Look around you in Metro Manila and the suburbs or Mega Manila—from Manila to Pampanga and Laguna. What do you notice?
It is hotter than any other place in the country. It is also prone to flash flooding, or even floods that last for a longer time.
Why is that? Most areas are below sea level? We are in the tropical zone? Maybe.
I am no scientist or engineer, but I have a hypothesis. There is no other way for rainwater to go but to the heavily silted Manila Bay and Laguna Bay. There is very little bare earth you see around to absorb the rainwater. Look around you. It seems like we hate the soil so much we cover them with cement or asphalt. In our little barangay, upon cursory look, maybe 99.9 percent is paved or have structures constructed on it. My neighbors seem to be afraid to walk on bare soil. My front and back yard are the only open spaces planted to trees, berries, shrubs and vegetables. My neighbors would sometimes take refuge from the hot sun in front of my gate.
I just harvested two bunches of bananas from my garden. Plus on a regular basis I pick fresh atis, kamias, kalamansi, lemons, dayap, mulberry talinum, aloe vera, gynura procumbens (better known as ashitaba), miracle berry and many others. Recently, my neighbor asked for three leaves of mana and she said the sap of the mana is super for treating wounds and the broth from the boiled leaves is good for stomachache. This Christmas I will have the freshest live Christmas tree, my araucaria will be tall enough.
Visitors to my garden or house appreciate the cool air surrounding my house. And they are amazed at the number of plants I have, most growing in containers and a few directly on the soil.
That is what I appreciate about Maui. There are so many open spaces, mostly planted to fruiting or flowering trees or shrubs, not paved. Maui’s climate is similar to ours, yet it is much cooler and there is very little, if ever, flooding.
There ought to be a law to stop people from paving open spaces and, instead, plant trees or whatever there. Business orga–nizations are also culprits. Look around the premises of your work building. What do you see? Cemented areas. Take the Makati Business Center or Ortigas Business Center. How much of its land area is used for buildings, paved sidewalks and streets? How much bare earth do you see around these areas? They even pave the soil surrounding trees, giving trees very little access to life-giving water.
One day last April, native tree conservationists Cel Tungol and Lydia Robledo tagged me to a place in Addition Hills, San Juan. They pointed to an almost bare tree, almost skeletal, except for some very tiny flowerettes emanating from its branches. It is the crateva religiosa tree or balai lamok, a rare and almost extinct native tree) and it was standing on a paved sidewalk and was barely alive. Since there is no apparent owner (the adjacent lot is vacant saved for some garbage heaps here and there) and to make a long story short, we cut up the tree, careful to get only the branches that seemed wayward. I got one two-feet cutting and when I reached home I simply stuck it into one of the vacant containers in my garden. One month after, it started to grow some flowers, no leaves. Lydia said that that is the nature of trees, it is trying to survive and preserve its specie by blooming and making seeds. All my neighbors and visitors are attracted to those flowers (bigger flowers this time) because they are so pretty and dainty white flowers with purple pistils). And it is not growing leaves. It is alive!!!!!! Cel said, not to touch or move it so that the developing roots will not be disturbed.
If you are looking for a miracle, may I invite you to look at my balai lamok.
That’s the beauty of Maui—it is bare, it is refreshing, it is living harmoniously with nature.
People in Maui don’t waste their time in malls. They enjoy the gifts of nature. Business organizations don’t deface the environment, they exist with nature.
I am going back to Maui.