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2,500 trees for Cebu’s green warrior

/ 07:26 AM August 03, 2013

More than 2,000 native trees were planted in the mountains of Cebu City on a rainy Saturday morning to celebrate the life of a green warrior, Maria Luisa Largo.

Largo, who died of complications arising from uterine cancer on July 13, was instrumental in preserving the Cebu Hillylands or Central Cebu Protected Landscape (CCPL) by crafting and monitoring projects on river basin management, water education and environmental governance.

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The CCPL covers more than 29,000 hectares of forest reserves and watersheds covering nine cities and towns in Cebu.

“Malu dedicated her professional life to efforts that conserve our fragile environment and it is here in the Cebu Hillylands, growing trees and working with communities and fellow green warriors, that she was most alive,” said Jessie Cubjiano, director of the Philippine Business for Social Progress-Visayas.

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Family members and social development workers planted 2,500 native trees including the Cebu Cinnamon, a tree that can only be found in Cebu.

It was drizzling when the group went up to barangay Pung-ol Sibugay.

To get there, they crossed rivers and bamboo bridges, passing muddy roads and slopes.

The volunteers were exhausted but laughter filled the air as colleagues described how Largo, 38, would effortlessly climb steep mountains and walk for hours to monitor reforestation sites.

HAPPY MEMORIES

An “Ode to Malu” was jointly recited. Then butterflies were released by the trekkers led by Largo’s husband, Frank, and daughters, Frances, 14, and Gabrielle 11.

Gabrielle said she planted 43 trees, which she admits is a far cry from what her mother planted in her career that spanned 15 years.

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Frances, a high school student of Cebu City National Science High School, said her mother did not tolerate mediocrity and pushed them to do their best in school “because she knew we are capable of doing so.”

Largo graduated Cum Laude with an Economics degree at the University of San Carlos in 1996.

She worked for non-government organizations namely Care Philippines and Cebu Uniting for Sustainable Water before moving to PBSP in 2005.

She was PBSP Visayas’ environment coordinator when she passed away.

It was in environment projects implemented by PBSP and partners that Largo shone as a social development worker.

In 2008, Largo was at the forefront of mobilizing private sector support for the Buhisan Watershed.

“For Buhisan, Malu and our PBSP team engaged companies and donor agencies to fund projects on livelihood, reforestation, water and sanitation, governance and community mobilization,” said Cubijano, who worked with Largo for eight years.

PBSP Visayas chairman Jose Antonio Aboitiz described Largo as “fiercely intelligent” with a passion for learning.

Largo helped steer the Visayan Electric Company Reforestation Park Project, PBSP’S biggest reforestation project to date, covering 540 hectares with more than a million trees planted.

Under her watch, a scientific profiling of flora and fauna was made to identify more than 60 species of indigenous trees and to track down the various species of reptiles, birds and insects thriving in the sites.

“She will be remembered in these trees. Malu laid the foundations of the kind of work that we will continue here in the Cebu Hillylands and in other protected areas,” said Cubijano.

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