Exploring nature destinations is a huge part of my life. May it be mountain climbing, swimming in beaches, or roaming lakes, rivers, and caves, if you’ve seen my social media feeds, you’d know I’m all for it. Although I enjoy taking photos of these kinds of outdoor trips, I had been wanting to do something more socially impactful than sharing picturesque photos of beautiful landscapes.
I came across MAD Travel online a few years back through their Facebook page, as well as a photo album of some of my friends on their tour. Since then, I’d been wanting to go on their tours but my plans never came to fruition. Lo and behold, the mysterious luck of the universe had MAD Travel inviting me to join one of their tours a few weeks ago. Of course I said “Yes!” in a heartbeat. To be blogging about an eco-tour has always been a dream, and I couldn’t be more thankful to share how wonderful their tour is.
For someone who easily gets sick of the city, trekking through nature is a breath of fresh air. MAD Travel’s Zambales tour allows you to pass through a few rivers and saunter through an easy path surrounded by beautiful mountains. If you’re disinclined to trekking, you don’t need to worry. The path is flat, walkable with flip-flops (better to take them off when passing the river), and incredibly easy to follow. In an hour or so, you can arrive at Sitio Yangil where most of the day will be spent. What makes the trek tiring is the scorching sun, which you can protect yourself from with a cap, sunnies, comfortable activewear, and a generous amount of SPF.
Our guide, Andrea, told us that the trek allows guests to feel a day-in-the-life of an Aeta from Sitio Yangil. So despite the breathtaking trek (literally and figuratively), the novelty of it somewhat wears off when you realize it’s what the Aetas go through everyday to gather daily resources for their tribe. It puts into perspective the daily trials you face, and how they can be nothing compared to what other communities have to go through to live sustainably.
Before arriving at Sitio Yangil to meet the Aeta community, we passed by what the community calls “The Nursery”. Here we planted seedlings for MAD Travel’s reforestation project that aims to build a 3,000 hectare rainforest, food security forest (animals, fruits and veggies) and medical forest. In doing so, the Aetas will be able to live more sustainably by having their daily resources nearby. So far, MAD Travel has planted around 14,000 seedlings, but with your help, they can plant many more and speed up the process of their reforestation project.
“For the tribal families there, one palm tree is equal to one week’s worth of charcoal. So that’s four trees per family per month, and no one’s replanting them. It’s just a matter of time before that all goes to waste, and we want to intervene, start a planting program that’s sustainable and ideally, help them come into other things for livelihood,” [MAD Travel Founder] Raf Dionisio says.
THE PLASTIC SOLUTION
After planting the seedlings, I couldn’t help but notice these stacks of plastic bottles filled with plastic wraps of food. In turns out that they were in the process of becoming eco-bricks, an alternative construction material used as fillers to replace hollow blocks. This campaign is spearheaded by The Plastic Solution, an environmental organization that aims to eliminate non-
THE COMMUNITY OF YANGIL VILLAGE
After planting seedlings, we headed straight to Sitio Yangil, where we were warmly welcomed by the Aeta community. The Aetas are indigenous people who live in scattered mountainous regions of Luzon. The infamous eruption of Mt. Pinatubo in 1991 not only caused the devastation of the Zambales region’s lush rainforest, but to the lives and culture of the Aetas in the area as well. MAD Travel ultimately aims to help the Aeta community to flourish not only through the reforestation project, but also through cultural preservation.
I can’t stress enough how wonderful it was to meet the community and to immerse in their culture. We were served homegrown organic food, given archery lessons (which I was terrible at, to the shame of my alma mater’s insignia), and presented three (dance, song, and instrumental) musical performances that we all loved. Although a bit shy and timid at first, the Aeta kids were all bundles of energy when we started playing games. Not only that, but they soon started striking several poses for my camera, too.
To end the program, Chieftain Erese, the head of the Yangil Tribe gave final remarks that I will never forget. He thanked us all for spending the day with the tribe (which really, should have been us to them a millionfold), and told us how grateful they are to be given a chance to share their culture. Lastly, he told us that we’re always welcome to come back, which I will surely do so in the future.
The Tribes & Treks Day Tour package costs P1,800 inclusive of lunch, snacks, and dinner, tree-planting, an optional carabao ride, archery classes, dancing, singing, trekking, and swimming. If you’re looking for adventures that matter, not only to communities in need but to your personal development as well, I highly recommend touring with MAD Travel.
A particular insight I learned is that it’s truly the burden of the privileged to help those who are less fortunate. As the old maxim goes, “If not us, then who?” When you experience MAD Travel’s tours, I hope you gain valuable insights that will enrich your lives, too. This in turn, I hope, will give you the propensity to take care of the communities you care about in your own special way.
In partnership with MAD Travel