Ayta’s Tree Project – Why do we have to grow seeds of trees that survived the atomic bombings?


Project Description: In the Philippines, over the course of 4 years, Ayta’s Tree Project will create a forest from tree seeds that survived the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. Major events in the process will be documented for a feature film, Ayta’s Tree Project.

After the eruption of a sacred Mt. Pinatubo in 1991, Ayta, the indigenous people/the earliest inhabitants of the Philippines evacuated and moved to the lower-altitude resettlement area of Pampanga. The modern Philippines affords them no protection socially, politically or financially as their lives have been unchanged for thousands of years.

In Hiroshima, there are trees that survived the atomic bombing called Hibaku trees. Ayta will cultivate the seeds of the Hibaku trees into a forest on the land owned by a leader of one of the Ayta tribes, Roman King.  First, 50 seeds will be planted in pots in an area protected by roof so they can be germinated.  After 48 months, the mature seedlings with proper stems will be re-planted into the ground.  The 4-year forest propagation will be documented and ultimately shape into a feature film that explores the history and culture of the Aytas and the Philippines.

Approach: Ayta’s Tree Project connects the resilience of life after the destruction of Hiroshima with the survival of the Aytas in contemporary Philippines.   This forest symbolically and substantially manifests the Ayta’s resistance to the modernization and industrialization of their lands.  The film will document the evolution of the forest cultivated by the Aytas but also unfold the Ayta’s struggle for existence in a greater context of their daily lives, the history and their evolution in a turbulent present.

Impact: This project will manifest as a platform for how the reservation can be used while providing Aytas opportunities.  When visiting the Pampanga in the Philippines early this year, Sunairi met Roman King who has close connections to other Ayta tribes.  Roman will also act as the manager of this project and his knowledge will assist in acclimatizing Aytas in modern society. Together, they will host events, such as showcases, workshops and gatherings for the Aytas. Sunairi will also exhibit and present the documentations and film in the Philippines as well as the US and the world.

Audiences/Communities: First and foremost, Sunairi hopes to reach the larger population of the Aytas, the horticultural community, NGOs and Ayta scholars with topics on afforestation, land use, ecology and indigenous culture in the Philippines and the world.  Ultimately, when this film is presented in institutions as a film screening, exhibition, symposium, workshop and gathering accompanied by Ayta Cuisine. Sunairi also intends to invite key persons from South East Asian countries to further spread the Tree Projects in Taiwan, Malaysia, Vietnam, Myanmar, China, Indonesia, South Korea and Cambodia. All of these counties have a complex relationship with the Japanese involving the occupation during WII, which may lead to other interesting projects in the future.

Venues: The forest of Ayta’s Tree Project will be in the reservation owned by Roman King in Claks, a former United States Air Force base and a major center for staging Japanese air operations during the WWII.  It is a site layered with politics, history and culture.  As this project eventually aims to present a feature film, the film will reflect the process, the research and historical context. The film/documentations can be shown in film festivals and museums that Sunairi has worked within the Philippines and in other counties.

Catalyst / Pivotal Moment: Since 2006, Sunairi has given countless seeds to people around the world through the Tree Project.  Roman King believes this project combined with additional information can become a business model that could preserve and protect the Ayta land and the people.  This long-term project with Ayta’s involvement signals possible growth for their community.  Devoting 4 years to a film project, through research collecting archival footages, shooting and experimenting with culture, history, staging situations and working with the Aytas, will exceed Sunairi’s past projects in scale and ambition.


Phase 1: Preliminary sprouting: In July, 100 Hibaku seeds will be shipped to Philippine.  In August, two Aytas will prep the seeds in moist tissues.  The sprouts will be planted in pots under the shelter to prevent direct sunlight.  This process takes about 1 month and will conclude with a commencement with the Ayta cuisine.

In Phase 2: Cultivation: Roman King will monitor and foster the strength of stems over 36 months, by watering, fertilizing and re-planting into bigger pots to boost the roots. The seedlings will be exposed to direct sunlight gradually.  The artist will visit yearly to record.  There will be workshops of the Ayta cuisine as well as a symposium on the Ayta culture and their plant ecology at university.

In Phase 3: Planting on land: for 2 weeks, 4 Aytas will plant the seedlings on Roman King’s land, designated for the project.

In Phase 4: Monitoring the maturation: Roman King will cultivate the growth over 12 months with slow watering system with the bamboo and water bags dripping on each seedlings.  With the completion of the project, we will showcase Ayta’s Tree Project’s effort in documentations as well as the film in Museum or gallery.