The Wild File 2017

The Wild File 2017

Change is one of the primary constants in this world. Over the last 11 years of CCT’s existence we have had to constantly retool the way we work, from planting trees to building forest nurseries and now for the last 2 years towards creating opportunities for a more sustainable economy for the mountain region through wild space development.

The mountain region has changed significantly since our founding 11 years ago. Most towns are no longer remote isolated islands cut off from even nearby Baguio city, and a new generation of mountain people is taking root and creating waves across the entire region. The once young children we would see playing in the mountains are now the young adults that are spearheading this change, they are educated, motivated, more mobile, and more tech savvy with access to information and people that their forefathers could not have ever imagined. We are no longer so insular so as to see ourselves apart from the greater Philippine society as was the norm in the region ten years ago, we are now more open both to people and opportunities and we see this replicated in every village we work with across the region. Cordillerans’ are finding their voice to be a part of the greater Philippine community.

While many in the old guard look at this change with nostalgic sadness, we look at these changes as an opportunity to change the dynamics of conservation in the region. It is a chance for us to influence this generation to be better, to create a home that is more sustainable, an economy that relies as much on the protection and conservation of the land for its natural beauty as it did previously to it’s extraction.

The new heart of our work now is in ensuring that this new generation is equipped with skills and knowledge in order to take part in a new economy that relies on the wild spaces in their pristine nature. As the old saying goes, give a man a fish he will eat for a day, but teach a man to fish sustainably and care for nature and they can fish for generations not to mention dive, surf, swim, and kayak too.

Our renewed focus on creating opportunities for sustainable development has streamlined our work for 2018 focusing on specific mountain regions. We focus now on 3 major regions. The Lower Agno River Region which includes Mt. Ugo, Dalupirip and Tinungdan, The Amburayan River region which includes Kibungan, Kapangan, and Bakun and lastly we are opening up a new area of work for 2018 in the Upper Agno River Basin that covers the areas that feed into the Ambuklao reservoir including Tublay and Bokod in Benguet.

Moving forward we see the CCTs work as a multiplier for development in the mountain region as we have seen time and again through our 11 years of work that we are able to start and change the conversation for development, create opportunities for mountain communities, as well as act as the catalyst for sustainable adventure development to take root and blossom in many of the areas in which we do our work. In the following years we will be leveraging on this in order to effect as much change as our small organisation can muster in the places in which we work.

Trail Running: The Cordillera Mountain Ultra as our flagship model for this type of development has grown from its first edition in 2016. In 2017 the event was able to attract runners from 21 different countries as well as an increase in the number of participants by at least 30%. We also saw a marked increase in the number of households that offered homestays from the previous year with an almost 500% increase in the households that provided homestay services to runners. We estimate that the event created approximately 200 jobs in the village from homestays to food and marshals employed during the event. This extends also to those providing transport as well as associated services down the value chain.

The route of the Cordillera Mountain Ultra has also now become a trekking destination for those who would like to do longer treks across Mt. Ugo from Kayapa to Dalupirip or Tinungdan to Dalupirip. The renewed interest in Dalupirip due to the CMU has also spurred an increased interest in Mt. Pigingan as a major hiking destination, which is an easy 12km hike from the end of the road now becoming a major attraction for the village of Dalupirip. The route of the Vertical KM has also become a permanent trail that is used by both locals and tourists as an easily accessible hike near the village.

It is now also on Google Trekker and on Open Maps source and Maps.me providing a visual tour of the entire Mt. Ugo circuit and accurate GPS Maps for the entire mountain.

Homestays have also seen an increase in hikers, travellers, and tourists post race throughout the year with some homestays investing in making their facilities better with new toilets, new rooms, and also exploring the surrounding mountains of Dalupirip to offer tours to tourists who would like to visit their village, they have so far identified several waterfalls that can be utilized for eco-tourism within the boundaries of their village as well as exploring trails that go around the present Vertical KM race of the CMU

Landscape Walks Program: While the CMU route is now an established route. For the last 3 years the Cordillera Conservation Trust has been mapping trails in Kibungan in partnership with the local government as part of our landscape walks program. So far we have mapped over 100kms of footpaths that connect different villages across the Kibungan and Bakun range of mountains this includes waypoints for bridges, villages, sources of water, critical junctions etc… There are still so much more to map in this area and this only represents 70% of the trails being utilised by locals in the remote villages. By 2018 we hope to be able to release some detailed topographic maps with the information we have gathered for use by trekkers and the lgu. Together with our homestay development program you will be able to hike for up to a week or more here visiting villages and the beautiful wild spaces in between helping in the areas conservation and helping uplift the lives of the many remote communities that live in this beautiful remote region and hope to be able to launch this through a new trail event in 2018.

We have also completed the first batch of Homestay trainees of approximately 50 households in Kibungan paving the way for the communities here to access the outdoor economy. There is though still a need for the more remote villages to access this type of training as they would be the primary beneficiaries of the outdoor economy with their homes in some of the most beautiful parts of the region.

Mountain Biking: The Cordillera Challenge is now in it’s 8th year and has been instrumental in creating MTB routes that riders return to regularly in parts of Atok, Tublay, Bokod, Kapangan, and Kibungan in Benguet. For the last 2 years we have been holding the Cordillera Challenge in Kapangan and Kibungan and post race it has increased the number of riders plying this route and was even used by the Municipality of Kapangan for their Municipal fun ride during their Christmas program this December.

We acknowledge though that unlike the Cordillera Mountain Ultra, the Cordillera Challenge has yet to reach it’s full potential as a sustainable development catalyst as in the 8 years that we have been running this event, most bikers prefer to reside in Baguio city or neary La Trinidad, not fulfilling the full potential for adventure development in the more remote barangays. In this regard we are making some changes to the way we conduct the Cordillera Challenge in 2018 to bring it closer to the way we conduct the Cordillera Mountain Ultra in order to maximize the development benefits from Mountain Biking which this event provides as it has moved from being a mere tool to raise funds into being the tool for conservation itself. In connection with this we are moving the race from the town centers to smaller barangays in order to utilize the same model of wild space development that we pioneered with the trail run allowing us to create a more sustainable environment for the local communities in which this event goes through each year. For 2018 we will be holding the Cordillera Challenge in the small Barangay of Ambuklao right below the dam as we see this area as a place with a high potential for adventure development not simply just for Mountain Biking but also for trail running, hiking, and possibly water sports as well. We will be working closely with the Barangay and the Municipality of Bokod as well as the DENR that manages the upper Agno watershed region in order to maximize this opportunity for sustainable adventure development for this part of the region.

Homestay Development: 3 years and 3 different mountain communities. Mt. Pulag, Mt. Ugo, and the Kibungan Mountain range. For the last 3 years as part of our work developing wild spaces we have trained almost 200 families on different aspects of homestay development to help them access the economy of wild spaces.

With the help of the University of Baguio School of International Hospitality and Tourism Management, Victory Liner Inc. and the One Meralco Foundation and all our partners and different LGUs and of course everyone who joins the Cordillera Mountain Ultra 2017 and Cordillera Challenge 2017 have trained 200 families in Pulag, Ugo, and Kibungan on homestay development, cooking, and of course sustainable tourism.

After 3 years we’ve seen household incomes increase up to 500% for those who fully embrace the system now that’s definitive evidence of the program working. In 2018 we are upgrading the training to include marketing and social media development to allow the homestays to fully access this outdoor economy.

Media: lastly we acknowledge that we are also creators of media content that can greatly influence the use and sustainability of the wild spaces. Our media now also has considerable reach, with several of our videos reaching over 100,000 views. We plan to use this more in 2018 to further promote the regions’ wild spaces and sustainable use for the wild spaces.

 

Thank you to everyone that made our work in 2017 possible from the volunteers to our corporate partners, the local communities, and local government units and of course the participants who give value to the once unvalued wild spaces. 2018 will be our 12th year of service to the Cordillera region, we are entering into a new decade of work. While much has changed in both the region and the work that we do, we still continue with our mission to create a sustainable future for the mountain region. Here is to the new year and to the wild spaces that continue to feed our imagination.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all!

Keep it Wild!

 

JP Alipio

Chief Forest Builder

Cordillera Conservation Trust