March 23, 2023

Nonnette C. Bennett
How I wish that someday forests could co-exist with humans in the Philippines, or even just Baguio City. The planned city arboretum beside Imelda Park looks promising. How I wish that in this park full of trees some of the logic in the development could mimic the Alishan forest of Chiayi, Taiwan.
We were not allowed inside the arboretum when we went because strict orders were given that visitors should not be allowed to wander in. Wanting to write about things to do as a local in these pandemic quarantine times and enjoy a walk around town, I ventured into the first 200 meters to check it out. Actually, you can sneak in early in the morning so the guard doesn’t get reprimanded by the bosses. The boarded walk that meanders to a lower level was a welcome detail for its aesthetics and for access of the elderly and persons with disabilities. It seemed like people will be guided by the foot boards in many parts around the arboretum.
In 2015, my feet brought me to Taiwan and the first stop after landing in Taipei was this redwood or cypress forest which lasted for three-hours of dawn by bus. The buses of this county are comfortable if not luxurious in that the reclining bucket chairs feel like they scoop you in enough space to sleep and relax as you enjoy the view. We arrived before 7 a.m. in a chilly February Baguio-like temperature. Since we alighted from a bus, we were given half the price of the entrance fee.
There were vehicles ready to drop off visitors at key destinations inside the recreation areas. Of course, our legs and pockets said, trek. It was a leisurely five hours walk around to the highlights of the park for a fee. Throughout most of the areas were boardwalks that did not allow strays to pluck at or touch vegetation. Where one encountered trees as in the cherry tree lane, the trunks were skirted in bark like cloth, the guide remarked, “so human sweat doesn’t affect the tree.” There were handrails where management didn’t want people to have photos touching or embracing the tree trunks. Park attendants singularly went about their work, not in twos or threes. Paved footpaths and stairs were set when we ventured into the Two Sisters Pond and down to the pocket temple where one could by incense to offer the deities. There was only one section of the park where snacks, novelty items and tea were available. There was no litter, no candy wrappers and chips bags outside of this center.
There was a 3,000 years old tree that was fenced in and a huge marker explaining its historical essence. The monument dedicated the place to a time when Japanese lumberjacks almost denuded the redwood forest to build homes in Taipei. The government stopped the logging and instead preserved the arboretum. One notes that there are many names given to the unusual shapes of trees for literary amusement. There are a number of nurse trees here from whose rotting trunks grow two or more trees,they named it “Three Brothers”. There are poetic titles to smile about and feast the eyes with like the “Elephant trunk”. There is no boring moment of this tour and informative signages that point you to the direction you want to go and its distance from where you stand. Although deep in the mountains, this place was neat and well-manicured. Here, the toilets were strategically located within one kilometer of the points of interest. There were not too many but the planners developed areas within the radius of this important facility for all ages.
Discipline is a norm in those mountains full of trees. We didn’t need to be watched like a hawk because the design of the Alishan controls movement, unknowingly for the tourists. There was respect and reverence because they allowed you to observe the importance of nature. I wish the same for the city Arboretum.