Saturday, January 21, 2012

For our children

We promised that you will not be late for your taekwondo lessons yesterday, and that we will have that special dinner you’ve been begging for, but first, we had to print some posters and help set-up microphones and speakers for a protest rally.

You first had to join thousands of other people to march down from the top of Session Road to People’s Park at the bottom, holding up the posters we printed that said, “It’s Not About What You’ll Build, It’s About What You’ll Kill!.”

What’s really happening?, you asked. SM City Baguio, where our theatre group performed a few times – a play called “Pepe” that rallied the youth to take a more active part in issues affecting the country; “Sa Saliw ng mga Gangsa,” a concert that featured songs that told the audience about the importance of protecting our natural environment; excerpts from “Jesus Christ Superstar” where the stylized crucifixion scene had Jesus being nailed to a concrete pine tree – and where you guys go for your piano and guitar lessons, remember how amazed you were when you were much younger at how huge the mall was? Well, it’s the biggest commercial centre in Baguio, and they want to make it even bigger!

How are they going to do that when the mall’s surroundings are covered with pine trees? Well, they would have to get rid of those trees, and that’s not good for the environment, for the city – that’s not good for you! Remember your elementary science lessons about trees? How they breathe out oxygen which makes us breathe? Well, three to four of those pine trees can provide our whole family with oxygen to breathe. And all that black smoke coming from cars going up to SM City Baguio? Notice how the people on Session Road would cover their noses to avoid breathing those poisonous fumes? Let’s do some math: a single tree can absorb almost 50 pounds of that poison a year, so all the trees they want to remove from SM, about 180, can absorb 9,000 pounds! Because it’s a gas, it’s very light, so 9,000 pounds is really a lot of carbon! And trees also absorb water and discharge it in the air – that’s why it’s cooler in areas where there are lots of trees. All those 180 trees can absorb more than 60,000 litres of water everyday, and if you remove them, all that water will not be absorbed and can come rushing down from Luneta Hill towards Session Road and Harrison Road and can cause floods. Remember the news about the floods in Mindanao last December? Or how about the landslides that happened in La Trinidad and Tublay a few years ago? That happened because there were not enough trees to absorb the water and hold the land together. What do you think can happen when most of those trees around SM are removed?

And that’s why we have to join all these other people who want to stop SM City Baguio from removing those trees. Some people will tell you that they’re not going to kill the trees, they will “earthball” them, which is basically what I do when I transfer a plant in our garden from a small pot to a bigger one. Except that trees are much bigger, their roots spread out much deeper into the ground and much wider, so digging them out from the roots is not easy, you need those huge backhoes to do that, and if you cut some of those roots while doing so, they will die.

Why do they want to make SM City Baguio even bigger? Some people will tell you that it’s because they want to provide more parking spaces so that our streets will be cleared of cars. That they’re building a “green” building, meaning it’s environment-friendly. Maybe that’s true, but that’s not why they want to make SM bigger. SM exists only because of one thing: to make money. Just like Ate Edith with her store up our road – she may be nice, she may be friendly, once in a while she helps her neighbours and friends, but she put up her store to make money. So SM wants to make their mall bigger simply because they want to earn more money.

The owner of SM City Baguio, kids, is one of the richest people in the world. Remember when we had to borrow money to pay the hospital when one of you got food poisoning from one of the restaurants along Session Road? Henry Sy will not need to borrow money when his kids get sick, in fact, he can pay for the hospitalization of tens of thousands of children like you and he will still be rich. He can buy 10 nice cars and still be rich. He can have an Ipad, a Playstation, a bicycle, an Optimus Prime action figure, a nice pair of soccer cleats, all the Harry Potter books, watch a movie every day, go to the beach every weekend, have hamburgers and pizza any time he wants, give all his children a huge allowance, and buy his own airplane(!) and he will still be rich! So why does he want to earn more money?

Because he’s greedy, and it’s not good to be greedy, kids, remember that.

Oh, and you were wondering last night why some people, some of whom you know are even part of a group that’s supposed to take care of the environment, were there in SM to watch some guy named Sam Milby instead of with us in People’s Park to beg SM and our Congressman and Mayor and councilors to stop the killing of those trees.

Well, maybe they really just don’t care, and always remember that it’s bad not to care.

*my column in the Jan. 22, 2012 issue of Cordillera Today

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