An adventure trek in Tabunan forest
For 9-year-old Hazel Son, walking under a canopy of Tabunan’s remaining forest cover will be one of her best memories of growing up.
In a pair of red slippers, a skirt and long-sleeved shirt, Son said she could easily navigate the forest trail alone.
“Di man ko mahadluk kay dugay na ko nag-ingon ani (I’m not afraid to come here because I’ve been doing this for a long time),” she told a team of mountain climbers and news reporters on a tour of Kakawan Forest in barangay Tabunan, Cebu City.
Hazel said she brings bring her father lunch everytime visitors come for a forest trek.
“This is where I play,” Son said cheerfully.
Her father 52-year-old Lucresio Son is a forest ranger and one of the area’s oldest tour guides.
Lucresio said he grew up at the foot of Mt. Manunggal in Balamban town, on the other side of the Tabunan forest in Central Cebu.
Lucresio said he grew up running through the forest.
He once took part in cutting trees there “but that’s way past me now,” Lucresio said.
A P400 monthly honorarium from the barangay supports his role as tour guide and forest ranger.
Last week’s tour was organized by the Ramon Aboitiz Foundation Inc. (Rafi). The visitors were led by Rafi’s 5th Triennial awardee Rene “Tatay Ete” Vendiola, and Lucresio.
Lucresio, known as “Tatay Uki” to mountaineers and hiking enthusiasts in Mt Manunggal, said the 160-hectare forest was one of the few remaining in the 29,000-hectare Central Cebu Protected Landscape (CCPL).
Lucresio, who grew up surrounded by trees, said he could never understand why people would prefer to go to shoping malls when they could come to the mountains and reconnect with nature.
He said this was the reason he encouraged Hazel, his youngest daughter, to accompany him to the forest.
“Parents should do the same. Children should know that this is our source of water,” he said in Cebuano.
He said he worried that most forest areas in the CCPL were already thinned out because of illegal logging even as he expressed hope that ongoing reforestation campaigns would succeed.
As he led the group deeper into the forest, Lucresio pointed out native tree species like Lawaan, Manunggal, Yakal and the Cebu Cinnamon that still abound in the area.
The area is across the mountainous terrain of Mt. Manunggal, the spot where President Ramon Magsaysay’s aircraft crashed, causing his death in 1957.
Tabunan is also a favorite destination of birdwatchers who vie to photograph the elusive Cebu Flowerpecker, an endemic bird found only in Cebu which has never been photographed.
Exploring the forest by day is already an adventure.
One has to maneuver slippery and rocky trails, giant trees, and hear the chirping of different bird species breaking the silence of the forest.
It takes about two and a half hours to reach a scaffold built as a viewing deck.
An uphill climb takes you through a path of sharp limestone rocks that you can hold on to as you go up.
Parts of the trail have paved footpaths and metal hand bars in cliff portions along the way.
When you reach the viewing deck, you get a clear view of the roof of trees overlooking the rainforest.
Vendiola, who was awarded as the Rafi Triennial’s outstanding individiual for community development for his advocacy in forest protection in his farm in Bacong, Negros Oriental, said more reforestation efforts would be needed in Cebu’s watersheds.
“If people work together to protecting the forest, it will survive and will also benefit us,” Vendiola said in Cebuano.
Vendiola, a former slash- and-burn farmer, was also recognized for his efforts to push for ordinances and projects that protect wildlife, mangroves and forests in Negros Oriental.
Tabunan is part of the 29,000-hectare Central Cebu Protected Landscape established by Republic Act 9486.
The CCPL includes five watersheds of Buhisan Dam, Mananga Watershed Forest Reserve, Kotkot-Lusuran Watershed Forest Reserve and the Sudlon National Park extending to Balamban town and Talisay and Cebu cities.
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