According to a Chines proverb there are 3 ways to become immortal: Father a son, Plant, a tree, and Write a book. A month before I turned 28 I have taken one step towards immortality, by planting, for the first time in my life, a tree. I joined the much-awaited tree-planting activity of the Presidential Security Group (PSG) on July 31, 2010 at Ipo Watershed Barangay San Mateo, Norzagaray, Bulacan. It was organized by our office, OG7, in support of the Civil-Military Operations’ (CMO) efforts of the PSG. Over 62 PSG personnel signed up to make the climb. Yes, this was not your ordinary tree-planting activity, this one entailed conquering the mountain of Ipo.
Prior to our climb, we received a pep talk from Ms. Julie Mustapha, Community Development Officer IV, Special Concerns Office of the Department of Environment and Natural Resource (DENR). She told us where we will be going and what we should and not be doing. She emphasized the importance of taking out the seedlings from the plastic bag before planting. This is to allow the roots to spread out underneath the soil so it would stand firm on the ground. She also reminded us not to leave the plastic bags about and to put it inside the trash bags that the DENR guides were carrying. We were given big spoons made of bamboo to use as shovels. Moments later we proceeded to make the climb.
The rain that poured early that morning made the mountain’s ground muddy and slippery. The pathways were too narrow we had to walk in one row. I had to hold on to the trees and plants along the way to keep my balance. Soon, our shoes and our hands were all covered in mud. I’ve also never perspired that much in my life, my face was literally dripping with sweat.
I heard the soldiers muttering under their breath, probably wondering what they’ve gotten themselves into. We didn’t stop a beat, nobody seemed to want to. We were all driven by this goal to reach the marked spot.
I hardly had time appreciating the view because I was more focused on maintaining my footing. From time to time I’ve been hearing someone asking “Are we there yet?” or “How far along are we?” Even so, it was fairly obvious everyone was having fun. Even when we all looked and smelled like we could all use a bath, even when our hearts were pumping so loud I swear I could hear it, nobody looked liked they’d rather be anywhere else.
I was the only civilian employee who joined the activity and the soldiers seemed to have found my presence amusing. Some female soldiers told me that they drew inspiration from me. They thought that if I could climb the mountain, they sure as hell could too. So much for motivation eh?
It took us over 30 minutes to reach the spot and when we finally did, everybody started cheering. We found that we no longer need to do some digging, the DENR people had already made holes in the ground. The seedlings were placed beside each hole. I found a spot and for the first time in my life, I’ve planted a tree.
I learned that we planted three kinds of trees; narra, mahogany, and tibig. Following Mrs. Mustapha’s instruction, I carefully tore the plastic bag to reveal the seedling. I lowered it inside the hole and covered it with soil. I never knew that such a simple act can make me feel real good inside. I remember feeling a great sense of accomplishment like I’ve just won a big prize. It was amazing; in our own little way we were able to give back to nature.
About an hour later, after all seedlings had been planted, we made our long way back to the ground. The grounds had become much more slippery that going down presented a bigger challenge. So much so that I eventually lost my balance and found myself sitting on the muddy ground before I even knew what was happening. Now that’s what you call a moment.
Back on the ground we realized we hit two birds with one stone. Not only did we get to plant a tree, we also conquered a mountain. It was an adventure like no other and I’m glad to have been a part of it.