The Grow Trees Community project in Macabebe, Pampanga is the second site for the joint reforestation initiative of SM Foundation and Fast Retailing Foundation.

Mario Flores Canilao thought his world was about to end when Typhoon Glenda (International: Rammasun) struck his village in the province of Pampanga in July 2014 and ravaged a fishing pond where he derived his main source of livelihood.

“Yun ang pinakamalupit. Akala ko nga natapos na ang mundo sa akin noon (I thought life was too harsh. I thought that was the end of my world),” Mr. Canilao, a fisherman by trade, recalled.

Despite the blow he was dealt, he mustered the will and determination to move forward. Soon, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources enlisted his help to plant Bakawan or mangrove trees.

As the president of the Samahang Makakalikasan ng Pampanga, Inc. (SAMAPA), Mr. Canilao has been working tirelessly with the government and the private sector in the last decade to help build a coastal forest for the natural protection of their community in the municipality of Macabebe, to avoid pitfalls in the wake of another storm like Typhoon Glenda.

This year, he is delighted to know that SM Foundation, the social good arm of SM and Fast Retailing Foundation, a general incorporated foundation in Japan, are providing extensive support by planting Bakawan trees in his coastal community under their joint ‘Grow Trees Community’ project. This reforestation initiative is set to introduce at least 100,000 mangrove trees of the Bakawan babae and lalaki species in Barangay Consuelo in the municipality of Macabebe, the second site after the project formally launched in Batangas last September 27.  “Malaking tulong itong mangroves para sa akin, para sa pamilya ko at sa aking mga kababaryo na magkaroon din po ng hanapbuhay. Sa darating na mga henerasyon, makakatulong ang mga bakawan sa dipensa sa malalakas na alon at hangin (Mangroves are a huge help not just to my family but to my fellow villagers, also in supporting livelihood. The bakawan will help the next generation gain protection against strong winds and waves),” Mr. Canilao said.

FR Foundation Secretary-General Yoshio Ishida, (center) and SM Foundation AVP for Livelihood and Outreach Programs Cristie Angeles (far right, front) lead the Grow Trees Community launch in Pampanga.

Aside from providing a natural coastal defense against storm surges, the Bakawan has been widely personified in Filipino fiction and many children’s books for its role in nurturing biodiversity in the environment.

“As visitors, we often see the beauty of the mangrove thickets, but for communities, this is nature’s shield that protects them from natural calamities and serves as breeding grounds for fishes and shellfishes,” Cristie S. Angeles, SM Foundation Assistant Vice President for Livelihood and Outreach Programs said.

“A well-preserved mangrove forest can provide an ecosystem of interconnected benefits promoting biodiversity in marine life and a reserve of valuable resources. Beyond this, the collective efforts of the community are vital to the preservation of the environment. As SM enables the growth of so many communities, we are also enabling these communities to lead the preservation of the environment in their areas,” Ms. Angeles added. “We are particularly drawn to this project which is a first in terms of our partnerships here in the country. Mangrove trees have an enormous capacity not only to absorb greenhouse gases making them ideal in bringing about climate benefits but they also enrich the biodiversity as well.  After we can confirm the success of this Pampanga project, we are looking forward to pursue more of these types of projects in the near future in collaboration with our partner, SM Foundation,” Mr. Yoshio Ishida, Secretary-General of FR Foundation said.

(From left, bottom row): Sgt. Nesperoz, Philippine Army; Aaron Jeffrey B. Montenegro, Mall Manager, SM City Pampanga; Atty. Eric Ueda, Provincial Director, Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA); Major Joy Placido, Philippine National Police; Cristina Angeles, Assistant Vice President for Livelihood and Outreach Programs, SM Foundation, Inc.; Yoshio Ishida, Secretary General, FR Foundation; Hon. Vince Flores, Vice Mayor of Macabebe; Hon.Leonardo “Bobong” Flores, Mayor of Macabebe; Elenita Ordonio, Provincial Director, Department of Trade and Industry; Romeo Catahan, Barangay Captain, Brgy. Consuelo; Mario Canilao, President, Samahang Makakalikasan ng Pampanga, Inc; Jay Guevarra, Councilor, Macabebe, Pampanga
 
(From left, top row) Aldrin Rimas, Forester, Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR); Pearl Mulato, Chief Conservation and Development Forester, DENR; Glarissa Balbares, High Value Crops Development Program-Agriculturist), Department of Agriculture Region 3; Rona Pineda, Project Development Officer II, Department of Social Welfare and Development Sustainable Livelihood Program