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  • Mount Kitanglad Range Natural Park celebrates nature and culture at 27th Aldaw ta Kitanglad Festival

    Young members of the indigenous community in Brgy. Capihan, Libona in Bukidnon, Philippines perform a traditional dance to officially kick-off the celebration of the 27th Aldaw Ta Kitanglad.

    BUKIDNON, Philippines – In celebration of Mount Kitanglad’s rich natural and cultural heritage, the Protected Area Management Board (PAMB) of Mount Kitanglad Range Natural Park (MKRNP), through the Department of Environment and Natural Resources Protected Area Management Office (DENR PAMO), together with seven municipalities and one city surrounding the Park, recently held the 27th Aldaw ta Kitanglad festival.

    This festival is held annually in celebration of the Park’s declaration as a protected area on 9 November 2000 and as an ASEAN Heritage Park (AHP) on 30 October 2009. Dubbed as the “cream of the crop protected areas”, the ASEAN Heritage Parks display exemplary biodiversity and cultural richness in the ASEAN region. The ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity serves as the secretariat of the AHP Programme, a flagship initiative of the ASEAN that recognises protected areas of high conservation values such as MKRNP, and provides them with necessary support to enhance their conservation and management capacities.

    Aldaw ta Kitanglad, or Day of Kitanglad, is a celebration of the three indigenous groups in the area, the Higaonon, Talaandig, and Bukidnon, of MKRNP’s splendour, abundance for its communities and the actions that contribute to the protection and conservation of its biodiversity and culture.

    This year’s theme, “Preserving Water: Sustaining Life, Honoring Heritage”, highlights Mt. Kitanglad’s importance to the local and indigenous communities surrounding the park, and their crucial role in maintaining and protecting MKRNP’s ecological biodiversity, ensuring ecological sustainability and balance, and continuous provision of ecosystem services such as food and, aligning with the theme, clean supply of water.

    The festivities showcased MKRNP’s vibrant indigenous culture, kicking off with rituals led by Datus or tribal chieftains and baes or women tribal leaders. Colourful indigenous dances and a pageant showcasing MKRNP’s biodiversity were showcased, with interludes of exciting cultural games.

    The Kitanglad Guard Volunteers, together with municipal and city mayors and representatives who are members of the Protected Area Management Board of Mount Kitanglad Range Natural Park, pose for a photo after receiving new equipment for their duties as Kitanglad’s guardians.

    Also part of the festival’s activities is a Kitanglad Guard Volunteers (KGV) Congress – an event honouring local and indigenous volunteers, also called KGVs, who dedicate their lives to the protection of Mount Kitanglad from illegal loggers, poachers, and other illegal activities within the park. The KGV Congress featured lectures to enhance the volunteers’ knowledge and skills on sustainable farming practices; and a recognition ceremony for volunteers aged 70 and up.

    During the closing ceremony of the festival, the KGVs were also given new equipment for their guard volunteer duties. The municipalities’ and city’s leaders also reported their accomplishments in terms of biodiversity and environment protection and conservation efforts. Recognition for Datus and baes with great contribution to MKRNP’s conservation and protection also took place.

    MKRNP today and beyond

    MKRNP Protected Area Superintendent Merlita Luna-Tabamo, or PASu Merly as she is fondly known among PAMO staff and communities, dreams of a bigger future for MKRNP.

    “My dream, since it is already an AHP, is for it (MKRNP) to be a World Heritage Site. We have already done initial activities to support its nomination under a specific category,” the PASu said.

    She also adds that such additional value can further discourage encroachment and other illegal activities within the park. PASu Tabamo also recognised the AHP programme for being instrumental in boosting the park’s tourism.

    The Park Superintendent also takes pride in MKRNP’s KGVs. She said, “Because of the existence of KGVs, illegal activities have been minimised and natural succession took place because those areas (where illegal activities were done) were no longer disturbed”.

    Aside from capacity development and park enhancement plans, she also mentioned that Mount Kitanglad is a wellspring of traditions, and a sanctuary for flora, fauna, and people  coexisting in harmony with nature.

    “The ACB is one with Mount Kitanglad in celebrating the 27th Aldaw Ta Kitanglad festival. This event exemplifies the preserved and conserved natural and cultural heritage of the Philippines and the ASEAN region. The Philippines is home to 11 of the 57 AHPs at the moment, and we take pride in how all these AHPs serve as models of effective protected area management; not just within the region, but at a global scale,” said Dr. Theresa Mundita Lim, executive director of the ACB.

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