Our trip to Mount Balagbag

Boldr community impact

Being a former student-athlete, I always loved doing physical activities. This led me to join the Boldr Outdoors Club. Hiking not only took me to different heights, but also to a deeper, more impactful point of view — and this is why I want to share this climb experience with you.

July 3, 2022, the Boldr Outdoors Club teamed up with the Impact team on a mission to ascend Mount Balagbag, a part of the Sierra Madre mountain range in San Jose Del Monte, Bulacan. Early in the morning, our team went to the mountain’s jump-off point in Rodriguez, Rizal. From there, we were welcomed by the community, as well as the forest rangers who would guide us through the hike. Before we started, the rangers prepared us about what to expect – the trail, the beautiful spots, and also the mountain’s grievous state.

The journey to our first destination was almost a 3-hour hike. The trail was easy and wide. There were several ascents and descents, and a few streams we needed to cross along the way. What made the mountain challenging was the scorching heat. The ridge was barren and abused. While wandering, we saw several spots on the range stripped in naked soil. That’s when Kuya Rommel, the forest ranger’s lead, explained how Mount Balagbag used to be covered with trees and wild animals — and how illegal tree loggers turned the mountain’s fate around.

Rommel lives in a Dumagat community within the Ipo Watershed. The shed is a critical part of the Umiray-Angat-Ipo system that supplies 98% of Metro Manila’s water. At a young age, Rommel was called on a mission to protect his homeland from people who capitalized on the forest’s natural resources. Illegal logging, wood fuel collecting and kaingin (slash and burn system), are the main causes of deforestation in Sierra Madre. Fortunately, Eco Explorations, in partnership with Philippine Parks and Biodiversity, was granted an agreement with the government to reforest a 30-hectare area in Mount Balagbag and employed a team of forest rangers who are focused on nursery management, forest restoration, and protection. 

Through Boldr, we are able to take part in the team’s mission. After showing us the nursery where they cultivate different kinds of native trees, the Boldr team planted a total of 20 native trees in the forest’s reforestation area. We planted 2 Makaasim, 8 Amisan, and 10 Narra trees.  Each team member learned how to properly set the seedlings and also had a chance to name each after them. Reforestation is proven to be an effective way to improve biodiversity, which leads to increased primary production, decreased susceptibility to exotic species invasion, and higher ecological resistance to stressors like climate change.

Boldr Mt. Balagbag Inside 1

After the hike, we made our way down the mountain to wash up. From there, we took our breaks, showered, packed and prepared to go to our next stop. Before leaving, we thanked and handed over five sacks of 25 kilograms rice to each of the five rangers.

From the jump-off point, we went to a small community nearby, called the Blessed Kids Center of the Mountainside Church of the Nazarene. We were greeted by happy children and some parents. They served local meriendas, like steamed bananas, sweet potatoes, avocados, and buko juice.

Majo Endriga and Dan Cosico from the Impact team explained that the mountainside community was one of Boldr’s beneficiaries and was being supported by our company through the One Child organization. For one year we are sponsoring the holistic education of 51 Dumagat and Tagalog children in the area. They also introduced us to Ate Lani, Pastor Larry, and Kuya Ben, who are spearheading the program. We were informed about the community’s challenges, like inaccessibility to water and education. They emphasized how important Boldr’s help was, because some students must walk up to three hours to attend their Saturday classes.

Afterwards, the kids danced and sang for us. We also received homegrown indoor plants to remember the occasion. As we said our goodbyes, I was hit with a renewed sense of purpose, and felt a deep pride about our community involvement as an impact-driven company. Looking forward, I couldn’t be more excited about the impact Boldr can have in the future.

Harold Sonza is an Office Operations and HSE Associate at Boldr.

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