Note: Mr. Reece Simon P. Reyes, Grade 9A reflects on his experience of his Eco-Spiritual Pilgrimage in Cagayan de Oro City last 28 August – 2 September 2015. His reflection will be heard by the entire Ateneo High School community today, Monday, 21 September 2015. The Eco-Spiritual Pilgrimage is a Socio-Spiritual Cluster activity and includes not just the religious organizations but also the Ignatian Youth Campers of 2015. Thus it is a program of both the Ateneo High School’s APFor Council and the Jesuit Basic Education Commission’s Formation Cluster.
Mountains dotted with pine trees, towering cliffs of volcanic rock and petrified seashells, giant clams jutting out from the sea floor, within the span of just three days, I was able to see these and more during the Eco-Spiritual Pilgrimage to Cagayan de Oro. Just an hour and a half long flight from Manila was a region where I felt a breeze stronger than any air-con could have given me, towers of rock that no man could have built, and an ocean full of life larger than any swimming pool I’ve ever seen.
Our dormitories were also close to nature, it was located at Ateneo de Cagayan’s Manresa Farm, a plot of land dedicated to agriculture located at the heart of the urban city of Cagayan de Oro.
On our first day, our group went to the mountains to go zip-lining in Dahilayan Adventure Park. As I zoomed through the air on a line almost a kilometer long, I felt the coolness of the mountain air and the cool drizzle of the small rains clouds above me, all of this, not to mention my fear of heights, made my skin freeze by the time we were finished. Despite this, I was able to admire the view of pine trees and rolling hills.
The next day, we braved the rapids of the Cagayan de Oro River, experiencing the rush of a rollercoaster and looking at awe at the cliffs of volcanic rock and petrified sea shells. These were natural formations carved by the river towering above us like skyscrapers. Around us were hundreds of creatures such as water skidders, Balanac Fish, our guide explained.
On the last day we headed out into the ocean. From the small fishing port in Cagayan de Oro, we took a boat to Agutayan Island early in the morning of August 31. A protected life sanctuary, this island, which in actuality is a sandbar, is protected by the local government of the area, and also by the Marine Station of Xavier University. Located here are numerous fish, coral, anemone, sea cucumbers and sea stars. The defining feature of the island however is the colony of giant sea clams being bred by Xavier University.
All these amazing works of God however are in danger.
Throughout the entire trip, we were told accounts of a chain reaction of events that could lead to the entire area’s destruction. Up in the mountains is the threat of illegal logging due to an increase in the demand for wood. Logging creates a fine dust from the wood, which travels down into the river through the mountain streams. In the river, humongous chunks of rock recently fell into the water, destroying parts of the river and the mountains. This is due to the increasing strength of the storms passing through the area, causing water to seep into the rocks, adding weight to them and ultimately causing them to fall into the river with huge force, as our guide said. The dust from the rivers and mountains then empties out into the ocean causing its waters to be contaminated by the dark particles.
What is God trying to tell us through His beautiful works? We are becoming too selfish; our greed leads us to destroy our own home, slowly destroying it bit by bit. Our mountains may crumble, our rivers may dry up, and our seas may turn into murky waters if we don’t save it.
We, as children of God, are tasked to be guardians of His creation. We are called to be responsible as citizens of the Earth. God is calling us, from the largest mountains, down to the smallest molecule, to save our own planet, even in the smallest ways, for even the simplest acts may change the course of history.
Loving Father, we are grateful for your gifts of creation, ever-changing and ever-growing around us. God, help us see the beauty of the world, give us grateful hearts. Help us to use the gifts of the world with care and moderation. Loving God, help us review how we live in the world, how we use its gifts and we contribute to its life. May we be aware of the things we have done, the opportunities we may have missed and how we may have harmed it. Give us the vision of a brighter future and lead us to do more for Your creation. Amen.