Precious Pine-A A +A
Tuesday, January 8, 2013
IT SEEMS out of sync with the general living conditions in Tulgao, Tinglayan, Kalinga to hear that a man planted pine trees in his small landholding to “beautify it.”
But he meant it really and not for his sake actually. We visited the small lot where the seedlings were planted some months ago. It is currently planted with pigeonpea, now about to be harvested. Underneath the pigeonpea crop, I saw about 10 pine seedlings growing robustly.
That defies a city guy’s appreciation of a piece of land as property. When the pines grow bigger, most food crops could not survive under their sphere of influence. Pine needles are acidic and many food crops are known to be allelophatic to the substances released by the tree. In botany, allelophaty, refers to the suppression of growth of a plant by a toxin released from a nearby plant of the same or another species. It is one reason why pine trees are eradicated when local folks would utilize the land for farming. It is almost unthinkable to put the aspect of “beautifying” a good piece of land with pine in the rugged terrains of Tulgao above its agricultural purposes.
There are reasons why men do what they do. Unless we can hear them, the sacrificial act of “beautifying” a piece of precious land above its practical utilities could hardly be appreciated or embraced. Beauty too is in the eye of the beholder. We see things differently but we can see the elements of beauty as others see them. What for?
Well, just as no man has a monopoly of knowledge and understanding, no eye in this generation has seen beauty in its completeness. And unless knowledge and visions of beauty are shared by men, we could not perceive what remains of it. The beauty that surrounds us diminishes by the hour without our knowing, alas, beyond our comprehension and comparative appreciation to the “complete-once-existing Edenic whole,” known by our first parents. Our chattering then on the matter is like the clanging of cymbals in the wind that makes no sense.
The physical world is subject to decay and much of life marches towards extinction. Reckoned in time, the stars and radiant light decays too and disappears, more so with the pines in Tulgao that came to the community much later when the Americans brought it to the nearby provinces of Benguet and Mountain Province early in the 1900s.
The old folks there told me about Tulgao’s pristine beginnings – about so many big trees of many kinds and sizes – about wild game and fishes, now all gone. They told me about trees that took too long a time to grow. Some folks are very proud of a narra and other native broad leafs preserved and surviving in their lots. These trees are beautiful, they said, and pine tree?
It turned out pine trees offer lots of advantages to the local folks: It grows and is utilized as timber, fuel (mostly in the olden days) and spreads fast. It has also more useful biomass available to the locals that they can use in a shorter time of waiting while other trees takes decades to grow an inch.
In due time the community folks made rules governing the planting of the trees and how these are utilized. There is a law there that heavily penalizes anyone that causes the death of a tree not in accordance to their customary rules. For instance, under their custom called “lacson,” it will cost a man who causes the burning of a pine stand, two carabaos, a paddy and the replanting of the burned area with the same number of trees destroyed by a man-made forest fire.
We visited some areas of the 30 plus hectares planted by the community with pine supported by the DA-CHARM2 Project. These areas are strategically part of a watershed and the pines were planted in stiff terrains not meant for farming and grazing. Some of the trees are planted as future shade along the trails.
From the reforestation site, we proceeded to the agriculture areas that were terraced and those meant for kaingin situated in the gently rolling portions of the mountains. The kaingin sites were previously planted to different kinds of beans and kadios. These sites are now also being prepared as agro-reforestation areas. They will continue to intercrop their traditional food crops there I am also informed.
As we trekked down to the river, we came to that precious pigeonpea lot now planted with pine as intercrop. It is just beside the hot spring where the community built two pools for locals and visitors to take a bath. “It is hot here, not shaded as it is,” the man said. Bending two pigeonpea plants to expose the newly planted pine, “there, when those trees are grown, they will beautify my lot,” he said. He knows as much as I that he meant more than that. Pine trees are really precious and are not allelophatic to our common interests. I hope it will be that way for as long as the community will uphold their common resources and efforts of conserving, preserving and regenerating them together.
We may be losing our comprehension of the whole lot – I mean that about primal pristine beauty that we hear and read about. We can only appreciate beauty as we continue to sustain and uphold it in our time. It delays the reality of impending decay for this current life. In Tulgao, pine is still as precious as life.
Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on January 08, 2013.