I stand for the trees-A A +A
Wednesday, February 13, 2013
BAGUIO is my home and I am proud to call myself a Baguio girl. The pine-scented air, cool temperature, and abundant flora in the mountains are part of my memories from growing up. I remember how the sunflowers and dandelions tickled a child’s heart. I remember how Baguio made people from different social classes and nationality fall in love with its breathtaking splendor. For some time, these were enough. That is, until people had a taste of so-called development.
It is heartbreaking how all of these are becoming just mere used-to-be’s… nothing but fragments of our memories. As swift as the way a pine needle falls to the ground, the Baguio I grew up in -- the one I have always known and loved—has changed with the times. Buildings have been mushrooming in every corner, replacing the once lash greeneries with nothing but rectangles and squares. The green mountains were repainted with blacks and browns, to give way for “improvements.”
The issue regarding the earth-balling of 182 pine trees atop Luneta Hill to make way for SM’s expansion has rooted itself in the minds of citizens and the world of the media. It incurred the wrath of the people while some remained mum on the issue. People took the streets and the court -- all in the name of saving the trees. It has been amazing how the protests have served as an equalizer. No one was too young or too old, too rich or too poor. It didn’t matter what religion you practiced (or did not practice) or whether you were straight or gay. What brought them together was the need to stand for something they love and treasure: the trees.
I was one of those people. I was one of those who boldly stood against the expansion project, maybe for a little while. Things tumbled even after the rally. Some pine trees were chopped off one cold night of February 2012. Amidst the confusion that came to people when they knew about this, one thing is definite: that the administration of SM did not hear the shouts of the people. I lost hope after this. I thought that nothing would change even if the signature campaigns and the rallies will continue. I thought that the outcome of this cannot be re-written anymore and that the echoes of the people’s hope will soon die. So much for being a proud Baguio girl.
I was wrong. The fact that SM won on grounds of legal technicality does not silence the voice of the people of Baguio. The protests continued—just as strong and loud as the ones that came before them. They braved the barricades of policemen. The fiery passion still burned in the eyes of the people. Hope was sustained. I realized that convictions do not die just because circumstances do not favor the cause that we are fighting for. Just as they were unceasingly standing for the trees, something made me believe again.
On January 23, a protest commemorating this unshakable resolve was launched by different sectoral groups in Baguio. It has been a year yet the resounding voice has been as loud, as hopeful, and as vibrant as it was when it all began.
Their resounding voices would make one wonder -- what really is it about the trees that make them worth fighting for? Perhaps it takes one to fall in love with the once-upon-a-time Baguio to be able to fully comprehend why hope never wavers. Nothing compares to the serenity that comes from being surrounded by trees—the calm and relaxation that comes from the symbiotic relationship between the trees and humans.
But even that feeling now seems to be fleeting. Who could have thought that such a gift would become elusive? The picture I now see from my window when I wake up is full of buildings, buildings and more buildings. Industrialization was aimed to propel the condition of the city. Yet it is ironic how something viewed as a good thing is inevitably killing my beloved Baguio. It has led the way to the contradicting faces of development and destruction. When did this begin to happen? Probably when greed entered the picture, when a bite was not enough and people wanted to have something bigger and better. Just like the story of SM’s expansion project—bigger, better, more jobs, higher income. But to what expense? The Baguio I’ve loved is crumbling to ashes.
I stand for the trees because they have been a part of the memoirs I carry. I stand for myself, for the Baguio that is a part of who I am. I fight for the past, present and future. Not a threat or a series of unfortunate events shall again silence the resolve deeply engraved in me. I hope for the day when eyes will open and people are set free from the fangs of greed and indifference, when people would care about themselves less and think of the environment more, when people will learn to treasure life over the law or any other possession. As I wait for that day to come, I’ll continue to stand for the trees. (Gloria Diane Rivera)
Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on February 13, 2013.