by Kattryn Erryc Sayo

The Philippines is one of the richest and most wonderful when it comes to natural environment. It has been famous for its clean rivers, clear ocean waters and green forests and mountains. But as time goes by, the once nature-wealthy country has been gradually suffering from environmental degradation- rivers turn black, seas and oceans become pool of garbage, and forests and mountains run out of resources. It may still be acceptable if the devastations are caused by natural catastrophes, but reality speaks it all: humans are the ones responsible for these disheartening destructions in nature.

Pilgrimage for a Cause

                Sierra Madre is one of the highly-devastated natural areas in the country. Because of continuous deforestation and mining, the place, which major purpose is to prevent serious damages from natural calamities, has become the reason for more critical wreckages. This has become evident during the surge of typhoon Ondoy in the year 2009, wherein the big floods came from the Sierra Madre Mountains.

                Because of that alarming incident, a group named Save Sierra Madre Network Alliance thought of a way on how to prevent further nature destructions. There came out Ang Paglalakbay ng Krus ng Sierra Madre, PADYAK (Pagpapanumbalik sA Dating KaaYusAn ng Kalikasan). The non-government project aims to: stimulate the consciousness of Filipinos about the hazardous effects of the destruction of Sierra Madre; to ignite our love for the environment and be aware that environment is life; to motivate people to take action in saving and protecting our nature; and to enliven our spirits and carry on God’s mission of promoting love and life.

                 Fr. Pete Montallana, the chairperson of the Save Sierra Madre Network Alliance shared how the pilgrimage began,“Umisip kami ng paraan kung papaano mapapalalim ang awareness ng tao tungkol sa environment, lalo na sa Sierra Madre na tuluy-tuloy ang pagkasira. Ang naisip namin ay i-pilgrimage ang krus ng Sierra Madre, na pattern doon sa atingJubilee cross. Alam naman natin na Sierra Madre ang dahilan kung bakit grabe ang Ondoy, sa bundok kasi nanggagaling ‘yong baha. Dahil rin sa Ondoy kaya naisip namin ang proyektong ito, to commemorate ‘yong mga namatay.”

                Ms. Tessie Calayag, a member of the Diocese of Malolos Diocesan Environment and Ecology Program, shared the history of the cross, “Nung 1960’s nagsimulang masalanta ang Sierra Madre. Sa panahong ding ‘yon sinimulang gawin ‘yong krus.‘Yong ating cross ay gawa sa pira-pirasong kahoy mula sa nasalantang puno, na pinagdugtong-dugtong ng ating mga katutubong Ifugao.”

Journey of the Cross 

                The plan had been put into action for the first time just this year. Every time the cross arrives at a new destination, a mass and a lecture are conducted. Starting from the archdiocese of Tuguegarao, and travelling from one diocese to another, the Sierra Madre cross had made its way in the province of Bulacan. On June 25, the cross arrived at the parish of San Miguel, Poblacion; on June 28, it reached the parish of Sta. Monica in Angat; and on June 30, the cross entered the Diocese of Malolos.  

             According to Fr. Pete Montallana, the journey of the cross had generated positive results. He said, “Hindi na natatakot ang mga tao to make a stand for the environment. Marami ang nalilinawan na kailangan nating pangalagaan ang kalikasan. In fact sa Nueva Ecija, may nahuling nagmimina na walang papeles. Hindi na natatakot ang mga tao na umaksyon.”

               Fr. Pete desires for the continuance of this pilgrimage. “I think we have to continue kasi hindi naman natitigil ang pagkasira ng Sierra Madre hanggang ngayon eh,” he said.

Stand Up For Nature 
                In these days that ecological damages are rampant in the country, many Filipinos are still not aware of the severe condition of the environment. Though others are conscious, they do not put even a little concern or effort to prevent further destructions.

           Lloyd Christopher Rendon, a cyclist who joined the pilgrimage, shared, “Palagi kaming sumasali sa mga environmental events, support na rin namin ito para sa pagpigil sa patuloy na pagwasak sa ating environment.”

               Ms. Tessie Calayag shared an environmental project as a stand up for nature. “Sa September 26 magkakaroon ngTree Planting sa Sierra Madre. Aim naming  makapagtanim ng 10,000 seedlings. Lahat maaring sumali,” she said.

                 The recovery of Sierra Madre and the entire environment is in the hands of the people. The self-centered destroyers must stop, and the defenders should stand up and act. Just like what Fr. Pete said in his lecture, “Hindi lamang sa DENRnakasalalay ang kalikasan. Kailangan pati tayo ay makisangkot.”

                Taking responsibility in nature is not just for a meantime, it requires lifetime persistence. It’s not like acting now and forgetting about it tomorrow. It must be an everyday duty. “Kung tayo ay magtatanim, aalagaan natin. Hindi ‘yong magtatanim nga tayo pero pababayaan naman, wala ring mangyayari,” said Mr. Elizardo Alberto of PENRO Bulacan.

                There is a need for understanding and reformation of attitudes and concern towards the protection of environment. People must always keep in mind that nature is a very important factor in our lives. Imagine a world without it, how can people survive?

                “Ang pagtatanggol sa kalikasan ay pagtatanggol ng buhay. Kapag pinabayaan natin ang kalikasan, pinabayaan din natin ang buhay,” Fr. Pete said.  

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