Last Sunday, March 22, 2009, Greenpeace Southeast Asia’s Water Patrol organized an event in celebration of World Water Day with Greenpeace supporters, volunteers and friends bearing witness to the beauty of Majayjay falls (formerly called Imelda Falls) in Barangay Taytay Majayjay, Laguna. It is in line with Greenpeace’s Project Clean Water which “aimed at protecting fresh water sources form toxics contamination and promoting policies that would advance clean production.” Majayjay Falls is considered as the cleanest among the 21 tributaries to Laguna Lake.
So, on Sunday we started the story of the journey of water from its sources down to Laguna Lake.
Please click the photo to read Beau's Blog
The Big Day
I set my alarm clock at 3:00 am, Saturday night. My excitement was so strong I cannot sleep until past midnight, yet, I was awake half an hour before my clock alarms. Our group left Manila at 5:30 a.m. on Sunday.
The Majayjay bearing witness activity was conducted by two separate teams.
The first team trekked the forest – which is restricted to the public – with prior permission from the protected area’s authorities and with the guidance of a forest ranger. They documented the biodiversity of the area through photos and videos.
The second team – where I belonged – consisted of supporters, volunteers, friends and Haribon Youth from the University of the Philippines in Los Banos. We conducted conversations to the local folks of Taytay about their practices related to water, the threats that they see to their water and ecosystem. We were tasked to write stories about our experiences of the trip, our observations of the place and the threats to water that we actually see and the result of our integration with the community.
Please click the photo to see AC,s photo essay
We had more than three hours of exciting journey to Majayjay Falls. Our group had a convoy of four vans going to our objective. I was sleepy but I was trying to open my eyes to see the beauty of the surrounds that we were passing through. The long line of commercial resorts, trees, vast vegetations, and mountainous terrains evidently tell that we were already in the province of Laguna. Our journey seemed unending. We passed through Binan, Calamba, Sta. Rosa. Los Banos, Victoria, Pila, and Liliw. Hmmmm, my excitement was growing. I was very eager to get to the place of our objective.
Our driver was not too familiar of the area he took the wrong route that headed us to Liliw proper instead of Majayjay Falls. I remembered we asked a middle aged man for the direction to the Falls upon reaching the town of Majayjay. He said, “Diretso lang po. Pagdating sa sambatan (sambatan is their local term for intersection) kumaliwa kayo” (Go straight ahead then when you reach the intersection turn left).
There was a misunderstanding because our driver was also asking direction from other van driver – through a two-way radio – who happened to take different routes that also lead to the destination. So, instead of taking the left route, he took the right. Turning was not easy because of the rigid highway and uncemented road side. Nevertheless, after we found the right direction with occasional ups and downs and sometimes zigzagging roads, we reached our destination.
Please click the photo to read Krisna's blog
Integrating with the local folks
After a briefing of what we are going to do, we grouped ourselves into two to three to talk with the people in the community. For me, it is always a nice experience talking to the local folks. I always get a satisfying conversation with the people in the barrios because they are too sincere, too trusting.
I was glad the people there were accommodating, warm and hospitable.
I interviewed the Barangay Chairman whom I gathered significant information about the Majayjay reserve and the development that is taking place. I also interviewed an 82-year old woman who can still read our leaflets.
The pulse and stories of the local folks
Most of the locals of Taytay Majayjay that I talked with believe that their water is still in good quality the same as since they were born. I agreed with them after I saw the crystal clear water of Majayjay Falls and the river below it.
Their drinking water is sourced from a bukal (spring) on the top of the mountain passing through natural filtration process before reaching their homes, and where tourists cannot easily reach. Water is brought to the households through pipes connected to the tank reserve in the bukal which was – according to them – constructed for convenience. People there are too lucky to have an extremely abundant supply of pure and fresh water the whole year round paying only a fix amount of P10.00 per month for the maintenance, no matter how much water they consumed.
Mrs. Victoriana Buera or Aling Turing – the 82-year old woman that I talked with told me that she already paid P120.00 for their one year water consumption.
The Majayjay waterfalls which is far below the bukal is also a source of irrigation of the seven barangays of the municipality of Majayjay, according to Barangay Captain Pio D. Royo. Majayjay is rich in agricultural lands and, generally, from my observation agriculture is the main source of living of its people.
Asking about the threats to their water quality, majority answered that they cannot see any threat to the water. Ironically, I clearly observed the threats to their water.
Majayjay Falls is being developed to become a commercial resort where 40% of its development fund is loaned from the World Bank. Barangay Captain Pio D. Royo said that majority of the Barangay Captains were not in favor of the said development.
The visitors on that day depicts that the Majayjay Waterfalls is famous to tourists. It is said that the Falls cater up to 15,000 people especially during the summer time.
Some of the people I talked with already consider the waste brought about by the people coming to the waterfalls as a threat to their water quality. Nevertheless, when asked about what they can do to prevent the problem on wastes, most of them said, “may janitor naman na tagalinis diyan,” clearly freeing themselves of the responsibility. Indeed, the area has only one janitor who takes charge of all the wastes accumulated from irresponsible users of the Falls.
Getting closer to the Waterfalls
After we had our lunch, I with four other volunteers, get closer to the waterfalls. As we were getting closer it was getting colder. The crystal clear water was so inviting I cannot resist touching the water. I let my feet to sink into the water and felt its coldness. It was extremely soothing and relaxing. Swimming was not included to my agenda. I just indulge the fresh, cold water by washing my face and arms.
I always love the nature. I gazed on the waterfalls’ natural landscape while feeling the cold in my feet and breathing the pure, fresh air.
I tried to ignore the people who were there swimming. The place was so beautiful to be spoiled by those people who were abusing the river. The place was so amazingly beautiful without those people who were throwing plastic bottles and wrappers and other wastes that they just threw in the water and everywhere. I imagined what will happen to the place when it becomes a fully operational commercial resort with those kinds of visitors. And I wished that the place be restricted to the public and just maintain its natural beauty, sacredness and mystery.
But it will become a fully operational commercial resort, soon.
Maybe the local folks cannot see the threats right now, as they are still enjoying pure, contaminants-free waters. But, I think they should start to actively participate in the protection of their water and ecosystem now.
I found a local resident who are, also, not in favor of the development and commercialization of the place. She said, “Di dapat ginagalaw yang Falls. Kasi ang kalikasan ginawa para sa tao, di dapat binabago ng tao kasi may nag aalaga na diyan. Pwede mawala ang tubig. Dati daw kasi 40 years nawala ang tubig ng ginalaw yan.” She also said that monkeys are disturbed and are now seen in the area.
For me, if the waterfalls will just be abused by destructive development and irresponsible tourists we better leave it to the caring hands of the Gods and Goddesses. Yet, based from what I observed the local folkloric beliefs is not strong enough to prevent the people from coming up to the mount.
As it is, strict measures should be implemented with the help of responsible authorities to preserve this natural reserve and ecosystem.
This post is finalist to the Philippine Blog Awards 2009: Top Ten Posts of the Year