Special Action Force (SAF) planted a tree in Tuba, Benguet to commemorate their loved ones during the 1st year anniversary of the bravery of the 44 SAF victims in Mamasapano.
The activity dubbed as tree-bute is part of their Two-day commemoration program they held in Baguio City on January 15 and 16 attended by families of the SAF 44.
The tree-bute site in Badiwan was originally allotted to the 14 Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) families of the SAF by Cordillera Heritage Foundation, Inc. formerly Smile Movement, Inc.
The CAR SAF families started the tree-bute on March 15, 2015 after the Mamasapano incident. The activity was shared on social media, which inspired the other families to join them in their planned commemoration activity in Baguio.
Lead organizer Julie Cayang-o said the other families were intrigued with the unity of the Cordilleran families that started with the tree-bute.
“When we told them the Cordilleran families are planning to do the commemoration together at an earlier date, they wanted to join,” she said.
The two-day commemoration activity was attended by 37 families of the original 44. The activity started with a candle lighting activity on Friday and prayer walk from Session Road to Ibaloy park on Saturday, followed by a short program and boodle fight at the Park. It was concluded with a tree planting at Badiwan.
Merlyn Gamutan, the widow of PSI Joey Gamutan from Basilan, said they were surprised of the way people treated the Cordilleran family members that they accorded such heroic tribute to them. “It’s only here that we see how people treat the SAF 44 as heroes,” she said.
“We hope the administrator of this site will grant us, the rest of the SAF 44, to be part of this tree-bute site that our beloved husbands, fathers, sons will be accorded the same love and respect,” she pleaded in tear.
Gamutan expressed that there’s a donation they wish to contribute to the foundation so that they can be included in the tree-bute site.
The foundation granted the request of the SAF 44 and the council members are currently making plans to expand the tree-bute site.
The tree-bute is a project of the foundation where individuals can plant and dedicate a tree for their loved ones as a living commemoration. It is a way to give meaning to the place and the trees that will be planted and to ensure for the survival of the trees that will make the barren place team with vegetation. By dedicating the trees to their dead loved ones, the organizers hope that the relatives who planted the trees will take care of them with love and care as they have taken care of their dearly departed.
The Cordilleran SAF families were the first to be given the opportunity to plant trees. Ghemar Pawid, one of the foundation’s councils said “by dedicating the planted trees to the SAF heroes, they will be the guardians of the place and trees that will be planted in the site.”
The tree-bute site is located in Badiwan, Tuba, Benguet, which is part of a theme park being developed by the foundation. The site will be known as Badiwan Hobbitat, after the shire in Lord of the Rings inhabited by the Hobbits./Carl C. Taawan