Help save the Luneta Hill pine trees


I feel strongly about the issue of SM Baguio cutting/earth-balling the Luneta Hill pine trees. Baguio blood runs in my veins. Baguio is my home. My Lolo was a forester and I guess he passed on to me his love for nature.

Lolo’s Legacy

Lolo, Dad’s dad, was an agriculturist and forester. After World War 2, Lolo worked for the regional office of the Bureau of Forestry and was responsible for reforesting parts of Northern Luzon. I remember, though vaguely, stories he told me of his adventures, mostly about planting thousands of trees all over the mountains – the stretch of the Mountain Trail (now Halsema Highway), the hillsides of Baguio. He brought with him a number of people whose primary job was to plant trees. They travelled in caravans across Benguet, and the Mountain Province.

Lolo also created a beautiful forest haven in his home in Baguio. It was near downtown but it looked like nothing you would expect in a home just 10 minutes from Session Road. We had bamboo groves, coffee trees, guava trees, a langka tree, a couple of avocado trees, many other smaller trees and shrubs, more bamboo, and more coffee trees! (We had so much coffee trees that we made our own coffee.) I have a lot of fond memories growing up in our mini-forest. My sisters, cousins and I – we were children of the earth. Literal earth. 😀

Sadly, it isn’t how it used to be anymore – there and most everywhere else in Baguio. The bamboo groves and all the trees are gone.

SM cuts it all for you

Now SM wants to cut/earth-ball/transfer  182 – scratch that, 133 – there are just 133 trees now (49 trees were cut/earth-balled/left for dead during SM’s defiance of the TEPO, according to this open letter from the lead attorney of Project Save 182.)

SM wants to earth-ball/transfer (read: kill) the Luneta Hill pine trees so that it can build an expansion that will house a parking/shopping complex.

Of course they justify this with green-washing – such as a “lushly landscaped Roof Garden with delightful water features”, and that the building is supposedly needed to prevent soil erosion. (I was taught in elementary school that trees, not concrete buildings and most definitely not cutting the trees, prevent soil erosion.)

The protests began late last year, but have recently escalated due to SM’s defiance of a Temporary Environmental Protection Order (TEPO) issued by the court. The anger, not only among Baguio locals but of others in Metro Manila as well, grew even more when SM went ahead and cut/earth-balled the trees anyway.

(View photos of the earth-balled trees on Luneta Hill here -taken during the site inspection by media and Baguio environmentalists.)

(View video of a tree falling to its death in the middle of the night of April 10. How come DENR and SM deny that any trees were cut? This video does not lie.)

The surviving trees are safe for now, under an extended TEPO that was issued by a Baguio court. But who knows what SM can do, especially with government defending it?

The trees are Baguio’s heritage

I feel strongly against the cutting of the trees in SM because those trees are Baguio’s heritage. It is as simple as that. As Mr. Neal Cruz asks – what is Baguio without the pine trees? The Benguet pines make Baguio unique.

Luneta Hill pine trees Baguio City

As kids travelling back from vacations in the lowlands, we always looked forward to that cool feeling – the different air that sweeps us up on entering the Kennon toll gate. It was fresher, cooler. And it made us feel we’re closer to home.

It should not be difficult to understand that having more trees – preserving them, protecting them – will always be better than a concrete shopping complex. I do not understand why some people don’t get it.

That patch of green on Luneta Hill is one of the few remaining forests in the city center. Let’s not easily give it up.

There are still some forests remaining in Baguio. Let’s not also easily give them up. If there’s one good thing that SM Baguio has brought, it is the awareness of the environmental issues Baguio faces. Yes, thousands of trees have already been cut – in John Hay, on mountains to give way to houses that now dot them. Yes, Baguio has been asleep for so long.

But now Baguio has awakened. People are getting angry  – at the corporate greed, at the corruption at City Hall. They are starting to realize the importance of preserving the heritage of Baguio – that which makes it uniquely beautiful. There is no other place in the Philippines like Baguio. But why do we want to turn it into like any other city?

Boycott SM everywhere!

If angry Filipinos somehow manage to protest by emptying SM malls all over the country for one day, that would deliver a stronger message than any Earth Hour would. (Raissa Robles)

Don’t you agree? I agree, but not just for one day.

The arrogance that SM showed by defying the first TEPO is proof that SM thinks it can do anything it wants – even be above the law.

SM forgets that it’s the giant it is now because of the masses that crowd its malls everyday.

Let’s hurt SM in the pocket. Bring your hard-earned money elsewhere. Buy your groceries from the countless alternatives. Spend more time outdoors instead. Patronize the small local businesses. Go back to Session Road and the City Market where we all used to buy all we needed before SM Baguio came. Here is a list of alternatives in Baguio. There’s a lot more to Baguio than just SM.

I was guilty of being a frequent SM visitor every time I was in Baguio, but am now am proud to say that my family is well into the 4th month of our SM boycott. Well, there was one slip-up some time in January when my daughter had to meet up with a friend to watch a movie at SM North. Arrgh. Other than that, and the occasional “I miss SM!” whine from V, we are doing great. Though skeptical at first (of my cause and that I’d survive without SM), my husband is awesomely supportive!

I’m a reluctant Metro Manilan, always dreaming to go back someday and live in Baguio again. I am hopeful that there will be much to go back to, and that my children, their children will get to enjoy what I did as a child of Baguio.

4 thoughts on “Help save the Luneta Hill pine trees

  1. I agree! But what’s life w/o SM?… well a very simple happy life. I would be happier living with trees than with SM.

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