The Re-greening Movement and Baguio’s Classroom in the Forest (first of a series)-A A +A
By Art Tibaldo
Monday, September 23, 2013
IN AUGUST 7, 1991 just a year after a killer earthquake shook Baguio into devastation, a group of amateur and practicing photojournalists documented the city in its state of reconstruction. Again in August 27-28, 1997 when the former American Air Base Camp John Hay was about to be redeveloped into what it is today, a similar project took place following the "a-day-in-a-life" concept of photo documentation. I was there as the lead organizer and I still have many of the photos wanting to be displayed.
In one meeting of the Baguio Regreening Movement (BRM), report presented during one of the regular bared an alarming condition of the Busol forest.
Busol is the source of water to one third of the city's populace and the report disclosed human activities in the area. As a result, the BRM-Committee on Clean Air initiated an activity to drum up support and bring about awareness on the need to protect the watershed.
For about two decades now, I have been attending the regular meetings of the Baguio Regreening and this dates back when I was still connected with the Philippine Information Agency with then Baguio-Benguet Diocese Bishop Ernesto Salgado as its Chair.
Sometime in 1992, Bishop Ernesto Salgado tasked members of the media to draw up an advocacy plan for the protection and conservation of Baguio's remaining forest. Ramon Dacawi, Peppot Ilagan, March Fianza, Nathan Alcantara, myself and few others conceived what is to become a class room in the forest now known as the Eco-Walk. The idea stemmed from a science class program of Rizal Elementary School under Teacher Victoria Candelaria and Dacawi's question to school pupils if they want to see where water from the faucet comes from. A group called "Timpuyog ti Iit" which means bond of the broom later joined and volunteered to be part of the Eco-Walk. The program later bagged numerous recognitions including the most coveted Global 500 of the United Nations Environment Program.
A legacy that Baguio newsmen can truly be proud of is the Eco-Walk program that we conceived in the early nineties as a result of an instruction from Bishop Salgado to help BRM in its advocacy efforts. Aside from planting and taking care of trees in the forest, Eco-Walk is also a walkabout experiential learning and value formation program designed for children where they can relate with nature in the truest sense of the word. Both adult and youth groups from as far as Mindanao and the Visayas has visited the Eco-Walk Forest called Busol Watershed.
Ramon Dacawi, one of the five Baguio newsmen who conceived the program is quoted saying, "We do not only write stories about trees but we also plant them and engage others especially children to learn and benefit from it briefing young schoolers in one of the numerous environmental awareness lectures at the watershed." My daughter Tam Jewel Tibaldo together with Dacawi went to China in 2002 to receive the Global 500 Laureate Award given by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). Tam who was thirteen years old then represented the children of Baguio.
Like many local government units faced with the problem of watershed denudation, Baguio City has risen to the challenge of preserving what is left and planting for the future. With the support of teachers, village leaders, government employees and other stakeholders, the city and the Baguio Re-greening Movement turned to children, media and indigenous culture in a fight to save its major water source - the Busol Watershed.
In a related development, the Cordillera News Agency has also made tie ups with the Maximo T. Kalaw Foundation and Haribon Foundation and formulated a training module on Eco-Warriorship for the National Security Training Program (formerly ROTC).
Few days before the end of October 2006, we sent text messages to a handful newsmen and few Baguio residents with the broken SMS "help drum up d need 2 protect r remaining forest on sat oct28 by takng part in d "24 hrs in busol" pictorial at d watrshed. Com w ur digital or film cameras n shoot wats hapning @ bgo's source of h20. Images of partcpnts wil b posted on a website about busol. Actvty starts w a briefng at the brm eco-walk shed 9am. Pls pass. Art tibaldo". The result was truly awesome and rewarding, a motley group of interested individuals showed up at the said forest and that activity started a chain reaction that led to more encounters of what I refer to as “earth angels and eco-warriors” and several music videos and video coverages were shown on Baguio’s community television programs. Eco-Walk promotes value formation among children and even adults as the key to arresting environmental degradation but we look at ourselves today needing a walking cane catching our breaths whenever we walk that less than a kilometre part leading to the Busol’s lecture shed. How I together with Manong Ramon Dacawi who reports to his City Hall office sometimes in crotches wish that there will be more eco-warriors who can continue what has been started to let others particularly the young experience what it’s like to see where the water from their faucet came from which is definitely not from the roadside pipes.
Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on September 24, 2013.