STORIES FROM NATURE. One of the episodes of "Kwentong Kalikasan" shows environmental workers telling their stories on forest conservation and protection in one of the mountain ranges in Bukidnon. The 14-episode TV documentary and video magazine series produced by the Association of Young Environmental Journalists aims to spread awareness and educate the public on environmental protection through stories from the Northern Mindanao Region. (Video image courtesy of AYEJ)

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY – An ecological literacy non-profit organization based in this city believes that using video will effectively spread powerful ideas that will educate, entertain, and inform people on environment-related topics from around Northern Mindanao.

This is what prompted the Association of Young Environmental Journalists (AYEJ) to produce "Kwentong Kalikasan", a TV documentary and video magazine series which features stories and works of conservationists and emerging advocates of the forest landscape.

Val Vestil, AYEJ co-founder and executive director, said in an interview Sunday that the series is more than just a movement for forest conservation, but is also an initiative to inspire courageous action where visual storytelling helps "putting a face to the issues and innovations, relating specifically to the current state of our forests."

"What better way to do that than by telling the stories of our frontline forest guardians and showing evidence of why it’s of prime importance to protect the last remaining forest cover," he said.

Vestil said it has partnered with the Forest Foundation Philippines in fulfillment of the production of its maiden 14 episodes.

"We started the production in March last year (2022). That includes key messages, development, and workshop with stakeholders on what messages needed to be communicated in the documentaries," he said.

Vestil said the episodes are currently available on various online platforms, including AYEJ's YouTube channel.

With the support of Forest Foundation Philippines, “Kwentong Kalikasan” offers a unique look into the lives of forest conservationists highlighting their advocacy to preserve Bukidnon and Misamis Oriental’s most pristine and vital ecosystems.

Through interviews and cinematography, the series exposes the vast landscapes in the Northern Mindanao region and "takes viewers on a journey to the heart of our forests and the frontlines of the battle to save them."

People's stories

Other than environmental advocates, the series also highlights stories of Indigenous Peoples (IPs) communities.

Anilaw Makumpot Mansumangka was only 15 years old when he discovered the important connection between forest conservation and nurturing their culture as pa of the Higaonon-Talaandig tribe of Misamis Oriental.

“The forest is our church, pharmacy, market, and hospital. For us lumad youth, if we forget the importance of nature, we will also lose the value of being part of a tribe. Our identity as lumads is tied to the forest,” he said.

Anilaw now leads the Anak ng Tribu Higaonon-Talaandig Association, reaching out to fellow IPs in promoting and preserving their culture and the importance of forest conservation through capacity-building initiatives, leadership formation and socio-economic activities.

The series also features Reina Bontuyan, a mountaineer turned entrepreneur who founded an outdoor sports center that not only sells equipment and apparel but also educates on how to more responsibly interact with nature through workshops and training sessions.

Forest Ranger Zoilo Montebon, on the other hand, gives a peek into the life and struggles of the Kitanglad Guard Volunteers (KGV) of Bukidnon.

"The KGV works for an honorarium but they don’t really mind much about the money. Because we simply want to protect the forest. Because protecting the forest is worth more than the value of money. Everything we need is already in the forest," Montebon said.

Eric Buduan, AYEJ senior program officer, said 30 million hectares of land area in the Philippines were historically mostly covered with forests.

However, commercial logging operations from the 1900s to the 1990s resulted in a significant decline.

Buduan said despite national greening efforts, the decline in forest cover has affected the capacity of the forests to provide ecological goods and services such as biodiversity, water services, and timber and non-timber products.

He also said forest conservation is not just about tree planting but also about awareness and understanding of the importance of forests, and that was the inspiration to produce "Kwentong Kalikasan".

The series has been assessed by the National Council for Children's Television and passed the standards for being a child-friendly program. (PNA)