Of all the trees that I have known, none has more character and spunk than that old Dao tree in front of the UPLB Student Union (SU) building. I remember my first encounter with it in my freshman year; I had to stop to touch its tall, powerful roots. Staring at its monolithic trunk toward its outstretched branches, I said to myself, “Now this is a tree.”
That Dao (Drocontomelon dao) was a silent witness to my late nights putting the school paper to bed, my early morning drinking sprees, my rushing to classes, my flirtations and tribulations on that campus.
Condemned to die by cutting years later in June 2005, the Dao became a rallying point for tree lovers, environmentalists and generations of activists like me who all used to hang out at the SU. The majestic tree was a symbol of our determined struggles. The community felt it was unfair that the 100-year-old tree was to become collateral damage for the school administration’s tree-cutting shenanigans. The protest it generated was so loud that the Dao’s fate even reached the halls of the Senate, where an inquiry was conducted.
It turned out the predictions about her leaning, allegedly hollowed, bacteria-infected trunk were wrong. That Dao managed to withstand killer storms “Milenyo,” “Frank,” “Santi,” “Ondoy” and “Pedring” even as younger and supposedly healthier and stronger trunks gave way. In 2008, that Dao was declared one of 11 “heritage trees” in UPLB as part of University of the Philippine’s centennial celebrations.
That’s a tree’s “in your face” way of telling its detractors “I am a tree and I’m going to outlive you all.”
To this day, the Dao tree stands tall, leaning dangerously but definitely still proud and strong.
This is one tree that will live forever, like the protracted struggles of our youth.