Bangkong Kahoy – ecotourism making a difference

In 2005, for some personal reasons, Dion Pullan came back on his childhood land in Dolores (Quezon province of Luzon, Philippines) after years abroad. During his productive career in different countries, including Australia, he opened his eyes to most ecological problems, and this perception increased the confusion of what he observed in reaching Dolores.

Indeed, the forest was getting badly spoiled, and the landscape was profoundly affected by human activities. Possibly even more disturbing, the heavy use of pesticides in farmland made the place stinking of toxic chemicals! It wasn’t something he could accept for his ancestors’ home. Bangkong_logo_small That is how this incredible story shortly summarized below started and continues to grow positively still. It ably demonstrates how someone committed to doing something real can genuinely make a difference!

In about fifteen years, the work done is now spectacular, and it is challenging to keep the explanation brief.

A/ Organic farming

A significant work of instruction was given among the local farmers; besides, the ecolodge itself offers a marketplace to the local organic farmer, which means immediate compensation to them for making the right decisions. The use of chemicals around has, therefore, dropped dramatically, and the rise in bird and insect populations is now visible.

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B/ Buying land to control the farming (and the burning)

A notable investment was made to acquire enough land for the ecolodge and other projects, but substantial additional land was also bought to monitor the way of farming better. Indeed, no farmer was removed to let them keep their farming going on as long as they respect the main rules that discard the use of chemicals and refrain from burning the vegetation.

3/ Anti-poaching

Two private rangers are employed to chase away poachers from the forest and remove the traps.

Many people around believe that eating eggs from wild birds would increase their power. Stopping them to collect eggs is thus tricky; however, a solution was put in place with the help of a sponsor. Indeed, every person that finds a nest and keeps it active up to the time young birds fly away is receiving a small but locally significant amount of money. This option has proven efficient for a wide variety of species.

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One example of a famous bird in the area is Luzon Boobook (sometimes called Luzon Hawk-Owl), a small night bird, endemic to Northern Philippines, that can be seen from the restaurant of the Bangkong Kahoy ecolodge (photo on the left)! It is a famous bird for local biodiversity; it has a global interest as a Philippines endemic and is an asset to attract naturalists and photographers. On the bottom of the page (scroll down), find links to pages about other beautiful and endemic bird species seen in Bangkong Kahoy.

 

4/ Ecotourism opportunities

Besides, to employ local workers, the project offers training opportunities to become nature guides. There’s also an investment in the process of building friendly homestay accommodations that local families can run and thus produce a significant income. As the forest is the main attraction around, those families will be the first ones to reject deforestation activities.

burgerBK5/ Veganism

Usually, the weakest aspect of most ecotourism projects is to ignore the massive impact of animal farming (industrial or not) on natural spaces, biodiversity, and climate change. In the Philippines, food is almost systematically based on fish, meat, or other animal products. The fact that a vegetarian burger based on organic mushrooms is offered as a daily and cheap lunch option is a step forward. The menu is vegan-friendly, but there is room for improvement to reduce the use of animal products. The importance of that aspect is recalled in a recent publication signed by more than 11.200 scientists through the World that you can read thoroughly here.

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6/ Use of local plants and permaculture

It was taught to villagers to use the local raspberries, formerly seen as an invasive weed, to be eaten fresh as well and to produce jam and smoothies. In the same philosophy, locals plants found in the forest are taken to make the “forest tea.”

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It represents the first steps, together with organic farming, toward permaculture. Using the local plants that grow without farmers’ efforts is an essential aspect of the permaculture concept that suggests to follow the ecosystem choice instead of forcing the land to produce what we humans have chosen.

waterBK17/ Plastic waste

The ideal ecotourism should be plastic-free and, although that level is not yet reached, essential improvements compared to Philippines standards were already done. High-quality water from the forest is offered free through a tap in the restaurant, and no bottled water is sold. Also, no plastic straws are provided (only paper straw to drink coconut juice directly from the coconut). Several products available in the shop corner are packed in glass, and no plastic bags are given for the shopping, customers are supposed to bring their reusable bag.

Waste is sorted, organic one is either composted or given to animals, and plastic is disposed of correctly. Clients are asked not to leave any trace in the forest, and the guides ensure the respect of that rule.

8/ Smoking

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Smoking is discouraged in the interest of the respect of nature as well as health. The restaurant’s terrace is smoke-free, and smoking is only allowed in the parking and a specific corner of the camp.

In partnership with Holistic Birding, Bangkong Kahoy will be pushed forward, especially regarding the reduction of animal products and plastic. Follow the projects, new birding and wildlife holidays program, improvement of the menu and vegan cooking training, and more on this website and our  our Facebook page.

Some birds seen in Bangkong Kahoy have already a full description on our website, please click on the name to see the commented photos.

 

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All photos and text are © Valéry Schollaert 2020
with acknowledgment to the copy editor: Remy Ty

 

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