Dacawi: From the faucet to the forest

Ramon Dacawi

METRO-MANILANS reeling from the drying up of their taps would look beyond the faucet - to the La Mesa and Angat dams and other reservoirs - for answers to the drought. No one, it seemed, looked beyond the low and still ebbing water levels of these man-made harnessing facilities to find out if their immediate problem also had something to do with the impairment of the water holding and releasing capacity of the watersheds feeding life’s blood into the dams.

Nature, in the form of rainfall, saved them from further fighting over whose pail should be filled first by fire trucks and other mobile tanks coming to their rescue. The rains spared Maynilad and Manila Water from the mounting temper of consumers and from having to repair more pipes being broken up in the users’ frantic search for and diversion of domestic water at the expense of neighbors.

Understandably, kids in the second grade I met in 1992 sounded like the drought-stricken adult denizens of the urban jungle down there. Not in terms of escalating blood pressure but in terms of innocence that can only apply to kids, as ignorance is only for adults like us. Asked to brief the kids on the state of Baguio’s environment, I asked where their water comes from.

“Our water comes from the faucet, sir,” a boy replied, almost matter-of-factly, to a question he must have presumed I had unnecessarily asked.

“And where does the faucet get its water?” “From the pipes!” another kid boomed. “And the pipes?” “From the tanks!” “And the tanks?”

A girl replied: “From the Baguio Water District.” It elicited a challenge from another kid. “No, sir, not from the water district. My mother said the water district has no water. Our tank gets its water from the water delivery truck.”

“And where do the water district and the delivery trucks get their water?”

“From the trees,” some said while others replied, “from the forests”.
“And how many of you have seen a forest?”

One, two, three, up to 10 raised their hands. The other 90 didn’t and were quiet.

“And how many would like to go see a forest?”

All raised their hands.

Soon, a team of news reporters guided the first batch of kids in tracing where their water comes from, starting from the faucet to the pipes, the tanks and to the Busol watershed. The joint exploration proved quite emotional for the journalists whose generation and those before them grew up roaming Baguio’s pine stands in search of edible puffballs and mushrooms and even hunting and roasting snipes, chickadees, shrikes and other birds. They groped on how to process the urban kids’ rare diversion from the nooks and crannies of the malls, their cellphone and computer games, to the nooks and crannies where morning glory still thrives and where “singkamas bakes” and the Benguet lily are no longer found.

“How do you feel?” the late Baguio boy and feature writer Freddie Mayo asked the kids.
“It’s cooler and fresher here than in the city,” a boy admitted.
“Why?” Freddie pursued. “Because there are many trees.”
“So what if there are trees?”
“Our science teacher said trees and plants release oxygen into the air and absorb carbon dioxide.”
“So your science teacher is right?”
“Yes, sir.”

The dialogue went on to how trees harvest rainfall and slowly release water channeled into the dams, then distributed to the tanks, then siphoned by the pipes and released through the faucet. The kids then trace the course of the rest of the water - to the gullies and rivulets, into the streams that form the rivers that share the bounty to the lowland farmlands and homes as they flow down to the seas and oceans.

“So what shall we do?,” Freddie posed.
“Let’s plant and care for trees!”

In one of the succeeding forest walks, I asked the kids: “How do fairy tales begin?” I expected “Once upon a time” for an answer, a cue to start sharing them the fairy tale about “The Giving Tree”.

A kid from Brent, seemingly bored, replied: “Fairy tales begin with the letter ‘F’.”

Since then, Busol has been serving as a playground and an open laboratory for validating the vicarious learning experience in the classroom.

(e-mail: mondaxbench@yahoo.com for comments)