Bulan, Sorsogon, October 10, 2009: “Grabe an tawo! Gulpi an tawo niyan! Mas daghan niyan kaysa last year!” Overwhelming! It was the Woodstock, Bulan Version! These were the remarks heard from organizers, media reporters, traffic enforcers and observers as thousands of Bulan citizens turned up to attend various activities in celebration of, and in response to the call of Mayor Helen De Castro to, the 2009 Fiesta sa Kabubudlan (Feast of the Mountains) held on October 9-10, at the Bulan Ecopark in Barangay Calomagon. This is the sixth year of this kind since the Lady Mayor started it all in 2004. Observers estimate that over eight thousand people came to the celebration. An average of five thousand people used to come to the Ecopark celebration during the last five years. But this time even the parking lots were more than jampacked and authorities have to locate a new site for the vehicles.
As early as Thursday, a day before formal activities were to begin, groups of young people were already setting up camps and pitching tents, even as LGU organizers were making final preparations for the busy two days ahead. Enterprising citizens , with their panindas, were already busy selling goods to the early comers.
By Friday morning, a steady stream of vehicles and people, some hiking, braving the dust, made way to the Ecopark, about seven kilometers away from the town center. It was a good and busy day for many tricycle drivers fetching passengers. This went on until midnight. Traffic was busiest between 3:00 PM until ten in the evening.
Young and old, students and teachers, barangay officials tugging along their residents, boys and girls scouts, families, along with their children, even babies and toddlers, visitors from the neighboring towns of Juban, Matnog and Irosin came. Groups of youngsters from barangays Casini and San Agustin, in Irosin registered their attendance. As of eight in the evening, registration officers already recorded 156 groups and organizations. Many more were coming and many others missed the registration. An Israeli tourist came and stayed during the festivities. Tents and huts soon filled up the designated camping area. The camp area already filled up, many decided to pitch their tents, even in undesignated areas. One teacher commented that , “ Baga ini an Family Day, a Youth Day, an Environmentalist’s Day all rolled into one.”
Traffic Safety officers, with the assistance of police interns from the Solis Institute of Technology, Barangay Tanods and other volunteers were kept busy all throughout. Police authorites from the Bulan Municipal Police Station and the 509th PPMG kept the peace and order. The Rural Health Unit First Aid Team and the Bulan Rescue Team were on hand to assist people in need. The LGU ambulance stood nearby. The Kabalikat Civicom, and other civic groups like BANWA, BEAT and Uswag-Bulan, were on hand to extend assistance to the participants. The Bulan Fil-Chinese Volunteers Fire Brigade did their share by keeping the roads watered and freed off dust near the Ecopark. Despite the stream of vehicles traveling back and forth the site, not a single accident or untoward incident was recorded. Everything went according to public order and safety plans.
After lunch, even before the Opening Ceremonies, the organizers already conducted the “Laro ng Lahi” contests like Palosebo, Tubi-Tubi-ay, and other local and traditional games.
At the Opening Program, municipal officials led by Mayor Helen De Castro,together with Vice-Mayor Manuel Gogola and the Sangguniang Bayan Members, formally declared the Fiesta open. The Governor sent her representative, Dr. Librada Esplana. The speakers spoke on the need to avert Global Warming and Climate Change, and the tragic experiences from calamities as a result of unwanton destruction of the environment. Mayor De Castro exhorted the participants that before they were to plant the seedlings the next day, they have to offer prayers of hope and, thanksgiving to God. She said that this environment activity should not end with the tree-planting activity, but rather, participants should, when they come down the Ecopark, bring along with them that aspiration and desire to help Mother Earth, by planting trees anywhere they can, especially in their own backyard. She said that this environment activity is more of an advocacy, a movement, an educational venture on the ecology. Cultural numbers were also presented. The “Fiesta sa Kabubudlan” March or Theme Song, written and composed by Mr. Edwin Gloriane, was played for the first time. Once legislated, this shall be the official song of the annual celebration.
Mayor Benito Doma of Prieto-Diaz town and Visitors from the Department of Science and Technology (DOST)-Los Banos came. They gave lectures and workshops to the Bulan audience. Mayor Doma, an awardee-mayor, lectured on Mangrove Reforestation , while the DOST researchers, Dr. Emelyne Cortiguerra and Mr. Eduard Bonong, gave lectures and demos on charcoal bricketting, an alternative form of livelihood, instead of cutting trees for charcoal. It was attended by members from NGO’s and cooperatives in Bulan.
In the evening, a pageant in search of the “Diyosa ng Kalikasan” was conducted. It focused on awareness for the environment. Also named were the “Diwata ng Hangin”, “Diwata ng Tubig”, “Diwata ng Kabundukan”. Seven beautiful contestants represented their schools. Winner as Diyosa ng Kalikasan was Lily-Ann Gaton of Alcoba National HS. Named as Diwatas were Patricia Molina of SLI-KRAMS, Jeneza Bon of JP Laurel HS, and Margie Mirabel of Magic 5 Organization. In order to participate in this pageant, the representative had to register by way of contributing twenty seedlings to the organizers. The gowns donned by the contestants were from recycled indigenous materials.
After the pageant search, a ten-minute fireworks display wowed the entire camp. A disco-dancing, attended by hundreds of people followed. It went on until dawn of the next day. Even as other activities were going on, every place in the Ecopark was filled with people just enjoying, singing, strolling, playing, or promenading. The clear moonlit sky even brightened the celebration.
At 6:30 o’clock on Saturday, a Holy Mass of Thanksgiving, presided by the Bulan Parish Priest, Fr. Ernie Mendina, was celebrated. Mayor Helen de Castro and the municipal officials, employees and the participants were in attendance.
The highlight of the celebration, the tree-planting activity after the Holy Mass was a rare experience to many, even emotional and poignant, as adults overhear children and youngsters, heeding the appeal of Mayor De Castro, whispering to the plants and to the soil, and praying, as they plant their seedlings. One Boy Scout was overheard, “ Sana tabi mawara na an mga baha sa Bulan.” Another, “Please tabi, ayaw na pagpabagyuha sa Pilipinas, kay kairuman san mga Pilipino!” Another girl, prayed, “Sige ha, pagbalik namo otro taun kisyera maimud ko ikaw na dako na na puno.” The more than one-hectare land prepared for planting by the MENRO and the GSO was not enough space for planting, as other participants simply helped together carefully handle one seedling to be planted. It became more of a symbolic action to many, even as they promised to instead plant trees in their own communities. The organizers did not expect nor anticipate the great increase in the number of participants this year. They promised a bigger planting areas next year. The garbage site-turned Ecopark is a 14.5-hectare lot donated by the late Ambassador and Mrs. Tomas G. De Castro, uncle-and-aunt-in-law of Mayor De Castro.
After the Tree-planting activity, a kite-flying contest was conducted. Twelve beautiful kites, expertly crafted by members of the competing groups, were pitted against each other. The winner was from Team Barangay Inararan, led by Team Leader Robert Cadag. They won P2,000. Runners-up were from Team Barangay Zone 8, and Team Danao National High School.
Even as the majority of the attendees already packed up by midday, many others opted to stay a little longer to enjoy the surroundings of the camp. Mayor De Castro and the employees thanked everybody and she personally saw to it that everybody was safely on the way home upon leaving camp. The campers enthusiastically promised Mayor de Castro that they shall continue cooperating with her leadership and programs even as they profusedly thanked her for the great and unique experience, and that they anticipate a bigger celebration next year. The Mayor also thanked the municipal employees for the excellent, accident-free and peaceful celebration. Of particular mention, the Mayor acknowledged the Municipal Environment and Natural Resources under Ms. Kelly Tan, the foremost department involved in the organization of the event. She noted of the professionalism and devotion to work of the municipal employees who helped her achieve a goal in public service, even as she emphasized that this is an unending crusade to save the environment.
All the four Bulan radio stations gave full coverage to the event. Thus giving the other citizens all over Bulan a chance to monitor everything that was taking place in the Ecopark.