One Birthday, 20 Volunteers, 300 Trees: What Trees Teach us About Belonging and Life

CHIVAS.jpg29 July 2017, Laguna Quezon Land Grant (LQLG), Siniloan.  On the 29th of July 2017, Chivas Vinzons Alejo, an alumnus of Development Communication and Broadcasting at the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB), FEED’s first and longest LIVING LEGACY partner.  A friend of one of FEED’s advisors Mar Gatus, Chivas is also one of the initial founders of the UP SIBOL – Service. Integrity. Benevolence. Objectivity. Leadership. The 20 family and friends Chivas gathered also included other UP SIBOL members, who together planted 300 trees to help restore the lost forest* cover on part of the near 10,000 hectare LQLG of UPLB, at the Sierra Madre mountain range – one of the Philippines last remaining old growth forests.

Aside from Chivas celebrating his birthday through tree planting, we also planted 200 in the name of FEED’s ex-Treasurer Cecilia Dinglasan, one of FEED’s incorporators as well as a long time friend of FEED’s President Ophelia Bakker-Mananquil.

On this same day, certified UPLB Forester Reynaldo Lorida who manages more than half of the LQLG, said: “It does not matter what we call it or where it originates, whether it is illegal commercialized logging, timber poaching or charcoal making, forest destruction is something we all have to face, most often triggered by poverty and lack of livelihood opportunities for those who risk their lives for wood and tree derivatives”.

Vanishing Philippine Forests Vanishing Philippine Forests.jpg“The Philippines archipelago was once covered by dense tropical forests. Less than 1% of the former forest is still in a pristine state. Primary forests, left in only tiny patches, still exist in remote mountain regions on Palawan island, Mindoro and Mindanao and in the mountain range in northeastern Luzon called “Sierra Madre.”

The destruction of forests in The Philippines has followed a similar pattern as that of other Southern countries. Part of the forest has been cut down by “kaingineros” (slash-and-burn farmers), but by far most of the forest destruction has been carried out legally by logging companies having close links with Government officials.  

Now even those remaining patches of forest are threatened. The lands of the indigenous -the aboriginal people of the archipelago- is an example of the situation. Until some decades ago, they enjoyed independence as forest dwellers in a still intact rainforest located in the Sierra Madre, along the Pacific coast. But logging companies and others took over their land increasingly, and now many of the indigenous are homeless and menaced by invaders.” (Extract from:

Photo Journal

Thank you to Sir Mar Gatus, Chivas and all the amazing eco-warriors who joined us on this day!

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Hermann Hesse on What Trees Teach Us About Belonging and Life

“When we have learned how to listen to trees, then the brevity and the quickness and the childlike hastiness of our thoughts achieve an incomparable joy.”

I woke up this morning to discover a tiny birch tree rising amidst my city quasi-garden, having overcome unthinkable odds to float its seed over heaps of concrete and glass, and begin a life in a meager oasis of soil. And I thought, my god*, what a miracle. What magic. What a reminder that life does not await permission to be lived.

This little wonder reminded me of a beautiful passage, perhaps one of the most beautiful passages I’ve ever read, from Hermann Hesse’s Bäume: Betrachtungen und Gedichte [Trees: Reflections and Poems] (public library), originally published in 1984, that touches on some of life’s most essential livingness — home and belonging, truth and beauty, happiness. (Source:

Trees are sanctuaries

“For me, trees have always been the most penetrating preachers. I revere them when they live in tribes and families, in forests and groves. And even more I revere them when they stand alone. They are like lonely persons. Not like hermits who have stolen away out of some weakness, but like great, solitary men, like Beethoven and Nietzsche. In their highest boughs the world rustles, their roots rest in infinity; but they do not lose themselves there, they struggle with all the force of their lives for one thing only: to fulfil themselves according to their own laws, to build up their own form, to represent themselves. Nothing is holier, nothing is more exemplary than a beautiful, strong tree. When a tree is cut down and reveals its naked death-wound to the sun, one can read its whole history in the luminous, inscribed disk of its trunk: in the rings of its years, its scars, all the struggle, all the suffering, all the sickness, all the happiness and prosperity stand truly written, the narrow years and the luxurious years, the attacks withstood, the storms endured. And every young farmboy knows that the hardest and noblest wood has the narrowest rings, that high on the mountains and in continuing danger the most indestructible, the strongest, the ideal trees grow.

Trees are sanctuaries. Whoever knows how to speak to them, whoever knows how to listen to them, can learn the truth. They do not preach learning and precepts, they preach, undeterred by particulars, the ancient law of life.

IMG_2965_resultA tree says: A kernel is hidden in me, a spark, a thought, I am life from eternal life. The attempt and the risk that the eternal mother took with me is unique, unique the form and veins of my skin, unique the smallest play of leaves in my branches and the smallest scar on my bark. I was made to form and reveal the eternal in my smallest special detail.

A tree says: My strength is trust. I know nothing about my fathers, I know nothing about the thousand children that every year spring out of me. I live out the secret of my seed to the very end, and I care for nothing else. I trust that God is in me. I trust that my labor is holy. Out of this trust I live….”

Source: Hermann Hesse, Bäume. Betrachtungen und Gedichte

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