Trash threatens tradition in Tawi-Tawi
Bongao, PHILIPPINES — Bud Bongao is a sacred mountain for the people of Tawi-Tawi. There's a belief that if you brave the trek to the peak, your wishes will come true.
But the local pilgrims have been leaving trash on the mountain based on a superstition, giving the local government a growing garbage problem.
Pia Ranada reports.
Bud Bongao, Tawi-Tawi's sacred mountain is ready for the day's pilgrims.
Petitioners with offerings, parents with children, and even new-born babies climb the peak to be blessed.
Myth has it that an early missionary of Islam is buried in the mountain.
But these days, there's more to see on Bud Bongao.
Garbage litters its trails.
Some even leave the trash behind on purpose despite signs and trash bags around.
Pilgrim: What you bring up the mountain, you can no longer bring down. (Even the trash?) Yes.
The locals also believe tying strips of plastic on shrubs and trees will make their wishes come true.
Filemon Romero, Scientist, WWF-Philippines: Before they used vines, plants, to tie the knot on a tree or a branch of a tree. But as years went on, these became hard to find so the most convenient was whatever they had like food or plastic bags.
Even the mountain's more lively residents are noticing the garbage.
The trashing of this holy mountain indicates a bigger solid waste management problem in Tawi-Tawi's urbanized areas.
The filthy water bodes ill for the province'sstill unspoiled natural wonders.
But the local government has its ear on the problem.
Ruby Sahali, Tawi-Tawi Congresswoman: We were able to generate 600,000 pesos to buy a garbage truck to help augment the getting out of the garbage. Usually, where there are a lot of people, that's where the garbage problem is.
As for Bud Bongao, there are plans to manage it as a protected park.
Filemon Romero, Scientist, WWF-Philippines: We were able to get a local ordinance from the local government of Bongao and declare it as a locally managed protected area. So when somebody goes up, he has to pass through a briefing area. The rule is whatever you bring up you bring down.
But for most pilgrims, the boon of superstition far outweighs their concern for Bud Bongao’s well-being.
Filemon Romero, Scientist, WWF-Philippines: For so many years, we had been doing Bud Bongao clean up but we realized parang it's just palliative. We would do clean-ups then when you go back there, you would find litter again.
Tawi-Tawi’s isolation preserves its unique culture but its own people need to see how traditions fit in with the sustainable management of its islands.
Pia Ranada, Rappler, Bongao