Twenty-four community members from the municipalities of Naujan and Victoria in Oriental Mindoro attended the first training under the Bantay Gubat (forest warden) program conducted by the Haribon Foundation and funded by the United States Agency for International Aid (USAID). The program aims to organize and educate citizens as patrollers of forest-related activities.
Upon its introduction, the training has garnered mixed reactions from the participants. Some began quite apprehensive as in the case of Sucena Satorenas of Barangay Villa Cerveza, Victoria. “I am a little worried at first as we might be expected to catch violators,” she said.
Jimar Tipas of Barangay Matibay, Naujan, on the other hand, said: “This is a great opportunity to help our communities, the environment and to learn how to properly care for it.”
The training sessions aimed to help participants understand the relationship among humans, our activities and the environment. “Burning wastes is common in our community,” revealed Novelyn Gillado of Barangay Balite, Naujan, confessing that she is practicing as well. Luis Mabunga added that deforestation contributes to the rapid climate change and we are now experiencing its devastating effects.
Over the years, the municipalities of Naujan and Victoria have confronted various calamities. In their report, the representatives of the Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction Management Office (MDRRMO) pointed out that they are threatened by saltwater intrusion, earthquakes and flash floods that destroy livelihood, homes and people’s lives.
As the three-day training ended, the participants brought home with them new learning, dreams and an immediate action plan for their communities. Talino Balakilan of Barangay Banuton committed to educate his community about proper waste segregation and how wastes affect the rivers. “I look forward to making my family eco-friendly,” Satorenas said, referring to changing the mindset of her family members who practice forest extraction.
In transforming these forest-dependent communities, the project aims to create a ripple effect—a change that starts from individuals, one Mindoreño at a time.