Letter from an American mountaineer: “Hiking is more than just walking; we must protect what we love”


We received this letter from Manila Joe, an American who now lives in Manila. I have sought his permission to post this letter, which I think is a good wake-up call for all mountain and outdoor enthusiasts in the Philippines. Indeed, we must practice responsible outdoor recreation. Here is his note. What do you think?
Dear PinoyMountaineer,
I enjoy looking at your website and have used it frequently on my many runs up and down the beautiful peaks in your country. As an ex-mountain guide and avid mountaineer, rock climber and trail runner, your mountains have proved to be my salvation from the urban jungle of Manila (I am not a city person, but have found myself in Manila for the past 4 years.) Having spent years of my life living in the backcountry in North America, Europe, South America and Asia, I am overjoyed to see more and more Filipinos enjoying the outdoors. I am also often saddened by their attitude, however. I always run/hike with a garbage bag and never have I returned with it empty, in fact, often times it is filled to the brim. I get strange looks when others see me carrying down a bag filled with plastic water bottles carelessly discarded on the trail, candy wrappers mindlessly dropped, chip and candy bags thrown into the woods, towels dropped, banners that were hung on trees to mark a trip, toilet paper left on the trail, etc, etc, etc….
If Filipinos are going to protect and preserve what little natural beauty is left of this country, people who use it need to understand that hiking and enjoying the outdoors is not about “conquering and assaults.” It is realizing we are all part of the natural environment and it is part of us; what we do to the environment, we do to ourselves. It is our responsibility to be good role models for others. We must protect what we love.
For example, if everyone who visits Pinoymountianeer.com were to leave the places they visit cleaner than when they arrived – think of what could be achieved? If everyone who met a local while hiking explained that it harms everyone to litter and illegally take plants and animals from the forests, we might just make a difference. If people stopped making new trails (causing erosion) and illegal fires, there would be less mountain closures.
My dream for your country is that it becomes an outdoor persons’ paradise, like it once was. Think of the amazing possibilities that could exist here! The only way to get there, however, is for everyone who cares to start doing their part. PLEASE, educate others and be a good role model –
Attached is a picture of what I carried down from a recent run up Arayat. Not a pretty sight.
Enjoy yourselves!
Manila Joe
manilajoe@rocketmail.com

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13 Comments on "Letter from an American mountaineer: “Hiking is more than just walking; we must protect what we love”"


Guest
Anonymous
7 years 3 days ago

Thanks Manila Joe, for pointing this out. I truly believe that WE CAN ALL DO IT, all outdoor lovers and mountain communers. Reading through your blogs/comments/e-mails, I was mersmerized then pleasantly surprised by where mountaineering is now in the Philippines. Back in the good 'ole days and when I was in college, I never heard anyone discussing day hikes or scaling a peak. We've come a long way to where we are now, but comes with it our collective spirit to protect Nature's gifts which has now became TEMPLES TO OUR SOUL.

Trashing trails is not really isolated to the Philippines. Even Western countries, within their National Parks and coastlines, also got dumping problems but of uniquely different set of risks created. Case in point: Manila Joe mentioned about Everest. Was watching the other night Documentaries of Everest climbs of the "boutique kind", and was stunned by the litter accumulated along the trails mostly by these pay-per-climb individuals…..empty oxygen tanks, old belay ropes, ladders, banners, etc. not to mention the frozen dead climbers on some rack face, some 100+ – may be there before Hillary and Tenzing! Yes, it was tough and one conquered the highest, but what a price Nature has to pay and endure! I dont think it's worth it, for the purists.

Let's leave these lovely TEMPLES OF OUR SOUL to our grandkids, and follow suit what Manila joe is preaching. It's a grand and noble cause to keep.

Leave no trace,
BeCoolCAN

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Manila Joe
8 years 5 months ago

Dear Pinoy Mountaineers,

I am pleased to see such support for my email. It is important to remember that a sustainable environmental ethic like LNT is relatively new everywhere. When I was young, growing up in the West, it was still acceptable to throw garbage out car windows. There are still plenty of examples of Westerners doing far worse then what I have seen in the Philippines (One only has to go to Mt. Everest to see what we Westerners have done and continue to do!) Please remember, it will take time to catch on here. You must be patient, BUT PERSISTENT. You must work hard to change the attitudes of others.

I know it can can go against Filipino nature to be direct and ask someone, esp. a stranger, to pick up the trash they dropped, or stop making new trails, or put back plants or other items they take from the forests, or…

Rather than feeling discouraged or embarrassed, I encourage you to find a way to educate others in a friendly and helpful way. In my experience, it is not that people set out to do harm, they just don't know any better. They have never been taught to think about the repercussions of their actions.

I agree with many of your post – as "locals", you (Filipinos) are ultimately responsible for taking the lead in changing local attitudes. In the big picture, we are all just temporary residents, and we are all stewards of this wonderful planet. No matter what country we happen to be from or where we happen to find ourselves at any given moment, it is all our responsibility to act responsibly and help others to do so, as well.

I'll be out again this weekend with my children and wife, each of us with a garbage bag in hand. Hope to see you out there. 🙂

Happy Trails!

Manila Joe
manilajoe@rocketmail.com

p.s. Feel free to re-post my comments on other blogs or websites. Please send me links!

Guest
Anonymous
8 years 5 months ago

hindi na to' bago mga kapatid..kapwa kalahi nga natin nambabatikos panu pa kaya mga dayuhan..hindi yan nagtatapos sa "shame on us pinoy" o "spark a signal"..pakita mo na hindi ka isa sa sinasabi ng kanong yan..

pinoy tlg may mai post lang..

-galit sa baboy

Guest
d3wdr0ps
8 years 5 months ago

Check compass bearing. Locate and identify trail. Approach summit silently. Execute mission. Get down. LEAVE NO TRACE. Pick up some milk. Be home in time for dinner. Easy.

Guest
8 years 5 months ago

This story is not new to me. While catering guests here in Mt. Apo, I always admire the attitude of foreigners. They are actually very mcuh concern about our environment. The saddest part, however, is that Filipino guests are the ones making mountaineering in the Philippines a mockery in a suppose noble hobby. Thanks for posting Sir Gids, cheers to you and to the sender of this letter.