Thick gray clouds and biting winds couldn't dampen the spirits of 30 Viscans who hiked VSU's steep trails on the chilly morning of January 17th, 2024. Drawn by the call of ABELS Society's "Rooted in Words: Planting Good Intentions in 2024" initiative, they gathered at the College of Forestry and Environmental Science, ready to plant hope and Pili seedlings across the campus.


    While Angelo O. Jao, ABELS Society Vice President, admits the theme wasn't intricately planned, it resonated deeply. "This project was already being pushed last year," he explained. "So, when we finally got the time, we thought it would be great to make the activity a welcome to the year 2024 through planting. We not only hope for growth for the plants, but for ourselves as well."


    ABELS Society partnered with forest guards from the Department of Forestry. These experts oriented the eager volunteers to handle the Pili seedlings and guided them to the designated planting sites. Throughout the process, the guards kept a watchful eye, ensuring responsible planting practices.


    The 30 volunteers, divided into six teams, tackled strategic locations across campus grounds. They tackled the slopes behind the upper oval stage, the volleyball court near the Philippine Carabao Center, sidewalks connecting the Ilang-Ilang Dormitory to the Institute of Human Kinetics and the VSU market to Ecopack, the area near market booths, and finally, the vacant lot close to the Department of Food Science and Technology.


    "My expectations were technically low," Jao confessed. "So, it was already exceeded when I witnessed people bringing bolos while wearing working clothes at our meeting place. It probably didn't look like it, but I was very happy."


    Despite the light drizzle and persistent wind, the enthusiastic volunteers planted 124 Pili seedlings by 9:00 AM. They reconvened for a quick snack and a heartfelt speech by the ABELS Society President, Ms. Paula Wayne S. Caintic, delivered just as the sun peeked through the clouds and the trees swayed in the gale. "ABELS Society sincerely appreciates the enthusiasm and efforts of all the volunteers from different courses that have joined us today to give back to our planet and university through this small initiative," she said. "We hope you enjoyed our event despite the early call time and light drizzle."


    Laughter prevails even as the volunteers' hair was whipped by the strong winds. The event concludes with a small ceremony, where volunteers are given certificates. Many of which have to be folded against the battering winds. Many went home with a smile at their faces and new acquaintances met.


    When asked about future initiatives, Jao admitted there were no immediate plans. However, the success of "Rooted in Words" serves as a testament to the power of student-led initiatives working in harmony with VSU's dedication to environmental conservation. Not every seedling will survive, but those that do will rise tall, standing firm like towers, a testament to the good intentions planted at the dawn of a new year.

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