The gift of trees | Inquirer Opinion
Flea Market of Idea

The gift of trees

/ 05:07 AM January 15, 2018

Sadly, the level of progress in our society is measured by the amount of dead sea organisms plastered all over our communities. The more these dead sea organisms are used and integrated in our houses, public buildings, roads, sidewalks and outdoor spaces, the more our localities are considered prosperous.

The dead sea organisms come in the form of cement, our most common construction material. The essential raw material for cement is limestone, which is a rock formed from the accumulation of the skeletal fragments of shells, corals, algae, amoebae and fecal debris. The more that our towns and cities are covered in cement, the more they are considered epitomes of development.

It is true that cement is an indispensable material for our houses, public buildings and roads, because it provides structural strength in our typhoon-battered archipelago. But when our society’s addiction to cement reaches acute proportions, we need to seriously reassess the kind of communities we have built and are living in.

Our severe addiction to cement is exemplified by large areas in our parks and sidewalks that are devoted to concrete pavements instead of bigger spaces dedicated to trees, shrubs, flower plants and grass. This addiction to cement is likewise noticeable in our municipal and city halls which have surrounding grounds that are largely buried in cement. Even within the lot boundaries of our houses, we entomb our open spaces in cement, thereby preventing plants, trees and grass from ever growing.


We choose to surround ourselves with dead organisms rather than encircle our lives with a thriving environment of living things.

Trees, flower plants and grass are not only living things by themselves. They are also crucial in providing an environment that enables a variety of living creatures to thrive. Enable a tree to grow in your backyard, and birds will be aflutter and chirping in no time. Cultivate shrubs and grass in your surroundings, and bees, butterflies and a diversity of living creatures will flourish to nurture an ecosystem critical to human survival on the planet.

We need to cultivate a culture where propagating trees and plants is encouraged and fostered as part of our habits,
rituals and traditions.

The government’s Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI) has a wonderful program of giving free seedlings to barangays on request. Recently, I visited the BPI seedling area in Malate, Manila, and I saw thousands of foot-high seedlings of langka, duhat, mangga, rambutan, kamias, chico and many other fruit-bearing trees. Our barangays are not aware of the BPI program and are not taking advantage of it. If made aware, barangays can request free seedlings and designate a tree-planting day by distributing the seedlings to residents or planting them along the roads in their communities.


Wedding, baptism and birthday rituals can also be ideal occasions to distribute tree seedlings. Instead of giving away figurine tokens that are almost always eventually thrown away by guests, tree seedlings can be given as gifts. When I got married recently, our thank-you tokens consisted of narra, ylang-ylang, kamias, duhat and langka seedlings, and 500 little trees were happily adopted by guests and will add greenery to the desolately gray skyline of Metro Manila.

We should also adopt the habit of saving the seeds of good fruits that we eat and planting them in cans or plastic bags. When they become seedlings, we can either plant them in our backyards or place them in our front yards with a sign that our neighbors can get them for free. I was a grateful beneficiary of this practice when my friend, Edna Garibay, provided me with 130 ylang-ylang seedlings which she grew from the seeds of one ylang-ylang tree in her backyard.


Let us aspire to have a ratio of at least one tree planted for every resident of our towns and cities. That translates to 14 million trees in Metro Manila alone, and 100 million trees for the whole country.

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TAGS: Flea Market of Ideas, Joel Ruiz Butuyan, trees

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