By: Maricar Cinco - Correspondent / @maricarcincoINQPhilippine Daily Inquirer
Photo: Volunteers trek through the Buhisan watershed forest reserve in Cebu City in search of trash left by visitors. —CONTRIBUTED PHOTO
LOS BAÑOS, Laguna — Over a thousand volunteer hikers collected close to a ton of garbage during a recent simultaneous mountain cleanup driven by an online event.
Mountaineering groups cleaned up at least 60 mountains across the country during the National Mountain Cleanup Day (NMCD) last week. This was the fourth event since medical anthropologist Gideon Lasco put out the idea on his blog, “Pinoy Mountaineer.”
The blog was created in 2007 as a trekking guide, but it eventually promoted ethical hiking and environmental protection.
Lasco, who became a World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF)- Philippines “influencer” (a person who has attracted a following in social media) in 2015, led a team of 20 up Mt. Makiling here on Sunday. With him were WWF celebrity ambassadors Iza Calzado and television host Rovilson Fernandez.
Juancho Misa, WWF’s digital and social media officer, said this could be a start of their group’s shift from cleaning up beaches and oceans to the mountains.
“The power of social media is that I don’t even have to organize (the climbs). All I do is set the date, make the (NMCD) logo and they do it, they (groups) organize their own hikes,” said Lasco, also a Philippine Daily Inquirer columnist.
Misa said combining the online reach of Pinoy Mountaineer, with 250,000 followers on Facebook, with WWF’s would allow them to “amplify” the campaign.
Aside from mountaineering groups, some local governments and Scouting organizations join the national cleanup day, which usually happens on a weekend after summer and before the onset of the rainy season.
Larger volumes of trash left on the mountains are expected during summer as it is the most preferred hiking season.
Pinoy Mountaineer encourages participating groups to fill out and submit a “trash data form,” which it submits to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
Carlo Cunanan, who manages Pinoy Mountaineer’s Facebook page, on Monday said the biggest volume of trash collected this year came from the Magarwak and Masagana waterfalls in Palawan province.
He said there were less participants from Visayas this year, following the 6.5-magnitude earthquake that hit the region last week, while none from Mindanao joined because of security issues due to the conflict in Marawi City.
“This is symbolic (in a way that) we want to use the activity to raise awareness beyond the trash that we pick up. I guess, it’s getting people talking,” Lasco said.
He said with hiking and traveling becoming more affordable these days, the campaign promoted “responsible travel” and encouraged people to explore lesser-known destinations in the country.
“People are usually after the ‘Instagrammable’ mountains— those with sceneries (like) Mt. Pulag (in Benguet province) with like 500 people going up there every week,” Lasco said.
“Don’t just go to the ‘blockbusters,’” he said, noting the Philippines has a lot of different and unique experiences to offer.