by Ellanie Marie Mallen
In observance of this year’s Holy Week, the Mount Makiling Forest Reserve (MMFR) hosted and oversaw Make It Makiling! 2022 — an annual Lenten Season Visitors Management Program of the Makiling Center for Mountain Ecosystems (MCME). An approximate total of 1,100 individuals participated in the event, with the Flat Rocks and Mudspring being the most popular areas visited.
From April 10 to 17, 2022, registered groups and individuals were allowed to visit the forest reserve through the Mariang Makiling Trail at the University of the Philippines Los Baños and EcoPark at Sto Tomas City, Batangas. Visitors were discouraged to use other entry points and walk-ins were not allowed.
The activities in the event included hiking and camping, while the areas allowed for visitation were Flat Rocks, Mudspring, Makiling Rainforest Park, and the Agila Base. The MMFR also hosted a geocaching activity – a treasure hunting event where participants were tasked to find “geocaches” or special treasure chests located in specific longitudes and latitudes in the area. A total of 7 geocaches were hidden in the area, 6 of them were found and taken home by participants of the event.
The entrance via the Mariang Makiling Trail was open from 6:00 AM to 2:00 PM; access to the Wilderness Zone was limited from 3:00 PM to 5:00 PM; the cut-off for visiting the Mudspring was 2:00 PM; while the visitor cut-off for the Flat Rocks was 3:00 PM.
Small businesses in the area were also allowed to sell their products during the event, with their stalls located near the Mudspring. Meals wrapped in banana leaves were the most popular items in their sales.
In compliance with new normal protocols, MMFR only accommodated 200 hikers and 50 campers per day. The online registration consisted of a visitor’s briefing, where participants were also required to answer the Leave No Trace quiz before the confirmation of a slot. Quiz passers were allowed to take the express lane at Mariang Makiling Station 1.
The Leave No Trace Outdoor Ethics are guidelines promoted by the MCME toward responsible ecotourism. This “aims to catalyze attitude and behavioral change in its visitors towards becoming recreationists that are stewards of Mother Nature.” It is also implemented due to Mount Makiling Forest Reserve’s status as an ASEAN Heritage Park, which “warrants vigilant care and staunch protection from everybody, especially Filipinos.”
The Leave No Trace Standard Operating Procedures as per MCME’s website consist of the following:
- Proper identification – Visitors are required to log in before entry. Bring a valid ID for identification (valid IDs with complete name and recent photo).
- Prohibited items – Do not bring Pets, Liquor, Dangerous/illegal drugs, Cutting implements. These are not allowed inside the Mount Makiling Forest Reserve – ASEAN Heritage Park.
- Entrance fees – Php 50.00 for hiking per person; Php 200.00 for camping per group of 5 persons.
- Buddy system – Hiking alone is not allowed to ensure safety. Security is ensured when traveling with a companion or in a group.
- Camping gear – If you are camping, make sure you have complete and fully functioning gear.
- No garbage, no exit – Bring all your trash with you when you exit and dispose of it properly at bins located at Station 1.
While the Leave No Trace principles for recreationists as per MCME’s website consist of the following:
- Follow entry requirements – Entrance fees, inspection, and vehicle entry policies.
- Observe access hours – Follow access and cut-off hours.
- Stay on trails – Follow trekking stations and directions and observe extra care as some portions are slippery and dangerous. The Makiling Traverse is closed to hikers during the week.
- Camp on designated sites – Camping is only allowed at Tayabak Campsite. Camping is not allowed in Peaks 1, 2, 3, Mudspring, Flat Rocks, plantation groves, water intakes, or river banks. This is to minimize impacts and to ensure the security of visitors.
- Obey the “Garbage in, garbage out” rule – Pack out all trash, leftover food, and other non-biodegradable waste and dispose of them upon exiting Station 1. Garbage is unsightly and it messes up the ecosystem; leftover food is dangerous to wildlife.
- Leave what you find – Mount Makiling is a forest reserve. It is illegal to do any form of destructive and extractive activities such as cutting trees, collecting flowers or fruits, hunting wild animals or taking away natural artifacts. We have a responsibility to make sure that everybody enjoys the resource in its pristine condition.
- Beware of obnoxious plants, insects, and other organisms – Do not touch plants, insects, or other organisms that are not familiar to you. Inspect your clothes often for limatik (forest leech). Use insect repellents to avoid bites.
- Respect wildlife – Observe wild animals from a distance. When confronted by a wild boar, lizard, or snake, stay calm and back away slowly. Most animals tend to escape if not provoked.
- Do not vandalize – Defacing, destroying, or removing trees, rocks, signage, and landmarks is illegal and punishable by law. It is ignorant and disrespectful to the resource and to other visitors.
- Prevent forest fire – No smoking! UPLB prohibits smoking inside the campus, especially inside the Forest Reserve. An unattended campfire or candle can spark a destructive fire.
- Be considerate of other visitors – Respect other visitors and locals. Let everyone enjoy nature and the outdoors. Use earphones when listening to music and be courteous when interacting with volunteers and other visitors.
- Familiarize yourself with guides and maps – Know the location of first aid stations and monitoring points. In case of untoward incidents, immediately ask for assistance from volunteers and call emergency contact numbers.
According to Angela Limpiada, Make It Makiling! 2022 coordinator and University Extension Associate of the MCME, the implementation of the Leave No Trace guidelines led to improved visitor behavior (i.e., less trash left on site this year).
Although less violations occurred after the implementation of the Leave No Trace guidelines, some visitors were found to bring prohibited items such as cigarettes, lighters, and knives which were surrendered at the Inspection Station.
“Kailangan talaga ng information dissemination pa rin. Actually, parang kulang pa rin ang reach [sa bisita] na may ganito kaming protocols.” says Limpiada. She encourages visitors to be in-the-know about responsible ecotourism as they visit Mount Makiling.
(Information dissemination is still needed for this. Actually, we still lack ways on how to reach visitors regarding our protocols)
Due to implemented protocols on tourism last year, Make It Makiling! 2022 was held online. The virtual tour of the previously mentioned sites in the area can be found on their YouTube channel.
This year, the Mariang Makiling Trail is now open for regular hiking activities limited to 2 hours per visit with Agila Base as the furthest area allowed for visitation. Visitors are required to book an appointment online via this link: https://bit.ly/MakilingOnlineBookingV2.
Interested groups and individuals may visit MCME’s website for protocols regarding regular hikes, MCME’s contact details, and other pertinent information.