Forest Builders

Forest Builders


Image by JP Alipio

Trees are the epitomy of life on earth. Over millions of years of evolution of the earth’s different organisms, trees are culmination of life that the randomness of earth’s many creatures, environments, and climate and endless cycles of birth and rebirth have created to be the most perfect creatures of the world. They grow endlessly upward against earth’s gravity, some reaching to enormous heights that the tips of their leaves see a different climate from the roots that nourish them. They feed directly from the earth and harness the power of the sun to create life. They are the homes for many who fly, jump, swoop, and walk through its canopy, from the tiniest of bacteria to the largest of birds they are nature’s megastructures. Why then do we build buildings instead of trees?


Climbing up the steep grassy slope I watched behind me as 4 year old Nadya with her short legs moved up the mountain like a seasoned mountaineer, her eyes searching the landscape, her hands touching the earth, feeling the flowers and the grass, smiling and laughing, while people 5 times her age were sweating their way up the mountain gasping for air faces all red from the sun. She walked with an effortless ease and a lightness that seemed almost like a butterfly flitting from one flower to the next.


We were a group of 24 people. Half of which were kids, which made this trip much more colorful. Muslim, Christian, Atheists, Ibaloi, Kalanguya, Cebuano, Tagalog, Bicolano, it did not matter which religion or what place you came from we were here as friends and respected our diversity. Sitting in camp overlooking the mighty Amburayan river and the mountain ranges of Kapangan and Kibungan I watched as Nadya, Boodi, Sean, and the rest of the little ones run around the grass, I felt completely refreshed even if my hands were now coated in dirt from digging holes all over the mountain.


Image by Elda Olimpo

The first of many to come we had come to make some new cities, we were building megastructures here on the hilltop of Taba-ao. Yet, unlike the steel and cement towers of the metropolis, our architect was nature and the earth itself. The wind and rain would shape the structures as they patiently grow towards the sky, twisting branches and greening the leaves, so that the final structure is never known -the only certainty was that nature knew how and it would be beautiful, unlike anything else each would be a unique creation. The earth providing the minerals to strengthen the infrastructure, and the sun providing all the energy it would need for centuries to come. And unlike the steel and glass –these structures would change with the season and with each passing year, they were dynamic in a way that not even the best architects and engineers in the world could ever hope to build. They stood through time and watched over generations and all we had to do was dig a hole and gently return the seed to the earth, sit back and watch as we built our new city, our forest metropolis.


It took us 3 hours to build the foundations for about 400 new megastructures of our city. As we sat dirty, muddy, and some bloody from leech bites. The rain started to fall, a light drizzle accompanied by the wind, then the clouds parted above the mountain range towards the sun, and the rays of light danced down into our new structures bouncing around the droplets from the sky –water and light and the smells of the earth. The children played and our new structures looked up and started their long journey towards the sky.


The First Padyak para sa Binhi ng Kordi Forest Building Activity in Taba-ao, Kapangan Benguet (July 4-5, 2009)