There's a small park along Pacita Avenue in San Pedro City (not exactly a park, but more properly a "green area" where residents have cultivated trees and plants) that I pass through everyday on my way to work and back.
With Covid-19 restrictions having been relaxed somewhat, I've found myself smelling (probably for the first time) the flowers and the fruits that have bloomed in that area as I walk to work.
Those faint smells are a balm to my soul, a perfect way to calm my mind and soul as I brace for another stressful day on the job.
Most recently, those smells have stirred some thoughts in my mind: When was the last time we smelled those fresh natural scents that proclaim Nature’s beauty?
One contentious restriction that had been imposed by the government three years ago due to the Covid-19 pandemic had been the mandatory wearing of face masks in public and enclosed placed.
Wait, scratch the word “contentious” – after all, even when the efficacy of face shields had been endlessly debated by medical experts and the populace, the face mask mandate has been one of the most popular measures enforced by authorities to halt the spread of the coronavirus.
Three years later, most Filipinos still prefer to err on the side of caution and wear face masks in public places, even as active Covid-19 cases have been reported to be in single-digits in past months.
Actually, I believe many of us found face masks beneficial in more ways than one.
For one thing, face masks helped us “mask” the smells of the city that had become part of urban life like car exhaust or garbage piles or sewage from esteros or open canals.
But as authorities finally loosen the face mask mandate, those smells have creeped back into our consciousness, reminding us once again that the issues we have faced with rapid urbanization – air and noise pollution, garbage, sewage and urban decay - have not been eliminated by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Nowadays, unfortunately, we could only smell flowers on select occasions such as weddings, christenings or funerals.
I believe many of us – especially the youth – are missing out on enjoying the natural scents of flowers, trees and plants that Mother Nature has bestowed on us.
Only through the appreciation of those scents, I believe, can we actually become active stewards of nature, especially in this age where climate change threatens to upend the very existence of this Earth we live in.
Last year, San Pedro City Mayor Art Mercado has made a bold promise: by the end of his term, the entire city will once again smell the fragrance of sampaguita, the Philippines' national flower and one of San Pedro City's most prominent products.
With most sampaguita plantations having been transformed into residential or commercial hubs, the City Agriculture Office is now encouraging every household and every business in the city to plant sampaguitas in their backyards.
Imagine if every house, every establishment does that! We’ll be giving our youth a valuable gift – the scent of flowers – and a valuable lesson, for them to take care of Nature’s wonders!