Our ecological center is acting so a city in the Philippines has a future.
Fresh clean water to drink. Healthy clear air to breathe. Some things in life we take for granted. In the northern Philippines, people can’t be so sure.
The northern region of this island chain has the third-largest concentration of tribal peoples in the Philippines. It also has some of the dirtiest air. People in Baguio City, for example, complain of barren mountain ranges that used to be green with pine trees. The air is not the same, either. It’s filled with smog from the construction vehicles you can see all around.
Land developers here are building multitudes of new homes where the indigenous have made do for years.
“I feel quite sad and disappointed that this area…could come to this sorry state,” said Sister Cathy, who grew up in the Philippines. She said the breathtaking vistas are mostly gone. She wonders if people have forgotten “their oneness with the land.”
In the face of this crisis, our ecological sanctuary is a big help. Recently, while cutting down some older trees to rebuild huts at our sanctuary damaged last year by Typhoon Juan, we saved a tree that has been living on our grounds for almost a century. We decided that the ailing environment needs the tree’s natural beauty and other benefits. It’s among the oldest trees in Baguio.
What’s more, the sanctuary will plant more trees this year than we did in previous years, says Sister Cathy, who directs the ecological center. She teaches Filipinos about ways they can save their environment. Schoolchildren go on field trips at the center, and adults take workshops on earth-friendly planting methods.
Before the sanctuary was about to cut down its older trees, “we held a ritual to honor the spirits in the life of the trees. It was solemn, truly respectful of the indwelling of the spirit and a profound recognition of God as the source of all.”