More than 1,300 volunteers planted about 5,600 seedlings of various fruit trees here in Subic Bay Freeport during the Arbor Day Celebration organized by the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) on Friday, June 24.
Spearheaded by the SBMA Ecology Center, the tree-planting activity was conducted at the Pastolan Ayta village in this freeport.
The seedlings planted were mostly local species like cashew, calamansi, coconut, santol, pomelo, and kaong, which are endemic in the area and therefore beneficial even to local wildlife.
SBMA Chairman Roberto Garcia, who also joined the event, stressed that with the number of seedlings planted, about six orchards have been established that will soon provide additional sources of food and livelihood for the Ambala Ayta tribe living near the tree-planting sites.
Aside from SBMA employees, who made up the bulk of the volunteers, workers from locator-companies in the Subic Freeport, students, members of the Philippine Coast Guard, the local police, Boy Scouts, and some Olongapo officials joined the activity.
Most of the volunteers had earlier joined another SBMA activity during the Earth Day celebration last April that saw more than 500 representatives from various groups in the Subic community collecting talisay seedlings and mangrove saplings and planting them at the Apaliin Mangrove Trail at the former Naval Magazine area here.
Last Friday’s Arbor Day celebration started with a breakfast treat for participants at the SBMA administration building, followed by a hundred-vehicle motorcade to Pastolan village for the actual tree-planting.
Now celebrated worldwide, Arbor Day was founded in the Spanish village of Mondoñedo where the first arbor plantation festival in the world was documented in 1594. In 1805, another small Spanish village named Villanueva de la Sierra held the first modern Arbor Day, an initiative launched by the local priest with the enthusiastic support of the entire population.
Arbor Day in the Philippines was institutionalized in 1947 through Proclamation No. 30, which called for a nationwide observation of the event by planting trees and ornamental plants and other forms of relevant activities. In 2012, Republic Act 10176 was passed, which revived tree-planting activities “as yearly event for local government units.” (RAV-MPD/SBMA)
PHOTOS: (Clockwise from top left)
 SBMA Chairman Roberto V. Garcia (left) receives an Apitong seedling from Senior Forester Edward Sernadilla during the kick-off ceremony for the Arbor Day celebration in the Subic Bay Freeport on Friday, June 24. The Apitong is among the endangered dipterocarp tree varieties listed as vanishing forest tree species, which will be propagated by the SBMA Ecology Center.
 Volunteers plant seedlings of fruit-bearing trees at the Pastolan Ayta village.
 Volunteers enjoy a “boodle fight” after planting fruit-bearing tree species at the Pastolan Ayta village.
 SBMA Chairman Roberto V. Garcia (left) and other SBMA employees join Aeta tribal leaders Bonifacio Florentino and Conrado Frenilla in the Arbor Day tree-planting activity.