Save Sierra Madre

EYES WIDE OPEN - Iris Gonzales - The Philippine Star

Legend has it that Sierra was a dedicated mother of two kids, Iloco and Tagalo, who protected her children from threats, real or imagined.

Bugsong Hangin, the king of the mighty easterly winds, so goes the myth, often made his presence felt on the land where Sierra and her kids lived.

In their younger days, the fierce wind used to court Sierra, but Sierra was in love with Lusong, a valiant warrior. Valiant as he was, Lusong later succumbed to Bugsong Hangin’s fierce attacks.

He died in the arms of Sierra, but the myth says before Lusong breathed his last, he had Sierra promise that she’d love and protect their two sons, no matter what.

This is a Filipino myth passed on to generations and generations, and reposted by different publications, including the Philippine Insider.

Ours is no doubt a country and a people replete with stories.

The story of the breathtaking Sierra Madre, the longest mountain range in the country, is poignant as it is beautiful, and today is as good a time as any to remember the myth.

On Monday, we learned how the 540-kilometer mountain range, which runs from the province of Cagayan down to the province of Quezon, protected us from the onslaught of Super Typhoon Karding.

‘Backbone of Luzon’

PAGASA administrator Vicente Malano said the mountain range served as a barrier, which eventually weakened the strength of the super typhoon, turning it into a typhoon.

It is, thus, important, Malano told ABS-CBN, that we continue protecting the Sierra Madre and perhaps every mountain range in our country, every forest, every single tree, and every protected area that we have.

The image from earth.nullschool was striking and it was almost like magic. It showed Karding’s wind pattern significantly weakening in the area of the Sierra Madre mountain range.

No doubt, and as science has shown, the “backbone of Luzon” spared the island from most of the super typhoon’s harsh winds.

The Philippines is blessed with east-facing mountain ranges, including the Eastern Pacific Cordilleras.

Unfortunately, threats against Sierra Madre and many of our natural resources remain present. There’s deforestation, urbanization, industrialization and many more.

Sept. 26: Save Sierra Madre Day

On Monday, the day after Karding made landfall, most of us in Metro Manila woke up to a pleasant surprise.

The sun shone brightly and the morning was surprisingly calm. It was like Noah’s Ark the day after the great flood.

It was also Save Sierra Madre Day. This was perhaps no coincidence, a fitting reminder that as the mountain range saved us from more damage the typhoon could have brought upon us, we should also do our part in protecting it.

In 2012, then president Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III issued Proclamation 413 to remember how the damage and destruction experienced during Ondoy, which battered the country in 2009, was caused by deforestation in the mountain range.

“[T]he issuance of a Proclamation declaring 26 September of every year as Save Sierra Madre Day will help boost awareness among the general public on the importance of preserving our forests, as well as protecting, managing, and properly utilizing the natural resources of the country; and

[I]t is proper and fitting to make 26 September of every year as Save Sierra Madre Day to remind our people of the risks and dangers, which a lack of concern and action for the Sierra Madre Mountains may bring about,” Aquino said.

After 10 years since the late former president made the issuance, we are given another stark reminder of what needs to be done.

Stop extractive activities

Indeed, our policymakers, non-government organizations, the private sector and all of us citizens must work together to ensure that our mountain ranges, such as the Sierra Madre, and other natural resources will be preserved for generations and generations to come.

There must be serious and long-term planning on the part of the government to prevent land developers and land grabbers from destroying our forests.

Save Sierra Madre Network Inc. chairperson Araceli Mercado, was quoted by ABS-CBN as saying that unfortunately, there are now more extractive activities happening than 10 years ago. Mining and logging are just some of these destructive activities.

The typhoon left many homeless and injured and killed at least five rescuers in Bulacan. We must honor their heroic deeds by doing all that we can to protect our environment from damage and harm.

The third world war

World War III is here and it’s not between countries and superpowers, but against climate change.

We should be alarmed that super typhoons are now becoming a regular occurrence. This should be constant reminders to us that rising temperatures are real and we should all do our part in reducing our carbon emissions.

Sierra, the beautiful mother of two children, can only protect us so much. We must also do our part in preserving what’s left of our environment.



Iris Gonzales’ email address is [email protected].

Follow her on Twitter @eyesgonzales. Column archives at eyesgonzales.com

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