Nature and scouts

By Cris Evert B. Lato-Ruffolo |July 06,2019 - 10:26 AM

My six-year-old son wants to be a boy scout.

He made this announcement as we walked from the highway to his school. He said his classmate, Seve, wears two types of uniforms: Type A and Type B.

I could not barely contain my excitement when he told me he wants to wear the uniforms that my brothers treated with much respect when they were his age.

I was a Girl Scout, too, so hearing my son expressed his independent and classmate-inspired decision made me excited. It was the kind of peer pressure that my husband I like.

My three siblings and I were active scout leaders in grade school. I was the leader of my troop when I was 11 and 12. I had so much fun communicating using semaphore flags and looked forward to drills with my fellow girl scouts.

At the center of the quadrangle in the old Libas Elementary School in Libas, Merida, Leyte was an acacia tree. It stood tall, mighty and mysterious. Our elders told us to never hurt it; that when we step on its roots during drills or when we sweep its surroundings, we should do so with humility and respect. I grew up knowing the story that there are creatures who live there; elements that our mortal eyes could not see.

I believed in the stories of great aunts and grandmothers that the creatures are living things and thus, they should be treated with respect. My 11-year-old mind then looked at number 6 of the Girl Scout law which says that a “A Girl Scout respects living things.”

They fit.

To this day, both logic and tradition tell me to practice the same.

Pre-colonial Filipinos treated nature with respect because we worshipped nature. Christianity, in some ways, altered that. But what should remain is our reverence to nature as Vanessa Williams sang in Colors of the Wind: “But I know every rock and tree and creature / Has a life, has a spirit, has a name.”

Cebu Island, my home, has less than one percent forest cover. Our disappearing forest is a product of kaingin (slash-and-burn farming), mountain clearing, rural to urban development and road construction. Lawyer Gloria Estenzo Ramos, my fellow CDN Digital columnist and my twins’ godmother, would agree that this practice is not all friendly to nature and has left us with little proof to show our future generation about biodiversity.

And yet, even with the one-percent forest cover, that is broken to eight forest fragments namely in Alcoy-Boljoon, Cebu City, Catmon-Carmen, Tuburan, Malabuyoc, Dalaguete, Argao and Alegria; Cebu’s forests is home to endemic plants and animals, which can never be found anywhere else in the world.

Four of them are in the International Union for Conservation of Nature list of threatened species. These are the Cebu Flowerpecker, Cebu Brown Dove, Black Shama and Cebu Hawk Owl.

My friend, Lisa Paguntalan, executive director of Philippines Biodiversity Conservation Foundation Inc. (PhilBio), has been vocal about companies to implement corporate social responsibility projects which are aimed at sustainability of our biodiversity and for environment protection and conservation.

This is why I was so happy when I learned that Crimson Resort and Spa has adopted Alcoy’s Nug-as Forest for a forest rehabilitation project. A forest planted with endemic tree species means that our birds and animals can thrive because these trees are their homes. Coupled with the care of the local community wardens, initiatives like this help ensure that our ecosystem maintains its balance. I hope more companies would take this route.

Two weeks ago, I took my three-year-old son camping in Barangay Busay. We joined a mountain clean up activity along with our mountaineer friends. Chalet Hills is a small campsite and on a Sunday morning, we gathered two sacks of trash composed mostly of food packaging. I had to hold my tongue from cursing the irresponsible individuals who dared to desecrate the Lord’s creation by littering the mountains.

Jeff Jr. had a lot of fun climbing the hill, picking up trash, sleeping in a tent, and eating food cooked on the ground.

This month, I am taking my three kids to a beach camp and we will hopefully do our own coastal clean up activity.

When my son, Nicholas, told me about his interest to be a Boy Scout, my mind computed the cost it entails to buy two sets of uniforms, new pair of shoes and the accessories and gadgets required to be a scout.

But I also thought about how much it would cost if I do not give my son an opportunity to learn about responsibility, self-reliance and honor.

So I am out to spend a significant portion of my journalist salary next pay day for this endeavor.

Here’s me hoping that this will turn my son into a responsible individual who does not litter the mountain with trash. Here’s hoping that he will turn out to be a Boy Scout whose honor can be trusted.

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