Protecting God’s vanishing creation

By : Orlan Ravanera Mindanao Today/03:04:17pm 08/10/2021


FOR 12 years (1980-1992), I had been in an environmental movement that was in the forefront of taking direct actions to protect our remaining forest and our seas, being then the Chairman of a network of some 300 people’s and non-government organizations who have come together to form the last line of defense to stop our accelerating drive towards ecological disasters.

I had the privilege of meeting and working with almost all the 5,000-strong members of Task Force Macajalar composed of farmers, fisherfolks, women, “lumad” and environmental activists in all those years of environmental struggle.

I would join them at sea as we launched nightly sea-borne patrols to stop industrial pollution and all kinds of illegal fishing activities including the intrusion of commercial fishing in municipal waters, raking the bay of fish at the expense of the poor coastal communities.

I had been with them for days and even months in their farms and in the streets especially in the battle to save our remaining forest by staging a series of human barricades that would last even for nine long months in one year to stop the flow of logs passing through the streets of Cagayan de Oro.

As you know, in the 1970s to early 1990s, there were an average of 20 to 30 ten-wheeler trucks passing from midnight to early dawn while the city was in slumber as there was no “night café’” yet that time.

These trucks were carrying “hot” logs as these were cut in protected areas covering the watersheds of Lake Lanao and Cagayan de Oro City.

Escorted by armed men, they could easily pass check-points even if they carry fake documents.

There in front of Manresa Farms, we would dare logging trucks to overrun first our frustrate bodies on the ground before they can pass.

We were able to stop the wanton cutting of our dipterocarp species of trees that was why in 1993, we received the Public Service Award from Xavier University.

In their own right, these environmental activists were “sui generis,” as one does not meet often people who are willing to put their lives on the line for nature’s crusade.

But let me just pay tribute to two “comrades-in-arms” whom I have the honor of inter-locking arms in the silent of the seemingly unending nights in the streets as we put-up a line of defense in the streets to bravely face these roaring logging trucks.

Meet Mr. Adolfo Ares, whom we fondly called Ka Ares, a 75-year-old fisher turned farmer who was a veteran of many “battles” for the forests, an environmentalist par excellence.

I remember in 1991, during our first human barricade, we dialogued with then Secretary Angel Alcala, who came on the 5th day of the barricade.

It was Ka Ares who gave the most touching speech in tears that made Sec. Alcala, a foremost marine biologist, then and there ordered the cessation of all logging activities because of the massive harm done to the coastal eco-system through massive soil erosion and siltation of the rivers and bay.

Ka Ares was one of those who could have been killed out-rightly when a grenade was hurled to us barricaders in 1999 but miraculously did not explode.

Perhaps it was his strong faith that “darkness can never defeat the light” or that if “God is with us, who can triumph against us.”

He would brave the rains or the heat of the sun, not minding his advanced age, to man barricades.

Today, he is on another crusade to promote a kind of farming that trust in the inherent ability of nature called sustainable agriculture.

He remains steadfast in the cause of mother nature, always a fiery speaker, touching hearts, touching lives.

Mr. Antonio “Nong Tonyo” Salcedo. He was then lying on his death-bed suffering from a terminal disease, in fact, he would die three days later.

But for Nong Tonyo, the late Chairman of the Federation of Small Fishermen of Cagayan de Oro City, there was no bowing to the unrelenting pain in his bones brought about by cancer.

No amount of suffering could hold his restless spirit.

He asked his doctor to allow him to join us there during the height of our advocacy advancing as his reason that for him, “protecting God’s vanishing creation is the highest form of worship.”

He would like to meet his Creator with dignity to report that he did something to uphold ecological integrity.

Nong Tonyo had since leaped to the Great Beyond but his undaunted spirit to save the remaining forest of Mindanao continues to be seen in the thousands of small farmers, fisherfolk and women who are advancing their inherent rights for a healthful ecology.

To both of them, our firm salute and warm embrace.

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