eK! is electronic Kabalen, a web-exclusive Kapampangan journal of ideas

cecile s. yumul
cecile s yumul LAST WEEK, on my way to Mabalacat, trying very hard to understand the logic behind the price for a more progressive community that entailed the death of the landmark acacia trees along the highway, I cried. As I was seated in front beside the jeepney driver, I was gritting my teeth and cursing under my breath as the transport weaved ever so slowly beside the mangled, mutilated, sawed off trunks, limbs of the old acacia trees. It felt like multiple rape; it looked as if mother earth's bowels turned upside down, her brawny legs spread-eagle, as she let out a soundless scream to heaven: Why?

In July 2003, an initial move to "kill" the acacia and camatchile trees in Mabiga was stopped. The late Ody Fabian and other advocates from the local papers followed through with a series of dialogues and protests. I was able to record most of the dialogues for the K(apaligiran) segment of my radio program over 792 khz AM. In our first formal dialogue with DPWH, I quoted in my presentation R. Ehrlich (writing in 1949): "There is one thing of which you can be absolutely certain: If things go on as they are, one day, the sun will rise on a world without trees. That day is sooner than you think."

What we value and protect, not only for ourselves but for the children, reveal our true nature and the values we live by.

Take the air we breathe. Wherever we are at a given time–in school, at a hospital, in resettlement sites, in subdivisions, at business establishments (all heavily populated areas)–we benefit from the enormous volume of oxygen given off by trees. Next think of the upsurge in the amount of carbon monoxide detected everywhere nowadays. Think further about the effect of the degradation of the air, the water supply as well, on the habitat of birds and insects, and underground creatures that all play a part in the essential biological chain from which we draw our means of survival.

From the original 27 acacia trees surveyed in the area in 2003, the number (along with other tree species introduced since) rose to 71. In March 2005, an environmental compliance certificate for a proposed road-widening project along the Mabiga-Camatchile stretch of MacArthur Highway in Mabalacat was issued. Subsequently, certifications of no objection for the cutting of trees affected by the project of DPWH were issued by the barangay chairmen of Mabiga, on November 16, 2006, and Camatchile, on November 16, 2006.

The affected trees by the road-widening would be 71 forest and fruitbearing trees with 22 cms diameter at breast height (dbh) and above, with a total volume of 48.294 cu.m. By DENR conditions subject to existing forestry laws, rules and regulations, only the identified/inventoried 71 various tree species were to be cut. Prior to the conduct of tree-cutting, the DPWH was tasked to first replace the ill-fated trees with mahogany or narra seedlings not less than 5 feet numbering 2,810 delivered to the DENR Regional nursery.

To the ordinary folk daily commuting through Mabiga, the unheard question remains: How do you compensate for the life-sustaining and balancing oxygen derived from the 71 trees removed from the vicinity?

The air we breathe daily cannot be substituted immediately no matter how many seedlings are turned over to the DENR nursery. The vicinity where the 71 trees were eliminated is plied constantly by thousands of carbon monoxide-emitting cars, trucks, buses, jeepneys, tricycles, and other vehicle types. Within and around the area a carbon monoxide-laden air floats freely that is breathed by residents (many are children), commuters, and motorists. Remember that 71 trees there have once long served as natural screen and absorbers of volumes of daily vehicular poison gases spewed compounding upon human exhalation.

I have learned that on an average day it takes 10 trees to produce oxygen to burn 3.7 liters of gasoline. A single half-century old tree in the urban area is estimated to be worth over 1.5 million pesos. Any grade school student who knows his math can calculate the millions of pesos the 71 trees are worth. How do we reckon in peso terms the decimation of 71 trees in ratio to the impact on the environment or the loss of a landmark and a cultural heritage?

Now that the summer heat is upon us, imagine what it will be like to drive or commute on that cherished, once tree-lined, stretch of MacArthur Highway without a single roadside tree. We may find out in real-time sooner than we can blink.

[About the author. Cecile Santos Yumul is a veteran award winning Broadcast Journalist, a visionary teacher (Most Outstanding Teacher of the Philipines in 1992), a nationalist (Most Outstanding Kapampangan for Education in 1993), an environmentalist, and a dedicated daughter. She has over 35 years experience in the field of arts as an actor, director, and author. She is a published writer (Woman's Magazine) of essays, poems, short stories, and social commentaries. She currently resides in Lakandula, Mabalacat, Pampanga with her Mother, 18 dogs, doves, and bonsais.]

-Posted: 1:12 AM 3/12/07 | More of this author on eK!

Anthony Emmanuel G. Tulabut (of Mabalacat, Pampanga, Philippines) writes...

I feel bad too seeing those felled trees... not to boast but if my memory serves me right, some of those trees were planted by us– then students of local high schools– in the 80's.

My dad, frail and weak now at 80, did a good job collecting seedlings then as he served as councilor (and the late mayor halili's pointman in tree planting and beautification activities).

I vividly remember him dropping off those seedlings from a trailer connected to his jeep to kilometric-long lines of students one sunday morning for a tree-planting activity... the rest was history— now sad history.

-Posted/Via Email: 12 Jun 2007

The author Cecile S Yumul replies...

You are right in saying it's now sad history, Mr. Tulabut. We must stand on guard because there are still many acacia trees lining up MacArthur Hiway which are imperiled in the near future under the same claim, in the name of progress and road expansion to accomodate traffic influx.

I stand by the same argument in 2003 before the municipal council of Mabalacat, DPWH, and DENR forresters assigned to dialogue regarding the removal of the acacia trees. Whose progress, whose most immediate concern and benefit are we fighting for? We have every road we need, the only thing lacking to move towards an environment-friendly progressive town is POLITICAL WILL.

In the last voters' education and election forum produced by Infomax 8 and Comelec, which was participated in by candidates from the provincial to municipal level, particularly the mayoralty of San Fernando City, point blank, I asked candidates, Rey Aquino and Oca Rodriguez regarding the acacia trees along the Telabastagan-Sindalan stretch.

Ironically, Dr. Rey Aquino answered that he will have to to agree with the removal of the acacia trees to give way to road expansion in the future. Mayor Oca Rodriguez, on the other hand, said that being a poet and a sentimental individual, for as long as he is mayor, those acacia trees will not be touched because whenever he passes through the acacia lined road, his soul is moved. His solution to the projected incoming traffic brought about by thriving economy in Pampanga is to open new alternative roads, thereby opening new business and opportunities to other barangays too.

However, tragic is the story of Mabalacat residents, particularly the surrounding barangays and schools in the area who will be inhaling unfiltered carbon dioxide. The question now is where the rain water deposit will go once the old trees are removed. These acacia trees have been water reservior for many decades in the long spell of the summer season. Now more than ever, with the increasing population and decreasing number of natural water receptors to hold water underground, we have to preserve what we have in existence because once gone, we lose more than just the trees.

As evidenced this summer season, where the acacia trees have been removed, the scorching heat was noticeably unbearable along the stretch of Mabiga and Camatchiles, whereas, immediately after, the temperature suddenly cools down upon reaching the remaining stretch where the acacia trees were spared. To further illustrate the immediate environmental impact of the 71 trees removed in the vicinity, we now experience having to pass through an instant river in the middle of the highway which was never there before.

The students, administration and parents teachers association of St. Mary Help of Christian School, have stated it clearly, " HINDI KA BA NATATAKOT, WALA NG PUNO?"

-Posted/Via Email: Mon, 1 Oct 2007 21:07:39 -0700

Nora Rodvold (CA. USA) writes...

Mabiga without the acacia trees along the road will not be the same place. Trees are major assets in Mabiga. It provides great benefits such as making Mabiga beautiful, shades, homes for other living things, etc. We should advocate to keeping acacia trees alive for our future generations that will benefit from them.

-Posted/Via Email: 8:59 AM 7/6/09

Jojo Due (Pampanga, Philippines) writes...

From what I heard, Mabiga is just one area being cleared. Trees have been felled along the same highway near the vicinity of Sindalan. what a pity.

-Posted/Via Email: 8:59 AM 7/6/09

Wency Marin (Marketing consultant, DJ, Philippines)...

keng kwento na nitang pengaring lalaki kayabe ne ing ingkung ku makakalesa lang daralan mc arthur manibatan capas hanggang san luis atsu nala deng tanaman aren, ikwa na ng tatang at ayasawane ing pengaring babae atsu la metua nakung makanini atsu la pamurin... you can always work with nature...uling ing gyera ampong nanu mang kalaseng panahon eno... apatuag... nanu mo ing karapatan mu ikang didinan dang malinis a hanging papingasnawan at mayang a pakiramdam. elamo mangilabut at mangalambut man keng gagawan da?makarine la neh.

-Posted/Via Email: 8:59 AM 7/6/09

Manolo Gatbonton (Virginia, USA) writes...

It's really sad to see those trees goes down in the name of so called progress. Lobbying against clearing those Trees is like fighting an uphill battle, lalo na nung deng politico me sway la in favor of the project. Never mind nung nano man ing maging environmental effect, ing isipan damu ing lumualas ing dalan. Kapilan tamu kaya mabiasa?

-Posted/Via Email: 8:59 AM 7/6/09

Joseph Yumul (CA, USA) writes...

That is so true. What happened to that program called Tree Planting? I remember those times that we need to plant a tree in place of the old ones.

-Posted/Via Email: 8:59 AM 7/6/09

The author Cecile S. Yumul replies...

Jo, what is more tragic, is a group na staunch supporter sana king ela milako ding dane telabastagan, as of last year dindam ku from the lips of the leader mismu, mebisa na la at payagan dana ing pangalako da ring tanaman!

Haay, ka Ody, nu ka man, mas malauak ing agua mu kanian, edaka akakit, ila akakit mula ding mangatrsura balak. I remember... tang balamu sumpa, nung makananu dlang katayan at pamututan ding mangatuang tanaman mangakaian ing maliari karing taung mumutus at pakamalan da king bie nung atin man.

-Posted/Via Email: 8:59 AM 7/6/09

Angeline Morales (Ventura, California, USA) writes...

ika mimang makadayu...penandaman mi ing kaplas na ning aldo kabang tungal tungal dalang pamututan ding tanamang acaciang mamye salilung kareng mata ampo kareng tau.elapaman siguru mibayit deng taung migdisiyun keng pamamutut,atsunala keng Mc Arthur highway deng tanamang acacia...o nanu't bigla dang aisipan ing lapastangan dala..karakal da dapat pamututan....deng sagu at iki da ring magmamagaling a pulitiko na ala namang agagawang kayapan kareng memalen...aliwa reng acacia ing dapat dang ilako nunge ing kabulukan keng gubyernu tamu bang ikaming madayu,ing kaburyan ming muling pasibayu,e milako keng salu at kaisipan mi.

-Posted/Via Email: 8:59 AM 7/13/09

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