MANILA - Two Filipino conservationists from the Masungi Georeserve have been recognized in fashion magazine Vanity Fair’s travel awards this year for protecting, preserving, and showcasing the nature reserve.
The magazine’s Changing Your Mind Travel Awards 2021, released on Feb. 26, honored 3 individuals and 2 teams, whose “important work” continued “undaunted… while a pandemic ravages and our freedom is curbed.”
Vanity Fair described sisters Ann and Billie Dumaliang, Masungi’s managing trustees, as “conservation starters” for rewilding, establishing monitoring trails, and integrating the local community on the eco-tourism site in Rizal province despite the challenges it had faced recently.
“They hoped to lure city-dwellers from the capital Manila, just an hour and a half away, aiming to attract Filipinos ‘who have never even seen a bird’s nest’... they dreamt up spectacular ways of exploring the region, long difficult to access because of the fragile terrain,” the magazine wrote of the Dumaliangs.
“Under lockdown the pair also launched Visita, an app designed to empower fellow ecotourist managers across the Philippines.”
In an interview with ABS-CBN News, Billie said they felt “blessed and inspired” to be included in the prestigious list.
“We feel honored that Masungi's efforts are consistently recognized and appreciated abroad. We hope this helps show Filipinos and our leaders why they need to support conservation and restoration initiatives at Masungi,” she said.
Masungi was shut because of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the pair, but the nature reserve is gradually opening by “entertaining limited visits” with health measures in place.
The conservationist also urged more Filipinos to rally behind efforts to save Masungi, as well as the Upper Marikina Watershed.
“The success of our team's efforts is not really for us but for the millions of Filipinos who deserve a healthy watershed and a safe future.... It is also for the wildlife who have already lost so much of their home, as well as the park rangers who find meaningful livelihood through reforestation,” she pointed out.
“We hope and pray that all Filipinos will unite to save Masungi and the Upper Marikina Watershed from destructive and entrenched activities such as quarrying and illicit land grabs,” she added.
Masungi is an award-winning conservation project that has become a popular eco-tourism site in Baras town, Rizal. Alongside eco-tourism efforts, the group behind it continues to reforest areas made barren by illegal logging and quarrying.
In late October last year, Billie sounded the alarm on the presence of armed guards who illegally fenced a portion of the site's restoration project, blocking them from accessing some 1,000 hectares of land. It has since been removed then but threats remain, she said.
The environmentalist also emphasized the importance of restoring a portion of the rainforest, which is a part of the Upper Marikina River Basin Protected Landscape, because it is one of the many ways massive flooding, loss of water, and landslides could be prevented.
Those who want to visit the eco-tourism site should make a request in advance through www.masungigeoreserve.com.
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