People of all ages with different backgrounds joined the Haribon trip to Mangatarem, Pangasinan. From an eight-year-old girl to a 67-year-old botanist from Mindanao, a family of three to group of call center, a game developer to financial analyst, a software and chemical engineers to a veterinarian–all actively participated in the trip.
We arrived at the Manleluag Spring Protected Landscape (MSPL) at around 9 a.m. Speakers from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), and the local government unit discussed the importance of protecting the landscape and ecosystem in Mangatarem, and gave insights on the different species that can be found there.
We started trekking to Brgy. Catarataraan when suddenly everyone became quiet and anxious. Some brought out their binoculars and started surveying the trees around us. When I looked at the birds through the binoculars, to my surprise I was able to see birds that differ from the common maya-maya, the brilliance of the colors of the hues of its feathers; I didn’t imagine birds I often see on trips to be that beautiful and free. I didn’t even know that there were more than 90 species of birds in Pangasinan like the bee-eater and swallows that I saw.
When we reached Brgy. Catarataraan, lunch was prepared by the gracious locals who were our hosts. Our guide told us that there are many mango trees in Catarataraan, which is why the place is called Mangatarem.
After lunch, we trekked to the site where they do the vermi composting. We gathered leaves and then shredded them with palay. We applied water on the leaves and palay mixture then added animal waste, which we left to decompose for some time. When ready, the compost will be fed to African Night Crawlers, a type of worm that reproduces fast and consume compost faster than other kinds of worms, which make it ideal for compost production.
The waste product of the African Night Crawlers is the final product or the organic fertilizer and this compost fertilizer is much preferred by the farmers since it costs very little to produce—a compost is a complete fertilizer and does not make the soil bitter and dry with frequent use.
During the trek back to the Manleluag Spring Protected Landscape, we stopped by the nursery site where we conducted a tree planting activity. Despite being tired by the long treks and the day’s activities, everybody actively participated in placing soil to plastic containers, watering them and plating seeds, they even shared jokes of which everybody felt obliged to share one.
When we reached the camp at the Manleluag Spring Protected Landscape, everyone was exhausted. The camp was peaceful and spring, each one was happy to have experienced the day’s activities and took in the serenity of the protected landscape.
Haribon is doing its best to raise awareness on the importance of our rainforests and the need to expand and protect the landscape. The Philippines before had as much as 21 million hectares of rainforests, now we have close to one million hectares of land left. During these trips, there are limited slots to keep the impact on the rainforest and protected landscapes to a minimum. After the trip I felt relieved that some people are making efforts to protect our rainforests and biodiversity.