Wednesday, January 2, 2019

A quick look at the Year of the Dog

2018 was a year full of ups and downs for me. As I turned 41 years old some worthy things have come and gone, reaffirming the idea that life indeed begins at forty and beyond. Travel, mountaineering, running, birding and photography; these are the spices that added color to my existence as a person. There had been a lot of frowning, too, and some tears flowed away as remedy and reconciliation pill to the undesirables. Friends go away, while new friends (plenty of them) came in as replacements. 2018 was truly a year that deserves to be considered as one of the bests ever.

In this article I enumerated several significant events, both personal and official, representing each month of 2018.

JANUARY: Mt. Apo Climb with Robi Domingo and the Lakwatsero Team
One of the most significant events during this month was a Mt. Apo climb with Lakwatsero Team, a travel show of ABS-CBN. The climb was spearheaded by show host Robi Domingo who was instrumental in spreading the advocacy on conservation and protection of Mt. Apo.

FEBRUARY: Sisterhood Agreement Signing between Sta. Cruz and Mandaluyong City
Definitely a milestone in the chequered existence of my beloved hometown, this sisterhood agreement was formalized through a signing of manifesto between the officials of the two local government units. Several programs were considered with the said partnership and among them were on the aspect of education, trade and commerce, investment promotions, economic enterprise and tourism.

MARCH: Ironman 70.3 Davao
After several years of waiting the Ironman 70.3 series finally arrived in Davao and will be staying, as per organizers, in the next two years. The 2018 version was extra special because aside from being first time here in Mindanao I was able to contend into it. Thanks to the adrenalin-minded Sir Benjie Lizada who invited me to complete Team Taps in the all-male relay category along with biker Dominic Carpio of Mindanao Times and University of Mindanao. 


APRIL: Mt. Apo Boulder Face Challenge 10th Edition
The most extreme adventure race in Southeast Asia turned 10 years old this month. As one of the program propellers I am proud that we have come this far as an LGU-initiated tourism event with a touch of environmental advocacy campaign. For the second straight year we intertwined it with a mountain ultra-marathon called Mt. Apo Sky and Vertical Race where foreign contingents flocked in order to gain points for Ultra Trail Mont Blonc and Asia Trail Master and to personally enjoy racing in the country’s highest peak.


MAY: Philippine Bird Festival in Tacurong City
Birding is the newest craze that I was into in 2018 and it was levelled up even more when I participated the Philippine Bird Festival in Tacurong City. During the 2-day event I visited one of Mindanao’s famous birding site, the Baras Bird Sanctuary where I saw multiple number of bird species, most notable among them are the variety of herons and egrets making the site their home. I met a lot of birders in the venue from all over Asian region and got acquainted to some interesting birds in their respective locations.  


JUNE: Mt. Loay Independence Climb
This mountain was a scene stealer in 2018. Personally I never expected that this could be a hit in the ecotourism market especially mountaineering but when I had a first-hand climbing experience I said to myself that Mt. Loay is a sure boost to the overall tourism picture in the municipality of Sta. Cruz. Standing tall at 1,040 masl Mt. Loay, which is situated in the mountain ranges of barangay Zone 2, is a prevailing day hiking destination in region XI and it only takes a better policy placement before this place will be another sensational adventure site that Sta. Cruz should be proud of.


JULY: Mt. Apo Climb via Kapatagan Trail
This month the Tourism Office of Digos City invited me to panel to its selection mechanism for mountain guide applicants in preparation for its Kapatagan Trail opening. The selection was a requirement prior to giving go signal for an LGU to reopen a trail in Mt. Apo. The last day of this seminar had us climbing via Kapatagan Trail as practicum. It was the very first time I took this trail through the summit of Mt. Apo and reaffirmed that the boulder face is shared by two trails, Digos City and Sta. Cruz. This climb also enabled me to witness the huge sulfur vent of Mt. Apo and my very first encounter up close and personal with the other visible hill in Davao del Sur called Baby Apo.

AUGUST: San Miguel Brewery’s Buhayin ang Kalikasan Mangrove Planting
After conducting the Buhayin ang Kalikasan in Davao City for successive years, the San Miguel Brewery, Inc. shifted its attention to Sta. Cruz as host venue for its annual Trees Brew Life initiative. The exact location was at My Paradise Resort in barangay Tuban. I am proud to have been part of the event as I assisted SMB in site identification, coordination, actual implementation and monitoring. A total of 2,500 mangrove propagules were grown and higher rate of survival were attained, at least up to this writing.


SEPTEMBER: Mt. Fuji Climb and Japan Trip
This month happened to be the most memorable of all the months in 2018. Despite typhoon signals in Japan we pursued a trip and made the Fuji climb where I considered it life threatening because of the weather condition. After the climb we had enough days to tour around Tokyo and enjoyed Japanese shopping and food trip. The saddest part of the trip, though, was when I got the news a day prior to our return to the Philippines that my wife was confined to the hospital for miscarriage. It was supposed to be our second baby but just simply was not meant for us again.

OCTOBER: 122nd Araw ng Sta. Cruz
The first time I was tasked to take the lead in the planning and actual implementation of the 122nd celebration of Araw ng Sta. Cruz, a job that requires extraordinary level of patience and perseverance, paving me to turn off other travel opportunities and other invitations. The celebration somehow got better remarks and once again made Sta. Cruz a promising destination to visit in terms of events and festivities.

NOVEMBER: Central Visayas Trip
The convention of Philippine Environmental Planners was held during this month and my participation paved way for me to discover several good places in Central Visayas particularly in the city of Iloilo and the province of Guimaras where I had some worthy side trips. These places highlight natural attractions and heritage sites. Equally interesting was a day hike in Mt. Napulak, a prominent climbing destination located in the town of Igbaras in Iloilo province. 


DECEMBER: Magnolia Hotshots won PBA Governors Cup Title
The last time this franchise won a championship was 2014 during that historic grand slam feat. After that, it took four long years for the team to win again a championship under new coach Chito Victolero. The title was a fitting celebration for me personally who is considering basketball a part of my system.

These are just very few but more than enough to define my 2018. And in 2019 I am pretty sure there are a lot of surprises ahead. I will be radiating my advocacy even more to be fruitful in whatever ways I could this year. 

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Managing Marine Protected Area: The Lanuza Model

The concept of Marine Protected Area (MPA) in the Philippines dates back in the latter part of the 90s to the early part of year 2000 as a strategy towards coastal resource management. There have been plenty of MPAs created all over the Philippines, but only very few exist at present times despite efforts for its sustainability both in the national and local levels.

In an attempt to gather yardsticks about MPA management I joined a group of coastal stakeholders in Sta. Cruz in their visit to the town of Lanuza in Surigao del Sur on December 7. Lanuza is best remembered by its exemplary performance of administering a huge MPA.

“It was just a matter of setting in place a comprehensive framework in order for the people on the ground to appreciate the initiative,” said Dante Limpot, former chairperson of the Peoples Organization (PO) that handled the inclusive command of the MPA before he was later absorbed as organic personnel of the Coastal Resource Management office. He stressed that the first few years of MPA management is crucial especially in the aspect of social preparation where local fisher folks mostly showed vehement resistance. 

In terms of the level of social acceptability of the project, Limpot confidently revealed that as of the moment the community has really taken important role in the aspect of coastal law enforcement.  “We seldom experience illegal fishing practices nowadays here. And the very good impact of this co-management effort between the LGU and the PO in MPA management is the significant increase of fish catches and the presence of noteworthy marine species in the entire Lanuza Bay.”

“It is imperative that there is livelihood option to be offered to the community if MPA management is to be considered seriously,” Limpot added, stating that the assistance provided by government offices like DOLE, DTI and LGU had helped a lot in their quest to succeed in managing a 111 hectares MPA. Presently their PO enjoys 6-digit total assets in a variety of business enterprises operated smoothly. 

The efforts exerted by Lanuza to make its bay what it is now has never gone unnoticed. In fact, they are a consistent regional winner of the prestigious Para El Mar Awards, something that boosted the present multi-stakeholdership approach of the town in terms of coastal resource development and management.

The MPA management mechanism employed by Lanuza, which is basically community-based, is a clear manifestation that environmental conservation and protection should stem out through people empowerment. Other thwarted MPAs in the country, as far as I have seen, are mostly caused by inappropriate approaches introduced by local governments, or are fatalities of the traditional practices flavoured by the ever-detrimental political factor.

Saturday, December 22, 2018

An Excellent Yearend Birding in Malagos

The birding session on December 22 at the Philippine Eagle Center (PEC) in Malagos might be the last session for 2018 but definitely a good one. A total of 30 species showed up but some common birds were nowhere in sight. On a lighter note the session was sort of a reunion for me with some Davao birders Tonton (the organizer), Alden, Eric and John Paul. 

Coppersmith Barbet
Rufuos-crowned Bee-eater
An immature Brown Shrike
Pacific Swallow
We arrived at the parking area of PEC by 6:45 AM and we were greeted with a Brahminy Kite in a durian tree from afar, a usual perching site for this raptor which was in company with the disturbing Large-billed Crows. The Rufuos-crowned Bee-eaters were in a habitual site scouting for bees in a bald tree near the car park while four Guiaberos were caught passing by in the same site.

Grey-streaked Flycatcher
Female Olive-backed Sunbird
Yellow-vented Bulbul
 We headed to the lagoon part of PEC and seconds after our arrival a lone Brown-breasted Kingfisher flew just once and never showed up again. As we head further northeast we saw one Coppersmith Barbet. Philippine Bulbul and Yellow-wattled Bulbul were also great consolations.

Another shot of a Coppersmith Barbet
Purple-throated Sunbird
Another Purple-throated Sunbird in a different location
Two more Purple-throated Sunbird
 An exciting part of the trip was the presence of assorted Purple-throated Sunbird appearing at a two separate sites in multiple numbers and colors. Below is the complete list of birds during that session:

Rufuos-crowned Bee-eater (Merops americanus)
Large-billed Crow (Corvus macrorhynsis)
Asian Glossy Starling (Aplonis panayensis)
Guaiabero (Bolbopsittacus lunulatus)
Brown Shrike (Lanius cristatus)
Grey-streaked Flycatcher (Muscicapa griseisticta)
Coppersmith Barbet (Psilopogon haemacephalus)
Red-keeled Flowerpecker (Dicaeum australe)
Ridgetop Swiflet (Collocalia isonota)
Ameline Swiflet (Aerodramus vanikorensis amelis)
Brown-breasted Kingfisher (Halcyon gularis)
Philippine Bulbul (Hypsipetes philippinus)
Yellow-vented Bulbul (Pycnonotus goiaver)
Brown-throated Sunbird (Leptocoma sperata)
Olive-backed Sunbird (Cinnyris jugularis)
Purple-throated Sunbird (Leptocoma sperata)
Orange-bellied Flowerpecker (Dicaeum trigonostigma)
Orange-tufted Spiderhunter (Arachnothera flammifera)
Brahminy Kite (Haliastur indus)
White-breasted Woodswallow (Artamus leucorynchus)
Pacific Swallow (Hirundo tahitica)
Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica)
Asian Palm Swift (Cypsiurus balasiensis)
Whote-eared Brown Dove (Phapitreron leucotis)
Zebra Dove (Geopelia striata)
Pygmy Swiflet (Collocalia troglodites)
Black-faced Coucal (Centrupos melanops) – Heared Only
Yellow-wattled Bulbul (Pycnonotus urostictus)
Eurasian Tree Sparrow (Passer montanus)
Spotted Dove (Spilopelia chinensis)