In 2007, the Mt. Mantalingahan in Palawan province was proposed by its local government as a candidate for becoming protected land. In 2009, after two years of campaigning for public awareness of the animal biodiversity present in the site including the native tribes living in the mountain, it was finally declared as a protected landscape, thus shielding from harm not just the ecological system of the mountain but also the cultural heritage of the people of Palawan.
Mt. Mantalingahan is located in the Southern part of Palawan covering 126, 000 hectares of mountain terrains within the territorial land of five municipalities including Rizal, Quezon, Bataraza, Sofronio Espanola and Brooke’s Point. With its peak reaching up to 6,800 feet above sea level, it is said to be the highest mountain in Palawan.
High Biodiversity and Rich Ecology
The fascinating ecological finds in the mountain during the biological diversity survey of local and foreign biologists in 2007 has led concerned citizens and authorities to endorse the land as protected area. New animal species of rats, bats and birds were discovered. The survey also yielded a discovery of land orchid species. There were also undescribed species that had not been sighted for more than 40 years. The experts’ knowledge of the mountain’s biodiversity has expanded as a result and new records were made.
There were undocumented stories of the early people who lived in the mountain who, legend has it, were cannibals. The Tau’t Daram were said to possess supernatural abilities that were feared throughout the mountain. But after the death of its leader, the tribe died out.
Now, the mountain is home to about 3, 000 mountain dwellers belonging to two indigenous groups, the Palaw’ans and the Tau’t Bato. These people live on their animal kills and on fruits growing naturally on the land.
The Mt. Mantalingahan is said to be one of the most difficult climbs in the country. Even without the threat of malaria, climbers must be physically fit and emotionally ready to be able to climb up the summit. The trail via the Tau’t Bato domain starts at Rizal, and the peak will be reached on the third day. Points of attraction during the climb include close encounters with the people of the Tau’t Bato tribe, the wild mountain flora and the century-old trees. It will take a total of five days to climb the mountain, and the view at the top is said to be magnificent and nothing like the view from the other mountains in the area with the same sights as the whole South Palawan and the surrounding seas.
The on-going exploration of biologists in the discovery of new species found in Mt. Mantalingahan plays an important role in the preservation of life in the mountain. The Presidential Decree that proclaimed the land as protected landscape also helps the protection and conservation efforts of the locals against mining and logging. Indeed, prudent consumption of all resources found in the mountain will ultimately help in preserving not just the ecological system but also the ancestral roots of the native dwellers.
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