Lenten pilgrims, trekkers leave trail of trash
The environmental watchdog EcoWaste Coalition lamented the volume of trash left in two popular pilgrimage and picnic sites in the provinces of Bulacan and Rizal over the Holy Week.
“Just like in previous years, the Lenten pilgrimage to both religious sites left a trail of trash that is totally unbefitting of the spiritual journey that many devotees do to affirm their faith, ask forgiveness for past wrongs, and give thanks for blessings received,” Daniel Alejandre, zero waste campaigner for EcoWaste Coalition, said in a statement.
The group conducted a trash assessment and cleanup from Maundy Thursday to Black Saturday at Our Lady of Lourdes Grotto in San Jose del Monte City, Bulacan, and at National Shrine of Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage in Antipolo City, Rizal.
“From what we have seen, the Our Lady of Lourdes Grotto could be a top candidate for the most litter-strewn pilgrimage site and this is largely due to the lack of discipline and indifferent attitude toward the environment by some of the pilgrims,” EcoWaste Coalition said.
“We surely are not happy with what we saw, but hope springs eternal in the human heart. We therefore reiterate our appeal to the faithful to care for Mother Earth, sustainer of all life, as they fulfill their religious vows. Faith-inspired endeavors should set a higher benchmark for environmental stewardship,” Alejandre said.
He noted that while newspapers, boxes, snack packs, plastic bags, bottles and cups, food containers and leftovers littered the streets around and in front of the Antipolo cathedral, round-the-clock cleaning operations by workers of the Antipolo City government helped keep the areas “generally clean.”
In Laguna province, Mount Makiling’s forest managers recorded about 4,000 visitors during the Holy Week, months after the popular hiking trail was declared off limits due to a major land slip that occurred last year.
Roberto Cereno, of the program Make it Makiling (MIM), said about 100 kilograms of trash were collected from trekkers and campers throughout the Lenten break this year.
Since 2002, Makiling Center for Mountain Ecosystems-University of the Philippines Los Baños (MCME-UPLB) has been monitoring activities inside the reserve through a visitor management program called MIM.
The Lenten hiking season marked the reopening of the Mariang Makiling trail (from UPLB campus to the summit), following the landslide in October last year that damaged the trail’s steep portions called Stations 16 and 17.
UPLB on Monday also announced the reopening of the Sipit trail (the opposite jump-off from Sto. Tomas town in Batangas province).
Cereno said their office strengthened the “garbage in, garbage out” rule and strictly implemented the no-camping and no-cooking policies outside the designated areas to prevent forest fire.
He believed “education” was key in promoting responsible hiking as well as refocusing ecotourism from “quantity to the quality” of visitors. —Reports from Jaymee T. Gamil and Maricar Cinco