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Trapped by a flash flood in Mindoro

I urge you to help re-equip Mindoro’s Tamaraw rangers with GPS units, spotting scopes, binoculars, laptops and field uniforms by contacting the Tamaraw Conservation Programme at +63977 809 1498.

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By Gregg Yan

We were trapped.

A sudden downpour engorged Occidental Mindoro’s mountain rivers an hour ago. The small stream we forded three days ago was now a raging torrent of churning, life-taking brown water.

Fording was suicide. The only crossing was through a bamboo ‘monkey bridge’ made of two slippery poles – a rotting base pole and a flimsy handrail. Which of course, was broken. Like in the movies.

Beside me sat an old Taw’buid woman, shivering and sheltered by a flimsy banana leaf. As an anthropologist, I knew that a Siganon or lowlander like me cannot touch a female Taw’buid tribeswoman even for warmth. I gave her an umbrella and dropped my pack.

When the going gets tough, the tough get going.

Ploughing forward to repair the bridge, I tied myself to a branch with thick vines – a trick I learned from jungle survival school. White-knuckling the broken bamboo rail, I took a step. Another. Knew I should’ve dieted more. Suddenly I felt the rotting bamboo pole give way. Craaaaack!  

THE WILD, WILD MOUNTAINS OF MINDORO

The Iglit-Baco Natural Park in Mindoro spans 75,445 hectares and is dominated by Mt. Baco (2488m) and Mt. Iglit (2364m). Eight major river systems wend through its grassy peaks. When I first visited at the height of the monsoon season of 2012, we crossed a total of 42 rivers and streams. My ankles were leech magnets.

The park is famed for hosting the best-protected population of Tamaraw (Bubalus mindorensis), Earth’s most endangered buffalo species. Droves of mountain climbers and birdwatchers visit – intent on seeing flying jewels like the Mindoro Hornbill (Penelopides mindorensis) and Mindoro Bleeding Heart (Gallicolumba platenae).

The park is also home to the reclusive Taw’buid, largest of the eight tribes collectively called Mangyan – the others being the Alangan, Bangon, Buhid, Hanunuo, Iraya, Ratagnon and Tadyawan. Last time I visited was when the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), Tamaraw Conservation Programme (TCP) and National Geographic gave the tribe a shipment of solar lamps. The Taw’buid holds a special place in my heart.

This year I was invited by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to join the second Bio-Camp, an annual move to enhance public support for Tamaraw conservation. UNDP’s Biodiversity Finance Initiative (BIOFIN) works to mobilize resources to finance nature and sustainable development, deliver more efficient outcomes, improve spending efficiency and choose current investments which can save money in the future. BIOFIN helps close the funding gap to implement critically-important biodiversity conservation projects.

Led by TCP Coordinator June Pineda, participants Bibiana Aguha, Jes Aznar, Mitch De Juan, Kim Lim, Nella Lomotan, Bernard Magcarang, Gab Mejia, Maricor Montalbo, Celine Murillo, Angie Ogena, Kamille Rosales, Mitch Tuyan, Derald Umali and Gab Visenio all summited Mt. Magawang, saw Tamaraw in the wild and had lively discussions on how best to help rangers – the real heroes of the Iglit-Baco Natural Park.

RANGERS ON PATROL

“If the rangers disappear, the Tamaraw disappear. The Taw’buid believe that if the Tamaraw disappears, their people will too. We can thus say our Tamaraw Rangers are key to sustaining the natural habitat of the Tamaraw within the Iglit-Baco Natural Park,” says TCP Coordinator June Pineda.

We were accompanied by three kinds of rangers: Park rangers safeguard the park against poachers, tamaraw rangers lead expeditions and protect Tamaraw wherever they may be, while wardens are rangers-in-training.

“Tamaraw patrols are sent out once or twice weekly and last about three days each,” explains TCP Field Operations Officer Ed Bata. “Last August we found a Tamaraw skull and the lower left jawbone of a Philippine Deer – probably shot for meat by hunters. Poachers come at night, flashlights rigged under the barrels of illegally-acquired long-arms like M14s.”

As I found in Borneo for another wildlife adventure years back, many wild animals stop and stare at bright lights at night, their eyes glowing a freaky red.

“Our equipment is old. Our last computer broke down recently. Though we badly need new gear, our rangers will keep going,” promises Pineda. “It is from them that I draw strength.”

JUNGLE ENGINEERS

Back at the river I hop back before the bamboo pole completely collapses. I gaze at the shivering Taw’buid woman on the riverbank and curse myself for not being able to do more for her. Eventually the rain eases up, the river becomes calmer – and help arrives.

The first of our team’s Taw’buid and Buhid porters arrive to assess the situation. Rapidly they string more vines around the battered bridge while a lithe scout crosses with a fisho, a long Taw’buid blade – emerging minutes later with two fresh bamboo poles. As we sweat, grunt and try to avoid falling in the river, the bridge takes form.

BIOFIN’s Kamille Rosales hands the Taw’buid woman a dry shirt, warming her. After a half-hour, the bridge is up and the column trudges once more for civilization.

As we crossed that rickety bridge, I realized how the brave, resourceful rangers of TCP and the Iglit-Baco Natural Park surmounted these obstacles all the time – fording swollen rivers, patrolling against heavily-armed poachers, dismantling dangerous spring-loaded spike traps set illegally within the park’s core zone. Building bridges and keeping a lifeline to the lowlands open has kept the park and its endangered animals alive and thriving. This year, the park’s Tamaraw numbers swelled to 523, the highest recorded since conservation efforts began.

“We rangers have dodged bullets and charging Tamaraw. Once I slid down a mountain for we were patrolling without lights,” remembers Ranger Team Leader Ronnie Estrella. “We even chased off a dozen poachers with kwitis or fireworks because we had no guns! This has become much more than a job for us. This is where many of us have devoted our lives.”

Making do with equipment which have seen better days, the plucky rangers are every bit as tough as the Tamaraw they protect.

I urge you to help re-equip Mindoro’s Tamaraw rangers with GPS units, spotting scopes, binoculars, laptops and field uniforms by contacting the Tamaraw Conservation Programme at +63977 809 1498. As I found while repairing that rickety bridge, help goes a long way.

Believing that everyone's perspective is important, Zest Magazine has opted to provide an avenue for these perspectives to be known. care to hear the publication's contributing writers; or better yet, do some contributing yourself by contacting info@zestmag.com.

Travel

On the road again? Choose the right tires for your ride

If you think it may be time to replace your tires, consider these five expert tips to simplify the process.

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Lots of people want to drive, definitely. But not everyone is well-versed with the cars they drive – e.g. many drivers have difficulty selecting the best tire for their vehicle and driving needs. For many, tire selection starts at the size then jumps to what’s in stock or what’s on sale. However, there are many factors to consider when you need new tires for your car, truck or SUV. Buying tires is an investment, so it’s important to make the right decision.

You may be surprised to learn determining the best tire is as much about the driver as it is the vehicle. Choosing the right tire requires considering where you drive, how you drive and what you drive. You can explore these and other factors in the Treadwell tire-buying recommendation tool, which is based on a decade of data and real-world test results.

This tire recommendation tool combines millions of data points from tire safety checks and Discount Tire’s own test track where intensive tests are performed on tires from all major manufacturers, along with the driver’s location, vehicle and driving habits, to generate a selection of personalized tire recommendations from a variety of brands.

With more than 20,000 different models of tires available for the everyday driver, it’s no wonder tire-buying can be a mystifying process. However, tools like this can help drivers make the most informed choice while having access to the same information tire technicians use in-stores alongside their expertise. The result: empowering drivers with information and options tailored to their needs.

If you think it may be time to replace your tires, consider these five expert tips to simplify the process.

Driving Style

The type of driver you are, the kind of ride you want and how long you expect your tires to last are all factors in choosing the right tires. For example, thrill drivers might prefer tires with high levels of grip and responsiveness while those who stick to long road trips are better suited for long-lasting, smooth riding tires.

Weather Conditions

Your location and the weather you regularly encounter when you drive influence the type of tires you need. For example, drivers in the upper Midwest require tires that perform well in extreme cold and winter weather while those in humid climates like the Southeast need tires that perform well in wet conditions.

Budget

Purchasing tires is an investment. Drivers should look at the cost of their tires over time, rather than the cost up front. In the long run, it may be more cost-effective to purchase a higher quality tire based on multiple factors like increased safety, improved handling and ride quality, as well as cost per mile.

Vehicle Specifications

Tire specifications can vary depending on the type of car you own. For electric vehicles and vehicles carrying heavy loads, it’s critical to know how much weight your tires can safely support. Only install tires that meet or exceed the load requirements for your ride.

Wear and Age

Two of the most important considerations when replacing tires are tread depth and tire age.

Your tires’ tread depth directly impacts your vehicle’s ability to stop. Tires are reaching the end of their life at 4/32 inches of tread. However, your tires may be underperforming even if more tread remains, particularly in rain or extreme weather conditions.

When it comes to replacing your tires, you should also consider their age. Because the materials used break down over time, experts recommend replacing tires that are six years or more past the date of manufacture.

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Destinations

Singapore Cable Car launches world’s first Skyorb Cabins

Exclusively designed for the Singapore Cable Car, the SkyOrb Cabin is the world’s first chrome-finished spherical cable car cabin. Unlike conventional cabins, the spherical design of the SkyOrb Cabins breaks the boundaries of traditional cable car aesthetics, offering a futuristic and captivating look.

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Mount Faber Leisure Group officially launched the new futuristic SkyOrb Cabins on the Singapore Cable Car – Mount Faber Line. The launch of the SkyOrb Cabins took place at Mount Faber Peak, as part of the Singapore Cable Car’s 50th anniversary celebrations. The event was attended by Bob Tan, Chairman of Sentosa Development Corporation and Thien Kwee Eng, Chief Executive Officer of Sentosa Development Corporation, as well as Michael Syn, Chairman of Mount Faber Leisure Group and Buhdy Bok, Managing Director of Mount Faber Leisure Group.

SkyOrb Cabins – A cabin like no other in the world

Exclusively designed for the Singapore Cable Car, the SkyOrb Cabin is the world’s first chrome-finished spherical cable car cabin. Unlike conventional cabins, the spherical design of the SkyOrb Cabins breaks the boundaries of traditional cable car aesthetics, offering a futuristic and captivating look.

The SkyOrb cabin boasts a spectacular view through its glass-bottomed floor

Fitted with glass-bottomed floors to allow guests to view the scenery below their feet, the new cabins offer guests an elevated journey with a stunning panoramic view of the skyline. As night falls, a captivating ring of lights surrounds the cabin windows, casting an illuminating glow that imparts a distinctly futuristic ambience. 

The SkyOrb Cabins have been thoughtfully designed with double window louvres at the front and triple window louvres at the rear, providing enhanced air ventilation for guests on board. To offer an exclusive experience, only seven SkyOrb Cabins will join the existing fleet, enriching the vibrancy of the Sentosa skyline. 

SkyOrb Cabin on the Mount Faber Line

“Each SkyOrb cabin, a gleaming chrome orb soaring through the sky, embodies modern design. These cabins offer guests a one-of-a-kind experience, taking them on a discovery between Mount Faber Peak and Sentosa, unveiling breathtaking views along the way,” said Mr Buhdy Bok, Managing Director of Mount Faber Leisure Group.

Collaboratively designed between Mount Faber Leisure Group and renowned cable car cabin manufacturer CWA, the SkyOrb Cabins showcase product innovation and commitment to creating new unique experiences for guests. Based in Olten, Switzerland, CWA has enjoyed a long partnership with Mount Faber Leisure Group since the first generation of the Singapore Cable Car cabins was launched in 1974.

The SkyOrb Cabins will be open for guests to experience from 20 March 2024 and tickets will be available for sale at the Singapore Cable Car Mount Faber and Sentosa Station ticketing counters from the same day. Mount Faber Line and Cable Car Sky Pass ticket holders have the privilege of upgrading one-way of their round trip (between Mount Faber and Sentosa Cable Car Stations) to a SkyOrb Cabin experience. This upgrade costs $15 per person on weekdays, and $20 per person on weekends and Public Holidays.

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Destinations

Japan ranks as top leisure travel destination for Filipino travellers: Visa study

According to the data, 24% of surveyed Filipino respondents have traveled overseas for leisure or business purposes in the past year. This trend aligns with a broader travel resurgence across Asia Pacific, with 37% of those surveyed reporting overseas travels within the same period.

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Visa, a global player in digital payments, has published its most recent Green Shoots Radar study[1]. This quarterly report analyzes consumer sentiments across various sectors, such as financial services, commerce, and travel.

The study reveals a surge in travel frequency among Filipino travelers. According to the data, 24% of surveyed Filipino respondents have traveled overseas for leisure or business purposes in the past year. This trend aligns with a broader travel resurgence across Asia Pacific, with 37% of those surveyed reporting overseas travels within the same period.

Japan emerged as the top leisure destination for Filipino travelers, with 32% visiting in the past year. Singapore (22%) followed by Hong Kong (21%) and Thailand (18%) were the next most popular destinations. For business trips, Singapore led the list with 25%, followed by Japan (23%), and the United States tied with Hong Kong at 18%.

Filipino travelers prefer to book flight tickets directly from the provider’s website (44%). Among those respondents who booked their accommodations through Online Travel Agencies and paid the full amount upon booking, using credit cards is the most popular payment mode (41%), followed by mobile/e-wallets (28%).

Jeff Navarro, Country Manager for Visa Philippines, said, “As cross-border travel gains momentum in the Philippines and the region, we have a significant opportunity to maintain visibility throughout travelers’ journeys. This involves being present during destination searches and bookings, using Visa cards on travel apps for smoother transactions, and engaging consumers with authentic travel and shopping content to create a secure and seamless digital payments experience for everyone, everywhere.”

The future of travel remains promising, with 65% of Filipino respondents planning overseas leisure travel in the next 12 months. The top three leisure destinations intended in the next 12 months are Japan (38%), followed by South Korea (29%) and Singapore (16%). For business travel, Japan (19%), Canada (13%), and South Korea (12%) are the most likely destinations.

According to Visa’s Global Travel Intentions 2023 study[2], majority (89%) of Filipino travelers used credit (44%) and debit (39%) cards when travelling, for the benefits of cards’ wide acceptance (56%), accepted at ATMs (49%), and ability to be used both online and within apps (43%).

Visa’s most recent Consumer Payment Attitudes 2023 study[3] data also reflect cards as the preferred mode of payment when travelling, where 25% of surveyed Filipinos use credit or debit cards online and 21% use via swipe or insert when traveling overseas.


[1] The Green Shoots Radar survey was conducted online in 14 markets covering more than 8,000 respondents, including 500 consumers in the Philippines in January 2024, towards male and female respondents aged 18-65 with a minimum household income of PHP 12,000.

[2] The Global Travel Intentions Study is the largest and longest running global consumer insights program from Visa, which surveys travelers across continents on their travel journey and payment behavior. The study was conducted across April-June 2023 to more than 1,000 Filipino respondents.

[3] The Visa Consumer Payment Attitudes Study was conducted in Oct-Nov 2023 via online interviews with 1.000 Filipino consumers across the country with a demographic mix of ages (18-65), genders and income levels.

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