IN THE early morning of November 26, more than a hundred people gathered at the Provincial Capitol building. That day was a big day for Sarangani Province as it celebrates its 19th Foundation Anniversary and 9th MunaTo Festival. But those who gathered at the capitol lobby that morning did not come for the festivities. They came for three important causes: tourism, education, and environment.
From as far as Davao and North Cotabato and from the neighboring cities of General Santos and Koronadal and the province of South Cotabato, mountaineering enthusiasts participated in the 1st MunaTo EcoTrek to Atnayan Waterfalls in Sitio New Canaan, Barangay Pag-asa, Alabel, Sarangani Province.
The sun shone brightly as we rode three dump trucks from the capitol compound. Looks like God answered our prayer, I told myself. Our biggest fear is for heavy rain to pour down because, as per experience, when it rains, the water level in the river can rise in no time and begin to inundate the riverbanks. So it was a blessing that the sky was clear that morning.
The mountaineers couldn’t hide their excitement as we started rolling. They got even more spirited as we were nearing Barangay Pag-asa, where their eyes feasted on a panoramic view of the valley. They even enjoyed it when the trucks started to cross the river, thus the ride became all bumpy.
After more than an hour of balancing stunts, we reached our jump off point for the trek. The books and seedlings were distributed to each participant. The books were wrapped in plastic to prevent them from getting wet.
God had been very good to send us low-lying clouds when we started the trek. All through the trek, it did not get very hot for the trekkers.
The participants crossed the river 23 times and traversed hills to reach Sitio New Canaan. Not only did they have to endure the distance and the difficult trail, each of them carried additional weight due to the books and the seedlings.
Three-and-a-half hours later, we were already at Sitio New Canaan, where the mountaineers built a tent city at our camp site. After which, we started planting the seedlings we brought. There were acacia, mahogany, and Spanish cedar. We did not want our efforts to go to waste; we chose an area where the locals can take care of the newly-planted trees. Barangay Kagawad Diansing Sampayon of Pag-asa assured us that he will see to it that the trees we planted will survive.
During the welcome night, representatives from each participating mountaineering group were very thankful to have been given the chance not only to visit a new place but to also serve others by delivering books to the school and by planting trees. They said that they found the activity very meaningful.
When I and my fellow Team Bundol Mountaineers conceptualized the activity, we emphasized that it should not just be a trekking to see the Atnayan Waterfalls. My team wanted to do a sort of an outreach activity. So, we set our objectives that included promoting tourism, supporting the National Greening Program, and the Karunungan Kontra Kahirapan program of the local government of Sarangani, and eventually, facilitating progress in the area.
The 1st MunaTo EcoTrek was hosted by Team Bundol Mountaineers, in cooperation with Madyaw Alabel Mountaineers Association (MAMA), and Magu Sarangani Mountaineers.
It was almost an impossible dream for Team Bundol Mountaineers to organize such an activity given our limited resources, skills, and connection. We are thankful to MAMA, under the leadership of Narciso Grafilo IV, for rendering service by setting up the trail, acting as marshalls, and providing security and safety for the participants, and to Magu Sarangani Mountaineers, led by Alma Corazon Gabuat, for linking us to the MunaTo Festival organizers and for helping provide transportation and logistical support. The activity turned out to be an overwhelming success.
Furthermore, we owe a lot from Quality Education for Sarangani Today (QuEST) for providing the books. We are also indebted to the provincial government of Sarangani, tourism office, office of the provincial engineer, environment and natural resources office, and the municipal government of Alabel, especially to Vice Mayor Vic Paul Salarda.
If there is only one way to measure the success of the activity, it would be the mountaineers shaking hands with you and personally telling you how grateful they are to have been involved in the activity. For me, there is not greater success than to inspire others to also start doing good things for the Earth and for other people.