Philippines: A Dance for Mother Earth

The Divine Word Missionaries in the Philippine SVD Central Province, under Fr. Jerome Marquez, SVD, have heeded the call of Laudato Si. The leaders mobilized the whole SVD Central Province, every parish, school, and office so that more young people will join the bamboo reforestation project and sponsor the planting of one bamboo seedling each. Every one of the 168 confreres in the SVD Central Province has been encouraged to contribute P 1,000 to fund a bamboo seedling in the Marikina Watershed for the planting and nurturing of the seedlings for 5 years until it becomes viable and ready for harvest.

The Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Secretariat, under Fr. Flavie Villanueva, SVD, raised funds to sponsor 1,000 bamboo seedlings to be planted in the Marikina Watershed. The teachers, students, and personnel of St. Jude Catholic School, under Fr. Emil Lim, SVD, pledged to sponsor 5,000 bamboo seedlings for 5 years, and it is now in its third year. The SVD Manila District also contributed to the bamboo reforestation project in partnership with Mga Anak ni Inang Daigdig (MAID). The JPIC sent financial aid and relief goods to rebuild their homes as the series of typhoons that battered the Philippines also washed away the seedling nurseries and destroyed the homes of the people who partnered with MAID to plant and nurture bamboo seedlings in the Marikina Watershed.

The Diocese of Cubao, under the Most Rev. Honesto Ongtioco, DD, and the parish priests of 47 parishes have also decided as a body to join the bamboo reforestation project. Sacred Heart Parish-Shrine, with Fr. Randolf Flores, SVD as parish priest, will motivate and mobilize 400 young people to join the 200,000 young Catholics who will sponsor one bamboo seedlings each in the Marikina Watershed. The Diocese of Novaliches, under the Most Rev. Antonio Tobias, DD, and the parish priests of 72 parishes have voted unanimously to join the reforestation project and the Diocese of Antipolo under Most Rev. Francis de Leon and the clergy serving in 74 parishes. Archdiocese of Manila and dioceses of Caloocan, Pasig, and Paranaque expressed their willingness to join the project as a response to the call of Pope Francis to hear the cry of the earth and the poor.

Mga Anak ni Inang Daigdig is the group of performing artists from Smokey Mountain, once a vast garbage dump in the heart of Manila, now the Parish of the Risen Christ, run by Divine Word Missionaries. Creatively using the dances and rituals of the indigenous peoples in the Philippines, the young dancers strive to raise consciousness about the danger of environmental degradation and the dire effects of the climate crisis. They have been designated Ambassadors for Peace and Environment by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines. They have gone on environmental concert tours worldwide, calling on everyone, through the dances and rituals of indigenous peoples in the Philippines, to help save Mother Earth.

As a concrete response to the call of Laudato Si, the young dancers have taken on the responsibility of reforesting 1,600 hectares in the Marikina Watershed given to them in a stewardship agreement by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. It includes the riverbanks of the river system in the Province of Rizal. The young people from Smokey Mountain are planting bamboo seedlings in the watershed where the people of Metro Manila get their drinking water. The bamboo reforestation project will also prevent erosion and flooding in the lowlands and siltation in Laguna Lake. According to research, bamboos can absorb more carbon from the atmosphere than trees and help mitigate climate change’s dire effects. It is also renewable – while trees can be harvested only once, bamboo can be harvested regularly for a very long time and used to produce handicrafts, furniture, and other construction needs for homes. Its shoots can be eaten, and the leaves can be shredded to feed farm animals.

Mga Anak ni Inang Daigdig also plans to produce barbecue sticks and chopsticks from bamboo, including bamboo charcoal briquettes. The smoke from the charcoal production will be condensed to make liquid organic fertilizer. The processing of bamboo shoots is also being planned. The production of different kinds of mushrooms has been started to scale up the socio-economic dimension of the bamboo reforestation project. Beauty products based on bamboo are already being researched, including beauty soap, facial creams, lipstick without toxic chemicals, and carcinogens.

Plans are already being prepared to incubate bamboo-based livelihood projects, leading to processing plants for bamboo shoots. There are also plans to set up factories for bamboo furniture and construction materials, like parquet floors and bamboo plywood for walls and ceilings, including bamboo posts, doors, and windows. The efficient processing and curing of bamboo to avoid rot and termites are also studied to improve current practices. Mga Anak ni Inang Daigdig plans to lead a movement to have large-scale bamboo plantations that promotes biodiversity and puts up large-scale bamboo industries in the face of the climate crisis and resource degradation.

The Dumagats are the indigenous peoples who have been living in the watershed area since time immemorial, living through subsistence farming and the making of charcoal from the trees they have cut. They have partnered with Mga Anak ni Inang Daigdig to nurture the seedlings the dancers have planted until they become viable in four to five years.

The Dumagats will clean the area regularly to prevent fire from burning the seedlings. They will water the seedlings, especially during the long summer months, and see that animals do not eat them. They will also replace seedlings that died with new ones. It costs $5 or P250 to plant and nurture a bamboo seedling – it will take five years for a bamboo seedling to become viable and survive on its own.

The Youth Ministry of San Bruno Parish of the Archdiocese of San Francisco, California, also raised P250,000 to support the bamboo reforestation project and hosted Mga Anak ni Inang Daigdig during the environmental concert tour in the US in 2013. Young people from the Diocese of Eichstaett in Germany also sponsored the planting of 3,000 bamboo seedlings with the funds they raised during a fun run in their school.

Corporations have also mobilized to help in the reforestation project. The Jollibee Group Foundation sponsored 4,000 seedlings for planting 10 hectares of land in the Marikina Watershed. Marcventures, a nickel mining company, donated P150,000 for the purchase of 3,500 bamboo seedlings which have since been planted. InfiniVAN, an IT company, also adopted one hectare, and its employees planted 400 bamboo seedlings in the designated areas. The Catholic Women’s League (CWL) and the Daughters of Mary Immaculate (DMI) also purchased bamboo seedlings and came to the Marikina Watershed to plant them themselves.

The young performing artists of Mga Anak ni Inang Daigdig would like to call on everyone to share their dreams of a clean and beautiful Mother Earth, with justice and peace for everyone. The Divine Word Missionaries have given their full support to the performing artists from Smokey Mountain and other young people willing to help assure the future generations’ sustainable future.

Benigno P. Beltran SVD[1] – Philippines

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[1] Benigno Beltran SVD, a member of the Divine Word Missionaries, President and CEO of Mga Anak ni Inang Daigdig (Children of Mother Earth). His email address: [email protected]; FB homepage: https://www.facebook.com/sustainabilityph/