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The Highest Form of Worship

Kum’s Dream Orlan Ravanera

Protecting God’s Vanishing Creation

“A country, even with a strong army is not secured at all without ecological security.” This statement was pronounced by no less than the former Secretary of National Defense, Sec. Orlando Mercado in the late ‘90s to signify his full support when we were taking direct actions through human barricade against illegal logging as some 50 ten- wheeler logging trucks were bringing down illegally cut logs every night till dawn during those years as six logging companies were plundering our dipterocarp forest. Each logging truck had armed men escorts carrying high-powered guns such as Armalite and AK-47 and paying checkpoint P5,000. Such truism was told to us by an official who resigned as his conscience could not bear it any longer.

The Philippines is the 4 th worse hit country in the world by climate change as thousands would die even in just one night of typhoon as what happened in Cagayan de Oro on Dec. 17, 2011 due to Typhoon Sendong. Yes, the ingredients of ecological disasters were already existing minus the rains after five decades of massive logging from 1950s to year 2000 that earned the loggers tremendous raking, boasting to one and all that no one can stop them, not even an office that is mandated to enforce environmental laws, bragging that 90% in that office were under their payroll. Well, it was indeed Res Ipsa Loquitor (the thing speaks for itself) because the dipterocarp forest then that the loggers were plundering should have not been the subject of logging for reason that these were protected areas, lying more than one thousand meters above sea level and in slopes whose gradients were more than 50 per cent where logging was prohibited. Too, there were laws that disallowed the cutting of hardwood, i.e., Almacega, Red Lauan, Nara, Mahogany but all of these were cut without mercy as these trees command higher price in the international market. Don’t you know that in one shipment of logs alone could earn a logger three hundred sixty million pesos, money that did not just go to their pockets but to the pockets of those who should enforce the laws. How powerful were the loggers then? Isn’t it that in this country no one is above the law, that all must bow down to the majesty of the law because we follow the rule of law and not of men? That statement is just rhetorical as far as the powerful loggers were concerned then. They could not moderate their greed. Some have even become senators, congressmen, mayors or governors using their massive raking to buy votes. Oozing with so much wealth, they were able to form a strong cabal of vested interest. No one was prosecuted, no one was penalized. It was so easy for these loggers to file cases against us barricaders every time we took direct action against them. We were the ones being arrested.

I remember in one of the court hearings, no less than then Sec. Orlando Mercado came to support us bringing with him two top lawyers from the Department of National Defense. The judge had no choice but to dismiss the case because Sec. Mercado said that it should be the loggers and their cohorts who must be arrested and not us, environmentalists who dared to bring back the rule of law.

Ten years of human barricades against illegal logging from 1991 to 2000 saw us being harassed, arrested and even accused of 200 million damage suit by Vicmar Corporation. When we seized 5 logging trucks carrying illegally cut logs owned by a military official named 2 nd Lt. Modesto Eleazar, we were hunted by his goons. I together with my son Kim luckily evaded/escaped the hunting attempts of the loggers’ armed goons with the help of Arch Tony Ledesma and non-government organizations. An m2k2 hand grenade had been thrown to us barricaders at dawn but miraculously did not explode. With our fervent prayers, we always thank God for the protection as we firmly believe that if God is with us, who can triumph against us?

What was so amazing was the act of a 65-yr. old colleague, a fisherman leader from the coastal community of Barangay Agusan, Cagayan de Oro, Mr. Antonio Salcedo who was then dying of bone cancer and five days later, he would die. In his hospital bed, he asked the doctor to release him because he wanted to join us barricaders lying down on the streets in front of Manresa Farm daring the logging trucks to first run over us before they could pass. When asked why, he whispered to the doctor, “Doctor, I know am dying and soon I will die. What if God ask me, what have I done to protect His creation. I firmly believe that protecting God’s vanishing creation is the highest form of worship, doctor.”

Indeed, a week later, Nong Tonyo did leap to the Great Beyond. We were so saddened by his passing but we know that he ended up his life in God’s loving embrace as there is no greater grandeur sight on earth than one man willing to offer his life to stop the plunder and extinction of thousands if not millions of flora and fauna. Nong Tonyo had felt the inter-connectedness and oneness of all of God’s creation which is indeed true love! Nong Tonyo, where ever you are, now with us, then with the stars and in God’s loving embrace being rooted with the Unseen Being where all life emanates, to you – our firm salute and warm embrace!

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