The opening of eco-parks to not only boost the economy through tourism but to also provide a place we can improve our mental and physical wellbeing during the pandemic may be good for us. The question is: is it good for nature?
January to February should be the perfect time to go on nature walks in Baguio City, because this is usually around the time when the temperature in the city lowers to up to the single digits. Just this morning, we experienced the lowest temperature in Baguio City for this year so far. Going on walks is a good activity to battle the cold and keep our body in shape at the same time.
When the pandemic hit in March 2020 though, all of the parks in Baguio City were restricted to avoind drawing crowds. The movement was limited to essential activities to avoid the spread of the virus which meant months of restless home quarantine which took a toll on a lot of people’s mental health. This made us realize that the bliss of walking in parks and breathing in fresh air without a mask was something we have taken for granted.
As someone who LOVES walking and forest bathing (our walking tour videos and Stories in Photos can definitely attest to that), here’s what we usually do when visiting any tourist attraction: we enter the park, bask in the natural beauty of the trees and the sounds that are as immersive as an ASMR video, stop to take landscape photos and videos or take a water break, then we leave the park feeling better than ever.
This morning, I woke up to the sad announcement that Camp John Hay’s hiking trails have been closed indefinitely due to garbage deliberately dumped throughout the trails. What’s worse is that leaves and trees were also vandalized and disrespected.
Does this news seem familiar to you? It might be because, within just three months, this is the second eco-park to announce that they had to temporarily close due to vandalism and disrespectful activity in the eco-parks’ premises.
St. Francis Xavier Bamboo Eco-Park
The St. Francis Xavier Bamboo Eco-Park is a nature park located inside the St. Francis Xavier Seminary at Liteng, Pacdal. It was built in 2012 by the Philippine Bamboo Foundation, Inc. (PBFI) under a Memorandum of Agreement with the Diocese of Baguio City. It is meant to be an experimental learning center that aims to study the different bamboo species and find out how and where bamboos can be propagated in Benguet to control soil erosion. Training, seminars, and TESDA certifications are also being conducted here for locals to learn more about the livelihood opportunities revolving around bamboo.
In an online interview, Mr. Edgardo Manda, President of the PBFI, shared that there are currently ten (10) rare bamboo species, only found in China, that are being grown in the eco-park. While the researchers have yet to finalize their recommendations, Manda says these species show promise in mitigating air pollution in the City of Baguio. The Phyllostachys aurea or the Golden bamboo is just one of these species.
On November 9, 2020, Manda announced through a Facebook post that the Bamboo Park will be temporarily closed to the visiting public due to vandalism and some visitors caught urinating along its pathway. It has been opened again but visitors continue to deface the poles with names.
This has led the management to create a temporary solution by creating fences that would distance the visitors to the bamboo in hopes that this would prevent visitors from doing the bamboo clumps any further wanton destruction.
It is hard to wrap my head around some of the visitor’s urge to vandalize trees and plants. Whether it’s misguided playfulness or intentional destruction of natural resources is beyond me. Imagine someone putting a tattoo on you without any regard for your feelings. What would you feel?
We are blessed with the abundance of natural and man-made parks that allow us to inhale fresh air and also boost ecotourism in Baguio City and Benguet. This gives us the advantage to promote tourism while also being respectful to nature and the culture of a place.
While the management of parks can always think of different measures to avoid vandalism, it is ultimately our responsibility to make sure we leave the eco-parks in the same, if not better, state than when we saw it. “For those who want to visit the place, respect nature, enjoy oxygen recharge but do not harm the plants.”, the PBFI President appealed to the visiting public.
Twenty-five years ago, people could be excused for not knowing much, or doing much, about climate change. Today we have no excuse. – Desmond Tutu
Perhaps it is time that we reflect on our actions and practice mindfulness and empathy not only to humans but also to other living things in this world. As a community, we must also do our part to continuously educate ourselves and our fellow kailyans about the role of flora and fauna in climate change and the ecosystem in general so that we may be more careful in preserving the pristine beauty of the parks, whether we are locals or foreign to the place. May it be in form of guided tours, continuous information drives by public and private organizations, or simply doing our own research, our actions will play a key role in making sure we have a beautiful planet to hand on to the next generations.