Haribon Travels: Planting Trees and Community Roots
By Laura Zablit
“We believe that development starts from the family,” Cora Calapine says.
It’s a summer Saturday morning in the farming community of Mount San Cristobal. Calapine, a community organizer with NASSA-Caritas Philippines, wears a shirt that reads “I <3 Organic Vegetables”--except instead of a heart, it’s a tomato. Her husband, Albeniz Calapine, is the president of the San Cristobal Farmer’s Association (SCFA), Haribon Foundation's partner in its newest forest restoration site.
At 4 a.m., 21 Haribon volunteers and staff drove from Quezon City to participate in the first Haribon Travels volunteer trip in 2017 at the tree nursery in San Pablo. Now arrived, they sit under the shade of narra trees while the Calapine family welcomes them.
Their boisterous young grandson, who insists on riding the wheelbarrow full of farming equipment, provides accidental entertainment.
The farming equipment is for the volunteers to achieve their goal for the day: to bag 1,000 tree wildings which will be transplanted at the restoration site as part of Haribon’s ROAD to 2020 movement. Decimated by years of forest extraction, the San Cristobal mountainside is in desperate need of not only reforestation, but “rainforestation”: the rehabilitation of indigenous plant species that are specifically suited to the area’s ecosystem. The SCFA takes part in the rainforestation of more than 42 hectares of depleted forest lands in San Pablo City, Laguna.
Today in San Cristobal, Haribon members get to witness the conservation work firsthand--and have a hand in the work itself. By the time 1,300wildings were replanted, both the SCFA and Haribon communities are covered in dirt, sweat, and smiles.
“There's something so therapeutic about holding dirt and planting,” says Haribon member Rocel Junio.
“It has been an enlightening experience to learn how much Haribon Foundation does to restore our forests,” says Shiel Velarde, another member. The foundation provides the research, resources, and programming to support the SCFA mission, dedicating a whole department to the community’s efforts. Most importantly, however, Haribon engages the community in an individual level, as well.
“They train farming communities to sustain these efforts, and they start with kids,” Velarde continues, referring to the young farmers association managed by Cora Calapine. While San Cristobal farmers dedicate their Wednesdays to rainforestation, their children spend Saturdays for biodiversity education and vegetable planting.
Seedling by seedling, the SCFA and Haribon communities demonstrate a mutual commitment to conserving their shared home. Through the day’s activities--including a visit to Sampaloc Lake, a massive “boodle-fight” feast, Haribon’s Facebook Live debut, bamboo rafting and a refreshing dip at Pandin Lake--the Haribon Foundation proves that environmental work is about more than just planting trees.
“It’s the people,” Velarde declares. “Their energy is simply contagious!”
(Laura Zablit is a Haribon member.)
About Haribon Foundation
Haribon Foundation for the Conservation of Natural Resources, Inc. is a membership organization committed to nature conservation through community empowerment and scientific excellence. Hatched in 1972, it is the pioneer environmental organization in the Philippines. It’s natural and social scientists work with communities and people from all levels governance to promote biodiversity conservation.