SO it is the 114th Charter Day anniversary of my beloved city. It is where we raised our family that I feel indebted to for having a family of achievers, arts enthusiasts, science wizards, and environment activists.
Baguio has helped mold young minds into responsible citizens and for that I cannot thank her enough.
We have been hoarding narra seeds and germinants since the onset of typhoon Egay, which coincided with this year’s narra seed fall in Lingayen. My brother and I braved strong winds and intermittent rains to gather seeds and we had as much as our hearts could contain. We had to collect everything we laid our hands on, lest these would be dumped into a garbage pit and eventually burned. So we had more than two (2) sackfuls of wet narra and siar seeds.
My brother brought a third of these to Daang Kalikasan, where native tree enthusiasts distributed them to nurseries and individuals. Another third landed in Baguio last week and the rest found its way to Baguio again, in time for it’s anniversary celebration.
I heard of the seed exchange and we were happy to learn that the seeds would go to groups and organizations involved in the regreening of Baguio.
It will be an understatement to say that we are happy to have contributed to this year’s pakulo to make our city greener and safer. We have been advocating for the resurgence of native trees without saying that we do not like to see the exotic African Tulips towering over our resident pine trees, alumit and atibanglad. We rarely see our national tree narra, and if we do, most of us do not even realize that it is narra. Among those that make me a proud Baguio resident is the most beautiful tree in the world, bagras, a Philippine native eucalyptus deglupta. I found one giant bagras, with its colorful bark along Harrison Road and another in the vicinity of the Pink Sisters and the International School. Happy that my daughters casually pass by these trees among the dwindling population of Benguet pine, claimed to be an endemic species.
Some five to seven years ago, I was defending a tree from being cut, mistakenly identifying the fast-growing tree as a wildling of the native tagumbaw. It turned out to be a wildling of the exotic African Tulips, which I did not know then that it does more harm than good to the environment. My advocacy for the environment was then that shallow: save the trees, no matter what. Plant trees. Period. Reuse, reduce, recycle in the case of plastic and glass products and everything else in the way of the Ayyew.
I have matured a lot more and my advocacy for the environment has grown manifold and has deepened several fathoms more. If before we were planting our food, now we are still planting, but we make sure that we harvest safe food for the family pantry.
We now understand that native plants and trees nurture every living creature in the locality. If the narra tree blooms, native bees will have food. If narra roots reach he subsoil the tree fixes available nitrogen for plants. If these reach the aquifer, the tree moisturizes the topsoil by drawing underground water above ground during the dry season.
Did I not learn that several decades ago? I have forgotten, but as we continue planting a food forest, I tend to unlearn and relearn. I realize now that by planting native species of plants, vines and trees, we are actually nurturing the animal kingdom. We provide food for native species of birds, bees and other insects and living creatures, which in turn affect the production of more plants for food.
Roots of native trees go deep into the ground, serving as anchors. These develop as windbreakers resilient to storms. Their branches do not just break, instead these dance with the wind. That is why we do not see a fallen narra as we see acacia break during storms. This is also why we see twisted small trees on both rocks and sand. Their roots hold soil and prevent erosion.
It is not common to all trees. It must be native trees for protecting our land from the onslaught of flash floods and strong winds. So next time I plant another tree, I keep in mind the native birds, bees, dragonflies and many more. I am helping plant a food forest so I make it a point that each tree has something to do with producing safe food for all, not just for our family but also for my neighbors.
By the way, my family includes two cats, four dogs, a duck, four roosters and several hens and chicks. Now I wish to include every little creature that depends on the micro-organisms and enzymes of tree roots; all flying and crawling insects and worms that feed on nectars, tree tops; and those that feed on decaying bark. Knowing that my family is growing, the more that I strive to make food sources available for all who depend on my forest.