My Environmental Science freshman class recently planted several indigenous Philippine trees on unused land at the UP.
The trees were Dao, Tamyo, Kaliskis, Molave,Kupang, Balacat, Bagras, Narra, Lankang-Gubat, Kamagong and Balite. Some of these trees are remembered just as place names. For example, Dau and Mabalacat in Pampanga used to abound in these trees. Today not a single Dao or Balacat tree can be found there. Likewise, Kaliskis,Kupang, Balite are names of many barangays in the Philippines. You would be lucky to find the trees for which the places were named in these places. Most of these trees grow tall and majestic. They were real landmarks all over the Philippines.
Thus many of the trees are rare and some are endangered. But the memory of these trees on the landscape can only be gleaned from place names. In place of these trees, we have replaced them with alien species like Gmelina. At the University of the Philippines, much of the trees growing are foreign. The iconic tree of the campus, the Akasya isn't Philippine but a Mexican tree introduced by Spanish priests 400 years ago.
Yes the foreign trees grow fast but they have serious ecological effects. The Gmelinas produce foul smelling fruits that no Philippine bird eats. The Gmelinas also suck up a lot of water. The Akasya and Mahogany trees aren't typhoon resistant. Every typhoon season, branches are strewn over the UP Academic Oval. The branches may cause accidents for motorists and people walking under the trees.
Our research indicates that the native trees tend to attract more birds. The trees are typhoon resistant and fast growing. The kaliskis tree grows taller and faster than the Akasya and produces edible fruits. The trees are also much easier to propagate from seeds.
So we will continue to plant these Philippine trees so that their memory lingers and their beneficial contributions to the local ecology are recognised once more. It puzzles us why our bureau of forestry doesn't promote these trees over the foreign ones. It is not a question of nationalist rhetoric but a question of celebrating our unique biodiversity.