December 15, 2010 · Posted in: Environment Watch

The protectors of Mt. Kitanglad

Our latest series include stories about the great strides in community action to preserve two of the Philippines’ most cherished protected areas – Mount Kitanglad in Malaybalay, Bukidnon province, and the Tubbataha Reef off Palawan province.

In these stories, we celebrate the positive and exemplary roles that ordinary citizens, indigenous folk, local officials, environment lawyers, and all the guardians of nature from both government agencies and civil society groups have performed, singly and together, in safeguarding the wealth of nature.

These stories are most important to the PCIJ as they mark our journey back to our roots. As you may well know, when the PCIJ was founded in 1989, we started building our portfolio of stories with seminal reports on the environment and sustainable development. Over the last 20 years, we are happy to note that today in nearly a dozen protected areas of the country, citizens and civil servants have engaged in multiple, vigorous efforts in defense of the environment.

The Mount Kitanglad story required PCIJ Platform Architect Jaemark Tordecilla and PCIJ Multimedia Director Ed Lingao to take a long trek up the mountains of Malaybalay, with three live chickens and a curious mix of groceries in tow – a lapad of rum, a bottle of local Chinese wine reputed to have aphrodisiac properties, a pack of crackers, a few pieces of hard candy, and a box of cheap cigarettes. These were all that they needed for the ritual sacrifice to the spirits of Mount Kitanglad, and to commune with the lumad folk, the guardians and protectors of the mountain.

Kitanglad was named an ASEAN Heritage Park in 2009, a majestic domain of rare and endangered flora and fauna nestled across the mountain’s 47,270 hectares. However, the annual budget for the preservation of Kitanglad is a pithy P4.55 million, or less than what the affluent sometimes shell out for just one luxury car.

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