The adventures of an amateur tree planter
First I had better introduce myself: I am Joy Mahinay a graduate of Bachelor of Arts in Communication. I joined James Doran-Webb and the 80,000 Trees team four months ago. My job is not only to assist James with the management of the project but more importantly to write about it. 80,000 Trees is an exciting plan, our aim is to plant 50 hectares of rainforest on denuded land over the next five years.
My focus over the first 4 months has been to locate Tindalo tree seedlings. This threatened indigenous hardwood tree flowers sometimes as little as once in 10 years, usually deep in the forest, which makes it very hard to find. After many false leads, imagine my excitement when I found a lady called Vilma who lives on the neighbouring island of Leyte who claimed to have Tindalo seedlings for sale.
Despite the threat of an incoming typhoon and with no knowledge of either the place or the people, I knew I had to meet her. I hastily packed some overnight things into my backpack and headed for the ferry, destination Baybay, Leyte. I’d heard that it was a tourist friendly destination – Good! A little concerned about an impending typhoon, I boarded the boat. At 8:30 we set sail from the Port away from the fading lights of Cebu on its seven hour journey. I have to admit I felt lonely and nervous.
I planned to stay at the Visayas State University where tourists can always find a bed less then 20 minutes from the ferry terminal and with the help of a guard it was quite easy to find a mini-bus to take me there. I arrived at the campus at 4am. The dark tree lined street and the rather ancient decrepit buildings gave me a very eerie feeling. I hastily searched out a rather sleepy guard who informed me the dormitories would not open until 6am. After two hours of waiting to be checked in, I was itching to leave my bags and meet my contact.
Kuya Mario, the dormitory supervisor arrived to tell me Vilma Estrada and her husband, were looking for me. I decided to rent their motorcycle and head off to a nearby village, where they said I might be able to find my tindalo seedlings.
My first meeting was with Antonio Fernandez, a retired Forest guard who started a small nursery after his retirement. This was to be my lucky day, not only was he willing to provide me with seedlings, he also gave me tons of advice on how to take care of them.
Just one hundred meters further on, we arrived at our second destination – a larger nursery run by a “People’s Organisation” (an organisation set-up by the government made up of local citizens to manage forestry resources).I was met by the president, Mario Sabando and some of his staff. What a find! As a parting gift I was presented not only with some precious Tindalo seedlings but also some Almon seedlings – yet another species of tree for out 80,000 Tree Project!the nursery and introduced and some of his staff. He gave me a fascinating tour of me to yet rarer seedling specimens.
My work was not over yet. I had to take the seedlings to the CENRO (Community Environment and Natural Resources Office) office to obtain a permit enabling me to take my treasure trove back to Cebu.
As we had a three hour wait for our licences to be issued I decided it would be fun to drive around the local town of Baybay. Baybay is home to a State University called Visayas State University, specialising and renowned for forestry and agricultural courses with affiliations throughout the world. The 1,000 hectare campus dominates the charming and scenic town, which is sandwiched between the dramatic Mount Pangasugan on one side and the beautiful Camotes Sea on the other. I noticed many old wooden antique houses, Spanish in origin, nestling amongst the tree-lined avenues. Vilma and her husband also drove me to a rocky stretch along Mount Pangasugan River which is the major source of potable water for the town which passes behind and above the campus. What a scenic and untouched place!
During my sight-seeing excursion I was lucky enough to meet Dr. Marlito Bande, head of the Ecology department at the university. He gave me so much information for which I am very grateful. He has also offered to give our 80,000 Tree team a day-long training at some point in the near future.
What a fantastic trip, an adventure and thoroughly worthwhile!