BULACAN, Aug. 21, 2015 – The indigenous Dumagats and the Blessed Sacrament Missionaries of the Poor Inc. (BSMP) together with the Sagip Sierra Madre Environmental Society, Inc (SSMESI) invite the faithful to the Monte Cristo Eco-tourism caves and pilgrimage site located in Sitio Suha, Brgy. San Mateo, Norzagaray, Bulacan.
“The primary objective of this eco-tourism project is forest protection. We want to preserve our forest. When we first came here, we thought this was a virgin forest, but we’re wrong. The place was already destroyed by the illegal loggers, charcoal makers, and even treasure hunters. So what we did was, we made the rocks in Monte Cristo habitable and we made a prayer visit [stations],” said BSMP missionary and Sagip Sierra Madre Executive Chairman, Bro. Martin Francisco, BSMP.
Education, forest protection needs
They developed 4 out of 8 caves as pilgrimage sites, which was originally named the “Sagip NPC Project Site”, later on becoming the “Punduhan ng mga Dumagat.”
He said the area is open for a manageable number of tourists to visit as operations are not 100 per cent ready. The area still lacks comfort rooms, signages, and even training for Dumagats.
Francisco together with the SSMESI address the health and education needs of the indigenous Dumagats, aside from forest protection, eco tourism, and cultural integrity training.
“The Sagip Sierra Madre is not only an NGO, this is also a community-based organization with different tribes as members. We want the Dumagats to empower and organize themselves. We are teaching them on leadership training and how to be an independent,” Francisco added.
According to the religious brother, the locals are in need of food assistance, school supplies, medicine, and even agriculturists who are willing to teach them about farming and other soil-related concerns.
“We need food assistance although we introduced farming here, yet we are focused on forest protection and on the development of the area, so we have no time for farming. We also need an agriculturists for soil alteration,” Francisco stated.
He also mentioned the need for construction materials for the pilgrimage site like cement, ropes, metal, and people who can help them make deep wells.
“…not only by kneeling, but our spirituality can also be seen [through our] fundamental interaction with our indigenous peoples, he ended.
For assistance, interested parties may contact Bro. Martin Francisco, BSMP at +63917-5503182 or send him a message on Facebook via https://www.facebook.com/bromartin.francisco?fref=ts. Donations are also accepted at Punduhan ng mga Dumagat, Sitio Suha, Brgy. San Mateo, Norzagaray, Bulacan. (Yen Ocampo / CBCP News)