Knowing Haribon

Haribon’s Buhay Punlaan, the nursery of native trees species

Haribon’s Buhay Punlaan, the nursery of native trees species

FOR years, I’ve been hearing about the Haribon Foundation through different means. I’ve always wanted to join, but never quite knew how, so when I saw Haribon as one of the institutions where I can have my Junior Engagement Program (JEEP), I pounced on the opportunity to see, work in, and experience Haribon for myself.

I used to think Haribon is an environmentally oriented organization that focuses on birds and planting trees. While that holds to be true, it does not come close to the complexity with which Haribon operates, which involves a considerable amount of research and training.

I had to fulfill two things while in Haribon. First was to go to Buhay Punlaan in Laguna and help the seedling home, and to encode and organize bird species data collected during the bird watching sessions.

The seeds from Buhay Punlaan that a Haribon staff gave to the author

The seeds from Buhay Punlaan that a Haribon staff gave to the author

I noted that trees are pretty much like people that need different environments and methods for growth. Like people, trees have difference in resiliency. Some are more fragile than others. Some require extra care. Some—like wildlings—sprout and begin to grow on their own (though that doesn’t mean they don’t need care). Nonetheless, the end is clear: when a tree is taken care of the way it should be, it will grow strong, resilient, and capable of surviving on its own. For that care to be possible, deep and genuine understanding must be attained.

In this case, one would realize that to take care of and to merely shelter are two entirely different things. If the trees are not “trained” to withstand the harsh Philippine heat, they will die in the first few months or years they would be planted to the wild and efforts of reforestation would have gone to waste. Nevertheless, this “harsh” training isn’t what every plant needs, and some plants were more sheltered, such as the plants who were grown on elevated soil beds.

When I encoded the data for the bird-watching activity and as I read the materials in the front desk while waiting for Luke, membership division’s officer, I began to realize just how rich Philippine biodiversity is. Knowing it and understanding it the way people from Haribon do requires meticulous senses and a great deal of knowledge. After all, for someone who has been so engrossed in noise pollution, distinguishing birdcalls seems like an impossible task. Before entering Haribon, I thought the brown shrike and the long-tailed shrike were the same thing, and even thought that the Asian glossy starling was a crow of sorts. But people from Haribon can recognize, distinguish and identify birdcalls and appearances, though they may be small, far away, or in flight. It’s a feat I can only hope to accomplish.

The 16 hours I spent with Haribon was more than worth it. So much so that I signed up for my membership when I finished it.

Interested to know what are these activities in Buhay Punlaan? Check the video at

(The writer is a student from the Ateneo de Manila University, and also a new Haribon Member.)


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