Wednesday, September 18, 2019


Daily heavy traffic, floods, noise, crowds. Living in Metro Manila may well be a health hazard. And for those who wish to not just survive but thrive in such a challenging environment, taking regular breaks in nature is a must. 

And no, I’m not talking about another trip to the mall or a costly weekend getaway out of town. I’m talking about something simpler and accessible to everyone: getting out of the concrete jungle and taking a walk in nature. 

The Japanese call it shinrin-yoku, a literal translation of forest bathing, an activity said to be so simple yet powerful that it brings a host of health benefits. 

Forest bathing is a walk through the forest, taking in the clean air and the refreshing sight of lush trees, feeling the breeze, relishing the sounds of nature. It is a mindful, sensory exercise known to calm the mind, reduce blood pressure, stress, and cholesterol levels, and even improve concentration and memory. 

An analysis published in the journal Environmental Research found that spending more time in nature also cuts the risk for chronic ailments such as diabetes and heart disease. Walking in nature helps boost immunity, which researchers say could be due to chemicals emitted by trees called phytoncides—organic compounds with antibacterial properties. 

Luckily, there remain green spaces in Metro Manila that require little to no cost to visit. 

One of them is the La Mesa Ecopark, a patch of green in Quezon City where visitors may hike, bike, go on a boat ride or even dare to try the zipline at the adventure zone. Another green zone in Quezon City is the Ninoy Aquino Parks and Wildlife Center, where visitors may take a stroll along pathways flanked by plants and trees. Or, there are campuses like U.P Diliman, which while not a forest, have sufficient greenery to calm the soul.  

These green spaces are few not just in Metro Manila, but across the country. In the face of overdevelopment, population boom and the threat of global warming, it is in imperative to protect the country’s remaining forest cover.

Thankfully, lending a hand won’t have to take a half-day trek or a massive mobilization effort. Through a carbon tracker feature of leading mobile wallet GCash, anyone with a smartphone can help.  

GCash Forest allows users to help plant trees at the Ipo Watershed, which is part of the system that supplies water to metro Manila. Just earn “green energy” by going cashless and using the app for transactions. Upon earning enough points, users may choose a native tree to adopt—an actual sapling to be planted at the watershed. 

GCash aims to plant 365,000 trees in one year, or 1,000 trees a day. 

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