Her years of hard labor overseas finally found a break in a serene environment when she went home to develop a tree plantation in a piece of land she owns.
Ms. Lilibeth Solajes, a nature lover, spent almost half of her life working and living a busy life in different places abroad. Despite a seemingly posh life overseas, she shares that growing plants and living in a green environment is what truly makes her happy. For her, planting is a passion that’s innate and an inkling that’s long been in her senses.
“My home garden in Tacloban is filled with greens, and in the many years I’m not home, I make sure that all are in bloom”, Lilibeth says. According to her, she has always dreamed of a vast garden, one that’s peaceful and quiet.
In 2007, the realization of this dream kicked-off. Home from working abroad, Lilibeth acquired a 24- hectare land in Sta. Rita, Samar, just at the outskirts of the bustling City of Tacloban. From her mini garden at home, she desired to fill this land with fruit trees, hardwood, vegetables, and all sorts of plants that she hopes would make Mother Nature grin with joy.
Lilibeth says her communion with the outside world made her passion for the environment grow even stronger. Seeing environmental practices of different races and how other countries have managed to protect the environment inspired her to take bigger steps towards the realization of her vision and passion for nature.
Albeit, like most beginners Lilibeth struggled at first. “I bought this piece of land filled with naturally grown trees. Left a while due to my job outside the country, the community around this area started cutting down the trees, maybe thinking that this area will be cleared for further development anyway”, she shares.
“I was frustrated! I later realized that my goal needs to go beyond planting. I felt the need to educate the community about protecting nature and sustaining its health for the future”, she adds.
Instead of condemning them for their acts, Lilibeth hired individuals in the community, including those who were involved in the illegal cutting of trees to work on her 24-hectare land. They became partners in developing the area into a farm and a man-made forest filled with hardwood and fruit trees.
Admittedly though, Lilibeth says transforming the community and making them realize the value of environmental sustainability was difficult.
“The community is engulfed in old beliefs, old ways of doing things. Inculcating into their minds the value of today’s effort for the future couldn’t be done in a snap. They were rolling up their sleeves for what would satisfy their needs today, including cutting down trees so they could sell it, earn income, and serve food on their table”, she narrates.
She adds that some didn’t understand why she has such passion for farming and tree planting. Such huge place could be turned into an outstanding business hub instead, giving her immediate profit. Why wait for years to see the fruit of her labor? She was often asked.
Her endeavor questioned, Lilibeth admits that she embarked into this activity unarmed but optimistic. “My passion for this venture has driven me to pursue linkage with government agencies, NGOs, and the community. My hands grow plants, I know how to plant. But I have no technical knowledge on farming, more so, growing trees. I have passion, lots of glowing passion,” she explains
Lilibeth proudly shares that this passion, coupled with enthusiasm, is her greatest driving force. Her experience on environmental practices overseas tandems with her interests. This eagerness led her to finding a formidable ally with government agencies such as the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).
“The DENR gave me seedlings of yakal and other tree species for free. Planting these seedlings gives me so much joy and satisfaction. Growing these seedlings became a source of livelihood for the community”, Lilibeth says.
“I don’t have plans of harvesting these trees in the future, let it serve its purpose of carbon sequestration”, she quips.
“I realized that when you are keen on your intentions, you will truly achieve your goals. You don’t have to be an expert. Support is just around the corner, just take a step and go for it”, Lilibeth says.
“The most rewarding part of my planting experience is seeing the community transform from once violators of environmental laws into my partners in creating a sound environment”, Lilibeth adds.
She proudly shares that their dependence on the land for their daily survival is now coupled with responsibility and accountability.
“I think their hard work not only springs from the monetary remuneration they get from doing their job, they now understand the value of sustainability, protecting the environment and natural resources for tomorrow. The transformation of the community, a serene environment to rest, my green land giving back to nature what it deserves – this is my purpose, and I have taken a step to achieve it”, Lilibeth shared.