With a scheduled business seminar canceled and my mom’s yes, I head to Victory Liner Cubao to get a 4am ticket ride to Baguio City. I barely have five hours to prepare and to sleep but nothing’s getting in my way. I search for my backpack that’s been stored at the attic for three long years and start to pack.
It’s the beginning of the application period for aspiring members of the UP Baguio Mountaineers (UPBM) and I’m joining their first level training Climb. The climb is supposed to be easy, light and relaxed, but not for me, unfortunately. It’s been three years since my last climb.
Together with alumni members, we start to hike at around 5pm. It’s a cold and foggy afternoon. As I welcome myself back to the mountains, my heart races that I have to stop several times to catch my breath. Not so far away, I can smell smoke. I have to hold my breath as we walk through that already bald portion of the forest with pine trees burned down, some must be already old and some have just grown. You can see how thick (or thin) they’re trunks are (were). This may be too much a reaction but it’s heartbreaking to see. By nightfall, we reach the campsite in time for dinner. We pitch our tents, prepare our food, eat and do the traditional socials. From afar, we can hear chainsaws and we know what’s happening. This goes on until the wee hours of the morning.
At 9am we are set to pack up and get back to the city. The sun’s heat makes the steep ascent more difficult for me. I feel nauseous. I have to stop for about ten minutes just so I would not pass out. From where I sit, I have a view of the city.
Years back, you won’t get to see this. Pine trees block the view. We can do without the view. Even with eyes closed, we know that it must be beautiful to see the city from the mountains. But not with the trees gone.
In the first half of 2011, news about illegal logging and deforestation in this mountain forest surfaced. Mt. Sto. Tomas in Tuba, Benguet is in danger of massive deforestation. See news here.Probably, many letters have been written addressed to the city, provincial and national government officials concerned but apparently there is no effective action taken.
I don’t know how long it takes for a pine tree, or any tree for that matter, to grow, but obviously, many of them have been here long before we are born. They were here first. I like the comment of a certain James MacKinnon, whose house, built around a tree, was featured here, which says, “[the tree] has more right to be here than me”. The same goes for all of us.
I won’t say that I am an environmentalist but I know I care. My love for nature is not enough to save the trees, but I hope my little effort to write about their story would get somewhere.