local increase in ozone concentrations under certain conditions due to nitrogen oxide scavenging of ozones. The cumulative and interactive effects of trees on meteorology, pollution removal, and VOC and power plant emissions determine the overall impact of trees on air pollution.


These contributions of the trees cannot be underemphasized. There is nothing in the world that can replace them and their functions. I hope SM hears us and respects what Baguio wants.


Oxygen from 182 Trees Help People of Baguio Live By Michael A. Bengwayan

Oxygen from 182 Trees Help People of Baguio Live By Michael A. Bengwayan

Oxygen from 182 Trees Help People of Baguio Live

By Michael A. Bengwayan


Baguio City — Can humans live without oxygen? Can the residents of Baguio do away with oxygen? We are forced to ask this question in view of the impending death of 182 trees at Luneta Hill of Baguio City which are meant to be cut or earth-balled any day now. And we will be answering it because it appears that even with our laws which prevent tree cutting and tree harming, even with so-called responsible “leaders and public servants” who swore to protect the environment, even with growing public anger and public opinion against the harming of the trees, SM is poised to kill the innocent trees. Oxygen, that colorless and odorless gas that makes up 21 per cent of the Earth’s atmosphere is essential for all forms of life, especially for humans. Oxygen is not merely breathed in by humans to live. It is necessary for that metabolic “burning” of foods to produce energy—a process called aerobic metabolism. To reach the body cells, where aerobic metabolism takes place, oxgen in the air is absorbed through the lungs and into the blood where it binds to the haemoglobin in red blood cells. In this form, the oxygen is distributed throughout the body, being released from the haemoglobin and taken up the the cells in areas where the oxygen level is low. It is important for the brain, most especially and the respiratory system. Oxygen flows through body tissues and prevents severe bronchitis or hypoxia (inadequate oxygen in body tissues), poisoning against carbon monoxide and other smog particulate matters that enter the human body. The question now is, does the oxygen released by trees help people, especially those living or staying in the city?. The universal fact that oxygen produced from one tree provides the yearly average oxygen needs for some four to six people is the universal truth. Each of those trees help provide oxygen for people and the most immediate to benefit are the humans living close to the trees.

Those 182 trees help make oxygen. They combine CO2 with H2O to make glucose and release oxygen. Trees need to do gas exchange because they create aerobic cellular respiration (like animals) and they need to get molecular oxygen and to release carbon dioxide. Besides aerobic cellular respiration plants still need to get carbon dioxide to make photosynthesis and to release the molecular oxygen that is the product of this reaction.


How? In the covering of the leaves and of the primary structure of the stem gas exchange is made through the cuticle and pores of the epidermis. In the covering of the secondary structure of the stem of woody plants gas exchange is made through the lenticels of the periderm (small breaches of the cork). The gas exchange in plants is accomplished by simple diffusion.


That the 182 trees help produce the oxygen Baguio people breath is no longer a doubt.


And their importance does not end there. . Oxygen from those trees clean smog particulates from the air before we inhale it. . There are some ten dangerous chemical substances in the air that are cleaned by oxygen.


How do the oxygen help clean up these chemicals? Negative ions from oxygen attach themselves to contaminates and allergens, which are positively-charged. The newly-formed larger particles are then able to fall to the ground, and out of the air we breathe.


Most floating contaminates and allergens are positively charged, and of course, negative ions are negatively charged. In environments where high densities of negative ions exist, they are able to reverse the charge of floating contaminates to a negative charge.


This results in a magnetic attraction among the floating pollutants in the air, causing them to aggregate, or clump together. As a result, they become too heavy to remain floating in the air, and fall harmlessly to the ground, where they cannot find their way into your respiratory tract.


At this point, even if they are inhaled before falling out of the air, these now larger particles are able to be intercepted by the “filters” of the upper respiratory tract, due to their increased size.


Of course, without a continual generation of negative ions, some of these enlarged pollutants can find their way back into the air. That is why continuous fresh oxygen supply from trees and plants is important. to ensure pollutants stay out of the air we breathe. Some studies suggest that negative ions also have a biological effect on bacteria and viruses, killing them on contact in many cases.


I don’t know how much more I should be talking, writing, testifying in court, speaking in public about how these 182 trees at Luneta are helping us. With pupils from elementary schools, and among college students, they know it enough.


It appears that only our elected leaders in the city, with the exception of a few, and some public servants from DENR are not convinced of this. And it is fueling a wrong perception among the minds of SM people that to kill a tree is the best way to make a ecosystem sustainable.


Alas, the evil that people think of.

SM Will Turn Luneta Hill Into a Deadland By Michael A. Bengwayan

SM Will Turn Luneta Hill Into a Deadland By Michael A. Bengwayan

SM Will Turn Luneta  Hill  Into a Deadland

By Michael A. Bengwayan


Luneta Hill in Baguio is a historic site and the only place at the Central Business District that has a pine forest of almost three hundred pine trees old pine trees and other introduced tree species. Its contribution to oxygen production and cleaning smog particulates, carbon sequestration and  groundwater holding capacity cannot be refuted, as well as its importance in preventing floods and mudslides.


But what is happening to the hill? SM is killing it and sooner rather than later, the hill will be a deadland.


Not so many years from now, this is what we will see. The security fences will one day be gone. The immense car parks abandoned. Inside, beyond the barricaded doors, the escalators are warped and decayed into terrifying reptilian shapes;  beneath the caved-in roof among the broken glass and the smashed tiles, eerie ferns and shadow plants have sprouted. What remnants of signage and advertisements haunt the walls; that the entire place is like some gothic fantasy of the end of the world.


That is because, that is how deadmalls will be. Outside, there are no trees, the last chopped down and replaced with concrete to the last inch to accommodate every possible shopper. The air will not be fresh and welcoming but polluted, humidity-inviting and smog-filled.


The death of a mall in the city will be a symbol of something inherently flawed, disturbed and dormant within our generation. A symbol of our ambivalence towards all things political; or maybe a call to action.  A symbol of failed leadership. And citizens obsessed with retail and consumerism.


I and our children were targeted by SM as its first generation  consumers of its  products in pushing the newly globalised world economy. We became a crucial part of that first surge of globalisation; it formed connections and synapses within our child-minds; we had money to spend. In a one stop shop and forgot our local shops that have provided our needs over the years. SM is an example of the myths, propaganda and big money of business hegemony, infiltrating  and taking over Baguio City.


In the years now and to come, the damage that SM will do to shops at a radius of not even 5 kilometers will be tremendous. SM factors the amount of ‘leakage’ they can get from surrounding areas into their development plans. SM is vampiric.


The death of the mall is imminent. Becuase it killed trees and still plan to do so, people will start abandoning the mall. In fact, as I write, I keep getting reports only lowlanders visit the mall, only few Baguioites do. And SM will have to face competition with internet retailers like Amazon that’s forcing malls into closure; But there is something else that will be their undoing, neither is it the recession. It is something endemic to the nature of the unregulated development that spawns malls: market saturation. Vampirism will lead SM out of business.


It will only stop if they stop killing trees now, respect Baguio for what it is and  restructure their urban fabric, as well as respect local history rather than  their concrete global homogeneity.

A Salute to the Benguet Pine Trees (Pinus kesiya) Michael A. Bengwayan

A Salute to the Benguet Pine Trees (Pinus kesiya) Michael A. Bengwayan

A Salute to the Benguet Pine Trees (Pinus kesiya)

Michael A. Bengwayan


Once again, as we face the coming of Christmas, the most memorable holiday in the Christian calendar, the image of pine trees comes vividly in our minds with alacrity. Pine trees are the most popular among all conifers, the most widespread, most varied and most valuable trees of their order. The biggest family of conifers goes by their name, the Pinaceae. basically because of the rare Alpha e-pinene chemical content that tree treasures which is an important hydro-carbon alkane and ingredient for pharmaceuticals and chemical necessities.


The actual genus Pinus, the pines proper, is limited to 100 or so species with certain clear and obvious characteristics, of which the easiest to see and remember is the relatively long evergreen needles (which easily is the one that lures us to cut them for Christmas trees) in tight bundles, each bundle (of from two to five needles, according to species) wrapped at its base in a papery sheath. The yearly growth of each shoot of a pine takes the form of a ‘candle’,  which is a defiance of gravity. Pinus kesiya is endemic in the Cordillera region, a relative of the Khasya pines of the Khasya region in Burma.


Pine trees in the Cordillera region are the standard-bearers of the mountain skyline. But any young child  who has a small young pine tree,  if anything, has even more to enjoy: a vigorous plant at eye level, fantastically rich in its detail, its thick and sappy shoots bristling with bright new needles, embossed with male and female parts of splendidly original and suggestive design, inviting kids to dapple them with candies, paper angels, tinsels and the like.


The natural range of the pines is enormous. If anything they favour rugged conditions from the ecotome of Mount Pulag’s mossy montane forests, to the dipterocarp skyline of Balbalasang, Kalinga, and even the waterless and extremely exposed rocky crevices of Sagada to the clayey subsoils of La Union and a rocky domes high above  where there seems to be no soil at all in Mount Santo Tomas. If pines have a headquarters in our era,  it is in Benguet, whose tropical highlands they seem to relish. With their evolutionary tactics of interbreeding they keep botanists busier there than anywhere else in the province.


Benguet pines, ever proud and conquering, whether blanketed in lush cloaks of vibrant green or stripped naked with only their bare trunks remaining, can reveal their beauty throughout the warmest, wettest or rainiest seasons. Their knowledge of time, history and events is timeless and though science, technology and capitalism seem to have combined to end their reign, they will remain..longer…much longer than what even malls and other tree-cutters can imagine. The pine trees will be here to stay. The tree cutters won’t be.


So the next time you find yourself walking through pine stands, woods or forests, look up. Not many people embrace this view high above our limited ground floor.  An awakening and soul-changing  world is gifted by a simple tilt of the head as you see the sky through a beautifully complicated and tangled web of trees. That give life.

Forest Sentinels, the Kabiteros By Michael A. Bengwayan Ph. D

Forest Sentinels, the Kabiteros By Michael A. Bengwayan Ph. D

Forest Sentinels, the Kabiteros

By Michael A. Bengwayan Ph. D


Was born in a place called Dizon in Baguio City, Philippines where once limestone formations  towered over us and the hills. Some monkeys still swayed on the pine trees, the guppies fat, the crayfish daring, green small turtles abounded and the endangered Philippine mountain turtle could be gathered by the sackfull. .  The forests were thick green nary a sunlight could get in between the pine trees, the bugs squirmed  from their niches to taste sunshine. Now, everything is just a dream. There, there was an old limestone jutting some 20 feet high as I recalled and last week, I went home, lo, a part of that limestone, the forest sentinel of what they now call Buyog watershed, still stands. Or still enduring before it falls down permanently.

The guard is what we called this limestone and afraid that it may be lost forever, I picked up a relatively smaller granite slab that had been lying under the trees  and propped it up beside the old limey.  I set it up on end, sitting it on another rock at the back of the yard. It was an idle gesture toward minimal yard ornamentation.  Sometimes I do this for the stones to give them a fresh outlook, a new view of the world. They lie down for millennia, most of them, sleeping off the evolving years, sinking so slowly into the ground, shedding their skins in fine sand, infinitesimally growing the soil. Sometimes they call out to me themselves, wanting to play, or just wanting help rolling over. Sometimes we build towers and they seem to dance a little. This stone just sat there comfortably upright.

Was this last year or the year before? I don’t remember now. But seasons came and went as this simple stone sat in its silence and its shade under the honeysuckle and hemlock barely noticed. Then the other day I happened to look at it…saw at once that something had changed, saw how the shadows fell across it, how the weathers had colored the rock. I looked again certain it had mysteriously grown a face it never had before.  Before I headed home for La Trinidad,  I gave that stone one more look.  I sat down on the ground between the Mescanthus cheninsis shrubby sticks and really looked almost at eye level with this stone creature.Yes. Indeed. Not only a face but an attitude!

A presence.

This one is full of his own purpose, the weight of his own experience, opinions about the world he oversees.

This one is to be treated with a certain deference and respect, not to be messed with. I’m not at all sure he is happy with what he sees, grumbly as an old troll, his most frequent visitors the lizards that bath on it on full daylight prowl thru brushing their impudent tails across his nose.

One thing I think I know about stones is that some want to be left alone and some are welcoming of human company. Some like to be held in the hand, warmed and admired, told how beautiful they are. Sometimes along creek beds I hear them yapping like small   puppies, “Pick me! Pick me!”. Once many years ago I walked a labyrinth in the high desert of Pune Maharahstra, india that was ringed with stones from the nearby arroyo. After walking the sacred path I sat outside the circle and watched. I began to feel the honor with which these small stones held their holy task as they embraced the circle around the path.

As I watched I felt them shift ever so subtly. I sensed  these were The Grandmothers holding the center. The whole place came alive with Stone People guarding the land and the path the humans walked there. The experience changed my whole relationship with the Stone People.

Once, Kunming, Yunna, China’s magical mountains, where I went  for a vision quest, . I innocently asked why they didn’t reuse the stones there in the pile. An aged village elderly  turned to me and said solemnly “Because we feel they have suffered enough”. In the dark  of the night  we offered prayers of gratitude to the Stone People. We asked their blessings for our work and our own struggles and our suffering in the heat of the lodge. We gave them water from a metal dipper. They sent our prayers to the sky.

So here I am in my quiet northern farm in Tublay , Cordillera region bonding with stone people—people in the past, now called “kabiteros”, makers of the Maligcong rice terraces and the Banaue stairways  to the sky. These are the guardians, Many of my grandparents were them.  Stone People sitting quietly back by the old rusted trees guarding the forests. I’ll make offerings. It seems only fitting.

We are like the rain, falling on our own secret being..through a world of what we never knew before us.