For love of Nature

- Dina Sta. Maria (The Philippine Star) - September 16, 2012 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Every so often we are reminded of the beauty and bounty of the Philippines, of the incredible diversity of species in our terrestrial and marine environments.

Flowers, trees, fishes, mammals, birds... many of them found only in the Philippines, inhabit our forests and our rivers and ocean depths. Strange creatures, beautiful blooms, majestic growths, simple and at the same time complex in structure and function, our world beyond city traffic and urban squalor is a blessed environment indeed.

 Unfortunately, most of us may never get the chance to see these wonders of nature up close.

Recently, three books were launched that enable us to see and get to know – up close through breathtaking photographs and informative texts – many of these wonderful gifts that Nature bestowed on our land.

The golden-crowned flying fox is a rare fruit bat endemic to the Philippines (top left). The Philippine eagle owl, Bubo philipensis, is endemic to the Philippines and found in the forests of Catanduanes, Samar, Bohol and Leyte (top right). A Rafflesia blooms at the Mt. Porras, Sibalom Natural Park (above left). A little boy is dwarfed by the giant Rafflesia schadenbergiana (above). The book that should guide our tree planting efforts (left).

First Gen Corp.’s Generations and Energy Development Corp. (EDC)’s Rafflesia of the Philippines are handsome tomes, the former chronicling the unique environments around First Gen’s various geothermal plant sites all over the country, and the latter a primer on the magnificent but little known Rafflesia, the largest flower in the world.

The third book, Philippine Native Trees 101, a joint project of the Green Convergence for Safe Food, Healthy Environment and Sustainable Economy, the Hortica Filipina Foundation and the BINHI Project of EDC, should guide our tree-planting efforts so that we reforest our land with the trees that God gave us.

Going through these three books is a wonderful adventure. From baby turtles struggling to reach the ocean to towering trees deep in the forest, from birds with showy plumes to a little red flower on the forest floor, what makes the experience even more enriching is that all of these are right here in our country. 

Sadly though, we are also reminded about how fragile our world is, how imperiled our land. We have lost over three-fourths of our original forest cover, many of the flora and creatures endemic to our country are heading toward extinction, and our land and waterways are threatened by pollution and unmitigated development.

It is perhaps with this in mind that the books were launched at an occasion that paid tribute to an extraordinary man, Oscar Lopez, patriarch of the Lopez clan behind First Gen and EDC. Well into his 80s, Lopez has been a lifelong environmentalist, long before the term came into vogue. He admits that “I did once seriously think of going into farming,” and although he went into the family businesses of energy and media, Lopez never stopped pursuing what he calls “my passion... learning as much as I could about trees and other plant life.”

The Philippine warty pig, Sus philippensis, is one of four known wild pig species in the Philippines (above left). The 100-foot Casaroro Falls in Valencia, Negros (left). Old growth forests (above), which dwarf humans who venture into them, need to be preserved, as only about 10 percent of such forest cover remain. Photos by George Tapan

His learning has not stopped, and neither have his efforts towards reforestation, towards protecting the different species and their natural habitats. His guiding principle in successfully running the Lopez businesses fortunately still holds true for his heirs who now steer the companies: “We are stewards of our businesses and our businesses are, in turn, stewards of the environment in which they operate and prosper.”

With these three books, we get to share his continuing passion, albeit vicariously, and in so doing, we hopefully develop a passion for our environment, and nurture a deep and active love of Nature.

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