When Rico Hizon, BBC World News’ best known Filipino broadcaster, was asked to co-anchor “Philippines: Island Treasures” with BBC wildlife presenter and explorer Mike Dilger, he had to think about the offer, not once, not twice, but three times.
“I’m generally a city person, and when I was asked if I would join this trekking trip through the Mountain Province, I didn’t jump at it,” recalls this former Manila resident. “I never experienced trekking in my whole life. This was a totally new experience for me.
“I was enamored by the scenery of Sagada and the Banaue Rice Terraces from books and postcards, but I never imagined travelling eight to 10 hours by land to visit these destinations and be hiking hundreds of feet up and down a mountain. But this BBC special project seemed like a good challenge. I told myself if I didn’t do it now, when would I?”
In the second episode of the two-part TV series airing today, Hizon again joins wildlife enthusiast Mike Dilger as he uncovers the rich biodiversity of the Philippine archipelago and speaks to inspiring conservation heroes. On the tropical island of Coron, Dilger is surrounded by immense karst limestone cliffs and dives on part of the world famous coral triangle. Travelling north to the island of Luzon, he and Hizon visit the eerie hanging coffins of Sagada, help till the rice terraces of Banaue and enjoy one of the nation’s best loved dishes—adobo.
Says Hizon, “I love this dish, but I never thought that it varied from place to place. Each region, each island, and sometimes, each town has their own style of preparing it.”
In a quest to see exotic species, Dilger teams up with a group of devoted conservationists to help save the rarest crocodile in the world.
Hizon is thrilled he accepted the call to explore his own backyard, “From Palawan to Sagada to the Banaue Rice Terraces what amazed me was the diversity of the wildlife and landscapes.
“Sagada’s Hanging Coffins at Echo Valley, though eerie, were fascinating. It speaks highly of the tribe’s rich culture and traditions. The Banaue Rice Terraces, which were beautiful and splendid, was the toughest part of the trip. We had to trek up and down the terraces more than a thousand feet down then up again. To think, these were hand built more than 2,000 years ago.
“Mike and I were farmers for a day there, and it was an experience to remember.
“I may have grown up in the Philippines but there’s still so much to learn because my country continues to surprise me with its rich natural bounties and cultural heritage.”