December 4, 2022

What is your first memory of a tree?
That was the first question asked when we were forest bathing, and the first memory I remembered was the cypress tree in front of Rizal Elementary School.
Along with five or seven trees planted alongside it, this tree was special as it has branches that span into tiny groups that make it perfect to sit on during break or when we eat our baon for lunch. As it only can seat three students at a time, a lot would wait for their turn and the chance to view the playground from above.
While seated on top, I remember a plane that passed by and when I looked up, it seemed closer, making me feel I was close to things that are hard to reach. I remember the moment I was bullied and I climbed and stayed on top of the tree until my tears ran out.
As students, the tree held a special place in our life. It was a pedestal and a witness to our happy days.
I was in college when a meter high of soil was dumped to level the slope to the street, covering the line of trees in the process. The trees became a meter shorter and one by one, the other trees died while the others have only branches that are a meter high and became holders of bags or served as swing. The others slowly withered and were toppled by typhoons.
Our special tree is the only one surviving.
One time as I fetch my niece, I told her stories regarding our special tree. I told her it was the first thing we run towards during our breaks. Remembering it made me smile that my niece laughed as I ended up hugging the tree when we passed by it.
I told her trees have memories and it knows a lot of our childhood’s embarrassing moments. She said she also sometimes climbed the tree after school as they are not allowed to go out during their break.
Last month, my heart shrunk when I saw trucks of soil being dumping again on the playground. I was worried as they started moving towards the tree. I asked my dad if they were informed about it and what is the plan?
My father, a descendant of the pioneers and a member of Wright Park Pony boys Association, was concerned as leveling the playground or oval for the horses to the street is dangerous for all the horses, riders, passersby and vehicle. They, the members, were not informed of this activity. I was relieved that our tree won’t be covered again by soil.
A few weeks ago, they started breaking the pavement next to our tree. Concerned, I asked the laborers what is the plan of the city. As they have uprooted a young tree along the way, will they be cutting down the tree, our tree? They said they are ordered to break the pavement and clear the side of it.
I shed tears going back home. It’s like a childhood friend is dying, that I have to say goodbye.
Our children will no longer be able to create memories with the tree. Will there be any tree left for them or will it be concrete roads and buildings they will create memories with?
Will our tree now only be a memory?” (LENNY D. ISRAEL)