|From Manila, we land on the runway at the Naga airport greeted by thousands of acres of rice fields: we’re home, one would say. In the middle of these verdant views is an old city with roads littered (or glittered) with foliage: trees, much like major cities we see elsewhere, become one of the city’s breathing, polysynthesizing residents sans the imposed taxes.
But that dreamy view was put on halt. There’s a road widening project on the way and the trees—some older than our parents—are in danger.
Environmental groups Sumaro sa Salog (SULOG) and Save651 organized tree-planting activities followed by ribbon-tying and tree-sitting efforts on August 6. Various volunteer groups and individuals have since joined and expressed support for the movement, now dubbed They Grey We Green. There is hope.
The young guns are rising up. Krizzia Esperanza, a Law student, and Kaffeka Library’s John Leir, discuss the things that matter in a terrain such as Naga: Trees.
Krizzia: Did you know about trees in Naga City being sentenced to mass-cutting prior to us joining the They Grey We Green movement?
Leir: I knew there were plans, but I didn’t expect a de-greening of this scale. I thought they were going to cut down one or two trees (not that that’s any better!).
Come to think of it, I remember one of our friends bemoaning the cutting of trees beside the main road in Del Rosario a few years back, so this has been happening for a while now.
K: I also remember that. They cut down this one huge tree and that caused quite a stir. So the indignation regarding the most recent mass-cutting—leaving not a single tree standing along Magsaysay Avenue—shouldn’t really come off as a surprise.
L: The stumps were a horrific sight and it made Magsaysay dull and unbearably hot.
K: An observation I had is that a number of trees that were cut down won’t even be affected by whatever road widening they were cooking up.
L: Exactly. There were trees that were too far from the main road to be considered a hindrance. More than one used to stand on the sidewalks, so unless they wanted to over-expand and deprive the general public of safe walking spaces, chopping them down didn’t make any sense.
K: Anyway… how was your experience being one of the youth volunteers during the ribbon-tying activity last August 6?
L: It was awesome. I’ve always trusted my fellow youth to care about these things, and they did, in spite of our reputation of being generally apathetic.
Our group was assigned to tie green ribbons on a stretch at Concepcion. I got to meet and talk to the people who would be directly affected if the road was cleared of trees, including an old man who would always park his mobile sari-sari store near one of the largest acacias in the area. He told me that the trees provided much-needed respite from the harsh sun, so he was initially against their removal, but he heard on the radio that the local government was only doing it for city-wide progress. I explained that the government don’t always have our best interests in mind, and that progress can be achieved without the dire consequences that would follow after we sacrifice the welfare of our environment. He agreed wholeheartedly.
Collective action and mass movements (such as They Grey We Green) is the best way that we can promote change, because we are able to raise public awareness regarding issues that need ample and immediate attention. Of course, it’s not the only means to—a lot of our problems could have been prevented through proper education within homes and schools.
K: We can also make art. The zine that we made about the fallen trees in Magsaysay Avenue informed people who wouldn’t otherwise realize that an atrocity has been committed. Let’s make art, people. Lots of it!
L: Yes. We can always show our support through art, as long as it doesn’t become a substitute to us actually joining the cause and getting our hands dirty. Quite literally in this case.
K: Then I’m glad I was able to help. I’m looking forward to the day—I hope this isn’t just wishful thinking—when I’ll be able to tell my grandchildren that, hey, I was there when those trees were planted. I was part of the movement that made Naga City a better place.
On August 8, the Regional Trial Court issued a Temporary Environmental Protection Order after Edgardo M. Castro and other representatives of They Grey We Green filed a complaint against the cutting of trees in the city.
The Trees Are Gone And We’d Like To Know Why
The most pressing (and depressing) question the Trees are asking.