“Gusto ko sanang bumalik sa abroad. Pero habang nakikita ko ang mga puno na lumalaki, nabubuhayan ako ng loob. Napamahal na ako rito. Masaya ako rito.”

Roderic Mallanao shared his testimony on how the National Greening Program (NGP) changed his perspective in life.

He was on a vacation in 2016 when he learned about the NGP. On the same year, the 100-hectare plantation area in San Antonio, Cabagan was awarded to them. He tapped his friends and neighbors and formed an association called Barangay San Antonio Reforestation Association or BSARA.

            At first, he was doubtful if all their efforts would pay off. There were only nine of them in the association and they needed to walk an hour long just to reach the site. They would carry all the heavy tools and the seedlings repeatedly. But all was worth it because the then pasture land transformed into a luscious Gmelina forest with over 70,000 trees.

As days gone by, their ‘alay lakad’ before became ‘masasayang lakad’ as they visit the plantation site day by day seeing the trees growing.

“Sa tingin ng iba ay kahoy lang, pero kailangan mahalin pa rin. Mahalaga ang bawat puno para sa ikakabuti ng kalikasan. Masaya akong maging parte ng NGP,” he said.

Mallanao being the chairman of BSARA said with the assistance of the DENR especially site leader Roven Talaue, almost everything went smooth and easy. They regularly conduct ring weeding and patrolling to avoid grass fire and to prevent stray animals from destroying the trees. “Everytime na may parating na bagyo, nagpupruning kami ng mga puno para hindi mabuwal ng malakas na hangin,” he said.

He also said the biggest blessing they are now enjoying is the fresh air they breathe plus seeing migratory birds around as the site serves as a mini sanctuary.

Truly, the story of Mallanao is a proof that true happiness is a choice… and that choosing the environment is also choosing happiness. “I chose to stay here, now I am happy because I know I made the right choice,” he said.#