Did you know that in Victorias City where sugarcane is king, an enterprising lawyer-businessman has transformed a 40-hectare sugarcane plantation into a manmade forest? Most of the trees are now full grown and some people are calling it a rainforest.

By Zac B. Sarian

Responsible for converting the place into a forest park is lawyer Nordy Diploma, 80, who is not only a good legal practitioner, but also a sharp businessman.

He learned from the history of Negros Occidental that the province used to be covered with thick forests which were cut down to give way to sugarcane plantations. Commercial logging and pollution from the sugar centrals also contributed to the degradation of the environment.

In 1997, lawyer Nordy bought 60 hectares of sugarcane plantation to pursue what some people in Negros called a crazy idea: converting a productive sugar farm into a forest from which no immediate income could be derived.

Today, Atty. Nordy has the last laugh. He has developed a beautiful forest park with a lot of moneymaking potential. For now, he makes money by selling the trimmings from his trees to the sugar centrals. They use the trimmings as fuel.

Selective harvesting of the trees will make it possible to sustain the forest forever. As of now, a furniture maker has broached to Atty. Nordy the possibility of putting up a furniture factory in the vicinity of the park so he can make furniture for export from the man-made forest. It makes sense because the furniture buyers from Europe and elsewhere would not accept furniture made of wood cut from the mountains.

There are many species that are growing in the forest park that could be made into furniture as well as for other purposes. These include mahogany, Gmelina, narra, lauan, and acacia.

Mahogany seedlings for planting.

Acacia

There are even bigger plans for the forest park. More areas are scheduled to be developed into agroforestry. One lot is being planted into acacia as it has been observed that acacia grows very fast in Negros.

The wood could eventually be harvested for making furniture and handicraft items. Thousands of acacia seedlings are being nurtured in the nursery today for future plantings. There is also a plan to collect more indigenous trees that will be tested for planting in the forest park. This will provide an additional attraction for visitors who will be familiarized with native Philippine trees. After all, Atty. Diploma wants the park to become an educational place for local as well as
foreign visitors.

The forest park could eventually become the source of seedlings for reforesting or creating new forests in different parts of Negros. People who will come to know of the benefits of man-made forests could be encouraged to put up their own forest plantations.

Within the Nordson Forest Park, parcels of land are being developed into different types of living forest to showcase the different ways of preserving and living in harmony with the forest. Biodiversity is being fostered by providing a conducive environment supporting a wide variety of indigenous trees, plants, and wildlife.

The good attorney says that visitors to the park will see examples of natural forests, plantation forests, and agroforestry. And they will experience the majesty of the forests as they walk along forest trails beside rice paddies and waterways, and obtain a panoramic view of the forest from a treetop rope bridge.

Coconut, calamansi and herbs at the school garden.

Nature Trails

Future plans also include the development of nature trails that will enable the visitors to the park to experience for themselves the wonders of a healthy ecosystem.

One other vision is to make the forest park a venue for leadership development and skills training. Atty. Diploma said that youth camps will provide a forum for leadership and skills training to produce the leaders of tomorrow from the youth of today.

Research Center

Also, the Nordson Forest Park can become an experiment station to find out which species will grow best in the Visayas.

The forest park is an ideal venue for field-testing different tree and plant species, growing techniques, and watershed rehabilitation with the help of various agencies that include the University of the Philippines (UP) Los Banos and the World Agroforestry Center.

A view of a portion of the 40 hectares planted to forest trees.

Science High School

Atty. Diploma is most proud of the National Negros Occidental Science High School, which is found right inside the forest park. He donated three hectares to the provincial government where it built the only public science high school in northern Negros. The school has since become one of the country’s leading science high schools. A total of 279 students who are mostly scholars of their municipal governments are enrolled, with their levels ranging from
Grade 7 to 10.

The students have garnered a lot of awards in various science competitions in the Philippines and abroad. The latest major award was won this year by Ayezza Myrisse V. Candelario, a grade 8 student. She won the gold medal in the 2015 World Mathematics International Finals held in China.

Aside from donating the three-hectare site of the science high school, Atty. Diploma continues to support the school. He provides a Php1,000 monthly stipend to each of the teachers to augment their salary from the government.

A floriferous Rubia ornamentale at the science high school grounds.

Charity Begins at Home

Charity, as they say, should begin at home. And that’s obvious in what Atty. Nordy did for the families who are working in the forest park as well as those who are working outside but who were residents of the place when he bought the sugar plantation from the owner.

He built 30 houses that are spacious and are far apart so that the families have ample elbow room to move about. He has also provided spaces where the families can grow their vegetables and other plants for home use.

So the residents are happy and content. And they also enjoy the healthy environment in the forest park.

This appeared in Agriculture Monthly’s October 2015 issue.