#BangonLeyte

I recently went on a trip to Southern Leyte. It was my first time to go back to Leyte since Typhoon Yolanda (International Name: Typhoon Haiyan) ravaged it. From an outsider’s view, Tacloban seems to be recovering. A lot of businesses have built new buildings over those that have toppled. New roofs and windows are in place. But you can still see the effect of the typhoon’s strong winds all around the area.

A destroyed warehouse in Palo, Leyte.

A destroyed warehouse in Palo, Leyte.

In fact, when I visited the DENR Regional office and afterwards asked to use their toilet, the door was just a piece of plywood that you move sidewards to cover the cubicle. The DENR officer apologetically told me “Tiis, tiis na lang ma’am pagkatapos ng Yolanda.” And this is already 20 months after the typhoon hit the Philippines. Tacloban, however, was not my destination. I went with a team from UP Diliman to Barangay Catmon in the Municipality of Silago, Southern Leyte. We went to a place where the forest was still intact, a place that Yolanda spared. We went to the Mt. Nacolod Forest Reserve. Honestly, I was shocked at what I saw. I saw a primary forest. Disturbed? Yes, but primary! I was amazed because my expectations were low: I knew that the forest cover in Leyte was fast disappearing, I knew that there was hunting and I knew that they were doing kaingin (slash-and-burn) farming.

Barangay Catmon, with Mt. Nacolod as backdrop

Barangay Catmon, with Mt. Nacolod as backdrop

I was pleasantly shocked at what I saw. I saw hope and I saw an opportunity. Hope for the native biodiversity, hope for the Philippine eagle and hope for Leyte. It is perhaps appropriate to thank the Visayas State University (VSU) in this post because they have been vital in taking care of Mt. Nacolod and Barangay Catmon. They are giving us an opportunity to showcase a success story, an opportunity to restore an area based on this preserved forest patch, and an opportunity to learn from their practices. A Mt. Nacolod forest guard told me that it was precisely the intactness of the forest that prevented the winds of Yolanda from penetrating it. Can we bounce back from Typhoon Yolanda? I think yes. Pinoy humor is so ironic as you see establishments in Tacloban named “Haiyan Café” and “YoLand Eatery”. It shows our stubbornness to be beaten. However, we should not let it happen again. The resilience that we have as a people should be reflected in the resilience of our ecosystems. We should preserve what is left of our environment. We should restore CORRECTLY the mangrove areas and the terrestrial forests. We should do it now. – – – If you have ideas and contacts that can help us achieve this goal, please feel free to comment below! Thank you in advance! a+ -> diwata sa balete

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