Usually, when one thinks of tree planting, he or she would immediately associates it with reforestation in the mountainous regions. However, how would you feel if you were to plant trees not in the mountains but the total opposite; beside a road where cars pass by? This unique tree planting project was headed by an organization called Ateneo Environmental Science Society, also known as AESS. This project was in partnership with Ayala and was open to all Ateneans. Around 50 people joined this project which was held on January 31, 2015. Almost all of the participants were Environmental Science majors with a few exceptions like me. Giulia Go, a non-ES major said “I joined this activity to experience tree planting and also because I can get extra credit for my Environmental Science (natural science).”
How it all started
Participants were divided into 5 groups for there were 5 areas to be covered. The teams were called Lavender, Green, Orange, Pink and Yellow teams. Members were differentiated from one another by the color of the ribbon tied on their right arm. We went there by bus and boarded it at 7:35am. It took 2 and 1/2 hours to reach Daang Hari-Slex Extension Road, the place where the project would be take place.
That dusty road
Daang Hari-Slex Extension Road is an unfinished road. Naturally, it’s not open to public yet. As we reached the site, we saw giant pipes and workers using the bulldozer to move the piles of soil. It was windy with the sun hidden behind the clouds when we went down. It was a wide grassless land with animals and workers going about. A family of goats was walking neatly and farther out, there were a few fat cows leisurely lying down on the dusty ground. I didn’t get to see it but a girl told me that she saw turkeys as well. I could see tall grasses and some trees at a distant. There was a tent with a few people waiting for us under it. We were oriented with the areas that each group is assigned to. The man who oriented us told us that this project will be remembered in the history of the Daang Hari-Slex Extension Road. To officially start off with the work, we all gathered to take a picture.
The chosen tress
The saplings chosen to be planted are dita, kamagong and banaba. These 3 types of trees were chosen for 2 reasons. One, they are native trees. According to Planet.org, it is important to plant local trees because they are most likely to thrive than plants from a different land since they are best adapted to the climate. Second, these trees are also called roadway trees. Their roots do not spread out. Instead, they reach down the soil and anchor tightly so they do not easily breakdown under typhoons or strong winds. In the case of dita, which is the one I planted, windbreaks and is good for soil erosion. We placed 30 saplings of dita into the truck and sent it ahead of us.
Planting: the real work
We reached our assigned area by car. It was really a wide road with a canal at the right and a grassy land to the left. On the grassy land, there were stakes every 10 meters away to act as a mark to where we should plant the tree saplings. The stake was a stick planted on the ground with a yellow ribbon tied to it. We were paired by 2 to speed up the work. Each pair was given one trowel to be used. In theory, it’s simple to plant the sapling. The circumference of the hole must be 3 inches wider than the root ball (roots of the sapling) and the soil should cover until 1 and a half inch of the trunk. But it’s a different story to put that into action. The first soil was quite alright to dig. We dug out rocks and soil, placed the sapling and covered it up, making sure that there were no major air holes on the soil. Air holes/ space can cause the collapse of the tree if not removed. We were so new to this that it almost took us nearly an hour just to finish digging. Manuel Agdeppa, my partner and an ES major said, “This wasn’t the tree planting I had in mind.” But later on, he seemed to enjoy the activity. When we were planting our first sapling, we were protected from the sun thanks to the overgrown bushes. Sadly, this wasn’t the case for the other saplings which were located in an open area.
Obstacles to planting
There were a few obstacles that hindered us from working smoothly. Other parts of the land were as hard as cements that we couldn’t possibly dig the soil. This was solved through the help of the crowbar although it helped us sometime later. While digging, we found unexpected surprises. The informal settlers had thrown their trash anywhere in the land so the soil was mixed with trash such as diapers and plastic wrappers. Also, we found a frog sleeping underground and my partner accidentally stepped on dung. The planting went on until 12 noon.
End of planting
After an abundant lunch, we were given an hour more to finish what we have started. The sun was high and hot and the soil was still hard and rocky but we only had a few trees left at our hands. This time, we received help from one of the workers with the crowbar which made our jobs easier. We were able to finish planting 2 saplings quickly. The planting ended around 3pm with everyone dusty and soiled. As soon as I rode the bus, I fell asleep.
When I came back home, my arm was the color of a half toasted bread. My back neck was quite burnt that it hurt when I scrubbed it. I regretted that I didn’t put enough sun block as I stared at my reddish neck. But when I think about the trees I have planted, I feel proud for what I have achieved. I really agree with Leandro Kintanar, the head of this project, who answered “We take so much from the environment. I just wanted to give back in my own small way.” when he was asked why he chose to head this project. All the participants must feel proud for what they have done on that Saturday.
I might get the chance to pass through the road once it is officially open. And when I do, I can proudly say, “I planted those trees over there!”
– Ji Eun Yeon-