Written and photographed
by Jude Bautista
The devastation of Ondoy and Habagat recently made us all feel helpless. But with the simple act of tree planting we are able to at least directly affect the cause of floods for the long term. Trees are the best way to absorb carbon dioxide emissions, which they say is the great cause of global warming. The effects of global warming are the increased number of typhoons and prolonged droughts each year.
Trees also absorb water in mountainous areas during the rainy season and help supply water to wells and dams during the dry season. That’s why Rolinda Uy of Batch 89 thought of organizing the St Peter the Apostle School Alumni Association (SPASAA) for a tree planting activity at La Mesa Nature Reserve. It became a family activity for some last August. Former SPASAA Pres. Mark Yuching and wife Janilyn brought the whole family and made it into a great learning experience. Youngest daughter Janine, planted 5 trees and was asking to plant more.
The La Mesa Watershed was the perfect venue to bring kids. On weekends it’s barely an hour’s drive from the metro. The terrain is easy to walk on. The nominal fee includes a short talk, equipment like trowels and seedlings to groups of various sizes. Foresters explain the process of reforestation and even add how fertilizers are made through vermicomposting; the process where biodegradable material is decomposed with worms.
Forester and Supervisor Abelardo Amadol said that during the Marcos era in 1976-86, the Manila Seedling Bank contributed a lot in preserving a lot of plant and tree species that would otherwise have been lost. These same seeds were used to repopulate the reserve. According to him before the Bantay Kalikasan project, the total plant species in the area were confined to only 8: Acacia Auriculiformis, Acacia mangium, Gmelina arborea, Mahogany (Sweitenia macrophylla), African Tulip (Saptodia Campanoulata), Eucalyptus and Teak (Tictona grandis). Today there are 82 different species planted in the La Mesa Forest Nature Reserve with an over all survival rate of 92.5%. He is proud of the fact that this is the first reforestation in the country to plant that number of Philippine plant species.
How and when La Mesa Watershed Park was started
An exhibit of photos and information are also part of the facility. To quote a short history of the project: “Illegal settlers used to occupy wide tracts of land. There were vast hillside clearings due to slash and burn farming activities causing denuded forests, threatened wild life, and soil erosion.
Both Government agencies and private institutions were alarmed because the source of water for over 12 million residents of Metro manila was in peril. The scenario might further worsen because it is the transit point of water coming from three watersheds, namely Umiray, Angat and Ipo.
In June 1999, Bantay Kalikasan of ABS CBN Foundation Inc. was quick to undertake the reforestation program of the 2,700 hectares La Mesa Watershed Area, the last forest of its size in Metro Manila.”
The Watershed Today
After years of tree planting by volunteers, non-government organizations and schools, the watershed has now gained large forest cover that contributes to the well being of the La Mesa Dam and more: “With the rehabilitation of the project La Mesa is now considered the “Carbon sink” as it absorbs 3% of the total carbon emissions of Metro Manila. The La Mesa Forest acts as a sponge for trapping water. In addition the watershed is also a living laboratory for field biology and ecology students and researchers. The project now serves as a model of a successful government-private partnership.
“With the absence of threats posed by the illegal settlers, more wildlife could now be seen at La Mesa. Water quality has also significantly improved with less dissolves materials and less organic matter present in it.”
Another SPASAA alum Peter Go brought his wife Imee and teen kids Joshua and Ahsley. They found out that planting trees is a great way to bond. If you’re single (like me), you can get together with old schoolmates and make them your family. Tree planting is a great activity you can do together benefitting not just your community but also the whole world and even succeeding generations.