WHILE most prefer to live in an urban community than in rural communities, a 75-year-old environmental advocate and artist said he fell in love with nature and would prefer to see tall trees than skyscrapers in his lifetime.
Ricardo Obenza Jr. may look fragile with his age but his passion remains strong and the same from years ago when he started to dream to make a change and contribute in making the world a better place. For him, a tree is a symbol of life. As much as how we cared about life, trees should be treated the same.
More than 40 years ago, Ricardo started a tree planting program that grew into a reforestation movement supported by volunteers, mostly students.
His Agroforestry Project was soon discovered by Interface Development Interventions (Idis), an environmental non-government organization dedicated to the protection and preservation of Davao's watersheds, which organized the annual Lunhaw Awards. He was one of the awardees in 2018 for his effort to regenerate forest diversity in Davao City for the ecological sustainability of coming generations.
“Ang akoa lang gyud i-edukar ang mga tao na importante gyud nag pananum kay nakita gyud nako ang bililhon sa mga kahoy, mga tanom sa atong kinabuhi (What I really wanted is to educate people how important it is to plant trees as I have personally seen the value of trees in our life),” he said.
“I continually plant trees and I wanted people, especially the children to learn the importance of planting. That is also why I am now targeting schools in conducting seminars,” he added.
Ricardo’s quest in life has never been easy, as an environmentalist, as an artist and as a person who once fought to live. Being a teacher, he was constantly exposed to stress from e work demands. After 16 years of his teaching career, he was diagnosed with a heart disease that threatened his life. He fortunately survived but he said that he seemed to lose interest in living anymore when he had to quit his job as he became incapable of doing his normal activities. He went through depression, self-pity and once wished to end his life when he can no longer bear the pain anymore. But looking at his wife and five children, Ricardo said he needed to survive. He still has a dream and so he needs to fight.
Not being able to work again gave him all the luxury of time to plant more trees and continue his initiative. This means more areas to cultivate and more people to encourage caring for the environment.
Ricardo said that his exposure in a rural village when he was young made an impact on his advocacies today. The life in a farm is all about connecting to nature and understanding the need for coexistence of man and nature.
He is currently doing summer activities for students in selected schools where he teaches basic ecology using art as a medium. In this way, more students will be enticed to participate and be part of change.