Weeping for the trees of my youth
By Al S. Mendoza
OMIGOSH! Illegal logging while I was sleeping—right in my own backyard?
I didn’t know about it, until the Sunday PUNCH published it (Sept 2-8, 2012 issue).
Mangatarem, my beloved hometown, was among nine Pangasinan towns now being pinned down as haven for suspected illegal loggers.
Said the Sunday PUNCH in that said over-the-fold, Page 1 story: “MANGATAREM and eight other towns are now under tight watch for suspected illegal logging activities, according to the Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office (Penro).”
My own town hugging the spotlight for the wrong reason!
The PUNCH story said further: “The other municipalities are San Nicolas, San Quintin and Umingan in eastern Pangasinan; and Sual, Labrador, Infanta, Dasol and Mabini in western Pangasinan.”
San Nicolas is the birthplace of the late Greg Cendana, the press secretary of Marcos, Sual is Agbayani country and Mabini is the hometown of Gloria Romero, the most durable actress in Philippine movies.
After I had finished reading the story, I immediately called up a friend of mine in Mangatarem.
“What’s crackin’?” I said. “What’s the latest in the illegal logging thing in our beloved Mangatarem? I just read it today in Sunday PUNCH.”
“It is old stuff, actually,” my friend said. “When was the last time you were in Mangatarem?”
“In February,” I said.
“Is that so?” my friend said. “In March, Environment and Natural Resources people, backed by the Army and police, put a stop to suspected illegal logging activities in our town. But before that, more than 1,000 or so trees had already been cut down.”
That knocked me down—almost.
I fell for poetry at an early age because of the beauty and magnificence of our mountains. Ah, how my trees back then towered to the sky.
I read to him further the PUNCH story, “Forester Rose Orduna of Penro said Mangatarem…has been set as the center of operation of the Anti-Illegal Logging Task Force because of its history of illegal logging incidents.”
“Good!” my friend exclaimed.
I ended my reading of the story with this: “Evidence of large-scale illegal logging was discovered in July in Mangatarem, in an area where suspected illegal loggers built a mountain road ostensibly to facilitate the transfer of cut logs to the lowlands.”
I asked my friend: “Have the illegal loggers stopped their activities?”
“Yes,” he said. “Thank God.”
After I had heaved a sigh of relief, my cell phone line got cut. This “unli” (unlimited call) thing: Very unreliable, indeed.
I wanted to ask him: If the crime of illegal logging had been truly established as to merit the setting up of an Anti-Illegal Logging Task Force in Mangatarem, aren’t suspects supposed to be behind bars by now—if not out on bail pending resolution of their cases—in violation of President Aquino’s Executive Order 23 calling for a total log ban in the country?
A word from Penro would be very much appreciated.
Meanwhile, a poem is aching to be written on this.