What used to be an empty, rocky piece of land on this public school campus is now a haven for chirping birds during the day and the rarer fireflies at night. And don’t forget the stray cats.
Commonwealth High School in Quezon City has managed to build its own mini forest park, a remarkable feat of greening amid the concrete jungle.
A 500-square meter space within the 1.7-hectare campus was transformed into an urban oasis for the students, under a four-year-old project that recently earned recognition from the Department of Education.
“I find it therapeutic and calming to tend to the trees and plants. And the students also learn how to care for something and love it till it grows,” said Teresito Ogot Jr., an agriculture teacher who oversees the park’s maintenance.
Over 50 trees and assorted plants dot the park, which also features two nipa huts and a small pond where around 50 koi or Japanese carp complete the overall picture of serenity.
The canopy of trees include many varieties like bignay, golden flower, mango, santol, kamias, eucalyptus, olive and mahogany, which were grown from saplings courtesy of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
“It was when the trees grew and thrived that I began hearing birds (like the bato-bato) and seeing fireflies again, which are a rarity in the city. We used to have doves here too, but the cats ate them,” Ogot recalled with a chuckle in an interview on Saturday.
Ogot said the area used to be just a rocky lot with patches of grass until Sen. Loren Legarda launched a nationwide greening contest among schools and barangays in 2008. Of the 12 participating schools in Metro Manila, only Commonwealth High represented Quezon City.
Last week, the school emerged as one of 16 finalists in the contest, the only entry from the National Capital Region that made it. The grand winner was Cauayan National High School in Isabela province.
“I think more schools will be encouraged to do the same because of what we did,” said Ogot, who designed the park and supervised the planting.
Students in his class also helped in tending the garden and keeping the park clean, their work serving as their laboratory and extracurricular activity.
Caring for plants could instill a sense of pride among the students as they nurture life and keep it safe from harm. “When I see them protecting a plant from damage, I know that they have learned the lesson well, that is to love and care for another living thing,” the teacher said.