LoyarBasikal, Day 2, Baguio
After six hours on the road, we have arrived safely in Baguio, Northern Luzon. Baguio is situated high on the mountains, surrounded by pine trees and wooden houses precariously cloistered together on steep hill slopes. As the car made its way through the winding mountain road, I was enamoured with cheesy environmental signs on the roadside that said, “Trees are God’s hands reaching out to the heavens, each branch is a prayer to God”. Love it.
I met up with J.P. Alipio, a young, and energetic co-founder of the Cordillera Conservation Trust (CCT). He, among others, founded CCT in 2006 in response to the environmental issues of the Cordillera region. They believe in working in partnership with the local communities in finding relevant and sustainable solutions derived from local community knowledge, to these problems that undermine the ecological services of the mountain region.
An important part of CCT’s programme is their reforestation efforts for the past three years. They believe in reforesting the denuded areas with indigenous timber species, and local agroforestry crops. The latter is for the benefit of the local communities, who are also the care-takers of these reforestation plots. Not only do the communities provide on-going maintenance (which is a very important component of reforestation, and where most of the funds go to), they are also able to derive some income from these crops.
Depending on the altitude, CCT, upon consultation and recommendation of the local communities, either plant coffee (for higher altitudes), or Antidesma bunius (bugnay), a local fruit shrub that the locals harvest for either jam, or in this case, wine!
(Note to self: bring back a bottle of bugnay for LoyarBurok)
Last year, through the help of a major corporate telecom sponsor, CCT conducted a reforestation programme with 500 people from the local communities, and volunteers. With the funds raised on this bike-a-thon, they plan to have another reforestation exercise in May/June, when the rainy season starts.
It’s not just about planting trees, CCT also believes in education, and engaging the youth. With the help of enthusiastic volunteers, they created Green Libraries in three elementary schools in the region. Books on the environment, and other educational topics were donated. Recently as well, CCT conducted a post-disaster relief programme for the youth who were affected by the mudslides. Many communities lost their homes, and livelihoods during the recent mudslides in the region. CCT provided cameras to the young children to document the after-math of the disaster, and with these photos, a photo exhibition was held in their hometown. The idea is for the children to reclaim their home, and identity, as well to build up self-esteem and confidence after a traumatic event.
Tomorrow, the 24-hour bike-a-thon starts at 1 pm. This fund-raiser has attracted a fair amount of attention from the local media. A Manila TV crew from the popular travel and wildlife show called Born to Be Wild would be accompanying us, for the entire 24 hours. So will a police escort, ‘for precaution’, I am told. Two support vehicles will also be there. With all this company, I think I’d be fine!
There is going to be a GPS attached to our bikes, and you can follow our progress via an online live feed here. There goes my plan to cycle to Stabaks and camp out … oh, I kid. I won’t let LoyarBurok down.
This is likely to be my last blogpost before the actual event. Wish me luck!
June is a Malaysian conservationist from Sarawak, where she was born and raised. She is of Krokong-Bringing (Dayak Bidayuh) and Filipino (Tagalog) descent and now seeks peace and acceptance in the Philippines. She worries about how to stay unmarried through tweeting at @j_rubis.