There has always been an idealistic notion attached to a mountain peak. You stand above the clouds with a commanding view of the stunning vista below. You breathe in fresh, unpolluted air, the way nature meant it to be. In those moments, you are miles away from the chaos of civilization and the filth of modern society.
You don’t expect to see this.
To be realistic, Mt. Kitanglad is hardly an unspoiled natural ecosystem. Right on the summit are transmitters of GMA and ABS-CBN as well as staff houses for people who maintain these structures. The trail is lined with electric posts and metal stairs. This garbage dump is just another mark of human intrusion into the mountain.
I learned from Ma’am Chy Canoy, executive director of Kitanglad Integrated NGOs, that companies which own the transmitters pay only P30,000 annually to the local government. This is already a 1,000 percent increase from their previous annual payment of P3,000. I am not kidding. Companies that are worth billions are paying far less for occupying the country’s fourth highest peak than what I spend on rent for my dingy, roach-infested apartment. Go figure.
In this country, rules and laws are not really taken seriously. They are either conveniently forgotten or are merely treated as suggestions. That’s why we have a garbage pit in a so-called natural park and protected area.
Even in Mt. Dulang-Dulang where the environment is better preserved, you can still find candy wrappers on the trail and liquor bottles on the campsites. Pele, our porter and a member of the Talaandig tribe, said they have to hold regular clean-up operations to collect trash that some climbers leave on the mountain.
I sent an email to the local Protected Area Management Board in Malaybalay to raise the garbage problem. Part of it reads as follows:
I visited Bukidnon to do a traverse of Mt. Dulang-Dulang and Mt. Kitanglad on March 10-12.
Climbing these two mountains has been a remarkable experience and a wonderful privilege for me. You have a beautiful province and your wealth of natural resources and biodiversity is nothing short of amazing.
Thus, it is with sincere concern that I bring this matter to your attention. As we reached the summit of Mt. Kitanglad on the second day of our climb, we noticed a garbage pit right beside the trail. I have attached a picture of this as proof.
If climbers are responsible for this dump, then perhaps a more stringent regulation could be put in place. For instance, there could be a mandatory check on their baggage before and after the climb to ensure that they brought down their empty food containers and bottles. If they don’t have their garbage bags with them on their descent, they’d be made to pay a fine.
I understand that there are also people living on the summit for the maintenance of the transmitters. If they are partly responsible for the pile of trash, then they should be held to account. These companies have spent millions in building giant structures on Mt. Kitanglad. They also have funds to pay porters who bring equipment and supplies up the mountain. Surely, they can spare a small amount to have their trash brought down in order to keep the mountain clean.
These are just simple suggestions from my end. I’m sure your institution can come up with better and effective ways to deal with the garbage problem since you have years of experience in protecting and preserving the mountain range.
Thank you so much for taking the time to read my email. I sincerely hope that you succeed in addressing this problem and in conserving the natural beauty of Bukidnon.
I have yet to receive a response.
Some final thoughts: Whenever we stay in another house as guests, we try our best to be polite and considerate to our host who is kind enough to accommodate us. We certainly wouldn’t leave our garbage in their living room. That would be disgusting and disrespectful. We may want to behave the same way on the mountain. We are merely uninvited guests after all. The mountain didn’t force itself on us. It is under no obligation to keep our trash.