On 20 June 2017, the University of the Philippines Open University (UPOU) Cultural Committee and the UPOU Faculty of Management and Development Studies, in cooperation with the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) and the International Wood Culture Society (IWCS), officially launched the month-long wood carving competition and exhibit titled Ugat. In her opening message, UPOU Chancellor Melinda dela Pena Bandalaria noted that UPOU is a warrior working for environmental protection and that by making the advocacies known to the rest of the world, UPOU exhibits the spirit of being genuinely for the people.

Ugat features the works of wood carvers from all around the Philippines -- Ifugao, Palawan, Laguna and Pampanga -- as a means of showcasing not only the beauty of Filipino arts and crafts, but also bringing awareness to a bigger issue at hand --environmental degradation. Wood is a very important resource not only to our country, but to the entire world. Despite this, it is a down heartening reality that there is lack of importance given to it. Through the works of wood carvers from Paete, Laguna; Guagua, Pampanga; Hungduan, Ifugao; and Sofronio Española and Narra, Palawan, the beauty and functionality that trees have to offer and the need of preserving it is emphasized. The Filipino people are the ugat or the roots of the beauty that blooms from wooden crafts. Therefore, the people of this nation should also become the root cause of environmental empowerment and preservation.

In line with promoting environmental awareness, Dr. Armand Palijon, an urban forester from the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB) conducted a talk regarding tree nurturing, where he discussed the basics of raising and maintaining trees, and preventing and treating pest infestation.

At the end of the talk, the best works from the relief category titled Deutschland Rust by Bayani Ray Acala, Ingit by Luisito Cayanan, and The Dwellers by Felix Baldemor were awarded 1st, 2nd, and 3rd respectively, and the works Immipuggo by Raymundo Dong-e was awarded 1st place, Kwento Mo, Kwento Ko Rin by Luisito Cayanan gained 2nd place, and Putok sa Buho by Felix Baldemor placed 3rd for in the round category.

Ultimately, the event was able to bring people to consciousness of their actions and the probable implications these may have to the world around us. As stated by Dr. Melinda Bandalaria, being a hero in this modern age does not require much, any act geared toward saving the environment is in itself an act of heroism. (Lorena Jean Saludadez)