April 15, 2004 (STAR) By Julie Gorospe-Ibuan - "Protected area", refers to an identified portion of the land and water set aside by reasons of its unique physical and biological significance, managed to enhance biological diversity and protected againsts destructive human exploitation.

Referring to the definition, President Arroyo through the recommendation of DENR Secretary Elisea G. Gozun, recently signed Presidential Proclamation 548, declaring Quirino as a protected area in line with the provision of Republic Act No. 7586, known as the National Integrated Protected Areas System (NIPAS Act of 1992).

The proclamation has raised the province to a level of national significance. Quirino Province, known to many as the "Unexplored Paradise of the North", is peculiar by its nature. The essence of why a certain place is categorized as protected landscape is the existence of a harmonious interaction between man and land as it provides enjoyment for the public through recreation and tourism within the bounds of normal economic activity of the area.

A Closer Glimpse Of Quirino

It would take a traveler from Manila about 6-7 hours by bus to reach the province. The province, located in the southern part of Cagayan Valley is bounded by Isabela on the north, Quezon on the east, and Nueva Vizcaya on the southwest.

Five municipalities namely, Diffun, Cabarroguis, Aglipay, Maddela and Nagtipunan make up Quirino province. The 3,057.20 – square kilometer total land area of the province is about 80 percent mountains and hills while the rest of the land area are valleys and plains. The provincial capital is Cabarroguis, named after the late Congressman Leon Cabarroguis.

The province is endowed with its intact ecosystems and tourist attractions such as the enchanting natural caves found in Diffun, Aglipay and Saguday, the fascinating water falls in the thick forest of Don Mariano Perez, and the breathtaking crystal clear and blue waters suitable for rafting. It is also alluring to see the "Bmapor" – a ship – shaped rock formation and the awesome Perpendicular Wall both located in the Municipality of Nagtipunan. The place is also ideal for picknickers and hikers specially in Nagbukel Hill – barely four kilometers from the capital.

The mountains and hilly parts of Quirino are still vastly covered by old growth forest with endangered species of flora and fauna.

Quirino As Protected Landscape

About 67 percent or 206,875 hectares of the province’s total land area is covered by the Quirino Protected Landscape.

One gets a feeling of relief upon knowing that despite our vanishing forests, Quirino province boasts of a 60 percent tropical rainforest with hardwood species such as Philippine mahogany, red lauan, tanguile, mayapis, apitong and bagtikan which are used for multistorey systems, boat and ship building. Logs are used in the manufacture of veneers and for panelling.

Premium species also abound in the area like our very own national tree- Narra. Narra is best for furniture making. It is excellent for making cabinets, table tops, piano cases and sala sets. It also has medicinal value because its root juice can be used for syphilitic sores. Young leaves can also be applied to ripen boils and ulcers. It contains kino or gum which is a well known Malay medicine for diarrhea and dysentery after being purified by boiling and subsequent drying. Other premium tree species in Quirino forests are Molave and Almaciga species.

Adding more to the biological component of the province are threatened species such as the world famous Philippine Eagle, Philippine Hawk Eagle, Philippine Eagle Owl and Philippine Dwarf Kingfisher. The Philippine Eagle is normally seen in Mt. Anakwaw and Palali – both along the Mamparang range.

The Haribon Foundation and Birdlife International identified the province as one of the 117 important bird area in the country. The Philippine Biodiversity – Conservation Priority Setting Program of the Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau together with the Conservation International and the University of the Philippines – Center for Integrative and Development Studies identified Quirino Province as one of the 170 priority terrestrial areas for conservation and classified as one of the extremely critical areas for conservation.

It is likewise, noted that threatened mammals and reptiles species are recorded to exist such as the Philippine pygmy fruit bat, the Luzon pygmy fruit bat, the grays monitor Lizard and the cantor’s giant softshell turtle.

The presence of several river systems spark great interest in the Quirino Landscape. These rivers are the habitat of the rare fresh water fish Ludong Cetraues plicatilis. The fish is endemic but threatened due to a heavy fishing. The local inhabitats and those who have had the opportunity to taste Ludong, take pride in saying that the fish is delicious. Being endemic, threatened and comes out seasonally, Ludong is considered precious and expensive. It is highly prized with prices pegged at P2,000-P3,000 per kilo.

Ethno-Socio Significance

Prior to the creation of Quirino as a province, the forest human inhabitants then were mostly the Ilongots and Dumagats better known as the Negritos. It was also recorded that the Agtas and Bugkalots were the two early ethnic groups that inhabited the area. Eventually, migrants were attracted to the area due to homestead opportunities such as farming, fishing, gold panning and, hunting among others. Regardless of whichever the early and present inhabitants are, they are naturally bound by a common dialect-Ilokano.

In 1966, Quirino was still a sub-province of Nueva Vizcaya in honor of President Elpidio Quirino, the fifth president of our country. As a sub-province it then embraced the municipalities of Diffun, Saguday, Aglipay and Madella. Barely three years after, by virtue of Republic Act No. 5554, the municipality Cabarroguis was created from portions of Aglipay and Diffun. Quirino as a separate province was enacted on September 10, 1971.

As one sets foot on Quirino province, one sees the need to protect the area from the hands of greedy and insatiable humans. Destruction and exploitation have to be stopped to save the natural beauty of the place.

No doubt everyone agrees that Quirino province ought to be conserved and protected because it is the home of endemic, threatened flora and fauna which inevitably give life and sustain the productivity of the Cagayan Valley region.

Indeed, the value of the proclamation is not limited only towards the conservation and protection of the endemic and threatened flora and fauna.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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