Common Grounds: A holiday pop-up that helps our Bantay Gubat. Here’s how you can too!

Let’s talk about where 98% of water in Metro Manila come from: The Ipo watershed. Primarily consisting of public forestlands, forest cover has dramatically dropped from 85% to just 40% in recent years. The entire watershed is a protected area by virtue of several proclamations including the granting of a Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title for the Indigenous Dumagat tribes in the watershed, covering 15.8% of the area.

Photo by Wazzup Pilipinas

If you are wondering who are the people behind the protection of these watershed against illegal activities, it is no other than the Bantay Gubat, or Forest Watchers. There are 173 Bantay Gubat rangers in total, most coming from the Dumagat indigenous people group who find home in sitios that dot the surrounding forest. They patrol 6,600 hectares of rainforest facing conflict with offenders seeking to profit off the watershed’s natural wealth.

Team Kamagong leader Romel Paray stands in front of the vibrant forests he works to protect. Photograph © Alo Lantin / WWF-Philippines

Aside from guarding the forest from law offenders, these heroes are also protector of the watershed. If you still have water running down your faucet, these people should be thanked for, a lot.

Here comes the problem:

Due to the decrease on the forest cover, when it rains, it floods. This problem gets worse when these rangers spend the night in the forest. Lacking proper tents, the rangers craft makeshift shelters out of the surrounding foliage, binding together giant leaves to sleep under.

Aside from that, this mountain forest that is one of Metro Manila’s main sources of water is now at the mercy of illegal logging and burning after around 20 of its forest guards left their posts in January this year. These forest rangers are supposed to be paid by the MWSS, a government agency in charge of providing water to Metro Manila through water concessionaires. MWSS, through Presidential Proclamation Number 391 in 1968, shares management responsibilities over Ipo Watershed with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). Unfortunately, it doesn’t work this way. These forest rangers have to wait so long before they receive their monthly salary. They also lack of materials and equipment necessary for their job. Despite these scenarios, they really endured and worked despite the uncertainty.

Photo by Gregg Yan

While we wait for the government to do their part in ensuring the financial and social security of our forest rangers, organizations like UP Mountaineers, a student organization of the University of the Philippines-Diliman, do their part through the promotion of responsible mountaineering and conservation of the Ipo Watershed.

How can I help?

Aside from monetary donations through organizations like UP Mountaineers and World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), the collaboration of The Low Impact Filipina, The Girl and the Outdoors , Mud Morning Cafe and WTN (Where to Next) launched Common Grounds, a holiday pop-up with a community feel that offers a generous variety of local and eco-friendly products.

Partner merchants of Common Grounds

Common Grounds will be collecting donations for our forest rangers on November 25-30, 2019 ; 10AM to 9PM at Morning Mud Café, Stall #5, Centennial Dorm, E. Jacinto St., UP Diliman, QC.

Here is the wishlist of our forest rangers according to the UP Mountaineers.

Photo c/o UP Mountaineers

With your generous donations, you can help not only our forest rangers but also the sustainability of our water supply! Help protect nature by supporting our rangers.

Published by Angel Mata

Angel is a teacher based in Laguna, Philippines. She is advocating for reducing one's environmental impact through waste reduction, vegetarianism, and second hand purchase.

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