Have you heard of the Arroceros Forest Park? If not, then you are in for a big surprise.

It is a forest part right in Metro Manila. Who would have thought that such a place exists in the busy, crowded metropolis. But I assure you, it is there. It was nearly lost to us, however.

Our company worked with Hands on Manila for a tree-planting activity in Arroceros about 4 years ago. That was when I learned about this wonderful place, and how the sanctity of the place was violated by a construction of a DepEd Building right in the premises. Here is an excerpt of this story from my blog:

I have heard of the Arroceros Forest Park mid-this-year, during the feverish election period. Mayors were elected, and then Lito Atienza (the outgoing Mayor of Manila) was appointed Environment Secretary. This appointment was controversial because his name was associated with Arroceros Park and the Mehan Garden: the former a thriving mini-forest in within bustling Manila, the latter the city’s first zoological and botanical garden. And by controversial I mean in the negative sense. More so because it refers to destruction. Which is ironic, when you think about his being appointed the Environment Secretary.

I just read this bit of news in passing, but seeing Arroceros Park and knowing what it once was is really very disturbing. It started as a project of then Mayor Lim in 1991, the place became home to to 8,000 trees (61 species) and at least 10 species of birds. But in 2005 Mayor Atienza ordered the construction of the City Schools Division Office within the forest premises, prompting the killing of about 187 fully-grown trees and thousands of young trees and decorative plants inspite of protests.

Last July 1, the Arroceros Forest Park was returned to the NGO (Winners Foundation) who was originally tasked for its development. While we were having our orientation from Winners, we can feel their passion for the forest and their pain in seeing the old trees felled a couple of years ago. They have, from the moment of destruction to the time they regained the forest, tried to take care of the vegetation despite gates and doors being closed to their faces but degradation was imminent. The once rich canopy fell to human destruction and storm.

Now that the forest is back in their hands, it’s time to build anew and make do with the land spared of the building construction.

If you are passionate about the environment or would simply like to have something the next generation can enjoy other than concrete walls, visit Arroceros Forest Park and consider volunteering for its preservation and maintenance.

Four years hence, I wonder how the Forest Park is coming along.  I fervently wish it is thriving.  We should always remain vigilant, lest it’s taken away from us again.  You’ll never know where the threat will be.  The last time, it was from the local government!

To visit Arroceros, simply take an LRT ride along Taft Avenue and drop off at the Central Station. This is very near the Metropolitan Theater. Ask around where the new DepED building is. That’s where the Forest Park is as well. It’s a stone’s throw from the LRT station.

My original blog post: Taking back the Arroceros Forest Park