By: Danielle Lois E. Afuang (text and photos)
There is a Filipino belief that if you are lost in a forest, you should flip your clothes inside out so that the forest spirits will allow you to get out of the forest (Story on Mt. Apo). In Mt. Makiling, traveling to Los Baños, Laguna and Sto. Tomas, Batangas, you don’t have to do such thing.
However, you have to collect garbage inside the mountain to be able to go out. Make it Makiling (MIM) is the annual program of Makiling Center for Mountain Ecosystems (MCME) during the Lenten Season that aims to uphold the values of ecotourism to the visitors of Mt. Makiling.
In the annual report of MCME on Make it Makiling, about 60% of the total number of visitors (about 20,000 visitors) per year came during the Lenten season. Aside from the open visit areas of Mt. Makilling: Mudspring, Flatrocks, Peak 2, it is only during Lenten Season that MCME opens the Sipit Train, because aside from the months of March to May, the rest of the calendar suggests a normal or a rainy day which is quite unsafe. It’s better to hike the Sipit trail during the hottest time of the year when the ground is dry and safe for hiking.
Last April 3, 2015, access to Mudspring area was cut until 10:00 am of Good Friday because of the Typhoon Chedeng. Even with the early end to MIM this year, the Makiling Center for Mountain Ecosystems (MCME) is still implementing the “Garbage In, Garbage out” policy and other rules in the area to promote ecotourism.
Lenten season or as the Filipino calls it Semana Santa, is a week-long break from work to reflect on the coming of Jesus Christ, his death and resurrection. This time of the year, different groups of people (families and friends) take this vacation break to visits churches to conduct Visita Iglesia. While, according to Marjorie, a visitor from Sariaya, Quezon, others like them go on a hike to be one with nature.
The concept behind MIM is ecotourism and its five E’s: Enjoyment, Economic, Engagement, Educational and Environment. In the stations set by MIM, visitors are to follow them to be able to make it to Makiling. So, how do you Make it to Makiling?
Rule number 1: Follow entry requirements. The first two things needed to ‘Make it to Makiling’ are valid Identification Cards (one I.D. for every five people) and an entrance fee of Php15 per person, the fee is inclusive of a colored rubber bracelets that is used to monitor MIM visitors. There should strictly be no bringing of alcohol, cigarettes, sharp objects, or writing materials.
Rule number 2: Observe access hours. According to the MIM rule “visitors may come through the Mariang Makiling Trail anytime but are restricted from entering the Wilderness Zone (this is from the Jump off area up until Peak 2) from 3:00pm to 5:00am”.
At 3:00 in the afternoon, volunteers from Peak 2 go down the trail and informs all visitors they come across with to go down the trail with them and avoid possible dangers at dark. Hikers can rest at the camping area and are reminded that they can continue their trekking the following day starting at 5:00 am. This is done to prevent accidents and unmonitored camping in dangerous places.
Rule number 3: Use established hiking trails. This is to ensure a safe road for the visitors to follow. The roads leading to the Mudspring and Flatrocks may be slippery thus hikers must follow directions to avoid accidents in unsafe areas.
Rule number 4: Camp in designated campsite. There are two camping areas, the Tayabak Campsite (Tayabak means Jade Vine in Filipino) opposite the Mudspring road and the Malabòo Campsite (Malabòo means Rafflecia Flower in Filipino), near the Jump Off point. Camping is not allowed in the peak areas of the mountain. These two flowers are significant to Mt. Makiling because the mountain supports the increase of these two flowers. Hikers can see these flowers along the trail.
Forester Ben Arizala, head of the volunteerism component of MIM, said that naming the camp sites with flowers allows that visitors to learn about the flowers of Mt. Makiling. This information will allow them to identify the flowers when they see them and learn to respect them at the same time.
Rule number 5: Garbage-in-garbage-out.According to the Los Baños Municipal Anti-Littering Ordinance No. 2001-08 to be followed by the hikers with accordance to Republic Act No. 9003 (Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2001). However, the MIM employs a different mechanism to ensure the cleanliness of the mountain. Hikers are required to surrender any kind of trash at the exit of the trail. This is a requirement for them to follow if they want to leave the mountain. Forester Aldin Alegre, head of the waste management of this year’s MIM, said that hikers must go up again to find trash if they have not surrendered any kind of trash upon their exit.
Rule number 6: Leave what you find. Mt. Makiling reserve is an ASEAN Heritage Park. Needless to say, everything that is part of the natural features of the mountain is very important: plants, rocks, leaves, birds, and other organisms. MIM officials would jokingly remind the visitors that they are not allowed to take home anything inside the mountain except for one thing: pictures. This is to lessen adverse effects to the ecology inside the mountain and for other visitors to witness the natural beauty of a certain species.
Rule number 7: Beware of obnoxious plants and insects. Mt. Makiling is a forest reserve; there are many species of plants and animals that live within it. Some of which are dangerous to humans. Lipang Kalabaw, a plant that can be found in the recesses of the mountain. This causes a hot sting on the skin which will last for three days. Another common species that is to be avoided is the limatik or the forest leech. To avoid the limatiks, hikers are encouraged to wear pants and long sleeves. Hikers can also use insect repellant to avoid different kinds of insects and other unwanted small organisms.
Rule number 8. Respect Wildlife. There are times when visitors will chance upon animals living inside the forest like snakes, frogs, lizards, birds, etc. It is important to keep distance from the animals to avoid unwanted, sometimes dangerous, encounters. “Most animals are eager to escape if not provoked”, as mentioned in the MIM leaflet produced by the MCME.
Rule number 9: Prevent forest fire. No Smoking! Mt. Makiling is inside the University of the Philippines Los Baños management and the university prohibits smoking. This time of the year, the fallen leaves are extra dry because of the heat of the summer. This makes the mountain more prone to forest fires. As a safety precaution cigarettes are confiscated at the checking area. Although the management is strict, a Japanese hiker, Mr. Kasuda, said that during his hike in the morning of April 1 he still saw some cigarette butts along the trail.
Rule number 10: Stop Vandalism.Similar to the previous rule, this rule is to lessen distractions to the forest. For. Arizala, said that the writings and carvings on the barks of trees may cause sickness to the tree and possible abnormalities to the trees.
Rule number 11: Be considerate of other visitors. There are different kinds of visitors. According to last year’s report on the MIM 2014, the primary reason of their visit is ‘penance’ with regards to the Lenten season, but some are also there to experience the wilderness. Different hikers interact with each other that is why, MIM highly recommend meeting new friends in their time of visit and know their purpose on why they chose Makiling. This is will help the visitors understand how to act accordingly with other hikers.
Rule number 12: Familiarize yourself with this guide. Volunteers at the briefing station hand out leaflets of the rules and regulations (which are the 12 rules listed in this articles) and the picture of the trail. It is very important for visitors to refer to this leaflet when in need. It is important that visitors familiarize themselves with first aid stations located at designated areas shown in the map and the emergency contact numbers University Police Force: 09495362803/ 536-2243 Los Baños Mayor’s Office: 09495362589/ 530-2818
Next Lenten season, you might also want to ‘Make it Makiling’, just don’t forget these basic reminders.