DUMAGUETE CITY – Rays of sunlight peek through the walls of a modest household near La Preza, Sibulan to highlight the beginning of a new day. Within the four walls of this household, Emma Tuting is seen readying herself for the day that awaits her. Almost every morning, Emma hears the familiar sound of footsteps walking on the brown and muddy ground, most likely on their way to the peak of Puncak Tanawan.
Puncak is known as a popular hiking site in the island of Negros Oriental. It is said to be the highest peak in Sibulan, located specifically in Brgy. Balugo. According to their official Facebook page, Puncak Tanawan Inc., their mission is to “develop an attraction not only to entice visitors, but also to raise awareness where visitors can see the beauty of nature.”
However, the growing popularity of Puncak, Tanawan among tourists and hikers has taken its toll on the upkeep of the natural resources found in the said area.
The increased number of visitors in Puncak has caught the attention of several residents who live nearby. This includes nanay Emma, a worker in La Preza, who has been residing in the area for 20 years and counting. In an interview, Emma revealed her recent observations on the trail leading to the Puncak peak over the past couple of months.
“Kadtong niagi nga bulan, baling daghana nilang ni-angat sa bukid ug baling daghana nang basura. Ang dalan na gani kay [daghan] nagbasura,” Emma shared. ( M o n t h s ago, so many people hiked up the peak and a lot of garbage was left. Even the pathways had a lot of garbage.)
Likewise, Larry Colidago–a motorcycle driver who has regularly taken visitors and hikers to the peak for about five years–has also noticed the substantial increase of visitors in the area.
Due to the number of people coming in, this has also contributed to the accumulation of garbage within the space, as well as subtle damages to the trees found at the Puncak peak.
“Daghan jud na sila [turista]. Kanang four hundred hikers naa gud na sila sa pag sikat sa Tanawan. Kadtong mga reklamo sa una na patyon ang kahoy, tinuod jud na siya,” said Colidago. He also added that an increase in visitors or hikers is beneficial to the motorists because it adds to their daily income.
There are many tourists. 400 hikers were present when Tanawan first gained popularity. There was once a complaint about trees being destroyed. Those complaints were true.
When asked about the idea of making Puncak a commercial tourist spot, Elvis Drilon, a worker from the Balugo, Sibulan fire station said, “Dakog katabang [ang pag commercialize] sa lungsod, ekonomiya, ug income kay naa may bahin ang lungsod hasta ang barangay kung ma commercialize.”
(Commercialization will be of great help in terms of economy and income because a percentage of what is earned will go to the city and the barangay.)
However, if Puncak does become commercialized, Frederick Ramos of the Balugo, Sibulan fire station said that there will be disadvantages such as waste disposal because the people would have to secure proper places for their waste. In addition, safety measures should also be implemented in case of emergency situations such as flood and fire.
In an interview with Dionela Gatual, a barangay councilor residing a few meters away from Puncak Tanawan, she assured that the place is still being properly maintained. She mentioned that the owners no longer allow a large number of people to enter the peak, citing an incident from the past where almost 3,000 hikers climbed collectively.
Gatual was even in favor of Puncak Tanawan to be commercialized, as long as these hikers are disciplined and that garbage was properly maintained. She said it will also greatly help the community as it will pave way for the town’s development with roads properly fixed with funds from the government.
“Para nako, ma lipay ko kung mu click jud na siya kay una sa tanan, mag dala nag dungog sa atong barangay. Ikaduha, ang tourism, mu put up jud siyag dakong capital. Chada jud na…Basta lang ma maintain nila ang mga basura…among gi hangyo na ang inyong mga basura ayaw lang pud ninyo ipasagad ug labay bisan asa.” Gatual commented.
(In my perspective, I’ll be happy if Puncak becomes popular to the public because firstly, our barangay will become a word of mouth. Secondly, tourism can put up a large capital, and that would be really nice if they can properly maintain the waste. We’re asking people to pick up after their trash instead of just throwing it anywhere.)
As Puncak, Tanawan continues to gain popularity among experienced hikers and the general public, the accumulation of garbage within the area may pose threats to the community living there if not given any special notice.
After all, sustainable tourism that is hoped for Puncak—or any tourist attraction for that matter—starts by taking responsibility of one’s trash. And as the old saying goes, “Basura mo, Ligpit mo.” (by the Association of Young Environmental Journalists)