Bantay Kalikasan

Back in La Mesa

Althea Cahayag
October 18, 2017

It was a tough walk, with mud covering our shoes in every step. The L300 van we were in was needed to be pushed by some in order to continue the journey to the site. But we all know that the mud, the drops of rain, and all the pushing will be worth it when time comes.

He said the weather was the same back in 2005. It was raining, too, but on other days, fortunately, the sun was up and was giving rays of sunshine to everyone. The only difference was the path he was walking is now surrounded with trees unlike before that the path was denuded, dry soil, and there were informal settlers in the background. He said that was how the La Mesa Nature Reserve’s Forest looked like then.

Lt. Col. Armando Flores, the Group Commander of the Headquarters, Headquarters Service Group, was one of the soldiers who volunteered to help in the rehabilitation of the La Mesa Watershed. Twelve years after, he is back to continue the cause – to continue preserving the watershed by planting trees in the forest. Together with him are his fellow soldiers from Armed Forces of the Philippines - Communication, Electronics Information System Service.

“Way back in 2005, we in the Armed Forces – National Capital Region Command, planted trees along the 40 hectares of this forest. Now, I thought of joining in this tree planting activity again. I invited my fellow soldiers to do the same. This way, they can spread the advocacy and encourage their families and comrades to help preserving this only reservoir in Metro Manila,” he said.

Lt. Col. Flores prepares his first seedling of the day.

Lt. Col. Flores was just one of the 407 volunteers who joined the Bantay Kalikasan’s (BK) tree planting activity in La Mesa Nature Reserve’s forest. A total of 2,400 seedlings were planted. The activity was simultaneously implemented along with other tree planting activities in 10 BK sites – Antipolo, Zambales, Gumaras, Batangas, Palawan, Sarangani, Sorsogon (two sites), Oriental Mindoro, Romblon, and Samar – where 1,974 volunteers participated. A total of 10,943 trees were planted in the 11 sites that day.

First batch of volunteers

First batch of volunteers

Second batch of the participants

Second batch of the participants

September 30 – The Last Day

Save the La Mesa Watershed Project’s Program Operations Head David Azurin said that September 30, the date of the volunteer activity, is very important for the tree planting season.

“The planting season has a timetable. The time to plant trees is only until the end of September for technical reasons. October of the current year to June of the next year is the chance for the seedlings to develop their root system. This way, the root system will be rightly developed when it’s summertime,” he explained.

“This time table is also one of the reasons why we have a high percentage of survival of the trees. We have 93% chance of survival rate in our forest,” Azurin added.

In 2017, Bantay Kalikasan was able to plant 29,600 trees in La Mesa forest alone.

Bantay Kalikasan is celebrating its 20th year in 2018, with the theme ‘Every Filipino, an Earth Warrior’. This volunteer activity is just one way of encouraging and making people realize that even in their own ways, they can help in preserving the environment for future generations.

The rain stopped after the tree planting activity in La Mesa. Everyone was fulfilled despite the long walks and the muddy trail in the afternoon. With their shoes looking dull and dirty, their faces show the opposite. The end of the activity wasn’t a goodbye. It was probably a new beginning. Perhaps, after 10 to 12 years, we can all go back to La Mesa’s forest and say our Hi’s and Hello’s to the seedlings we planted which will then be taller and fully grown Narra and Bignay Kalabaw trees.