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Paniniil sa Karapatan ng mga katutubong Mangyan

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Rizal Street, the town's main road devoid of traffic in the morning


Alumnus narrates Mindoro's key role in RP Liberation from Japs


Ka Bise Acebes, now writing free-lance for the Phillippine Daily Inquirer, another popular daily newspaper, recounted how Occidental Mindoro figured as the key base-point in the liberation of the country from Japanese occupation in World War II.


In his article, he recounted how Gen McArthur  countermanded top military brass and pursue his belief that the key to his success was to secure the province as a stage-point for defeating the enemy.


Below is Ka Bise's article:


Mindoro: Key that unlocked RP liberation

By Rodolfo Meim Acebes
The author is a retired NBI employee, a free-lance print and broadcast journalist and founding member of the Occidental Mindoro Historical Society.

MANILA, Philippines--THE WORLD watched when Gen. Douglas MacArthur waded ashore in Leyte, fulfilling his promise of "I shall return."

After the battle of Leyte Gulf, the Americans prepared for their considerably lesser known second landing, this time in Mindoro, 63 years ago Saturday.

When it was still one province, Mindoro played a significant role in the liberation of the country from the Japanese occupation during World War II.

Mindoro's geographical location--it is between Luzon and the islands of Visayas and Mindanao--was of great importance to MacArthur.

When he was preparing for his return to the Philippines in 1944 after leaving Corregidor for Australia in 1942, his plan was that after his invasion of Leyte, his next landing would be Mindoro.

Defying the Pentagon
But the Pentagon, believing that Mindoro was well defended by the Japanese, overruled MacArthur. To the Pentagon, "landing in Mindoro is too daring in scope and too risky in execution."

But MacArthur knew otherwise. When the time came, he knew he'd defy the Pentagon.

Earlier, when Col. Macario Peralta, the guerrilla leader of the 6th Military District in Panay Island, finally succeeded in establishing contact with him in Australia, MacArthur's first question to him was, "Can you rendezvous a submarine? If so, name five contact places in order of preference."

Submarine missions
Of the five contact places provided by Peralta, two towns in Western Mindoro were chosen by the headquarters of the Philippine Regional Section (PRS) in Australia. The PRS, headed by Col. Courtney Whitney, handled the submarine missions to the Philippines.

The first submarine, the USS Narwhal, commanded by Maj. Lawrence Phillips, surfaced in Paluan Bay, northwest of Mindoro, on Oct. 23, 1943. The men with Phillips were Lt. Commander Charles "Chick" Parsons, Capt. Ricardo Galang, 1st Lt. R.F. Songco, Warrant Officer Braynard Wise, and five Filipino volunteers of the US Army namely Sergeants Benjamin Harder, Arcangel Baniares, Vicente Pinuela, Alfredo Alberto and Ramon Vitorio.

Phillips' mission was to establish a coast watcher in Mt. Calavite in Paluan Bay to monitor the Japanese ship movements entering and leaving the Manila Bay. He also had one important mission: To settle differences between two Mindoro guerrilla leaders due to a power struggle.

Parsons, on the other hand, had a separate mission: To organize an intelligence network called Spy Squadron or SPYRON.

Warring guerrillas
Although there were several guerrilla units in Mindoro, two major groups were at war with each other. One was led by Maj. Ramon Ruffy, a Batangueño from Bauan and the provincial commander of the Philippine Constabulary assigned in Mindoro before the outbreak of the war. The other was led by Capt. Esteban Beloncio of Calapan, who was a public school principal called to active duty by the Mindoro Cadre when the war broke out.

Phillips met the two guerrilla leaders in Mamburao in December 1943. After three days of negotiations, he succeeded in uniting the two leaders. Thus, a provisional command was organized with Ruffy as the overall commander and Beloncio as the executive officer. The new command was based in Naujan.

Phillips' radio network began reporting to headquarters which, in turn, transmitted messages of the position of Japanese ships passing the Mindoro Straits. This led to some sinking of enemy ships. Unfortunately, an informant tipped the Japanese of Phillips' location. He was later killed in a gun battle.

Despite Phillips' death and because Mindoro was an important intelligence base for MacArthur, a second submarine mission commanded by Cmdr. George Rowe was sent to Barrio Calintaan, a municipality of Sablayan, on July 10, 1944. The mission of USS Nautilus, called ISRM or "I Shall Return MacArthur" had the same mission as that of USS Narwhal: To monitor the Japanese movements at sea and in the air.

Don't meddle
But Rowe had strict instructions, this time, not to meddle with the problems of the guerrillas. He was accompanied by 21 Filipino commandos led by 1st Lt. A. Hernandez. They brought an air warning device, a high-powered camera, and a photostat machine for copying captured Japanese documents. They also brought drums of gasoline, brand-new garands, carbines, .45 pistols, grenades, blankets, combat boots, medicines, K-rations containing chocolates, chewing gums, cigarettes and food provisions for distribution to the guerrillas.

Rowe settled in Mt. Matabang, Sitio Labanan, in the town on Abra de Ilog. From this observation hideout, he monitored the 7 1/2-mile Isla Verde Passage that separates Batangas and Mindoro. The body of water was important because it is near the mouth of Manila Bay and a step away from Lipa which had an airfield controlled by the Japanese.

Parsons' contacts in Manila were prominent citizens like Sen. Jose Ozamis, sugar planter Virgilio Lobregat, Spaniard Juan Miguel Elizalde, Italian Enrico Pirovano and Swiss Hans Menzi. But when the Japanese Kempetai (military police) discovered that Parsons was operating a spy network in Mindoro, they offered a prize for his capture.

Prominent Filipino spies
One of those who joined the group of Rowe was Claro M. Recto, the minister of foreign affairs when Jose P. Laurel became the president of the so-called puppet republic. Recto, whose nom-de-guerre was Justice, chose Rowe's unit because his two sons-in-law, Francisco Mata Gomez and Johnny Ysmael were with Rowe's group. Other prominent Manileños who were in the dangerous spy mission for Rowe were Col. Dominador Barilea, Jesus "Tuting" Roces, Rafael "Liling" Roces Jr., Jose "Peping" Roces, brave sons of Don Rafael Roces Sr., the owner of the publishing house and the Ideal Theater on Avenida Rizal.

Unfortunately, a SPYRON courier was caught by the Kempetai. Found in his possession was a letter of Parsons' wife Katsy to her mother, Blanch Walker, a missionary pastor of the Cosmopolitan Church in Manila. Tortured in the dungeons of Fort Santiago, the courier revealed names. Ozamis was also captured and executed. Found in his person were some papers, one of them was a letter to Col. Manuel A. Roxas from Parsons.

In February 1944, Blanch was arrested with Helen Wilkes, Mary Stagg and Samboyd, Mary's son. Mary's other son, Samuel, a columnist of the Philippines Free Press using the name, Jungle Philosopher, had earlier hid in Mt. Casague in Sta Cruz, Mindoro, with Isabelo Abeleda and his family.

Domino pieces
Like domino pieces, Lobregat, Pirovano, Elizalde and Rafael Roces Jr., suspected by the Japanese of feeding valuable information to either Parsons or Rowe in Mindoro, were arrested.

The Kempetai imprisoned and tortured them in Fort Santiago. On Aug. 28, 1944, the prisoners, with 23 other members of the resistance, were taken in a truck to Manila's Cementerio del Norte. There, they were beheaded and buried in one common ground.

On Oct. 20, 1944, the American liberation forces finally landed in Leyte.

MacArthur, on board his favorite cruiser Nashville, set foot in Palo, Leyte, next town to Tacloban. He, thus, fulfilled his promise of "I shall return."

After the battle of Leyte Gulf, the Americans prepared for their second landing, this time, in Mindoro with deliverance day set on Dec. 15, 1944. The mission to Mindoro had three forces: 1) the Mindoro Attack Group under Adm. Arthur Struble with Nashville, eight destroyers, 31 LCI, 17 minesweepers, 14 small craft and 12 escort destroyers; 2) the Close Covering Group under Rear Admiral Berkey with two light cruisers, one heavy cruiser, and seven destroyers; 3) the Motor Torpedo Boat Group with 27 PT boats under Lt. Cmdr. Burt Davis.

MacArthur was right
MacArthur knew Mindoro well. To him, getting Mindoro meant dividing the Japanese forces in Luzon from those in Visayas and Mindanao, thus weakening the strength of the enemy. Mindoro was only 200 miles south of Leyte and 300 miles north of Luzon. It had a solid ground where he wished to construct airfields for his assault in Luzon via Lingayen.

To MacArthur, with Mindoro in his hands, only the island bastions of Iwo Jima and Okinawa stood between America and Japan.

Dec. 13, 1944 was an unlucky day for the Mindoro Attack Group. Its convoy was spotted from the air by a Kamikaze fighter plane carrying two powerful bombs. The suicide pilot dived toward Nashville and exploded. Some 120 American officers and men died, including Col. John T. Murtha, commander of the 310th Bombardment Wing.

Brig. Gen. William Dunckel, leader of the ground forces and many others were injured. They were immediately transferred to Dashiell, a destroyer.

At dawn of Dec. 15, 1944, Struble, the leader of the naval force, ordered the bombardment of San Jose-Pandurucan to clear it for the landing of the liberation forces. MacArthur was right; there were not many Japanese soldiers in Mindoro to meet his force. They retreated to the mountains while the others were left to guard their radio equipment.

At 7:10 a.m., the 24th Infantry Division with 11,780 combat men, 9,516 Army Air Force and 5,901 service troops landed at the Red Beach in Caminawit Point, White Beach in Barrio Bubog, Blue Beach in Barrio San Agustin and Green Beach across the Bugsanga River. It was followed by the landing of VII Amphibious Forces carrying 16,500 soldiers with 27,600 tons of supplies.

At 10:45 a.m., the wounded Dunckel assumed command of all forces that landed in San Jose. His instruction from MacArthur was the immediate construction of airfields.

Final victory
Machines like bulldozers, graders, cranes, trucks and jeeps came out of the ships. The airfield built in San Jose where B-17 Flying Fortresses and B-24 Liberator planes landed was named McGuirre Airdome in honor of Col. Thomas McGuire who crashed in Negros. The airfield in Barrio Upper Mangyan where B-25 Mitchell bombers landed was named Murtha Airfield in honor of Colonel Murtha who died in the Nashville. In three more airstrips, P-51 Mustang planes taxied for landing and takeoff.

Promising city
With the arrival of the American liberation forces in Mindoro, UP professor, lawyer and Romblon Assemblyman Gabriel Fabella, who himself came to San Jose to look for work, wrote: "Overnight, San Jose became a city, promising and very prosperous. Upon hearing this, almost everybody wanted to go to San Jose."

With Mindoro now as base for the American naval and aerial armaments, the liberation forces sailed the seas and flew the skies to Luzon via Lingayen and on to final victory.

To use the words of Mrs. Douglas MacArthur who sent a letter to this writer on Dec. 15, 1994, during the 50th anniversary of the Mindoro landing, "Mindoro became the key that unlocked the liberation of the Philippines."



DWCSJOM alumnus wins Philippine Star  feature story


A DWCJOM Alumnus was put into the national spotlight as the self-written story of his life was published and featured as the article of the week of the Sunday Life section of a national daily newspaper.


Ka Bise Acebes, as known to his townmates, exhibited courage and perseverance despite the overwhelming odds, chief among them his physical limitations, to make a difference in his community.


A patriot of our time, he lives the life of a champion, advocating among others, the rights of the oppressed, exposing corruption and abuses by local people in power and influence, protecting the environment, and the list goes on.


It is but just and proper that Ka Bise receives the acknowledgement he deserves for the services he is providing for the community he so dearly loves.


Quoted below is the winning Sunday Life story of the week published by the Philippine Star on Dec. 9, 2007:



Finding the meaning of life & becoming free
By Rodolfo Meim Acebes

Philippine Star

This Week’s Winner
Rodolfo Meim Acebes, 57, of San Jose, Occidental Mindoro is a product of SVD education. He  is set to launch on Dec. 15 his fourth book Mindoro, Sa Panahon ng Digmaan, 1941-1944 in his hometown. The book was written under a grant from the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA). His other published works are The History of War, The Shepherds of God’s Flock and A Handbook of Quotations.

 When I retired early from government service after a spinal cord injury due to an accident on October 18, 1988, I left behind a 10-year work experience as a lowly employee of the country’s premier investigative agency, the National Bureau of Investigation.

I was only 38 years old then.

I became a total paraplegic and my right arm and lower extremities atrophied. My penile, renal and rectal organs ceased to function. I could not sit down or sit up. I could not even turn to my sides without assistance. At nights, rats, ants and roaches feasted on the flesh of my feet. Massive bedsores began to appear.

After only about a year under the roof of her house, my wife and I separated. My two children were still young: the girl was two; the boy, one. I transferred to my mother’s house and she was the one who nursed me back to health. Immobile, I was a virtual prisoner in my little room. I had nothing to do except to watch TV, listen to the radio and sleep. But I was fed up with this kind of life. And I didn’t want myself to deteriorate.

To stay sane, I silently recited poems and beautiful quotations I had long committed to my mind from the readings I did when I was young. I tried to remember songs. I held fast to my memories. I dreamed of my children who were not brought to me by their mother.

I went back to reading and bought or borrowed books and magazines from friends. In one of my readings, I came across a line by the French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre who said that “Man must create values for himself by living each moment to the full.” That became my basis to formulate my own philosophy of existence by accepting whatever happened to me without self-pity, anger and boredom.

To test my soul and to live a full life, I resolved to reach out to people and join again the mainstream. I decided to participate in the actions and passion of my time to prove that my infirmity is not a hindrance to continue with my normal life.

For starters, I taught my left hand to write the alphabet again, my right fingers becoming stiff that they could no longer hold a pen. I did this by answering the daily crossword puzzle.

In my other readings later, I came across what the Chinese Nobel laureate Gao Xingjan wrote: “Writing eases my suffering. When I use words, I’m able to keep my mind alive. Writing is a way of affirming my own existence.” And so I resolved to write not only to keep my sanity but also to affirm that I am still alive.

I designed an improvised work desk and borrowed a manual typewriter from a friend. My letters to editor saw print in newspapers and magazines. When a telephone was installed in my room in 1994, I went to radio broadcasting. I joined the program hosted by a priest and a doctor and I focused on subjects which are biting, interesting and educational.

My reporting, hooked by phone from my room to the radio station, was a combination of lyrical and ideal — spoken with words and ideas. From the start, I embraced what Lord Keynes said: “Words ought to be a little wild for they are the assault on the unthinking.” The “sharpness” of my tongue was what, I believed, welded tremendous influence to my listeners. My topics were not for the elite and powerful. They were intended for those whom Mabini called the “inarticulate majority.” And people found an ally in me.

I also contacted then NBI Director Mariano M. Mison, my former chief at the Special Investigation Division, and asked his help to allow NBI clearance to be issued to my constituents in the province: teachers, office clerks, security guards. My room became an office where people with problems came to me for assistance. In major cases, I enlisted the help of the NBI, which sent teams to conduct investigative and technical assistance like exhumation, lie detector tests, ballistics, etc. These services are given to my province even today under the directorship of NBI Director Nestor M. Mantaring.

I provided free paralegal assistance to people, especially the poor and the oppressed. I also helped people file cases against abusive policemen which led to some dismissal, suspension and demotion.

By word of mouth, what I was doing spread and reached the neighboring places. And more people came to me for assistance.

I once wrote a letter to NBI Director Mison with a quote from Ninoy Aquino’s poem: “Few are given the privilege to serve the people, a gift only the patriots deserve.”

One of the history books I read was UP Prof. Cesar Adib Majul’s Apolinario Mabini, the Revolutionary. Majul wrote, “Upon the invitation of Father Malabanan, Mabini taught in Bauan, Batangas from 1882 to 1883. Mabini, amid the respect of all, taught as an auxiliary teacher with a modest salary.”

When I read this line, my hairs stood on ends because about a hundred years later or in 1972, I taught in Bauan, in the same school where Mabini taught, now St. Theresa’s College. At the back of the church’s altar, I was given a room by the priest-school director where I stayed for years. I therefore walked the ground where Mabini once stood. I therefore touched the walls of the church and the school where Mabini once leaned on, and I inhaled the air of Bauan once breathed by Mabini, who became the Sublime Paralytic.

I also went back to painting, using my left hand, and produced about a dozen works. While education enhances creativity, my little talents perhaps came through the genes because my late father and other relatives in Bohol are into painting, music and the arts. These talents I taught my son who now paints and plays the piano and guitar.

It took me some time to realize that though I had lost physical movement, I gained time to know myself and the meaning of life, to be of service to my fellow men and to feel in my heart that in serving others, I became free.

I always see it on the faces of people who finally saw me in person —they are fascinated and affected by the way I live my life despite my limitations. Others who already knew me are moved to face and handle their own difficult times with more hope and courage.

In my 19 years in bed, when I feel better and not loaded with work, I go to my sister’s rest house beside the Tubaong River, about four kilometers from where I live.

There, lying on my folding bed placed above the bamboo floor of the rest house with the river and fishes under me, I enjoy looking at the trees, plants and orchids smiling at the sunshine. Oh, how I love the summer wind kissing my face, inviting me to yawn and take a short sleep.

In my solitude, I recognize that God caused all this — by placing me where I am today to help and inspire people. In the same way, I believe this is God’s purpose of why He gave me this destiny.



Apo Reef now a ‘no-take zone’


By Ma. Ceres P. Doyo
Excerpt from the Inquirer


MANILA, Philippines--Today is the feast of Saint Francis of Assisi, patron saint of the environment, and there is great news for Apo Reef, the world’s second largest and known as the jewel and pride of Mindoro Island. The reef is second in size to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.


Oct. 2 marked the total ban on fishing in Apo Reef. This is to ensure that the reef and the residents who live in the area will recover from the effects of over-fishing and exploitation for nearly 30 years. No less than the World Wildlife Fund made this announcement.

This decision was not reached overnight. Negotiations went on for years. Now Apo Reef will be open only for tourism. Well, the question now is, where will the fishermen who depend on Apo Reef for their livelihood go to next?


According to WWF, one in 10 fishermen is opposed to the park’s closure but the local government is installing alternative ways. WWF says giant fish aggregation devices, locally called “payaw,” have been installed a few kilometers from the coast. Eight have been installed and 10 more will be in place later.


The payaw is a crude but effective device. It is composed of a buoy, a counterweight and 10 to 15 coconut fronds. The algae growth on the decomposing fronds attracts herbivores such as surgeonfish and rabbitfish that can draw in larger predators. A single payaw can yield at least 15 kilos of good fish per boat. “Tambakol,” “tulingan,” “galunggong” and even yellowfin tuna can be part of the catch.

“There’s resistance now because people fear change,” Sablayan Mayor Godofreido Mintu told WWF. “But in the long run, they will benefit from this. Tourists will come back. Sablayan will once again be known worldwide. Mark my words, these protesters will thank us in a year’s time.”


Yes, we will be watching.


My knee-jerk reaction is to take the side of the disadvantaged locals, but if this move promises something better for them and the next generation, it is worth a try. All extractive activities such as fishing, collection and harvesting of any life form will be completely banned from within the park. Ordinance No. 01 was the first law passed by Apo Reef’s Protected Area Management Board for 2007 and declares the whole of Apo Reef a “no-take zone” to allow the reef and its residents ample time to recover from years of fishing.

Apo Reef Natural Park is situated 15 nautical miles west of Sablayan, Occidental Mindoro. It is a major component of the earth’s coral triangle, spanning a total of 27,469 hectares -- 15,792 hectares for the actual reef and 11,677 hectares as a protective buffer zone.

Just over 30 years ago, the park was one of the world’s premier diving destinations. In the 1980s, when destruction was at its worst, basketloads of fish could still turn up in minutes.


Apo Reef’s biodiversity is impressive. It is home to at least 385 species of fish such as the diminutive bicolor blenny (Ecsenius bicolor), the couch-sized napoleon wrasse (Cheilinus undulatus), 190 coral, 26 algae and seven seagrass species. Larger residents and transients include the manta ray (Manta birostris), sperm whale (Physeter macrocephalus) and various types of sea turtle. Sea birds, too, are well represented, with at least 46 migratory and resident species, including the famed nicobar pigeon (Caloenas nicobarica), roosting regularly on Apo’s three main islands.


The 1970s ushered in dynamite, cyanide, “muro-ami” and strobe-fishing to Apo Reef. Former DENR Protected Area assistant superintendent Robert Duquil recalled: “You would hear 25 to 30 dynamite blasts daily.” Fishermen from far places trooped to the area.


In the 1980s, the international diving community lost interest and destructive activities went on unabated.


It was in 1994 that the Department of Environment and Natural Resources assessed the remaining coral cover of 33 percent. Presidential Proclamation No. 868 decreed the reef a natural park in 1996. But enforcement was difficult. Zoning was enforced and allowed limited access to the eastern part. But the western area was not spared. Then Mother Nature herself struck back in 1998, with El Niño raising ocean temperatures, a massive bleaching episode and the death of corals.


WWF information officer Gregg Yan says: “Most reefs in the Indo-Pacific host a small population of the coral-eating crown-of-thorns starfish (Acanthaster planci). Unfortunately, Apo is plagued by millions, probably due to a lack of natural predators like the giant triton, napoleon wrasse and harlequin shrimp. Last week, we collected over a thousand. But if their predators aren’t protected, the crown-of-thorns will be here to stay.”


WWF had a lead role in the passage of the decree through a radio campaign spearheaded by WWF Sablayan project manager John Manul. WWF has been advocating sustainable coastal practices for the Apo Reef Natural Park and Sablayan town since 2003. The nearby Tubbataha Reefs have benefited from such practices. Marine life doubled from 2004 to 2005.


In 2003, another assessment was made on Apo. Yan says coral cover was back to 43 percent. In 2006, it rose to 52 percent. Bigger fish are returning. Yan is thrilled. “A few months back, divers saw a school of over a hundred scalloped hammerhead sharks. Groups of manta and eagle rays have been sighted in bigger concentrations. Giants like the whale shark and sperm whale are seen regularly. This is proof that biodiversity levels are better. Biodiversity is a prime indicator of a reef’s resiliency and its ability to deal with future threats.”

Nature can’t recover fast on its own. Human intervention is key.

* * *

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:"The strength and beauty of its fiber is the primary factor that makes Teak wood as the main choice of the furniture main material...." furniture article

Here are Articles and Stories found in websites regarding SJOM

Islanders save

the Philippine teak

By Madonna Virola

SAN JOSE, Occidental Mindoro – There are no roads, only foot trails and bancas to reach Ilin and Ambulong, two of the three islands off San Jose town in Occidental Mindoro.

Ilin and Ambulong, which possess unique and rich biodiversity, have been chosen by the Mindoro Biodiversity Conservation Foundation Inc. (MBCFI) to be its sites for efforts to save the vanishing Philippine Teak, locally known as “malabayabas.”

Despite strong rain, schoolchildren and residents have been planting the native trees in the two islands since July. On Aug. 20 and Aug. 26, the islanders planted more trees—proving that with genuine community organizing and sincere project management, conservation of the species is a “mission possible.”

As they eased the seedlings from the recovery chambers, nursery technicians Emmanuel Lagrada and Eljesovelt Orsos quipped that “now we realize that it is really so easy to destroy the forest but so hard to restore it.”

Teak Plantation

Dr. Emelina Mandia, team leader of the conservation project, estimated that 2,500 propagules of the native trees had been planted within the so-called biological corridor, a strip of forest connecting the remaining highly fragmented teak forests on the islands.

A Biology professor at the De La Salle University (DLSU)-Manila and founding member of the MBCFI, Mandia said the seedlings came from a nursery established by the foundation in September last year.

The Philippine Teak is found only in San Juan and Lobo towns in Batangas, and in Ilin and Ambulong, she said. It is considered an endangered species by the International Union on the Conservation of Nature and has been declared the Philippines’ flagship species for tree conservation.

The Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs of the United Kingdom, through the Flora and Fauna International Flagship Species Fund, has provided program funding for 15 months.

Global warming defense

According to Mandia, only a few but highly scattered population of the vanishing Philippine Teak have remained due to logging and habitat destruction. “Its wood was a major material in the construction of Philippine railroads,” she said.

But the trees are not being planted to meet construction needs but to restore the habitat and population of the threatened flora and fauna and as food and shelter for local birds and mammals, Mandia explained.

“More stable forests mean continuous supply of fresh water, cooler surroundings, more silt-free rivers and seas and better protection from calamities while maintaining stable carbon sinks, our best defense against global warming,” she said.

She emphasized the need for not simply planting the trees but for nurturing them. “They are like kids that need our care before they could make it on their own.”

The best people making this possible are the islanders of Ilin and Ambulong themselves, the natural caregivers of the Philippine Teak.

“At first, I thought this conservation project was too ambitious to win the cooperation of the people, especially because it ran counter to their source of livelihood,” said community organizer Rolando “Boy” Ilustre, who is also an MBCFI member.

Charcoal making is the main source of livelihood of the islanders.

After a few weeks of convincing them and regular discussions in local radio programs, Malabayabas became a word of mouth. Ilustre is now even being addressed as “Mr. Malabayabas.”

Eight barangays have passed resolutions to ban tree-cutting and fire-making in the remaining teak forests, while others are enacting similar measures, Ilustre said.

He organized a conservation group, “Bukluran para sa Punong Malabayabas sa Isla ng Ilin at Ambulong,” to serve as his local partners.

“At least 250 elementary and high school students in three barangays have participated in the tree-planting activities,” said Eleuterio Orsos, president of Bukluran and chair of Barangay Ipil.

Students, together with their parents, planted their seedlings.

Kid and Teak Tree

Ilustre commended the all-out support of the village officials, especially barangay chair Adel Declito of Iling Proper, who helped him organize in the community.

Aside from Bukluran members, barangay officials of both islands, landowners, members of the Rotary Club of San Jose-Tamaraw, Philippine National Red Cross, Department of the Interior and Local Government, Philippine National Police Mobile Group and the Ilin Value-Added Management of Forest Services helped in the tree-planting activities.

“What is helping us most is perhaps the people’s own observation of their barren lands, the obvious decline of plant and animal life, the stronger typhoons and prolonged drought hitting them,” said Ilustre.

Biological corridor

The MBCFI will entrust a good number of the native trees to every school in Ilin and Ambulong to be planted and nurtured along the biological corridor.

In June and September last year, it organized assemblies among the local partners. In April and July this year, it conducted seminars on basic ecology and island dynamics.

Students and some faculty members of the DLSU-Manila have also been actively involved in the conservation efforts by sponsoring the trees planted by the island students.

A unique feature of the project is the local cooperative put up by the foundation in January to sustain the conservation efforts. At first, the cooperative was composed of Bukluran members, but now, it is open to non-islanders.

Each capital share of the members has a corresponding number of trees that will be obtained from the project’s nursery and planted.

Plans are also afoot for the microfinancing of selected alternative livelihood projects of the cooperative members.

Note:  pictures inserted are from another website featuring Teak Trees.


Philippine teak

Common Name: * Philippine teak
Scientific Name: * Tectona philippinensis
Categories: * Timber
Conservation Status: * Endangered


A small tree confined to two areas in the Philippines, which produces a hardwood timber that is highly valued locally.

Why is this species important?

Philippine teak produces a valuable timber used locally and nationally for construction. It is also used locally as firewood. It   is one of only three species in the genus Tectona, which    includes the commercial teak Tectona grandis, one of the few tropical timbers successfully grown as a plantation crop.    Philippine teak may have potential as a genetic resource for   future teak breeding programmes aimed at improving supplies     of this highly popular wood.

Where is it found?

Philippine teak is only known from Batangas province, Luzon Island and Illing Island, Mindoro, in the Philippines, where it is confined to limestone forest. Recent information suggests that    it is found in highly disturbed forest edge, surrounded by agricultural land and degraded forest.

How do people use it?

Philippine teak produces a durable timber used locally for construction, being favoured as posts for housing etc. Trade is mainly domestic rather than international. Immature trees are   said to be preferred for building materials, thus threatening the reproductive survival of the population. It is also used as firewood.

Why is it threatened?

Philippine teak is threatened by habitat destruction and over-exploitation for timber and firewood. The forests where it     occurs are becoming increasingly small and fragmented as        land is cleared for agriculture and other uses. The preference     for immature trees for timber is an additional threat, since     fewer trees reach reproductive age.

What conservation action is needed?

A conservation programme is needed to re-establish a stable natural population of T. philippinensis in its known habitat. A   rapid assessment of the species and long-term ecological research is required to determine the physical and biological characteristics of the habitat, coupled with a recovery and management programme, public education, community consultation and resource stewardship, and policy initiatives.   As part of the Global Trees Campaign, FFI has funded a    
recovery programme for Philippine teak, including all the above elements, led by the Philippine National Museum in     Manila. The programme includes meetings with local   stakeholders to integrate their concerns into the activities,       and work on effective propagation of the tree for replanting. Work has been conducted in local schools to raise awareness    of the plight of this rare tree. The programme involves local     and regional representatives of the government Department of the Environment and Natural Resources, schools and    universities in research, project implementation and      monitoring. Attempts are being made to encourage the formulation of local policies for the recovery of the species.

Selected references

Madulid, D.A. and Agoo, E.M. (1990). Conservation status of Tectona  philippinensis, a threatened Philippine plant. Acta Manilana 38:41-55

Soerianegara, I. And Lemmens, R.H.M.J. (eds) (1993). Plant resources of    South-East Asia No 5 (1) Timber trees: Major Commercial Timbers. Pudoc Scientific Publishers, Wageningen, the Netherlands.