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Philippine community pantries spur environmental offshoot

Catholic seminary uses a food-for-poor campaign as inspiration to distribute tree saplings

Philippine community pantries spur environmental offshoot

Seminarians from Saint John Mary Vianney Seminary distribute saplings at their ‘pan-tree’ in Tagaytay City in Cavite province in the Philippines. (Photo: Father Reynaldo Caluto)

A Catholic seminary in the Philippines has taken a leaf out of a popular food aid distribution campaign to launch a tree-planting drive to encourage people to do more to protect the environment.

Saint John Vianney Theological Seminary in Tagaytay in Cavite province has set up community “pan-trees” to hand out tree saplings for people to plant.

The pan-trees were inspired by community pantries set up in the Philippine capital Manila last month to distribute food and dry goods to the poor.

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“From community pantries to community pan-trees for the environment. It adopts the same concept but instead of food, seminarians offer free seedlings and saplings to those who want to plant them,” said Carlo Sarmiento, a local resident who received a sapling.

He said the project has inspired other people like him to share coconut tree saplings with others.

Seminary dean Father Reynaldo Raluto said they initially offered velvet apple saplings so that people could grow a tropical fruit that’s famous on Luzon, the main island in the Philippines.

We have to respond to the problems of our ecosystem. Our declining forest ecosystem is really a serious problem that we have to face

The tree is also famous for its wood, which is often used to make furniture.

“Initially, we gave away this tree so that people could enjoy the fruit or use the wood,” Father Raluto said.

After a few weeks, other trees producing cinnamon, pacific walnut and eucalyptus also became available.

“Others have donated too. Our response to this pandemic should not just be short term like providing food or following health protocols but also long term, which is more ecological and sustainable,” Raluto said.

“We have to respond to the problems of our ecosystem. Our declining forest ecosystem is really a serious problem that we have to face.” 

Bishop Emeritus Arturo Bastes of Sorsogon praised the ecological effort being made by the seminarians.

“They are creative in thinking about how to take care of the environment. If community pantries work for food, why not use the same concept to distribute plants and trees?” he told UCA News.

“These seminarians are in their theological year. Perhaps they discussed in class Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si'. They have made the pope’s encyclical significant once again."

He said no pandemic should stop people caring for the environment, especially if they have something to share.

“In community pantries, we share food. In this kind of pantry, we share trees and plants. Food feed the hungry. But we all want a better environment with fresh air,” Bishop Bastes told UCA News.

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