Trees in the midst of development
ESSENCE - Ligaya Rabago-Visaya (The Freeman) - May 19, 2017 - 4:00pm

Going to the rural areas, it is for all time a refreshing experience, much more when we start the trip early in the morning. For the entire trip, as much as possible I don't want to fall asleep as it would rob me of the opportunity to savor the morning sea breeze and the calming fresh air swaying the trees as they would, as if kissing the passersby. And if we happen to take a budgeted non-air-conditioned ride, the trees provide the shade, reducing the sun's excruciating heat.

The scene, however, has an end to give way to development. Human development always has its costs. There are always consequences if we go for development. The benefit of one could lead to the disadvantage of the other.

There are just areas where development is taking place too rapidly. And such presence of trees is seen as a challenge for development to come to fruition. And let's accept, no matter how we want trees to remain in our midst, they are being treated as the collateral damage of development.

Culturally and socially, why do we need to value our trees? Trees carry a deep, subconscious adoration and abiding respect shown to few other living creatures. Trees hold a different place in the human mind than most other living things. To many, trees are a foundation concept in dealing with the rest of the natural world and our own lives.

We name communities, streets, places, children, and pets after trees. We knock on wood, have valuable tree-centered folk tales, and are surrounded with tree and forest symbols. In some cultural presentations, trees play a central and magical symbolism. The symbolisms are grounded on the rich cultural and social experiences of certain communities. We are made of, and respond as, the cultural and personal history of our pasts. Few humans have travelled far from the woods.

Forests may have been avoided, seldom entered, and never lived within, but for the young, old, infirm, and those that could escape, the forest was a refuge. It truly is a place for solitude and soul-searching, away from the maddening metropolis. The forest remains today a refuge and last bastion to hunter-gathers and naturalistic cultures. And for those, for many years, have struggled in areas where insurgencies thrive, continue to take refuge in the forest. Forests have housed many humans fleeing from other humans, natural disasters, epidemics, and unexpected events.

In small ways, tree planting in schools has always been explored as component of a community extension program. There is a need to instill in the minds of young people the value of ascertaining that the future generation can still relish a quality environment. Planting seedlings in the mangrove is a common activity to maintain breeding grounds for fishes. On a long-term basis, such undertaking would provide food and livelihood for the locals.

Century-old trees will soon be removed to pave the way for economic and social development. I just hope that one day, the lovely words of Joyce Kilmer about trees would still be in the hearts and minds: A tree that looks at God all day/ And lifts her leafy arms to pray/ A tree that may in Summer wear/ A nest of robins in her hair/ Upon whose bosom snow has lain/ Who intimately lives with rain.

ligayarabago@yahoo.com.

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