Imagine being in a 330,300-hectare nature park – home to 215 bird species, 38 mammal species, 51 reptile and amphibian species, and over 1,000 species of plants – overlooking thick tropical forests and inhaling the freshest of air at the height of the summer season.  Tempted to pack your bags and book a flight? Unfortunately, you can’t. 

Like all tourist spots around the globe, the Samar Island Natural Park (SINP) closed down and experienced a huge drop in visitors as the COVID-19 crisis crept in dramatically. Outdoor getaways suddenly became a distant dream as the world stood still for over two months now.

Photo courtesy: Lemuel Palajero

Nestled in the vast natural park in Samar is the Paranas Ecotrail and Birding Site, an assisted project of Bantay Kalikasan, the environmental program of ABS-CBN Foundation.  

This paradise offers a number of activities that make one appreciate the second largest terrestrial-protected area from within its forests.

It has a 1-km trek tour activity with five pit-stops that showcase the area’s flora and fauna and its endemic species. There’s also a viewing deck in one of the stations for tourists to witness SINP’s rolling terrain, observe the birds and hear their sweet humming. 

In the last station, they built three tree houses made of indigenous materials, two of which are interconnected with a 30-meter hanging bridge. One can also sit peacefully in a meditation area and just take in the surrounding’s natural beauty.  

Photo courtesy: Lemuel Palajero

Unfortunately, the ecotrail is currently closed due to the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) — just when its community is looking forward to another season of income-generating months that could have benefited hundreds of families.

The Tenani Association for Women and Development (TAWAD), an organization engaged in child protection and human trafficking, is the group that operates and manages the Paranas Ecotrail and Birding Site together with Tour Guides and Boat Operators for River Protection and Environmental Development Organization (TORPEDO). Because of the ECQ, members of the group lost opportunities to earn a living. Nevertheless, some of them took this as another chance to be of service to others, most especially to their ka-barangay.