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Megamall flash mob staged vs Baguio tree uprooting as Pine City folk score victory

Some of the protesters who staged a flash mob at the SM Megamall against the planned uprooting of trees at SM Baguio City wear T-shirts voicing out their sentiments. (photo by Bernard Testa,
The online news portal of TV5

MANILA, Philippines -- (UPDATE - 954 p.m.) Protesters, mostly university students, staged a lightning rally also known as a “flash mob” inside the SM Megamall Friday evening to register their support for efforts by residents of Baguio City to stop plans by the shopping mall firm to uproot 182 pine trees to make way for an extension building.

Earlier in the day, a smaller protest at SM North Avenue was dispersed, violently according to the Kalikasan party-list.

The protests at SM’s Metro Manila malls happened the same day Dr. Michael Bengwayan, head of the Cordillera Ecological Center and a moving figure in Project 182, reported that Baguio City Regional Trial Court Branch 5 extended the Temporary Environmental Protection Order it issued against SM City Baguio.

The extension, said Bengwayan, means SM cannot continue uprooting and transferring the trees from Luneta Hill for the duration of the case filed by Project 182.

In Bacolod City, organizers of an Earth Day celebration set to kick off next week also told InterAksyon that they had decided to transfer the venue from the SM mall there to protest the uprooting of the trees in Baguio.           

At the Megamall protest, 125 people broke up into five groups to stage the flash mob near the entrance of Megamall’s movie theaters.

One group that gathered in front of the entrance of a restaurant was asked to leave by security personnel but later joined other protesters, forming a bigger contingent that chanted “Don’t cut the trees!” and “Cut the greed, cut the greed!” 

Sparked by Facebook

The Megamall protest was encouraged by filmmaker Jim Libiran’s Facebook status update Thursday night about SM Baguio’s uprooting of the pine trees.

This was seen by at least 4,700 of the film director's friends on the social networking site.

"Like tayo ng Like, share tayo ng share, wala naman tayong ginagawa (We just click Like and share but do nothing)," Libiran said, citing his Facebook status update.

“The revolution won't be posted on Facebook,” he told members of the media who were present at the flash mob.

Shortly after Libiran posted his Facebook status, a group of young people replied, prompting him to help set up the flash mob.

Most of those who attended the meeting in Quezon City before proceeding to Megamall did not know each other personally. They were “just Facebook friends” Libiran said.

“Some of those who joined the meeting were even cono [rich kids]," he added.

The film director said that most were college students, with the youngest only 16 years old.

Rogue opportunists

However, the protest action was marred by eight unidentified shoppers who were cordoned off near a coffee shop and questioned by mall security as they allegedly attempted to steal cellphones and digital cameras during the flash mob.

According to Libiran, they were not members of their group. These individuals were not allowed to leave the mall premises by Megamall management.

The organizer of the protest action was mum on whether they would repeat the flash mob.