This popular tourist destination brings together two themes often thought conflicting
In the mountainous regions of Rizal, up in the town of Baras, lies a conservation stalwart—Masungi Georeserve. The georeserve features a mostly karst terrain with limestone formations dating to as far back as the Paleocene and Eocene period – that’s up to 66 million years! According to the National Institute of Geological Studies, Masungi is the only area in the entire Philippines where limestone outcrops from this period can be found. What’s interesting is that the area was once severely denuded due to logging and charcoal harvesting, but through more than two decades of dedicated reforestation and protection, it has been brought back to life. Now, this 1,500-hectare protected property is home to one of the country’s most diverse biological networks, with cloud rats, macaques, and several endemic species of reptiles as some of its residents.
The past year brought several milestones for the georeserve. This includes being recognized in the World Conservation Congress in Hawaii as a model of eco-tourism, receiving a research grant from the National Geographic Young Explorers Program, and conducting the first Community Conference on Conservation, Livelihood, IP Rights and Agriculture.
This year, Masungi introduces four new installations to its famed Discovery Trail: Bayawak, Barangay Duyan, Sawa, and Silayan.
Masungi’s new features
Bayawak, the Filipino term for the monitor lizard, is a steep rope course shaped like the creature it was named after. Barangay Dahon, on the other hand, is a collection of hammocks and swings inspired by the different leaves and fruits that can be found inside the georeserve. Then, there’s Sawa, a tunnel-like bridge in the shape of a snake that serves as quick exit for handicapped or elderly trail visitors. Last, but certainly not the least is Silayan. Silayan is a sustainable restaurant that aims to help local farmers and producers around Masungi Georeserve. One of the dishes served here is a special version of Sinigang, which uses the indigenous Katmon fruit. The restaurant sits on a spot that has a 360-degree backdrop of Laguna de Bay, the city, and the Sierra Madre mountains. As of now, Silayan is open for trail guests only.
These four new features complement the other prominent installations in the georeserve like the giant hammock Duyan, and the massive spiderweb-like steel structure called Sapot.
Philosophy of conservation
A little over a year after opening to the public, the georeserve continues to be firmly committed to conservation of land, heritage and biodiversity through research, geotourism and the development of local communities. Masungi’s Discovery Trail is a successful model of eco-tourism, where the place does not only yield economic gains, but is also protected and conserved. By limiting the number of visitors, the georeserve maintains the biological integrity of its landscape and wildlife, and through employing residents of nearby communities – including members of the indigenous Dumagat tribe – Masungi has strengthened its hold on its philosophy of conservation. Through providing sustainable livelihoods to the community, destructive practices, such as logging and charcoal harvesting are deterred. Visitors, too, contribute to the georeserve’s conservation efforts, by simply going on the Discovery Trail to enjoy the natural landscape with very little impact.
By limiting the number of visitors, the georeserve maintains the biological integrity of its landscape and wildlife, and through employing residents of nearby communities – including members of the indigenous Dumagat tribe – Masungi has strengthened its hold on its philosophy of conservation.
“People protect what they love,” is Masungi’s driving force. Now, who says conservation and tourism are opposing ideas?
Masungi Georeseve is located in Km. 45, Marcos Highway, Baras, Rizal. For trail requests and availability, visit www.masungigeoreserve.com.
By CELINE REYES
Photos courtesy of Masungi Georeserve