DAVAO-BASED environmentalist, artist, photographer and educator Ricardo N. Obenza Jr. continues a lifelong advocacy for the environment. Now 72, his unique approach centers on developing a personal connection of nature. Ric Obenza uses all available opportunities to educate the people of Davao City about the environment, especially through the experience of planting and tending native trees and getting to appreciate trees nature through art. He says that when a child plants a native tree, as the tree grows, there grows the child’s love for the environment.

At an early age, Ric started painting and photography with natural landscapes as his preferred subjects. After graduating from Holy Cross of Calinan major in Secondary Education in 1973, Ric started teaching art at Calinan National High School in 1975.

Apart from teaching art, Ric was also tasked to supervise student outdoor activities. He volunteered to give art lessons to interested students who joined his tree planting activities. This eventually led to his founding of the Kalinan Landscape Painter Training Initiators (Kalapati) Art Group.

In collaboration with the Philippine Eagle Foundation and the Davao City Water District, he led more than 3,000 volunteers in a massive native tree planting project in the Malagos Watershed in Davao City in 1987 and 1988. He also planted native trees in barngays Lacson and Marahan. These forests are home to numerous native trees, some up to 20 m tall, which now supply him with seeds for more tree planting activities.

To promote the valuing and widespread planting of native trees, Ric has initiated community-based plant nurseries in schools and barangays in Baguio, Calinan, and Marilog districts. He is a frequent facilitator for workshops on the environment where he stresses the interconnectedness of people with nature.

Ric Obenza’s efforts have been recognized both locally and internationally. Prabda Yoon, an Asian Public Intellectuals Fellow, wrote an article on Ric Obenza entitled “You Plant a Seed, You Watched Your Seed Becomes A Tree, You’ve Made Art” in the Wochi Kochi Magazine of the Japan Foundation and called him “a modest, local activist, yet the way he lives and teaches seems to me to be a work of art in itself.” (Eva Marie B. Maboloc and Nina R. Ingle)