Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Revisiting the Heart of Compostela Valley Province

I’ve been to Compostela Valley for countless times already but my latest visit to this beautiful province was unique as I had the chance to explore its main town, Nabunturan, where the provincial capitol is situated. Also, this trip (which happened to be my first after that lethal Typhoon Pablo), happened during a Reorientation Forum on Climate Change intended for Information Officers in region XI as spearheaded by Philippine Information Agency and Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

Truly, there were more pressing issues that were tackled during the forum, one of which I was interested very much about how climate change is being figured that it has become a very trendy thing today and in the future. One thing I really find it very true and challenging about climate change adaptation is to “change our selves”.  Somehow, while we are bent on combating the effect of this “New normal” scenario, the best item so far that we failed to combat is ourselves.

Meanwhile, back to Compostela Valley, there is something extraordinary about this province that I like most and that’s the way how local leaders beat its minimum very effectively and efficiently. In terms of resources, ComVal is basically agricultural. To some point, they are also rich in mines and the province has even become a mining capital of the Davao region. Thumping the dynamics of responsible mining has been the main reason why this province is rich, despite being hampered by natural disasters in the past.

In the façade of its provincial capitol building is a display of their 1.5 kilogram, 18 Gold “solidarity ring”, a symbol of the province’s wealth and trademark that also symbolizes oneness, unity and teamwork. The ring, which is the biggest in the country as per record, now costs approximately 4 million pesos.  

Another thing that I appreciate about ComVal is the resiliency of its leaders and the people. Less than 2 years after Typhoon Pablo wrecked havoc to this place, Comvaleños are now starting to live a normal life. Their effort towards social rehabilitation, more than physical rehabilitation, is surprising. It is also commendable that after the devastation, people in all walks of life can now afford to throw a smile to every visitor.

For me, Comvaleños really transcended the word transformation into a whole new level. And just like how the solidarity ring attracts every person visiting the province, more and more people are now being tempted to stay and experience the best that the province can offer. 

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Celebrating Independence Day by Freeing Mt. Apo from Trashes

For the nth time, I climbed Mt. Apo on an Independence Day and this year’s climb is special as I led a group of volunteers for an inter-LGU simultaneous Mt. Apo Natural Park (MANP) clean up drive along with other local governments, Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and B+WISER Program.
The group from Sta. Cruz was a mixed of mountaineering groups, government employees, porter association members and some freelance mountaineers. We were 36 volunteers all in all who conducted clean up drive of Mt. Apo via Sta. Cruz Trail in Davao del Sur. Other LGUs who conducted the same activity were from Digos City, Bansalan in Davao del Sur, Davao City, the municipalities of Makilala and Magpet in South Cotabato and Kidapawan City. It is an initiative of the Protected Area Management Board Ecotourism Committee, this time chaired by Kidapawan City Tourism Officer Joey Recimilla.

The climb basically aimed at sending a strong message to the mountaineering community about the importance of having a trash-free Mt. Apo. With the heightened climbing activities especially during long weekends and holy weeks, garbage left in Mt. Apo are increasing and there is an urgent need to clean up the mountain. 

The Sta. Cruz delegation started the clean up from sitio Colan all the way to the summit on June 11 and 12 using the Tinikaran Campsites-Boulders-Crater-Summit route. Aside from my LOGSAC group, other volunteers were from Astorga Mountaineering and Ecological Conservation Club (AMECC), Mt. Apo Adventures.com headed by Engr. Albert Gabriel and other freelancers.

The Sibulan Porters Association in sitio Colan also provided huge help by carrying trashes from the summit and Tinikaran campsites, thereby providing tremendous contribution in emptying Mt. Apo from garbage in time for the celebration of 2014 Independence Day. My salute to the members of Sibulan Porters Association for a job well done.

The Sta. Cruz group had unloaded a total of 420 kilograms garbage from the entire MANP Sta. Cruz jurisdiction. Instead of traversing to Lake Venado and Kidapawan Trail as initially agreed, the team went back to the boulders to carry the garbage as it would be very impractical and laborious to transport the garbage to the other side of the mountain. The collected garbage were instead turned over to the Municipal Environment and natural Resources (MENRO) for their appropriate actions.

Aside from leading the group of volunteers from Sta. Cruz, the Independence Day climb also allowed me to led a group of first-timers from my office. I would therefore like to congratulate my colleagues Marites Gonzaga, Eidine Karla Alerta and Michelle Mabel Alcala for making it to the top of the Philippines.

Also, gratitude is due to several entities who supported the event like the Municipal Council for Tourism, Culture and the Arts, San Miguel Brewery, Inc., Tinikaran Outdoor Shop, AMECC, MENRO, MEO and Mayor Joel ray Lopez.

Sunday, June 1, 2014


by Julius R. Paner

Whenever I am in the outdoors especially when I climb mountains with friends and buddies in LOGSAC, the excitement will always be tremendous. There is always that freedom to express myself without borders, unlike when I am in the lowlands where all movements are always put behind the bars of limitations and maximum thresholds. In the mountains, I can always do what I want, with nature and everything in the vertical world as my only discrete witnesses.  

Being in the mountains also allows me to unfold the child in me. With less than half a century before I will turn 40 years old, I have always been longing to go back to being a child once more. In a complex world where everything requires emotional and psychological maturity, I always choose to be juvenile, that’s why I always climb mountains. When I get to the top of the mountains or be with the community in the extreme rural areas of the Philippines, I always mingle with the village people, along with their kids.

Just last 3rd week of April this year during our Mt. Apo Holy Week climb, I played basketball with the kids in sitio Tumpis, a basecamp that had long been our abode every holy week. I bet in a peso-peso scheme with the children and before I knew it, I instantly blended well with the child in Tumpis. We were immediate teammates and majority of them are on their elementary school days. There I realized that sovereignty and self-determination are best experience with children and not with adults. There I realized that it doesn’t cost so much to buy happiness, it is only a matter of unloading the child in our respective selves.

In a separate instance dated June 1, 2014; I cried in front of my desktop while watching my favorite NBA team Oklahoma City Thunder beaten by the San Antonio Spurs in the 2014 NBA Western Conference Finals. I expected my team to win the battle at least in that epic game 6 but Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook fall short of their efforts, forcing OKC to settle for a conference runner up citation. My crying wasn’t really something of a huge deal, but my crying was a sort of relieving the frustrations. It was some sort of cleansing the terrible emotions, an option of embracing defeat and overcoming failure. After that, I was relieved. Better luck next time OKC, and to my favorite player KD.

Indeed, crying has been my personal way to accept the cruelty of life, even when I was a child. Every time I lost to a “tigso” game with my neighbors before or the failure to win in a crucial marble game (holinay) and rubber match game (shatik), crying has been my direct outlet, and somehow it is very effective.

Today, every time I remember my childhood days, I will always smile because it somehow helped me overcome the hurdles of life. It made me think how good it is to be back to the simple childhood days being filled only with friendship and indelible memories. Every time I encounter difficult times today with complications brought about by the times, I just let go of my being 36 years old and act as if I am 9 years old.

I am sure therefore that each one of us has our own child in us, and it is always good to be a child forever. We might have grown up and old in this world where we could no longer recite our nursery rhymes and carry our character school stuffs, but being a child forever in the midst of progressing human maturity is a lot better.

Certainly, in every real man a child is hidden that wants to play and enjoy life without borders.