• Benguet pays ‘tree-bute’ to SAF44

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    TUBA, Benguet: Families and friends of the fallen Special Action Force of the Philippine National Police planted trees in Tuba, Benguet, to commemorate the first death anniversary of the SAF 44 killed in Mamasapano, Maguindanao.

    Called a “Tree-bute” to SAF 44, relatives and friends of other SAF men joined the families of 14 soldiers from Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) who planted trees on a site in Badiwan.

    The “tree-bute” site is located in Badiwan, Tuba, Benguet, which is part of a theme park being developed by Cordillera Heritage Foundation Inc. (formerly Smile Movement Inc.). The site will be known as Badiwan Hobbitat, after the shire in movie, Lord of the Rings, inhabited by the Hobbits.

    The CAR-SAF families started the “tree-bute” last March 2015 after the Mamasapano encounter. The activity was shared on social media, which inspired the other families to join in the planned commemoration activity in Baguio.

    Lead organizer Julie Cayang-o said other families were moved by the unity of the Cordilleran families that started with the “tree-bute.”

    A two-day program was held in Ibaloi Heritage Park and candles were floated on Burnham Lake last week.

    Families of 37 from SAF 44 started with a candle lighting on Friday and prayer walk from Session Road to Ibaloi park on Saturday, followed by a short program and boodle fight. It was concluded with a tree planting at Badiwan.

    Merlyn Gamutan, the widow of Joey Gamutan from Basilan, said they were awed by the way Cordilleran family members accorded such heroic tribute to them.

    “It is only here that we see people treat the SAF 44 as heroes,” she said.

    “We hope the administrator of this site will allow us – the rest of the SAF 44 – to be part of this ‘tree-bute’ site that our beloved husbands, fathers, sons will be accorded the same love and respect,” Merlyn added.

    The “tree-bute” is a project of the foundation where individuals can plant and dedicate a tree to their loved ones as a living commemoration. By dedicating the trees to their dead loved ones, the organizers hope that the trees will be nurtured with love and care as they have taken care of their dearly departed.

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