Saturday, September 27, 2008


Mayor Alfredo S. Lim was astonished and alarmed when he passed by Intramuros to see the trees which included six narra and two mahogany trees at the IA-regulated Plaza Roma opposite Manila Cathedral had been cut.

How could Mrs. Bambi Harper, the Intramuros Administration chief, do such a thing? -- he must have thought. Mrs. Harper was not answering her cell phone so the mayor called the police station nearest to the scene of this environmental chainsaw massacre.

It was later discovered that Mrs. Harper was planning to plant about 22 fire trees at the plaza so she had
ten narra and three mahogany trees – all endangered species, as well as 17 fruit bearing trees (neem, mango, langka and atis) cut and transferred elsewhere. However, her failure to announce her intention to do some tree-cutting astounded and irked many powers that be.

Executive director Corazon Davis of the Department of Environment and Natural Resource’s National Capital Region office wasted no time to file charges against Mrs. Harper -- for violation of Presidential Decree 953, Republic Act 3019 (Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act) and Republic Act 9175 -- before the Office of the Ombudsman.

PD 953 penalizes the unauthorized cutting, destruction, damage and injury of trees, plants and vegetation. RA 9175, on the other hand, regulates the ownership, possession, sale and use of chainsaws. RA 3019, well, astounded and irked many of Mrs. Harper's allies.

However, Mayor Lim, a lawyer, read the legal ramifications of this environmental misdeed correctly and cleared Mrs. Harper, ordering City Hall’s legal department to charge instead the contractor, Fer­nando Sim­borio of the Batangas based Green Philippine Nursery Plant, with five counts of violation of PD 953.

Rene Martel, in a Manila Times opinion column claims, "We didn’t hear any verbal thundering from from Davis when DENR Secretary Lito Atienza, in his previous role as Mayor of Manila, ordered (despite an uproar by the caring environmental community) well over two hundred trees to be chopped down at the two historic sites of Mehan Garden and Arroceros Forest Park. And ironically, Harper’s voice was one of the loudest to rail against Atienza at that time."

Be that as it may, poor Mr. Simborio the contractor. He was, after all, simply following what he was ordered and paid to do.

View photo of the shady Plaza Roma here
before its ten-decade old trees were chainsawed.


© 2008 Señor Enrique

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posted by Señor Enrique at 2:32 AM


Anonymous Anonymous said...

those trees should have been transfered instead of just cutting them. what a waist!

September 27, 2008 4:04 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

Good point, Anonymous! That's what any decent human being would have done.

However, personally, I would have left those trees alone; just trim them now and then maybe. I say this because many of those trees bore fruits that the poor children living in Intramuros would have enjoyed. Sayang!

September 27, 2008 8:48 AM  

Blogger NOYPETES said...

Kaligayahan ng mga kabataan yang pag-akyat-akyat sa mga puno at mamitas ng prutas. Maganda rin sanang lilim yan sa init para sa mga sumasamba pag linggo at higit sa lahat ay magandang pamasyalan ng mga taga-Maynila. napakasarap pakinggan ng tunog ng mga dahon ng puno kapag nilalaro ng ihip hangin galing sa dagat.
Kawawa naman si ginoong Simborio at siya ang naging bintangan ng walang kamalayan ng ibang tao. At bakit naman "Fire Trees"? di naman yata bagay yan sa tema ng Intramuros...baka gusto naman ni Mrs. Harper eh mala Europa ang dating ng hardin ng simbahan?
Naku naman mali naman yata iyon!

September 27, 2008 9:17 AM  

Blogger EM said...

When I saw the before and after pictture, my heart sank. How can we do such disrespect of our environment? How can we deny life to these trees who has given us the very air we breath?

Every house lot here in Canada has at least a tree. Some have 2 or more. The government will provide the lot owner any choice of tree to be planted and it will be delivered and planted free of charge. I know that back home we don't have such luxury of land but at least we could have valued and treasured whatever we have left.

September 27, 2008 9:27 AM  

Blogger escape said...

when i heard this news, i was disappointed. cutting trees and transferring it is definitely not the same thing.

people behind such massacre deserves a penalty. this will serve as a lesson to other cities.

September 27, 2008 11:01 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Regaluhan yata natin si Mr. Simborio ng goat - dahil siya ang escapegoat LOL. The poor guy was hired and paid to cut trees not people's head, and now he is in legal trouble! The law works in mysterious is often blind to common sense.

September 27, 2008 11:35 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

Sayang talaga, Pete! Siguradong marami ng mga kabataan na taga Intramuros na naligayahan sa mga puno na nagbunga ng langka, atis at mga iba pa. Malaking hinayang at nawala na.

Kawawa talaga si Ginoong Simborio.

September 27, 2008 1:11 PM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

Those trees were like a hundred years old, EM :(

And come to think of it, unlike in the States and Canada, Manila doesn't really have that many parks with trees.

September 27, 2008 1:13 PM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

Truly a ludicrous move on IA's part to have those trees cut, donG. Wish they had just thought of planting fire trees on another part of Intramuros.

September 27, 2008 1:15 PM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

Lol ... it does seem comedic, bertN, but I do feel bad for Mr. Simborio. All of a sudden, there are people who now regard him as a mean hired gun or chainsaw for that matter.

September 27, 2008 1:16 PM  

Blogger Sidney said...

As always... the small guy will be punished... not really a surprise to me.

What surprises me more is the decision to cut those trees.. I don't understand the rationale behind it.

September 27, 2008 2:38 PM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

I agree with you, Sidney.

First I heard of this news I dismissed it, but when I drove by the plaza last week and saw how barren it is now, I was simply dismayed.

September 27, 2008 4:58 PM  

Blogger nutart said...

my husband calls chainsaws instruments of mass destructions :-). It is quite disappointing that with seemingly educated people, they still wouldn't think twice about cutting down these aged trees. A lot of roads in Quezon City and C5 had mowed down a lot of these century old trees. In other countries in Europe, I heard that a lot of planning would be done to detour certain hiways just so it would cut the lesser number of trees as possible.

Well, here,,,I guess trees cannot cry foul as compared with people who has houses and offices in the way.

September 27, 2008 5:54 PM  

Blogger BCS said...

I was there this afternoon... and all the while I was at the plaza, I kept wondering what has changed. I used to take pictures there a lot... and I can remember having a hard time looking for a spot where I can see and fit all of Manila Cathedral into the frame... this afternoon, it seemed all too easy! Now I know what's wrong. :( :( :(

September 27, 2008 8:55 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I actually like the façade of Manila Cathedral in full view, without those trees obstructing the view.

We should remember that the Center piece in Intramuros is not the park with the trees but the Church itself.
The architectural beauty of the church is now exposed after years and years of hiding behind the trees. Let those trees be the sacrificial lamb for a new Intramuros to shine from neglect and decay.

September 27, 2008 10:58 PM  

Blogger Unknown said...


Not only does this make my heart bleed, it makes my blood BOIL!!!!

It is so sad!

I cant understand why educated people would cut down a tree. They have NO COMMON SENSE AT ALL!!!

I will stop here before I say something.

September 27, 2008 11:03 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was shocked upon hearing that happened. At the same time,I was thankful that we were able to go to that place a few days before the trees were cut and managed to take some photos.

September 28, 2008 2:55 AM  

Blogger Panaderos said...

I join the others in condemning this act. I think it's the height of irony that a lady who prides herself in fighting for heritage conservation was a party herself to tearing down trees that have become a part of a city landmark.

And of course, the small guy has to pay for a big guy's (or gal's) idiotic decision. Such is the Filipino way.

September 28, 2008 4:15 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

Here in Manila alone, Bernadette, I don't see as many parks with trees as it is yet many of our administrators don't blink an eye when cutting down century old trees as if wantonly.

I do, however, support the idea of trimming trees whose branches pose threats to our hanging wires and cables especially during severe typhoons.

September 28, 2008 5:45 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

The cathedral is so massive and the park right in front of it that it was indeed impossible to take a picture of the cathedral in full view, BCS.

However, as a photographer who enjoys architectural shots at times, therein lies the artistic challenge and fun.

BTW, here are two photo essays I had done on the cathedral and the plaza:

September 28, 2008 5:55 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

I do agree with you, Anonymous, that the church may be the centerpiece of Intramuros, not the trees, but the trees have been part of Plaza Roma for a hundred years -- surviving even the massive carpet bombing by the Americans during the Battle for Manila.

Perhaps, a more thoughtful procedure should have been established in the uprooting and transfer of these trees instead of just merely getting chainsawed.

September 28, 2008 6:12 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

It is, Daisy. It really is :(

September 28, 2008 6:12 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

Now, I'm busily going through my photo archives looking for more shots I had done of this area with the trees, Julie. Had I known the trees were going to be cut, I would have taken more photos for posterity.

September 28, 2008 6:14 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

I am all for the continued restoration and improvement of Intramuros, Panaderos, but I do agree with you: cutting those century old trees for the sake of aesthetics is a crime against the environment. Those trees are indeed a major part of the area's history.

I was truly appalled upon seeing this barren plaza.

September 28, 2008 6:24 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry to say this: I actually like it now that the facade has been exposed. I agree with the others who said that the trees should have been trimmed. I found it wrong that it was cut from the trunks. There are ways to trim tree so that it would look beautiful, as in the case here in Katipunan Ave. at the gate of Miriam. A couple of trees were trimmed in nice way that it enhanced the gate and the vicinity. The trees at Plaza Roma should have been trimmed in this way. and plan more of those fire trees in between. Sigh, how can they make such mistake?

September 30, 2008 1:18 PM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

Unarguably, any structure especially historic, would look better fully exposed; however, to do so at the expense of chainsawing century-old endangered hardwood and fruit bearing trees is altogether another matter of grave environmental concern.

Trimming mighty have been a more ideal alternative, as you've mentioned, Anonymous.

October 01, 2008 2:50 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would like to apologize for the cutting of trees in behalf of Mr Fernando Simborio, but not on his lack of knowledge and plain stupidity of the laws of the land. I am ashamed to carry the name Simborio even being his nephew.

October 31, 2008 2:04 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

i apologize in behalf of mr fernando simborio for cutting down the trees but not for his lack of knowledge and plain stupidity for the laws of the land. as long as there is stupid people like my uncle exists, the corrupt govt officials will have a field day mud throwing at their political enemies at thier expense.

October 31, 2008 2:14 AM  

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Life in Manila as observed by a former New Yorker who with a laptop and camera has reinvented himself as a storyteller. Winner of the PHILIPPINE BLOG AWARDS: Best Photo Blog in 2007 and three Best Single Post awards in 2008.


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