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10 rock-solid facts about Masungi Georeserve

By MONS ROMULO, The Philippine STAR Published Jul 06, 2021 6:00 am

While our focus this past year was fighting COVID-19, sisters Ann and Billie Dumaliang were at the forefront to protect, preserve and promote one of our country’s geological heritage sites — Masungi Georeserve in Baras, Rizal.

Both graduates of the Ateneo De Manila University, Ann started the Masungi Georeserve brand and foundation operations in 2015, while Billie joined her sister in 2016. 

Both women were inspired by their father, Ben Dumaliang, an engineer and environmentalist, who together with his wife Lily has been involved in the protection of the limestone area since the 1990s. 

Billie shares, “Our father’s uncompromising courage inspires us every day. His courage, vision, and unique expertise and genius are ultimately what made the conservation of Masungi Georeserve possible and world-class, in a local context where this kind of effort seems impossible.”  

 Young Ann and Billie Dumaliang with dad Ben.

The admirable efforts of Ann and Billie in transforming Masungi Georeserve into a geo park have earned our country international recognition.

On June 30, 2020, Gothenberg, Sweden’s WIN WIN International Youth Sustainability Award selected the Masungi Geopark project as one of the top five finalists out of 358 nominations from 80 countries. In July 2020, Ann was named one of the 35 regional finalists, out of over 800 nominations, for the United Nations Young Champions of the Earth.

Recently, the sisters were among the five winners of the 2021 Vanity Fair Changing Your Mind Travel Awards. 

In spite of the recognition being given to the sisters here and abroad, they are still faced with an uphill battle against illegal quarrying and professional squatting, with reportedly little or no support from the government.  

But the sisters still hold on to the hope and faith that for as long as they have the public’s support and the government’s “110 percent” support, they will achieve their dreams for Masungi.

Here are 10 things to know about Masungi Georeserve:

It's a non-profit conservation project

Masungi Georeserve is dedicated to protecting 60-million-year-old limestone formations in Baras, Rizal. The limestone was formed during the Paleocene epoch, which was the age right after the extinction of dinosaurs.

Home to more than 400 documented species of flora and fauna

Masungi is a sanctuary to more than 70 species of birds and 47 species of snails, the highest so far recorded in the Philippines. Unique wildlife is only one reason to protect Masungi.

Efforts to protect Masungi started in 1996

The limestone was located in a property that was the subject of a joint venture between the government and their founding organization, Blue Star. In 2015, the Masungi Georeserve Foundation was formed to lead conservation and research efforts.

The georeserve employs a unique geo-tourism model based on the UNESCO classification of Global Geoparks. They do not receive any funding from the government.

Masungi engages 100 local park rangers

Since their formation, they have catalyzed the engagement of some 100 local park rangers, many of whom were engaged in ecologically harmful activities such as logging. They have also partnered with more than 200 schools, non-government organizations, business, and local government units.

The iconic Discovery Trail has more than 10 low-impact stops

The Georeserve’s iconic Discovery Trail has more than 10 low-impact stops, which feature creative engineering and bio-mimicry, which fuse seamlessly with and enhance the natural landscape.

The iconic ‘Sapot’ is a spider web-style viewing platform using ropes and cable wires atop limestone formations. Low-volume visits inside their trails help them become self-sustaining in implementing their conservation efforts and projects, and enable them to innovate and adapt to rapidly changing needs on the ground. 

 Sisters Ann (left) and Billie Dumaliang at Sapot, one of Masungi Georeserve’s most photographed attractions.

Visitors, companies, and schools, can arrange visits on their Discovery Trail, which is an exploration through the karst ecosystem with a local park ranger. They can also visit the Legacy Trail and immerse in reforestation efforts.

Award-winning

Masungi Georeserve has been awarded by various organizations from around the world, such as the National Geographic Society, the UN World Tourism Organization, the World Travel & Tourism Council, and the International Union for Conservation of Nature, among others.

Masungi supports surrounding communities

They are committed to uplifting surrounding communities by continuously partnering with the youth and local organizations like the Tucduan of the Dumagat-Remontados of Cuyambay.

Last year, they helped in the establishment of the School of Living Tradition (SLT) that aims to promote and preserve the tribe’s culture and in their registration as a professional organization. They facilitate in-kind donations that can help equip local community members, rangers, and families with items they need. Typical needs include basic food, educational supplies, medicine and hygiene kits, and apparel.

Masungi 360° 

They also recently launched the Masungi 360°, a virtual and gamified learning platform that aims to bridge the nature education gap during the pandemic.

Masungi 360° brings stories from the ground to students and schools and reveals the impact of climate change and the pandemic to rural communities, in the safety and comfort of their homes. You can sponsor a virtual trip of a school or class through [email protected].

A boon to the Marikina watershed

In 2017, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) asked the foundation to help similarly restore and reforest some 2,700 hectares of degraded land surrounding the limestone and the Upper Marikina Watershed. The watershed is vital to preventing flooding and landslides to downstream communities, including Metro Manila.

If you have a group willing to help advocate for the integrity of the watershed, you may join the Upper Marikina Watershed Coalition, a network of 80 civil society organizations.

Under threat

Unfortunately, despite their efforts to protect and conserve the area, the Masungi Georeserve and its reforestation sites allegedly continue to face large-scale threats, such as quarrying, land speculation and land grabs, treasure-hunting, kaingin, animal grazing, and many more.

Follow them on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter  to know the latest about their conservation efforts. They always post both the good and the bad in their social media channels, so you’ll always find their most pressing needs of the moment.

Photo by Danica Hernandez