MAASIN CITY, Southern Leyte, July 24 (PIA) -- Long before talks of climate change or global warming hugged the headlines, a man with passion for creating jungles out of barren hills and mountains had started the fight of his lifetime, which is planting trees.

Meet Southern Leyte Governor Roger Mercado. He was governor for the first time since last year, 2013. But before this gubernatorial post, he was Congressman representing the lone district of Southern Leyte over the last two decades, with brief interruptions.

His passion for planting trees, however, had no interruptions. And so over the last two decades, he has been preaching the gospel of tree planting, living what he preached, and preaching what he lived for.

Every year on his natal day without fail, the celebration will not be complete without a trek to the mountains in this city, and all well-wishers would do well, and would be greatly appreciated, to greet him with dirty hands, literally, meaning they had planted their share of seedlings.

Aside from his birthday, any significant event for an office in the city, province, and national levels, caught on with fire in the action-driven advocacy that he started which was, and is, well, tree-planting.

Over time, many of those who joined the regular tree planting activities wore T-shirts depicting the man in action of planting a tree, emblazoned with the message that proclaimed "One Man, One Tree, Can Make a Forest."

The wearing of T-shirt itself carries a subliminal message: count me in as an avid supporter of this man-tree-forest thing. So from one man, it goes for two men, then three, four, five, tens, hundreds, thousands . . .

The once brown, cogon-infested heights along the barangay Bogo mountain range in this city, the area often made the annual site for the tree planting activities joined by students, employees, and other concerned individuals and groups with similar foresights, is now teeming with greeneries.

Acasia mangium species of trees, among other tree species, their heights reaching more than an average person's tall, dominated the landscape as far as the eyes can see, a tangible testament to the consistent efforts of one man that infected others as well like a welcome virus or a raging wildfire.

"Only God can make a tree," author Joyce Kilmer wrote in a poem aptly titled "Trees." No doubt about it.

But one man planting one God-made tree can certainly produce a man-made forest in the long run, nay, in the near future -- and within his or her lifetime at that, for added bonus.

Certainly, the Almighty will not envy such initiative.