Last November 15, while he was cataloging plant species in the forests of Kananga, Leyte, the great biologist Leonard Co was a killed in the crossfire between the military and suspected NPA rebels.
On April 19-25, family and friends of Leonard Co will traverse the Northern Sierra Madre to pay tribute to his life and work. The expedition intends to fulfill the wish of Leonard to have his ashes scattered in Palanan, Isabela where he conducted most of his pioneering work.
The expedition team of 30 trekkers will consist of scientists and members of the U.P. Mountaineers (UPM), the organization of which he was a part of and who awarded him the title of “Mountaineer of the Year”, last year.
Darwin Flores, Leonard’s brother-in-law, conceived of and will lead the expedition team, while veteran explorer mountaineer and artist-teacher Bobby Acosta is trek leader.
Continuing Leonard’s work
Another objective of the expedition is to highlight the ecological significance of northern Sierra Madre. Some team members of the expedition will also conduct a rapid biodiversity assessment along the trail.
The Northern Sierra Madre Natural Park (NSMNP) is considered one of the most important of the protected areas in the Philippines. It is the largest protected area in the country and the richest in terms of genetic species and habitat diversity. The Rafflesia leonardi, named after Leonard Co was discovered within the forests of the Northern Sierra Madre. It’s the 8th species of rafflesia found in the Philippines and 4th in Luzon.
This expedition is dedicated to Leonard Co who valued the importance of the Palanan wildlife biodiversity. It is a showcase of true adventure dedicated to Filipino greatness and unity and of ordinary people doing extraordinary things. It is about scientific discovery and outdoor exploration in the last great wilderness of the Philippines, a fitting tribute to the life of Leonard.
The Palanan expedition itinerary
The expedition team will journey to the coast of Palanan, Isabela, the gateway to the great rainforest, beginning on Saturday, April 16; first, via a 10-hour bus ride from Manila to Casiguran, Aurora, then, via a Navy boat ride to the coast of Palanan in the Pacific Ocean for another 10 hrs. Thereafter, a memorial mass for Leonard will be held on Sunday, April 17 at the town church. On April 18, the expedition team, together with the townsfolk and the family and friends of Leonard, will trek to the 16-hectare forest dynamics plot that Leonard established and worked on, to scatter the last third of his ashes as he had intended.
Thereafter, the expedition team will commence their 7-day Sierra Madre Trek on April 19, Tuesday, at the foothills of Palanan, and traverse the peaks of the mountain range across to the western side of the Northern Sierra Madre in San Mariano, Isabela. A team of scientists belonging to the expedition will do rapid transect surveys of flora and fauna along the route, as the opportunity permits. The trekkers will be guided by local friends of Leonard, the Dumagats, who grew up in the forest and coastline of Palanan. Together, they will pass through numerous river crossings and high peaks. The group is expected to arrive at San Mariano town in Isabela on April 25, Monday and in Manila on April 26, Tuesday. Post –climb activities will be announced later.
A send-off and press conference will be held tonight at R.O.X. Philippines, commemorating the life of Leonard Co, unveiling the details of the expedition, and . We wish the expedition team, organizers and participants, all the best — safety and success – as they start their journey.
For more information, you can contact Monette Flores, 09209232327, of the expedition support group. You can also follow the expedition on Facebook via the Palanan Co Sierra Madre Trek Facebook Page.
Photo of Leonard Co and press release from the expedition Facebook page and sent to PinoyMountaineer by the organizers of the trek.