vol 17 / no 3 / March-May 2008 / issn 0118-3931


Developing the Arroceros Mini Forest-Park
By Prof. Cherry Comia

 

UE NSTP students do literally hands-on work at the Park.

 

Can a forest exist in the city? Yes, as proven by the Arroceros Mini-Forest Park, which is now open to the public. Situated at the heart of Manila, near the Manila City Hall and SM Manila, the nearly-one-hectare Arroceros Mini-Forest Park replicates a forest environment thanks to the presence of trees such as narra, mahogany and balete, as well as plants and living creatures such as birds and butterflies.

How did the project come about? The rehabilitation and development of what was an abandoned lot into the Arroceros Mini-Forest Park began in August 2007—an undertaking under the University of the East’s (UE) Social Orientation and Community Involvement (SOCI) program, in cooperation with the UE College of Business Administration-Manila.

This short-term project gave an opportunity to maximize the participation of all sectors of the University, especially the UE College of Business Administration-Manila, to expand its community involvement. Directly supervising the new project was the UE Office of Extension and Community Outreach (OECO) and the UE National Service Training Program (NSTP), both under the leadership of Director Rogelio I. Espiritu.

There were five sections of NSTP classes assigned to this special project, working on Saturdays. The classes were under the supervision of Professors Modesto Ballesteros, Cherry Comia, Henry Junio and Romeo Sy, and Associate Dean Veronica N. Elizalde—all faculty members of the said UE College. For several months, the UE NSTP advisers and students were involved in clearing the area.

The Arroceros Mini-Forest Park is under the administration of the City of Manila, now headed by the City Administrator Jesus Mari Marzan—in cooperation with Winners Foundation, Inc., which is led by its President, Ms. Regina Paterno. Winners Foundation is in charge of the maintenance and development of the area.

The UE BA group was tasked to assist Winners Foundation, Inc. in the three phases of the project’s development: the clean-up drive, the tree planting and the development and maintenance of the area.

The NSTP group did the clean-up drive, with NSTP students cleaning the area by removing dry leaves, deadwood, pebbles and such. The faculty advisers directed and supervised the clean-up drive to ensure that the students were working efficiently and, in effect, preparing the area for planting. Each class was assigned a specific area to clean and students were also given specific tasks: Some were in charge of sweeping, a few others picked up twigs, and others were assigned to remove grass. The Foundation assisted in preparing a compost pit where dead leaves, grass and other trash were stored.

For the second phase, the tree planting, indigenous trees were planted in the area. These were in addition to the 3,000 trees already thriving in the lot, which nevertheless, Ms. Paterno said, still needed more trees.

More work was done in the succeeding Saturdays, to see the completion of the project. Though the activity entailed hard work—rain or shine—everyone valued the experience because their work meant doing ecologically sound and environment-friendly work.

As anyone who visits the Arroceros Mini-Forest Park can attest, all the effort that went into bringing the place to life was definitely worth it. It is truly a special place—a visual and natural oasis in the heart of an urban setting, a place that attests to how vital nature is and will always be amid these fast-paced times.

 

Manila Mayor-UE alumnus Alfredo Lim flanked by OECO Director Rogelio Espiritu, SAO Caloocan Director Gerardo Venturina (1st and 2nd from left) and Dr. Florida Labuguen (far right), the President of the Philippine Society of NSTP Educators and Implementers, Inc.