ILOILO, Philippines – Catholics who want to marry, have someone buried or baptized will soon be required to plant trees, according to a Memorandum of Agreement among the Catholic Church, the local government and the Department of Environmental and Natural Resources in the province of Iloilo in Central Philippines.
Not just any kind of trees, but Bonsai trees.
‘Bonsai’ is a Japanese art form using miniature trees grown in containers. Similar practices exist in other cultures, including the Chinese tradition of penjing from which the art originated.
The agreement, signed on April 22 (Earth Day), was originally aimed to reforest the lands denuded by Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) in 2013. Thousands of trees, including century-old ones, were uprooted when Typhoon Yolanda hit the province.
However, many Catholics in the province — mostly from low-income families — complained that they do not own any land and would not be able to comply with the tree planting requirement.
As a compromise, the archbishop of Iloilo relaxed the requirement by allowing Catholics to instead plant Bonsai trees on pots and containers inside their homes or apartments.
Taking advantage of the new rule, SM Department Stores in the province quickly added Bonsai trees to their list of available items in their gift registries.
Couples getting married or parents having their children baptized in the Catholic Church can now request their invited guests to give them the gift of Bonsai.
For Catholic burials, families of the deceased can now add the following line in the obituaries:
‘In lieu of flowers, please consider bringing a Bonsai tree to the wake or funeral.’