A MANIFESTO TO SAVE TREES
……… michael a. bengwayan
To our fellow Filipino Sisters and Brothers,
All trees are key to survival. Trees do not only provide life for the people who breath fresh oxygen and by cleaning air of carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, sulfuric oxide and other persistent greenhouse gasses (GHG) but also continue to ensure water supply, prevent soil erosion and lessen excessive water run-off.
This is exactly what 133 Benguet pine (Pinus kesiya) pine and alnus (Alnus japonica) trees are doing at Luneta Hill, Session Road, Baguio City. Forty nine ((49) have earlier been earth-balled and/or cut by SM leading to their deaths.
Luneta Hill and its trees, is not only of ecological and cultural but also of historic importance and value to Baguio City and its people. The place is where the first ever sanitarium was built and American historical accounts point out that patients in the early 1900s miraculously have recovered faster from their ailments because of the trees and fresh air that the place provided.
Without the fresh air and the pine trees, Baguio City cannot be what it is known for—the City of Pines.
The older trees at Luneta Hill, some now more than a hundred years old, were planted by the Ibalois–early people of Baguio City (earlier known as Kafagway). Then the managers of then proud Pines Hotel added more trees in the late 1940s. The trees have stood tall, proud, and have given more than we ever wanted.
But today, SM wants to cut and earth-ball the trees to put up a seven storey parking lot, even though it cannot produce a title to claim ownership of the land.
We appeal to all Baguio residents, people who were born, studied, who at one time or another lived here, and those who love trees and Baguio City, to protest against the intended and shameful act by SM.
The trees came before us. They are our history and our future. Let us not take them for granted. Our culture is rich with trees, woods and brave people who have resisted outsiders who wanted to quell our independence and culture. Let us not allow the trees to die. It would be a shame for us to leave a world to our children much worse than what we have inherited.
The importance of trees to the health of the earth and its local and symbolic value has been apparent for millennia in many cultures, including ours.
We urgently need to tell SM to find new ways of living happily with trees as cultural, spiritual and emotional companions, as well as for ecological reasons.
Let us work for the protection of the trees at Luneta Hill and of all trees in Baguio City.
Trees stand for life and everything that has life is sacred. Trees stand for tomorrow’s nature. We shall stand or fall with them.
Stand up and speak out for the trees. God would want you to do so.
——michael a. bengwayan, cordillera ecological center, Philippines January 15, 2013