Thursday, March 10, 2011


There is something about Diliman that keeps me returning.  It is not the academic upheavals, or rubbing elbows with the demi-gods. The sublime attraction goes beyond fame or intellect, and rests at the belly of one human need we tend to overlook these days - trees.

Growing up at  the heart of Manila, where every spot of earth spawns the construction of  apartment buildings, I was robbed the joys of running under a foliage of evergreens at a young age. Sure, there was a dense shrubbery across the house - a place we used to call gubat-gubatan.  We had a great time picking Yellow Bells and use its milky sap as Elmer's glue substitute, or tapping the old Karmay tree with a long stick for its sour berries.  I even had a chance to pull out the filaments of Santan flowers and taste their sweet juices, and run towards the house after being chased by the octogenarian landlady when seeing her garden being trampled.

These were some of the fading memories kids like Baby Lenin might never get to enjoy.  At least we had more trees back then - in schools, in little patches of open spaces, along the sidewalks and at the middle of four-lane boulevards.  But the more we embrace our dreams of progress: behemoth malls that swallow up everything, stick-like skyscrapers competing for the attention of clouds,  concrete open grounds where anecdotes of human failures glare everyday, and farms transformed to poor-man's subdivisions, the less we tend to see our lives ahead. Death hastens with each tree fallen to the ground and it's a sad and tragic tale that we only get to realize our fault when the city gets deluded by torrents of mud water. 

The landlady across our old house passed away and in less than a year, her garden, the gubat-gubatan we knew was no more.  Trees were fallen and converted to firewood, the scorched earth was dug and Gabi tubules planted in places where Santan flowers once bloomed. They too disappeared after being consumed by the jobless house tenants. The anguish of seeing my patch of paradise senselessly destroyed (a fact I denied when it was still around) would haunt me for years that in Grade Six, I commandeered every available space outside the house and turn it into my own garden. Opposition had won over, unfortunately. I was bribed by anime and Sonic the Hedgehog.

Many years later, my heart still weeps when I see wooden trunks abandoned on streets. I still regret doing nothing - not even a eulogy - when the centuries-old Balete trees in Balara were cut down to give way for the Katipunan expansion.

Seeing  tree saplings planted in pot-sized concrete blocks - to make it appear the local government is doing something for the planet leaves me befuddled.  The same goes for the declaration of a total log ban just when green advocates are being gunned down at the frontiers.

For these reasons,  I try to keep the memory of gubat-gubatan alive, as a fitting reminder of what we have lost, and hopefully we could find again. Same goes for this odd behavior of feeling the bark of old trees - and treating them like esteemed grandparents, when I get to find one while walking down the streets.  Finally, there's this vision - of a watershed enclosing the city:  A time, when the hills of Sierra Madre are covered with trees again and the streams flow with clear water everytime it rains.  

I still live in dreams.

And each time I hear news that make these dreams closer to reality, I never hesitate to embrace what is left of the memory.

MANILA, Philippines—Weeks after ordering restrictions on commercial logging to help prevent flooding caused by severe deforestation, President Aquino has ordered students and government employees to plant 1.5 billion trees on 1.5 million hectares of public domain under a national greening program.

Under Executive Order No. 26, President Aquino required students identified by the Department of Education and Commission on Higher Education and all government employees to each plant at least ten seedlings a year.

To be covered by the greening program are forestlands, mangrove and protected areas, ancestral domains, civil and military reservations, urban areas under the greening plan of the LGU’s, inactive and abandoned mine sites; and other suitable lands.

“Part of the plan also seeks to integrate the various tree-planting initiatives such as the upland development program, Luntiang Pilipinas (Green Philippines) and similar activities of the government and the private sector,” Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said in a statement.

 - Philippine Daily Inquirer.


Seriously Funny said...

Naalala ko tuloy yung kabataan ko when you mentioned Yellowbell sap as glue and the sweet juice of the Santan flower. Hahaha!

april said...

The photo had me, coincidentally I used the same picture in my first ever blog post. Though it's not about trees, but flying.

I still go to UP 2 years after graduation, just to hang around in Sunken Garden :)

Pyro Phoenix said...

fortunately for me, i lived in the less urban areas since childhood. up to now, there's an abundance of trees and other green things around our home. even though villages and subdivisions kept on sprouting nearby, the trees remain.

maybe that's the disadvantage of you guys living in metro manila. :) good to know noynoy's doing something though. :D

Spiral Prince said...

I, too, share your love for nature's green. I thought what little lawn littered with plants we had when we lived in an apartment in Caloocan when I was young was already big, but when we moved to Bohol, I realized how little it was. It really does make a difference when you grow surrounded by trees. Some of the people I know can't relate to stories from my childhood where I played with friends under the trees and on them. It makes me appreciate my 'exposure' to nature all the more:)

Mark Lester S. Cayabyab said...

My brother and I planted two coconut saplings at our new home when we moved to Antipolo. One didn't survive. The other lived on for more than 15 years to become a silent witness to our lives. Two years ago, mama had it cut due to complaints from neighbor next door. The tree stood so close to the expanded portion of their house. It's painful to see growing needs for space made our coconut tree a victim.

Anonymous said...

i remember nung bata pa ako, we used to eat the fruit of the aratilis tree. that tree was no more nung tinayo yung bahay na katabi namin ngayon.

a few blocks away from our house, may bahay na tinatayo. at nung nadaan ako one time, yung punong malago na dati ay nandun, ngayon ay wala na.

nanghihinayang ako sa mga punong pinutol.


Anonymous said...

One of the many reasons why I travel everyday Bulacan to Metro.
People ask and often accuse me of punishing myself for doing so. But what they don't know is that their missing a lot which you can't find here in the metropolis.
The calm breeze, huge ageing trees and blissfull view of rice fields^^

-Désolé Boy

Nimmy said...

yummy ang filaments of Santan! ubos ang tanim ng mamang ko sa akin nung bata ako. hihi

same reason ni DB. umuuwi ako sa Bulacan para marelax ang mata and lungs ko. :D

Mu[g]en said...


Honga ang tamis tamis. Tapos kapag may paruparo sa paligid, ituturo natin na yun ang may dalihan. Lol.


It's been a while since I've been to farms. Buti ka, meron kang mauuwian na luntian pa. Ako, yung paligid ng office ang nagsisilbing gubat para sa akin. Hehehe.


Matagal na rin akong hindi nakakatikim ng bunga ng aratilis. Wala na rin ako nakikita sa daan.

Mu[g]en said...


I totally agree. Why do the tress have to suffer when men needs more breathing space. What if the tables suddenly turn (Trees violently tearing down houses for its roots to grow)


You are fortunate. I have no real memory of playing under a big tree. Growing up in the city instilled fear of the farm critters (frogs, snakes, monitor lizards) while being used to cockroaches and rats.


Ang pinaka namimiss ko lagi yung amoy ng tuyong dahon na sinusunog. Whenever it gets to whiff under my nose, talagang napapangiti ako.

Mu[g]en said...


Seldom do I get to hang out in Sunken, but the trees there are amazing. Welcome to my blog!


I'm sure mas marami ka pang experience kesa sa amin. Hehehe.

Marhk said...

ay parang di ko na naabutan ang mga yan? lolzzzz

Spiral Prince said...

you should try living in a town! :D you'll get used to the frogs, snakes, and monitor lizards(and chickens, and cows, and grasshoppers, and dragonflies!). Have you seen the portrayal of children catching dragonflies in a wide green land on an afternoon? Those things are really, really enjoyable! it's still not too late to try, you know ;)

Seriously Funny said...

Mugen: Mas maraming experiences ba kamo? And what was that supposed to mean??? Hahaha! Just kidding. I am 38 and proud of it. Hehehe!

Reading the blog and the comments posted made me think of the backyard of our home in Cavite. We had a few trees there. May santol, chico, guyabano, atis, papaya, at aratilis. A regular fruit medley, if I may say so. Hehehe. Nagkabit pa kami ng duyan between the santol and chico trees. My brother and I would rush to get to the duyan first. And, I loved climbing that santol tree to pick the sweet fruits.

Sigh! Alas, a lot of the trees are gone now. The aratilis was toppled by a storm in the 90s. The atis died of a mysterious disease in the 80s. Recently, the papaya and guyabano trees were chopped off when we had to relocate the deep well pump. Half of the back yard was topped off with cement.

Buti na lang at andun pa rin yung santol at chico. But it's not the same. Sigh!

Mark Lester S. Cayabyab said...

I was grossly horrified to see our campus in grade school last summer. Gone are the wide open spaces, those cute plant boxes, those huge mango trees and firetrees, pati na yung plot na pinagtaniman namin ng labanos for our Home Economics class. There must be a better way to meet the demands of a growing school population. I have seen other public schools around Rizal and the metro suffer from this kind of fate. Since the trees have been cut, ipina-drawing na lang sa mga bata sa dingding ng school and wala na sa campus.