Medtech student Shanaya Vince Alado is one of the winners of the DENR Tree Hugging Contest 2024. Photo from DENR Forest Management Bureau’s FB Page.

Participating in the Tree Hugging Campaign initially felt like a mere academic obligation for Far Eastern University (FEU) student Shanaya Vince Alado at first, given that it is mandated by her National Service Training Program (NSTP) 2 course. Little did she know that this seemingly routine activity would ignite a newfound passion within her for environmental advocacy.

Her decision to join the campaign was not just motivated by a desire to fulfill course requirements, but it was also driven by a deeper longing to reconnect with nature. As she wrapped her arms around the tree, she was reminded by the simple joys of her childhood and the intrinsic bond between humans and the natural world. This experience prompted her to create a post on her social media account dedicated to it, a decision that later proved instrumental in her winning journey.

When she learned about her winning, she was surprised. What started as an act of embracing a tree had garnered recognition from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).  The unexpected acknowledgment filled her with such pride and reaffirmed her commitment to environmental stewardship. It was a humbling reminder that even the smallest actions can have a significant impact when fueled with genuine passion and dedication.

 “Taking care of the environment is our responsibility. It is crucial, as we are already experiencing the detrimental effects of our environmental neglect; thus, causing widespread devastation. Living in Albay, my home province, I have witnessed this firsthand. Crops are destroyed, and our farmers’ livelihoods are put at risk. So, this clearly shows the connectedness between our actions and the planet’s well-being. With this, we must actively care for the land, for Mother Earth, as it tirelessly provides for us—and we should also reciprocate this protection,” Said Shanaya. 

Her journey with the Tree Hugging Campaign has been transformative for her. Through this experience, she has gained a deeper appreciation for nature and renewed her sense of purpose in safeguarding the environment. She is committed to being a voice and an inspiration to others in joining the fight for a sustainable future for everyone.

The NSTP and Community Relations Office (COMREL) in partnership with the DENR launched #TYPE_FEU or The Tamaraw Yakap Puno Effort for Environmental Upliftment, which aims to promote awareness on the importance of nurturing the forests and how beneficial hugging of trees can be to a person’s well-being.

The DENR through its Forest Management Bureau together with FEU Manila’s NSTP Director Atty. Rosalie DC. Cada spearheaded the “Tree Hugging Campaign” from Feb. 12 to 16, which also paved the way not only for students but also to faculty and other members of the school community to celebrate Valentine’s Day in a very different way wherein they expressed their love and care for the environment by hugging the heritage trees inside the campus and post photos on their social media accounts with the hashtags #OneTreeLove #TreeHuggingDay #PunoNgPagmamahal #ValentinesDay while also mentioning the DENR’s official facebook page.

The DENR, NSTP, and COMREL have several upcoming joint projects planned, the Tree Hugging Campaign being only one of them. These are intended to kickstart environmental-related initiatives, campaigns, and activities. These comprise but are not limited to clean-up drives (coastal, estero); planting mangroves and bamboo; and reforestation projects (seedling production, nursery establishment, and tree planting activities).

This campaign also aims to start the initiative through collaboration with other offices in the university to come up with a coffee table book, which will feature the heritage trees in the FEU Manila Campus and publish it in time for the celebration of the 2024 World Environment Day on June 5.