Trees are nothing but wonderful to us. They produce oxygen, clean the air, give us shade, protect us from floods, and provide a home to the birds. But seriously, they cannot talk. They won’t tell us if people are hurting them and here in the Philippines, it’s not a crime to cut even age-old trees. Because they can’t talk back, I speak for the trees. And I am glad that I stood up for the trees along Narra Avenue because Covid-19 happened and we were locked down in our homes. If we didn’t have trees, what a gray, polluted, and depressing time it could have been!
Proposal to Remove the Center Islands and Trees on Narra Avenue
I have lived along Narra Avenue ever since I got married, which is more than 13 years ago. But the center islands around Shopping had been here far longer than that. When the downtown area was razed by fire decades ago, the Capitol Shopping Center was eventually developed by former Mayor Alfredo Montelibano, Sr. This is where the Chinese businessmen relocated their businesses and homes.
Roads are wide and the center islands were in place to help direct the flow of traffic and also to beautify the area. It is refreshing to see the branches swaying with the wind while it also felt good crossing the streets because of the verdant trees.
Late last year, our little portion of the road at Narra Avenue, Shopping, Bacolod City was on the spotlight when city officials penned a resolution to remove the center islands. The rationale was that, the removal would ease the flow of traffic in the area. The resolution was passed up to the third reading awaiting the mayor’s signature.
Thankfully, it was broadcasted and news reached us before the city resolution was implemented.
A Citizen’s Plea
At first I made a post on Facebook detailing the advantages of having the center islands and the trees. Additionally, the islands are not the cause of traffic but the double parking and the illegal fixtures of some establishments that are already reaching the road.
The Capitol Shopping Center is a commercial area, so naturally, there are many vehicles plying here throughout the day. But even with the diagonal parking in front of all the stores, there are still a total of four lanes available for motorists.
So it’s not the fault of the center islands nor the trees. There is just a lack of proper implementation of traffic rules around here. Moreover, I also think that it is the lack of discipline that causes the chaotic flow around here.
I Speak for the Trees: An Online Petition
In order to gain more traction, I launched a petition on Charge.org where almost 70,000 people signed.
I argued that the center islands do not cause traffic jams and removing them will not solve the traffic problem in the area. Instead, the islands and trees:
- – Prevent accidents
- – Prevent traffic because of counter flow
- – Provide beauty in the area
- – Provide a refreshing sight
- – Cleans and cools the air in the area
- – Diminishes air pollution as oxygen is produced
- – Provide space to keep the street lights safe
News outlets covered it so the issue became relevant to the citizens of Bacolod. It was no longer just limited to Narra Avenue. More people also became aware of the removal of trees and were encouraged to have a Greener Bacolod. Even Bacolodnons who lived around the country and abroad made their voices heard through the petition.
If you can remember, it is my ongoing campaign for many years now for More Plants and Trees in Bacolod. So I am very happy that people have become more aware of the benefits that plants and trees give us. It is no longer just urban development and economic progress—people became conscious that there is a need to protect the environment while progress is taking place.
Thankfully, the campaign to preserve the center islands of Narra Avenue, even Tindalo Street and Hilado Street, reached our government officials.
The Bacolod City Council listened and one city councilor personally called me on the phone to reassure me that Mayor Bing Leonardia listens to the people. He did not approve the removal of the center islands around the Capitol Shopping Center so the trees were preserved.
We acted just in time.
Additionally, I just want to mention that Vice Mayor El Cid Familiaran has a campaign with the same goal—to use vacant lots to plant more trees. It is similar to Arbor Day, requiring scholars of the city to plant trees. If this will continue, we would have a much greener Bacolod with fresher air and less flooding!
- Related: Basura = Baha sa Bacolod
And I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone who helped me in that petition. Those who, liked, share, and signed the petition–thank you very much!
Our Quarantine Story
Then Covid-19 happened and the government was forced to declare a city-wide lockdown. It was called the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) and it went down all over the Philippines. That was a necessary measure in order to slow down the spread of the virus as well as help the medical institutions to cope with the pandemic.
Businesses were closed and the Capitol Shopping Center was a ghost town. We were not even allowed to go out of our front doors. Most of us here in the Shopping area are Chinese families with businesses. While this is a commercial area with establishments out front, we also live here because our buildings were designed that way. These are mixed use buildings for commercial and residential purposes. After all, Mayor Montelibano back then designed Shopping as the Chinatown of Bacolod City.
When the lockdown happened, we busied ourselves with gardening, homecooking, and decluttering. But when we are tired and bored, we would look out the veranda from the third floor and just watch the empty streets. The trees were a refreshing sight and honestly, the air felt cleaner because there was hardly any car passing by.
The Lockdown, Foliage, and Mental Wellness
The lockdown brought up so many thoughts and stirred up so many feelings. There’s melancholia about the past, the things that we could have been doing for the summer, as well as lost opportunities.
Then there is the concern about the present, as our store is closed and we were on standby for two months. And this was after we had just invested in a new machine.
Moreover, there is the worry about the future. What will happen to our kids, their future, their health and safety? Where is the world going? How do we survive?
The go-to place was social media. Facebook was the avenue to connect to the world but the news was also very depressing. Add to that the fact that despite pleas to remember us for relief operations, our street was never given attention. We’ve never felt so alone–ever.
If we didn’t have plants and trees around us, it wouldn’t be Covid-19 that would kill us.
Mental problems are the worst killers.
While the campaign to preserve the center islands and the trees gained massive support, it also gained me enemies. Online bashers emerged. Some were related to political colors, while others were just plain haters. They were just a few people but they were also very noisy online.
What they missed to see is that issues about the environment is beyond any person, community, or political inclination. It’s about our world, our lives, and our legacy to the next generations.
Online hate is not worth spending time on. It can peak but it will never continue and people will just stop. If you engage them, you will lose a lot – time, effort, and most of all, your peace of mind. So I just ignored them and kept going with our lives. I may get the hate now but I will continue to speak for the trees because they just can’t.
Only a few months have passed and Covid-19 has given us a perspective on things. And now, people deliberately plant—either as a hobby, to pass the time, or just to improve the earth.
That makes me so fulfilled as an earth warrior.
Meanwhile, here are other stories of hope and resilience related to Covid-19 in this blog.
- BDO Remit: Starting Over Today with Funny OLVs by Piolo Pascual
- Covilyzer Wearable Air Purifier Face Mask | Covid-19 Safety
- The Frontliner Today Brings Hope Across Amidst Covid-19 Crisis
- Globe Gives 1,000 Preloaded Mobile Phones to Frontliners
- Food for Frontliners Philippines Continues its Mission After Lockdown
- Chamber Volunteer Fire Brigade Disinfects Bacolod City Streets
- PPE for Negros Occidental Health Workers Against Covid-19
- KonsultaMD Provides 30-day Free Medical Advice to the Public
- Crowd Store Finder Locates Open Stores, Pharmacies During Covid-19 Quarantine
- Megaworld Allocates 1,000 Liters of Alcohol, 5,000 Face Masks for Bacolod
- Identify Covid-19 Fake News and Scams