Kathy Lene S. Cielo and Szimon Francisco, Mindoro Biodiversity Conservation Foundation Inc.
World Wetlands Day is celebrated annually in Naujan Lake National Park (NLNP) [EAAF062], a wetland of international importance—one of the Ramsar sites in the Philippines. This year, we at Mindoro Biodiversity Conservation Foundation, Inc. (MBCFI) opted to celebrate it with a little twist—we celebrated with yoga! Our activity called “Ibangklaseng Yoga” aims for the wellness of three aspects: 1) biodiversity through talks, exhibit and bird counting, 2) ecotourism through Bangklase tour, and 3) body and mind through yoga.
The English translation of “ibang” is different and “klase” is class or kind. The event was also held at the Bangklase, if translated “Bangka” is boat and “klase” is class, meaning “class in a boat”. It is a big catamaran with a seating capacity of 60 persons. The Bangklase project is an initiative of Divine Word College of Calapan and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to promote biodiversity conservation and ecotourism in Naujan Lake National Park. The original itinerary of the Bangklase is to go to different ecotourism sites in the Lake such as: Minglet Forest, Pungao Hotspring, Tagbakin Falls and Malabo View Deck. During the tour, a representative of NLNP- Protected Area Office will provide lectures on biodiversity and Naujan Lake National Park.
For this year’s theme of “Wetlands for a Sustainable Urban Future”, we invited 15 volunteers who travelled all the way from Manila to attend the event. They are: from Shell Philippines Exploration BV and Shell Business Office Manila, and Triathletes.
BIODIVERSITY TALKS AND EXHIBIT
St. Agustin Minor Seminary Ecology Professor Madonna Virola invited MBCFI to hold its Day 1 Biodiversity Talks and Exhibit (February 2, 2018) at their auditorium. The event was attended by more than 50 seminarians and the 15 volunteers from Manila. Joining the seminarians and the volunteers were the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Oriental Mindoro Provincial Officer Mary June Maypa and MBCFI Board of Trustees member Gerardo Concepcion. Concepcion shared his message on sustainability: “Although, I, myself is an entrepreneur, specifically in the gas and oil industry at that, I am also a trustee of MBCFI. I believe that development and environment can go along positively for a sustainable future. And may I quote from the Rio declaration “In order to achieve sustainable development, environmental protection shall constitute an integral part of the development process and cannot be considered in isolation from it.” I personally, see to it that our business meets the environmental standards of our country, and that we comply dutifully with it.” During the day, other topics related to biodiversity were discussed 1) MBCFI Executive Director Grace Diamante on MBCFI’s programs and projects 2) MBCFI M & E Officer Virtito Natural Jr. on Philippines’ biodiversity 3) MBCFI IEC Officer Roderick Makiputin on Mindoro Biodiversity; 4) RESEARCH Program Manager Don Geoff Tabaranza on MBCFI’s RESEARCH program, wetland birds and counting methods; 5) NLNP-PAO ECOMS I Rayson Alfante on Naujan Lake National Park as an important wetland; 6) MBCFI CARE Program Manager Kathy Lene Cielo on Urban Wetlands. The exhibit included research gears, published books, bird photos and brochures for the appreciation of participants. Day 1 was ended by a send-off serenade and prayer by seminarians and Father Nestor Adalia.
Earlier that day, the Protected Area Office of NLNP spearheaded by Protected Area Superintendent Ricardo Natividad pushed through with their regular coastal clean-up in the Barangays surrounding the lake.
BIRD COUNTING AND YOGA
MBCFI, DENR and volunteers started the Day 2 of World Wetlands celebration at 5 AM aboard the Bangklase. The event started with a short orientation by Don Geoff Tabaranza on bird counting using the block method. It was then followed with an hour session of Ashtanga yoga for beginners. The yoga session ended at the burst of dawn, in time for the bird counting activity where flock of birds welcomed our guests and volunteers. A total of 1,900 birds were counted and majority are tufted ducks followed by Garganeys. However, the bird count was low due to the cloudy weather with periodical rain showers.
“Bird counting was more than just “counting’, it was an activity that needed patience, focus and most importantly, enthusiasm. Taking action is the next step. We should consider to be advocates, and create awareness of the values and concerns that we are currently facing in saving our natural habitats and its species not just in our locales.” Decerel Mendoza (Volunteer, Athlete and Yogini)
Participants shared their creativity and pledges by coloring a bird-shaped board courtesy of East Asian Australasian Flyway Partnership. The event was ended with a sumptuous breakfast aboard the bangklase! It was indeed a happy World Wetlands Day!
“I have previously learned about MBCFI and the ecological significance of Mindoro from lunch-and-learn events held in the SPEX office, but personally being at Naujan Lake with the MBCFI team gave me a deeper appreciation for the hard work being done on the field and why it matters.”- Chiara Bernardo (Volunteer, Shell Exploration BV)