fueled by stories.
We started our work because of the story of the Yangil Tribe and their home. This story has sent us across our country meeting new friends, exploring far-off lands, and most importantly, showing us just how powerful stories are. Stories can change the world-- they're already touching lives.
Our goal is to tell the stories of the Philippines to Filipinos, and by doing so, gather more support for our indigenous groups who deserve much more. In sharing the stories of our home, we can get a better understanding of what it means to protect it.
Photo by Issa Barte
The Story that brought us here
The trip that started the journey by Issa Barte, Co-Founder
The first time I visited Yangil, I walked the white sand trail in awe. Around me, you could see each sway, swoon, and ridge, of each summit, the hints of light green grass popping from all the grey would catch anyone’s attention. It was a trek that lasted two hours under the sun if you took your time, nestled with a view of mountains that were strewn along the vast expanse of land.
I was taking that trek with my friends to plant trees for my 23rd birthday.
At the end of it, you land in a small nook with growing seedlings. This is their tree nursery, and you sit down among piles of fertilizer and dirt to house saplings guided by the members of the Yangil Tribe. It was there as I put seeds into pockets of dirt that I realized what I had really seen on the trek.
You only see those summits because there are no trees. This is not white sand-- this is ash.
In 1991, Mt. Pinatubo erupted and ravaged the surrounding lands, Sitio Yangil was not spared. The once fertile lands of Yangil have now gone barren in volcanic ash and have made crops more difficult to grow.
Looking for new ways to sustain themselves, the Yangil Tribe went and cut down the very same trees their tribe was named after. The Yangil logs were turned to charcoal to sell and in turn, their lands became even more infertile and farming more difficult.
This was sent to me in August as I asked if I could come to bring in supplies for the community-- the white ash trail is nowhere to be seen, completely drowned by the rainfall that came in that month.
There are only 2 seasons in the Philippines: wet and dry. The yangil community has the worst of both. To get anywhere from their community, you walk that trek under the sun, with no shade from trees to guard you from the heat. The wet season comes and brings in rain that slides down the mountains easily, accumulating into floods that reach higher than their heads. The community has had to stay in their homes in the mountains for months at a time because of the floods. Sometimes having to resort to eating tree bark if they run out of food, or taking the life endangering risk and facing the flood that has already taken some of their lives away.
My point here is that it’s easy to read about deforestation, the technicalities of it are simple. No trees, means more carbon in the air, more greenhouse gasses in our atmosphere. Learning about reforestation is the same, the more seeds we plant, the bigger chance we have in mitigating these effects. We can even say the same with global issues like the climate crisis. We see ice melt, forests burn, oceans acidify, but see these as part of a global catastrophe. When in reality, the affects of it are so local.
This is my friend Jamaica from the Yangil Tribe standing in front of her tree nursery. She doesn't need to know the ins and outs of these global issues to know that trees are essential to live a full life. We have to understand things like her-- that this isn’t an issue for the future, these things have impact on our people today-- our actual neighbors.
The Philippines is the second most vulnerable country to the effects of the climate crisis— and this is why stories matter. They pull down these global concepts into humanizing narratives. They tell us that the science is right, and people will continue to suffer if it’s not solved.
We created Fund the Forest, now, For the Future, as an ode to the story of the Yangil Tribe, to provide a concrete way for us and other young people to support the on going reforestation efforts here. We imagined a whole new forest in our lifetime, and we wanted to make it real. We know it's possible with everyone's help.
Photo by Ivan Torres
We continue because we know that anyone can make a difference. The world doesn't need anymore superheroes, we just need people who care enough to make a difference-- and that can be anyone.
You don't need to be anyone else to be a person that can make a difference. My team of 12 and I are made up of artists, writers, band managers, DJ's, aspiring vets, jewelry brand founders-- all of us coming together from different roots, moving together with our deep belief: there is hope for our future.
There will continue to be hope if we start today.