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Towards the end of 2019 and to the present, the Philippines and the world have been continuously dealing with the coronavirus disease or COVID-19 which has affected and claimed thousands of lives.

In the country, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte declared a state of national health emergency and a Luzon-wide enhanced community quarantine. Visayas and Mindanao followed suit to help curb the transmission of the disease.

In Western Visayas, the provinces of Aklan, Antique, Capiz, Guimaras, Iloilo and Negros Occidental implemented a lockdown in their respective provincial borders to contain the spread of the dreaded virus that has infected many and caused death to a number of people.

Physical distancing and wearing of face masks in public places were also ordered. Senior citizens and students were strictly instructed to stay at home and curfew was set from 8 o’clock in the evening until 5 o’clock in the morning.

In the government and in most private companies, work was suspended except for hospitals and those involved in relief operations.

For the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in Region 6, COVID-19 is an opportunity to encourage gardening among families as a way to strengthen bonds and for parents to spend quality time with their children. At the same time, it is a chance to help the Earth to heal and be green again.

“Gardening is an excellent stress reliever. A combination of exposure to fresh air and sunlight, a good exposure to the natural world,” said DENR 6 Regional Executive Director Francisco E. Milla, Jr., who is also a plant lover, being a forester by profession.

“In this time of crisis, people tend to be nervous about going out of the four corners of their house. But it is at this time, when we can also contribute to the healing of our Earth by practicing ‘enhanced’ family gardening. Bond with your kids, make that empty space in your home colorful and greener, and make your self-quarantine productive. Reuse any material that you have while gardening. Just be creative. It will surely lessen your trash and ensure chemical-free vegetables for your family,” Milla added.

During this season, it is advisable to plant vegetable crops. Since most public markets are closed for a number of days for fumigation and sanitation and with the restriction in public transportation, having a vegetable garden in one’s backyard will help provide the daily nutrition requirement from vegetables. Additionally, vegetables are proven best for health and cost less. Many green, leafy and yellow vegetables such as spinach, camote tops, malunggay, squash, tomatoes and eggplants are a good food source and are easy to plant.

Most women consider growing flowering plants around the house as a stress reliever. For homes with gardens, repotting can be done by deadheading flowers and trimming foliage. Place the trimmed plant in a bigger pot or change its soil to enhance growth.

If there is no backyard or space for a new plant, container gardening can also work. Reuse empty plastic water containers or any other kind of plastic container where the plant can fit. Arrange it vertically or horizontally or in any way to beautify it. Gardening is a good physical activity that reduces stress.

According to Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu, the protection of the environment is not the sole responsibility of the government but of every individual.

“Being more environmentally conscious is the right thing to do. Living a more eco-friendly lifestyle could help create a sustainable planet and mitigate the effects of climate change and global warming,” said Cimatu.

Clean air, Clean water and Ecological Solid Waste Management are among the 10 priority programs of the DENR under Cimatu. / DENR 6