So Mt. Banahaw is Not Totally Closed

View of Mt. Banahaw from Taytay Falls

And I thought Mt. Banahaw is closed!

Read this with the sad news of a massacre.

Then read the advisory regarding the closure:

Mount Banahaw still closed to Lenten pilgrims–DENR exec
By Delfin Mallari Jr.
Inquirer Southern Luzon
First Posted 07:14:00 03/27/2010
Filed Under: Belief (Faith), Customs & Traditions, Religions, Environmental Issues

LUCENA CITY – The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has announced that the mystical Mt. Banahaw will remain closed to religious pilgrims and mountaineers this coming Holy Week.

“It [Mount Banahaw] has been abused for decades. Let’s allow the mountain to heal,” Nilo Tamoria, DENR Region 4-A [Calabarzon] executive director, said in a statement Friday.

To many, Mt. Banahaw is inhabited by heavenly spirits. Many believers trek its slopes in hopes of experiencing something divine, particularly during the Lenten season.

“While we recognize that Mount Banahaw is widely regarded as a sacred place, the supposedly holy, sacred mountain has not been accorded due respect and has not been spared from human exploitation,” Tamoria lamented.

In the summer of 2004, several days before the Holy Week, the Protected Area Management Board (PAMB), sealed off with barbed wires several trails leading to certain areas in the bosom of Banahaw to start the five-year rehabilitation program that would resurrect the mountain's natural resources.

Aside from slash-and-burn farming that left scars on the mountain’s surface, modern pilgrims and urban-based nature trippers vandalized tis inherent beauty by littering the place with trash.

After the restriction period ended, the mountain has shown signs of restoring endemic lives as luxuriant wildlife fauna and flora species began to flourish again, including “rafflesia,” considered the world’s biggest flower.

The DENR also noted the return of cascading waters in several mountain falls and the re-growth of thick vegetation.

In March last year, the PAMB decided to seal off the mountain for three more years to sustain its rehabilitation.

Tamoria said park rangers and composite teams formed by the PAMB would ensure that entry points to Mount Banahaw would be closed and strictly monitored, particularly trails going to the “Cristalino Falls”, “Durungawan”, “Tatlong Tangke” to “Kinabuhayan”, popular spots in the mountain facing Dolores, Quezon.

He also said that entry points from Sariaya town, particularly in the villages of Bugon, Puesto ng Pagbuga, Dulong Ilaya, Concepcion Pinagbakuran and Banahaw would likewise be closed and monitored.
In Dec. 11, 2009, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo signed RA 9847, declaring Mt. Banahaw and adjacent Mt. San Cristobal as protected areas that would institutionalize and ensure the protection of both mountains.
Quezon Representative Proceso Alcala, who authored the law, said the measure featured a sustainable conservation and management system for the rich biodiversity found in the two mountains that would boost their eco-tourism potentials, the rich cultural and religious heritage found in its periphery.

Sally Pangan, DENR park superintendent for Mt. Banahaw, disclosed that they had been receiving reports that overzealous pilgrims and urban trekkers had been trying to reach the still unauthorized sites atop the mountain through various entry points in Dolores and Sariaya towns.

“Maybe, they [pilgrims and mountaineers] were just curious to see for themselves the glorious transformation of the mountain from its former despoiled condition. The changes are really awesome but the public still have to bear with us. This is not yet the time,” Pangan said.
Pangan said they would put up huge tarpaulins photos to show the impressive improvement of the mountain after its closure.

“We also want to show the public where the collected fund was being spent,” she said.

The government has been collecting P20 entrance fee for every mountain visitors for the past several years.

However, Pangan lamented that government warning signs and advisories in strategic areas of the mystical Mount Banahaw were being vandalized and stolen.

“We have to put up new signs again. Hopefully, it will last until the next Lenten season,” Pangan said.

Pangan suspected that irresponsible mountain trekkers and religious pilgrims were behind the lost and destruction of the DENR signs and advisories made of plywood and tarpaulins.

“Maybe they are protesting with the continuous closure of the mountain. But its continuous closure is for the benefit of Banahaw. The mountain needs some more time to fully heal the wounds caused by man’s irresponsibility’s in the past,” she explained.

She reminded the pilgrims and mountaineers that they could only go to as far as the lawfully open spots in Banahaw just like what they had been doing for the past six years.

With the devastating effects of El Niño, two recent incidents of forest fires razed an estimated 180 hectares of grassland and forest areas in Mt. San Cristobal.

The DENR will establish and install fire detection systems and look out towers to detect any tell-tale signs of forest fires, Pangan said.

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