BFF Edcel Perlacio, BS Environmental Science, University of Science and Technology of Southern Philippines
Waking up every day, I remember the sounds of nature during the early mornings — the crowing of roosters, the barking of dogs, and the distant voices of my neighbors conversing with one another. I also remember watching my friends play earlier than the people’s regular waking hours. With the sounds of voices outside the house together with the chirping of birds, everything seems tranquil and in harmony. This has been my life here in Tagoloan, Misamis Oriental, a community full of cherished moments and unforgettable experiences.
Tagoloan is considered an agri-industrialized municipality where plantation forest, rice, tree and vine, pasture, and cultivated crops are suitable for land uses. We also used to cultivate coconut, mango, peanut, rice, banana, and papaya in the agricultural lands. Unlike now, Tagoloan used to be a potential land for flourishing agroeconomic development. But everything changed when human activities go beyond control, and as a result, land areas have become unsuitable for cultivation. Destruction of forest areas is evident, human settlements have expanded, and industrialization has taken root fully in the land.
Reverie of my childhood brought me to the most unforgettable memories of mine during summer. Having spent those days playing games all day — Patintero, Tumbang Preso, Langit-Lupa, any traditional Filipino games, name it, we played it as long as it was enjoyable. My neighbors and friends even created a trend in our “purok” on what games should be played this week and month, alternating those games until we get bored. When there’s no electricity, we like to watch fireflies lighting up the darkness in the night, especially in the trees surrounding us since they mostly cluster there. Some even used to catch at least one firefly and watch it flicker its bottom on the palm of our hands.
During windy days, we go to a small hill somewhere in the place of what we called “tubod” in our dialect and fly kites, enjoying the cool and fresh breeze while watching the sky filled with kites. I always wonder why the air seems fresh and cool, later I realized it was because there are plenty of trees surrounding the hill, where we used to fly kites. And during weekends, we always plan to go to the sea to swim and compete with people who are more skilled in swimming both in racing and in holding each breath under the water. Every time I submerged myself in the water, I always tried to squint my eyes beholding the world under the water despite the sting I felt trying to do so. It has always fascinated me to see schools of fish swimming in the seagrasses which I, for one, tried to catch or at least get a hold of temporarily but failed to do so. A sudden realization struck me — the wonders of nature are truly boundless and mystifying.
“Nature truly is wonderful!” That is what I thought in my ignorant mind under the shell of a small, thin frame. It is a blissful moment only you could experience when you cared for nothing but enjoyment.
I was brought back from relieving the past and realized it is now a decade and a half later.
Strangely, things around changed drastically that caught me off guard. Comparing those scenarios from the one in front of me is worlds apart. Those people who used to play traditional games, now hold phones and are having a bout of cursing while playing games. Be it a child or an adult, everyone seems to be more engrossed in their phones to notice the changes in the environment. These make me more perplexed as things change beyond what I remembered. The surroundings were littered with garbage, chirping birds can no longer be heard of, albeit seldomly, and the fireflies that lit up the lonely night were now extinct. The only thing that revolves around me is technology, and nobody questions those drastic changes as if they are used to this kind of life from now on.
This is the horrible truth behind human civilization’s success and pursuits in life. To continuously innovate and bring forth creations that convenience life, humans damage the environment inevitably.
Now, every time I recall those long-gone moments, I feel a twinge of guilt and hopelessness flooding my heart. Those places filled with memories were now long abandoned; some even are converted to human settlements. Indeed, rapid urbanization brought unimaginable damage to the environment. In our case, the trees were cut and made into furniture, used in constructing houses and even firewoods. Spaces lush with trees were now replaced by houses, while the sea we used to swim in is no longer safe as it’s now turbid and filled with floating debris of plastics and organic wastes, in other words, polluted. The life around me became lifeless and filled with less color than it used to be.
Thereupon, I began to have an inexplicable desire to change the way things are. For that reason, I started to advocate for a clean and green environment, participating in clean-up drives and “pahina” in our community. However, I still feel powerless despite these initiatives of our local barangay that I participated in. It seems there are only little changes observed despite the regular clean-up drives, waste segregation efforts, among others. Despite the efforts made by the LGUs and our barangay officials, I still find things unresolved. We are obligated to put three sacks outside our house for proper waste segregation of biodegradable, non-biodegradable, and recycled materials. However, there are still residents who don’t follow the 3R’s principle of solid waste management and are still being one of the culprits for the increasing waste generated in the community in which, when there are chances of flooding, are being carried away and sometimes clogged the drainages. Of course, there are garbage collections every week, still, problems remain unresolved.
In light of the situation in the reality we face in our community, if we continue this degenerated and unhealthy lifestyle, we might sooner or later lose everything nature has to offer. There will be no clean air, no access to clean water, no food resources, and no trees that would provide a fresh and cool breeze and shading during hot weather. Therefore, anthropogenic activities should be regulated and monitored; rules must be followed, and laws concerning protection and conservation of the natural environment including its natural resources, and ecosystem services must be abided by strictly. This, in return, will allow nature to recover naturally and provide more goods and services to us. Having a sustainable lifestyle such as following the proper waste disposal in accordance with the 3R’s principle, conserving and safeguarding the clean access of water such as the rivers and streams, and other sustainable practices that should be exercised are just a few steps from myriads of best-suited practices in achieving sustainability. Ultimately, this might lead to a big step toward our goal for a sustainable and environment-friendly lifestyle.
Those days in summer were spent blissfully with nature around me, having the company of the birds, trees swaying along with the rhythm of the wind. This is what I’m trying to look forward to when these initiatives cause ripples of inspiration towards youth, making them realize how nature helps us to survive until this very moment. Although trying to achieve success in restoring the beauty of our mother nature in small doable steps is no easy feat, a little still goes a long way. No matter how small those actions are, as long as they uphold those virtues and ideals, we can rekindle our hope in saving our degraded environment. Perhaps, in the future, as we continue these initiatives in restoring and rehabilitating the environment, especially the forests and the water bodies, we might see that our efforts were not in vain and bore fruits of success and will continue to service those from next generations and beyond.
Forest Foundation Philippines, in partnership with Edukasyon.ph, its grantee, implemented the Best Friends of the Forest Movement (#BFFMovement) Online Fellowship Program to support young forest advocates in the country's most critical forest landscapes - Sierra Madre, Palawan, Samar and Leyte, and Bukidnon and Misamis Oriental. Through the program, students were given access to learning resources, mentorship opportunities, and platforms to showcase their passion projects. This published material is a passion project of our Best Friend of the Forest. The views and opinions expressed in this material are those of our Best Friend, and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Forest Foundation Philippines and Edukasyon.ph. Furthermore, both Forest Foundation Philippines and Edukasyon.ph assume no liability or responsibility for any inaccurate or incomplete information presented in this material.