While most people spent their Holy Week visiting their families and relatives or go out merry making, this group of young people braved a tour of the wilderness for a cause.
As part of its commitment to promote eco-tourism as an alternative and sustainable measure for community development, the Aywanan nan Narpuan Youth Organization (ANYO) organized a two-day eco-walk at Lias, Barlig, Mt. Province on March 25-26, 2016.
As a backgrounder, the ANYO is a newly-founded organization of young people who are committed to espouse the sustainment of the natural environment as well as culture through the conduct of relative activities and projects. To date, it has more than 50 members coming from the different barangays of Barlig and Bontoc. It has already conducted and participated on several activities like clean-up drives, tree planting, and seminars. Moreover, it has collaborated with the Gerry Roxas Foundation Student’s Society (GRFSS) to help foster its growth and further its advocacies.
On the other hand, Lias is one of the three clusters composing the municipality of Barlig. It’s ancestral domain of approximately more than 14 000 hectares makes it the largest in Mt. province. It composes of two barangays namely, Lias Silangan and Lias Kanluran with a combined population of about a thousand. Beneath its vastness are countless natural wonders waiting to be discovered and be imprinted into the very chapters of mainstream tourism.
The said eco-walk primarily aimed at documenting and promoting the natural destinations that were visited and promote these for their protection and conservation. The activity also served as an avenue to map out and establish possible trekking routes especially that going there is only possible through temporary hunter’s trails.
Further, Nelson Cael, a local official and ANYO adviser, mentioned that initiatives like the eco-walk is helpful in the assertion of the Lias locals over their ancestral claims which accordingly, are clandestinely being annexed by the Natonin municipality without prior consultations and deliberations. Rexibar Charaychay, barangay captain of Lias Silangan, adds that this is a timely undertaking especially that eco-tourism is a growing industry in Barlig.
Original plan deferred
“The original trek plan that is bound to the mossy forests of Sayang has been deferred due to possible army operations,” said Charaychay. He adds that no local hunters are available to be tapped due to the onset of the farming season.
“The safety of the trekkers is still given the utmost priority,” said Charaychay. He advised that the trek should end at sitio Kafiliw since it is also nearer and more accessible.
He enthused, though, that there would be time that a visit to the farthest reaches of Lias would materialize so long as circumstances are favorable.
Entry to the Gates of Nature
The trek began from the community proper at early morning bound to Kangao, a tribal hamlet that is six kilometers away. It has more than 20 farmhouses dotting the winding terraces. Here, one could often find Philippine eagles locally known as Kuli/Lawi flying. The Department of Environment and Natural Resources Office (DENR) had designated Lias as a haven of the endangered species.
From this spot, the party had to walk through thick forests for about four hours up the point where the Kaliw brook meets with the Tanudan river. Then, they had to follow the brook upstream for some two hours before they could finally gaze on the Kafiliw Twin Falls.
Nestled amidst thick and verdant vegetation, the Kafiliw Twin Falls measures 30 meters and consists of two separate creeks cascading together. Just after the rainy season, the falls intertwine casting an even more scenic and panoramic view. On its shallow pool, the trekkers were able to catch a sizable el but it soon escaped, never to be found again.
Meanwhile, along the way going to Kafiliw, the party were able to take footage of the dense, tropical rainforests that cover almost 90% of Lias. These are thriving spots for numerous wildlife species like deer, warty pigs, Motet (wildcat), lizards, and snakes. Furthermore, the team were able to chance on smaller species of Rafflesias, considered as the largest flowers in the world. They are abundant in the lower forest areas of Lias during summer season.
“In the past, these wild creatures are everywhere but it is observed that these are rapidly disappearing because of abusive and uncontrolled hunting,” mentioned Fangkot Masadao, a local hunter.
Adjacent to the Kafiliw Twin Falls is the Sokok waterfall, which is sandwiched on two narrow, mountain crags. It is named as such because the site in the past have been a death trap for deer, making it easier for hunters to kill. It has a height of 10 meters and has a small cave, where, visitors could pose for posterity.
Nap in the Wilderness
The party decided to spend the night along the banks of the Tanudan river. For dinner, they had to feast on tugtug (toads) and Kachews (finger-size fishes), which they earlier caught along the Kafiliw brook.
To keep themselves warm, they set up a fire around their designated sleeping quarters.
In a rare instance, a local hunter who caught a deer passed by and shared the trekkers meat to cook. This served as their viand for the following morning.
After the party were able to get sufficient photos and footages for the documentation, they finally departed back to the community.
A fruitful undertaking
The party who visit is expected to come up with a brief documentary highlighting their experiences and the spots they visited. This will be presented to the barangay officials of Lias to encourage them to approve and support any more plans of an eco-walk as part of it’s eco-tourism drive.
Moreover, the eco-walk would start as a means for the locals to appreciate the wonders of their ancestral domains, and subsequently, encourage them to initiate activities that would conserve these and protect them from exploitation.//Daniel Jason M. Maches