Running and Planting Native Trees

The concept is quite new but it is also timely. Concepts like these are quite attractive to the youth’s ears. Especially that June is declared the Philippine Environment Month and that now, July has arrived to welcome the National Nutrition Month (What a coincidence, help the environment while getting fitness!).

I was supposed to join last year's 1st Run 2 Plant for GREENIN Philippines, but I was helping out spread the word on this through doing Advocacy IEC's (Information, Education - Campaign; and we were even granted participation in the 1st National Biodiversity and Environmental management Conference 2011 in USC-TC) in different Colleges and Universities here in Cebu (See post HERE). With that, this year, I was finally able to prepare and join the event.

Last June 30, 2012, RAFI and its partners implemented the Run 2 Plant 4 GREENIN Philippines (Generation, REdemption, and Expansion of Natural resources INitiatives in the Philippines, of the Ramon Aboitiz Foundation, Inc.) wherein participants from LGUs, NGOs, Private Institutions, and Students from various Universities.

Note: This is my first person perspective and experience shown in photos during the event:
You Shall not pass! That was the 1st thing that happened arriving at around 5am in the morning  and we waited for an hour or so already
The crowd is starting to swell, one can feel that it's starting to turn into a mob; people were frustrated, confused
It was like a scene of a crowd of refugees trying to get into a refugee camp; people who work for RAFI, students, teachers, even some government workers could not enter due to some 'POLICY ISSUES' at the gate
well, we could not really blame manong guard and policeman since they were simply following orders [that the homeowners agreed with the organizers or city government or whatever, that walking is not allowed and that there were designated places for us to ride a shuttle towards the starting point of the run] -people were already restless and were hungry; LET THE HUNGER GAMES BEGIN!
and so people power happened; a crowd of probably around 200-300+ vs. 2 gatekeepers ; a few people took the courage to go in with an entering vehicle and the rest of the crowd followed
and so the tributes have made their move past the gate ~ may the odds be ever in your favor!
About GREENIN Philippines Program:
The GREENIN’ Philippines is anchored on the lessons and insights gained from years of undertaking sound and viable environmental interventions. It is designed to enhance and/or maintain environmental integrity by restoring biodiversity. It seeks to develop, protect, enhance and co-manage denuded forestlands, brushlands and degraded residual natural forests. The program is expected to have more partners that will share its vision of rehabilitating the environment through the use of native trees. Moreover, in the next three to five years, there will be forest patches created throughout the Philippines brought about the initiatives undertaken by its stakeholders and partners.

About Run2Plant:
Run2Plant has been an on-going-yearly Cebu-wide initiative in commemoration of the World Environment day and in celebration of June as the Philippine month for the environment. This is hosted by RAFI’s GREENIN’ Philippines in collaboration with the Cebu Provincial Government and the Department of the Environment and Natural Resources.

We needed to go through Vista Grande in order to arrive at the Planting Site; The 1st leg heading their was done, and we had to run-semi-crawl-hike about 2km or so and it was one of the hellish slopes I had ever done despite being paved-cemented roads (like more than 50 degrees inclination!); I made a quick stop and saw a swimmingpool at the clubhouse
though I didn't sit down, when I rested as I was walking/hiking, I now have encountered the 1st tribute casualties [probably the super excited ones who sprinted on the crazy slopes]; I can't criticize them for sitting since I was also having double vision for a few seconds
Just as you are able to finish a slope, here comes another slope, and another and hey there's more! The almost never-ending stairway to heaven!
Have you heard of the saying 'Piso nalay kulang sa pliti padong sa langit'; yep I was thinking that, there were some crazy slopes and slopped turns wherein you had to like crawl but you were standing
The whole process was a heavy mental as it was a physical test; I had to distract my mind from my aching legs, lungs and chest; I had to savor the views, and not forget to breathe, breathe, breathe! I was even able to randomly sing a song from the late 90's by Sheryl Crow - Winding roads, yes! I boggled my own mind or maybe it was oxygen deprivation
I wanted to do a rocky moment, and scream while jumping for finishing the run..and then it hit me; I need water and it's not yet over, there's still some planting to do - WAAAA
The 5Km run wasn’t easy, although it was supposedly just 3km but due to the incident at the gates, it ended up to be 5Km of slopped hell; let's not forget the added 1-2km of trekking or hiking around the planting site so that would be a total of around 6-7Km. I just had to keep on reminding myself why I was there; getting in touch with nature while exercising the body, the fatigue was revitalized by the beautiful scenery and views in the mountain. Imagine, in just a few hours, at dawn~ I was able to accomplish so many things, joined a fun run while exercising, planted a tree, became a local tourist/explorer, had fun, randomly seeing old friends and met some new ones as well. Participated in an integrated program of an NGO-GO, I was able to contribute in my own small way to my community, and the preservation of nature which is a cultural heritage to generations to come and which is in a way, making/contributing to history!

Long lines in the mountain
Bayanihan in the mountain, or else you will fall - Buddy System
oh my glob you guys, more slopes - seriously, whatever slopes
looks near, wait, it is near but there are cliffs everywhere - planting in slopes and mountains is not easy!
I wish I took more photos of friends I encountered during the event but I was very busy breathing and trying not to kill my sapling and not fall
find or dig a hole - a DOST+DEPED group educated me to bring some personal tools next time-in which I totally agree
okay we are ready to plant - each participant was given 2  plants/saplings
remove the cover-put your plant into the whole and yehey, we are done! (Tools used, some fallen branches + Rock + hands for digging = Caveman mode activate)
that is just plain lazy! NOT LIKE THIS! we climbed and walk the same path with crazy slopes with heavy breaths and wobbly legs!
it's just sad that some students didn't understand or were not properly briefed as to the importance of what they were attending or doing; so let me educate you kiddies below.
The Importance of the Activity:
Normal Tree Planting being done is not enough; we must go beyond tree planting and develop real forests through planting local tree species. Trees are very important in our Water Cycle, but aside from that, it's role in the Biodiversity of the area is also very important. 

We should also be aware that there is a big difference between tree planting and tree growing; just planting a tree doesn’t ensure its survivability. Therefore, we need to do Pre-planting activities, Tree planting and then Post-Planting activities. We need to know that a lot is at stake to ensure that we plant at the right place, at the right time, with the right tree specie. Because most of us who join tree planting activities do not know what we are planting, we might be planting Mahogany seedlings because they’re easy to grow. But even so, Mahogany is an exotic kind of tree and it disrupts the environment. When it thrives, a native tree specie may be out competed and die but bear in mind also that tree is a source of food, shelter to different animal species which may also be affected and be wiped out as well. (Basic Biology + Asking Questions + Own research + common sense =  the above explanation)

These forests, which shall be the future homes of wildlife, shall be carefully protected and managed to ensure a healthy population of the wildlife residing therein. It is also the hope of the Program that the Filipinos will be more assertive and responsive in addressing the important environmental issues that already have greatly affected us all.

oh you thought it was over? getting out of the planting site is another set of obstacles and challenges
we can now relax a bit, let the camwhoring begin
Priceless rewards of nature
assessing physical damage -cuts, scratches; i'm still in one piece and my sketchers running shoes survived the mountain
Fresh air, mountain dirt, early morning sun in your face and friends - it's a beautiful day :)
along the way, there were some who made a picnic in the middle of nowhere - NOW WHY DIDN'T I THINK OF THAT?!
Points of Improvement for the Program (based on experience and observation):
  • As seen on the above photos at the beginning, hopefully there will be proper instructions given as to prevent another 'Hunger Games'-ish incident (for partners and participants alike) - we waited for an hour before the crowd turned into a mob and overpowered the gatekeepers ~luckily no one was hurt.
  • Proper briefing of participants -  a school caravan for the youth will be very helpful and perhaps more biologists who act as eco-tour guides of sorts, perhaps? Because I really looked forward to learning about what the heck I was planting (the name of the tree specie and the like, but I can see that the organizers really had their hands full); because these too are part of our local heritage since most if not a number of our barangays are named after trees (Barangay Talisay, Tisa, Banilad, Argao and so forth)
  • The cover used for the plants was probably plastic, I'm not sure but if it were then hopefully there will be bins or we will know whether or not we should carry them back with us rather than throw it away - LEAVE NO TRACE
  • SAFETYx5 :) (Maybe just an assurance since I saw a number of fainting youth in the mountains)
on the downside, I started to feel my age; on the upside I felt like Gandalf MUHAHAHAHA
getting in was not easy so is getting out - finally found civilization
to my friends who climbed down making your travels a total of 10Km, with my staff in hand, I was fortunate enough to summon a habal2 driver to my aid and ended up zooming down the mountain :P until next time!
Our Physical Health is very much connected or dependent to the health of our environment, a ‘mood swing’ of our climate can immediately cause colds, coughs or the like; we are not just running to be fit but to be aware that our oxygen resource which comes from trees are very valuable.

About a decade ago, there were no watered bottles sold in a massive scale; so just imagine when doing a FUN RUN 50 years from now, we will perhaps be carrying Oxygen Tanks? In the greater scheme of things, we are not technically saving mother earth or doing these for our environment~ that is definitely a misunderstanding in our part; We are doing this to save ourselves, for even if we humans become extinct, nature will always repair or heal itself when our time has passed, so don’t just do it for nature, we owe it to ourselves for we have the capacity to save ourselves.
Running and Planting Native Trees Running and Planting Native Trees Reviewed by Vernon Joseph Go on Monday, July 02, 2012 Rating: 5

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