A fresh start for ecotourism in Adams, Ilocos Norte
ILOCOS NORTE, Philippines – A couple of days before the New Year, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) proclaimed as the Adams Wildlife Critical Habitat (AWCH) a portion of the only remaining intact old-growth forests of dipterocarp trees in the town of Adams.
The 3,250 hectares (32.3 sq km) living museum of biological diversity is tiny compared to the proposed Northern Ilocos Norte Natural Park (it was assessed during the time of President Corazon Aquino and still pending approval). Nevertheless, this new development expects to give rise to a new culture of treehugging on this side of Ilocos Norte.
Dipterocarps play a significant role in maintaining ecosystems. Dipterocarp forests serve as a watershed for clean water and an excellent habitat for important and threatened fauna and rare species of plants. At the same time, they can help sustain the socio-economic benefits of ecotourism the town has been pursuing since 2005.
The protection and conservation of the dipterocarp forests of the mountains of Magnas, San Miguel, and Linao hopes to save "an estimate of more than 2,000 recognized plant species that include giant ferns, critically endangered conifers and cycads, flowering vines and lianas and shrubs," said Michael Calaramo, plant curator of the Northwestern Ecotourism Park and Botanical Gardens.
The DENR team that conducted an assessment of the forest identified 76 species of endemic birds on the threatened list, Philippine deers and warty pigs, civet cats, long-tailed monkeys, and rare amphibians.
Illegal logging, slash and burn farming, wildlife hunting and trade, and resource extraction without replanting are the major threats to the biodversity hotspot in Ilocos Norte. Wood furniture making is big business on this side of the Cordilleras.
Paul Acupan, an Adams resident and an important figure in the town's ecotourism said, "We should stop craving for exotic species and forest wood products."
'Fully-loaded' ecotourism destination
Having climbed 3 major mountains in Adams, the Laoag Eco-Adventure Development Movement (LEAD), said of their second home, "Adams is fully-loaded."
The town with excessive raw beauty allows one to be free, away from the maddening city. Inhabited by a blend of Isnag and Kankanaey tribes and Ilocanos, the mountainous Adams, a one-barangay town east of Pagudpud, is comprised of 269 households and a total population of 1,522.
They live on farming, winemaking, basketry, broom-making, coffee growing, and nature guiding as additional livelihood.
The intermarriage of cultures bring a sense of peace. Cultural immersion is one of the good reasons to linger in Adams.
There are homestays accredited by the Department of Tourism (DOT) offering fascinating exotic meals and comfortable accommodations.
Crystal clear rivers and creeks, 12 waterfalls, extreme bike and hike trails are waiting to be explored. In a natural, rural setting, young tourists can learn to appreciate the significance of nature.
According to Duchess Co, a professional rower and outdoor enthusiast who recently visited the town, "There is so much to do in Adams."
The government's Tourism Road Infrastructure Program is expected to upgrade the rough snaky road leading to Adams. – Rappler.com
Tina Tan is a citizen journalist writing for Rappler's MovePH. She is based in Laoag, Ilocos Norte.