In order for the Pilipinas ECOwarriors to get to Rizal, Laguna, I had arranged for a bus that could fit around 50 people. Meeting place was at Robinsons Galleria at 530am. Unfortunately that morning, the rain was pouring extremely hard!! But despite that, our volunteers braved the rain and continued on to make it to the meeting point. I really have to salute the dedication and commitment of our volunteers for continuing on and not going back to their cozy beds to enjoy the holiday.
From the base, we had to hike for another 10 minutes through the steep slopes of the hill to get to the gathering point. I have to admit that it was really tiring, not to mention that I am in pretty good shape. There, we were met by hundreds of youth supporters, educators and local government officials who were waiting for us in order for them to begin the program. Fellow ECOwarrior Doc Nielsen Donato and I shared a few words with the people. The view was spectacular! You could see the Laguna from the top as well as its various lakes!
After the short program, we proceeded to plant trees at the other side of the hill. Without us knowing, we had to go back down the hill and walk up to another hill where the site of the tree planting was. Wow! This was a super longgg 30 minute walk through steep, rocky & muddy slopes. Volunteers were exhausted! Some were cramping up in their legs and in their abdomen, I guess partly because of the heat & humidity.
Led by the city mayor, we finally reached the tree planting site. They had prepared 1000 mahogany seedlings to be planted along the sides of the road that led to the “Landing Point”. They were pretty organized, all we had to do was to remove the pre-grown seedlings from the black wrap, dig a hole, plant the seedling in that hole and replace it with soil.
Due to time constraints, I estimate that we planted around 400 trees. Then, since we were close to the "Landing Point", we walked further up a bit to check what it was all about.
The "Landing Point" is a plateau where there used to be an airstrip in the 1940s during World War 2. This was the location where American soldiers would drop off food, ammunition and arms to the Filipino guerrillas to aid them in fighting the Japanese who took over the city. Today, the airstrip does not exist anymore. You can see the breathtaking view of Tayak Hill & Laguna from the Landing point!
Upon reaching down the hill, we had to make sure that no one was left behind as we were split into smaller groups because not everyone could make it to the top. We did a quick headcount and road our jeepneys back to the city. Man! Were we starving and thirsty!! Immediately, we took the bus and proceeded to San Pablo where a very late lunch was waiting for us in GREENWICH, Ultimart! It was my first time in Ultimart, I thought I was in Makati for a while.
We were stuffed with chicken, pasta & the best pizza, my personal favorite is the 7-cheese pizza! YUM!!! Our group practically took up the entire store, which was 2 floors. The staff was extremely accommodating and service was excellent! Thank you once again to Greenwich for making the experience complete!!
After our quick lunch at around 3pm, we headed back to Manila. I rode on a van with Doc Nielsen and our ECOwarrior team while the volunteers took the bus. By 4:30pm, I was in Makati and went on to play an Inter-village basketball game. After the game, I got word that the bus had broken down in the highway and they had transferred to another bus that was taking them back to Manila. I got worried for a bit, until I was told that everyone in the bus was okay. In fact, they were having fun playing games inside the bus. This amazed me! Instead of complaining & bitching about the situation (they were up by as early as 430am and had trekked for about 6 kilometers under the heat), our very selfless ECOwarriors utilized the time to bond and get to know each other more by playing games! Mind you, most of them just met each other that day.
Overall, I think it was a very fruitful, educational and fun experience!! You could see it in the faces of our volunteers! Not only were they able to visit a historical site, but they had done a great deed for mother nature as well :) This is what ECOwarriors is all about. We are not just planting trees for mother earth, but more than that, we are planting seeds in the minds of our young volunteers to love and protect our only planet for future generations to come!
P.S. It's not too late to be an ECOwarrior.