I am writing today a letter of deep disappointment and anger to our parish priest. I am giving myself until Wednesday to personally deliver it to the parish office. Why?
I was on my way to the church for some afternoon silence. Weekdays for me are better than Sundays for silence – everything appears ordinary in motion and stillness, including the line of Indian trees that greet one right at the entrance gate.
But not this afternoon of January 2, 2012 because my “plan for peace” turned into bewilderment and protest. 12 Indian Trees (Polyalthia longifolia) averaging 40 feet were toppled mercilessly to the ground to give way to the parish project of a covered walkway and expansion of parking lot to accommodate more motorbikes. I asked one of the cutters how long have those trees been around. He said 16 years ago since his relocation in the area, the trees had been in their current height. And those paid cutters were cutting the Indian trees matter-of-factly, disrespectful in the way they exchanged jokes, the absence of a sense of loss and delicadeza as dull as the rusty bolos they used in butchering those trees. What a bland, pathetic scene to stay on, the compulsive sense of human control – repulsive.
Rev. Fr. G.B, SDB
Parish Priest – MHC National Shrine
Dear Fr. G,
I am writing you to express my deep disappointment and anger over what to me was a very pathetic scene to watch on the afternoon of January 2, 2012, around 3pm: the cutting of 12 Indian trees in view of implementing the parish plan of putting up a covered walkway and expansion of the parking lot. Since this happened on a Monday, after the usual overflow of Sundays and understandably, when church personnel including resident priests are on a day-off, except for the paid cutters and half-a-dozen youth chasing each other at the “flag area,” not too many actually had witnessed the killing of those trees.
I heard you preached yesterday, January 1, 2012, during the 6:30pm mass about how God is using the recent flashflood in Mindanao as a reminder of our negligence of our responsibility to the environment; that God is using the tragedy to cleanse us. I am fine with the rhetoric. But if the matter-of-factly cutting of 12 Indian trees can take place right in the churchyard, then, I don’t know what message the Parish Pastoral Council is transmitting to the parishioners, to the city dwellers in general? In view of the flashflood in Mindanao where the cutting of trees in the existing dying forest was considered one of its human causes, I found the killing of those 12 Indian trees grossly unethical and one that sets a horrible example of environmental shortsightedness and arrogance for the sake of human convenience. Should living trees always give way to steel and concrete structures, to covered walkway and parking lot? We walk for 15 minutes to get to church and we don’t really mind being rained on sometimes with our umbrella. I don’t believe a lot of people are complaining about being rained on. To my hunch, I guess, it’s primarily about parish beautification that I have always been familiar with. People are highly capable of walking and self-sacrifice.
What added to the already lamentable scene was nobody seems to grieve over those trees’ forced death. Soon, they will be dumped somewhere, forgotten. What a display of human arrogance when people can grieve for their dead parrots or infants but not for 20-year old living trees. I hope their fellow 7 remaining Indian trees, though seemingly proudly standing, out-wise us human beings in their grief.
I don’t patronize too often because doing good is our basic call. But I appreciate the way those 4 narra trees were cordoned, even if with concrete rather than cut for the Devotion Garden project. How I wish these could have been done with the Indian trees. I also appreciate by the way how the parish is spearheading the collection of plastic sachets to convert them into concrete pavers. But then, I continue to wish that greater sensitivity is also extended to our existing city trees. They have life and they are so much a part of the gasping ecosystem in the city.