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Bacolod City, Philippines Wednesday, June 12, 2019
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OPINIONS

Green Negros

Rock & Refuge

I was at the provincial Capitol when a group of biologists from the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB) arrived with Elorde "Flash" Crispolon Jr. to present to the governor two new spittlebug species they discovered to be endemic in Negros Occidental.

Honestly, I didn't really understand what the fuss was all about because the picture the group presented, along with a scientific name that could only ignite interests among scientists looked like gigantic cockroaches.

But since anything newly discovered is newsworthy, I decided to stick it out and listen in on the interview.

It was fascinating to watch Flash talking animatedly about this discovery, which was not recent since they first got samples of the bugs nine years ago when he was doing a dissertation along with French nationals who worked for the Museum of Paris.

Flash talked about walking through the forest and saw spit like materials on plants, which to a common hiker would probably seem like human spit. For the scientists however, their excitement was flaring knowing they were on to something.

At that point I was in the middle of ewww and aahhh and about to doze off at the mention of hiking trails which are non-existent in my vocabulary. But the guy was just passionate about his discovery that one could not help but admire his patience in explaining to us lesser mortals that the spittlebugs are not pests like some bugs are.

Fact is, when spittlebugs are present in our environment, it means that our forests are actually not polluted and biodiversity is thriving.

I remember it wasn't too long ago when we headlined news that our forests are diminishing, animals and pests are disappearing, illegal logging was on the rise and kaingin was unstoppable.

To hear that spittlebugs, known as bio-indicators that our forest is healthy, is indeed a testament that with political will, damage is reversible.

I have to hand it to former Gov. Lito Coscolluela, a staunch environmentalist, who started planting green consciousness among our people.

The Marañon brothers, Govs Joseph and Freddie have done so much as well in environmental protection and, more than that, reviving our forests.

Kudos, too, to all the non-government organizations, people's organizations and environment activists who contributed much to bringing back our forests.

I was fresh in media when I was tasked by Manila Times then to do a feature on a teacher up in the mountainous barangay, Hiyang Hiyang, in Cadiz City who was about to be awarded for her heroiism in saving her students who nearly drowned while crossing the overflow.

That was the first time I met Junjun Ponce who brought along the Jollibee mascot to entertain the schoolchildren, most of whom have never been near the city.

On our way, we were asked to transfer to a dump truck as the roads were hard to navigate. It wasn't so bad then because I could still muster some strength to haul my body up the truck. If that had been today, I'll give the fastest no thanks.

I never realized the damage that the American-owned Insular Lumber Co. did to our province till that day when I saw huge stumps of trees, as big as trucks sans exaggeration, left behind by the company without thought of replanting.

That was an eye-opener, and though it didn't convert me overnight, I became more conscious of our environment and reported heavily on stories about it.

That day too, I was introduced to hardships experienced by people in the hinterlands, particularly the children who had to walk for over an hour just to go to school. And instead of rice, their staple food is grated corn, thus having Jollibee treat them to chicken and rice with spaghetti, literally brought them to tears.

Several years later, I also went up to the mountains in Southern Negros to interview some Bantay Bukids for a book.

Their stories of how they used to plunder the forest for their own survival, to their conversion and eventually becoming green warriors made me understand more the need for us to protect our environment.

And today, environmentalists continue to battle from different fronts. There is the coal-fired power plant being mulled in San Carlos City, and more recently, the petition to retain the NFEFI forest beside the Capitol Lagoon.

I am far from being an environmentalist. But you don't have to be one to show some care for the environment. We can do our share by practicing the R's of recycling, reusing and reducing waste. And yes, a simple tick of adding your name to the various petitions like that of NFEFI will be most helpful too.

Let's celebrate a greener Negros!*

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