By: Ellaine Kryss Hubilla
Mt. Purro Nature Reserve is a 36-hectare park comprising thousands of trees, plants, and various eco-friendly amenities located in the mountains of Calawis, Antipolo Rizal. This eco-park was started by Toto Malvar and is now run by the whole family.
Inspired by his mother and grandfather who were also environmentalists at heart, Toto Malvar launched a privately-sponsored reforestation project a couple of decades ago in hopes of rehabilitating the degraded Upper Marikina Watershed, using Mount Purro as the identified primary site.
In a few years, Malvar was able to grow and maintain 700,000 trees. However, due to the isolated location of the mountain, natives in the area struggled to make a living which made them resort to small-scale illegal logging, kaingin farming, and charcoal making. At this point, Toto Malvar realized that before one can take care of the environment, people from that certain area must have sustainable livelihood.
Because of this, Malvar created the Mt. Purro Nature Reserve. It started from a small nipa hut where families can enjoy their time together and engage in various activities like hiking and swimming, It also became a social enterprise that would provide a livelihood to locals with the goal of stopping these people from doing environmentally-degrading activities.
From the total land area of 36 hectares, only eight-hectares has been dedicated to operation facilities while the rest are maintained as a natural environment.
The paradise in the foothill of Sierra Madre
Mt. Purro Nature Reserve offers amenities that will help guests connect not only with nature, and with their companions. The place has a swimming pool area that can be enjoyed by both children and adults.
Pathways through the forest are almost everywhere. This basic yet important feature of the eco-park is that it will give you a first-hand experience of nature. As you walk through the paths, the aroma of forest trees, sounds of chirping birds, and fresh cool winds will accompany you along the way.
Aside from the swimming pool and pathways, there is also a playground for both children and adults. The pavilion in Mt. Purro and the open garden space where guests can build tents are also perfect for team building activities.
These accommodations sound good already, but there’s more than an eco-park like Mt. Purro can offer. It has its own organic garden dedicated to growing vegetables and fruit trees like cotton fruit, rambutan, and others.
TJ Malvar, one of the family members who helps run the eco-park and who recently launched a social enterprise that helps local farmers and marginalized communities, shared that harvests will be part of their guests’ meals, but if there’s really a lot of supply, they sell it to customers or give them to whoever needs it.
Although Mt. Purro is an eco-park, it also has a hotel that focuses on nature. It does not have air-conditioned rooms because the management promotes a sustainable lifestyle. Fortunately, due to the many trees in the area, it can be really cold during the night, which helps guests enjoy their stay.
Families, friends, couples, and company employees who are celebrating their team building activities are usually the target market of Mt. Purro Nature Reserve.
Making the most of what’s available
Mt. Purro is for folks who want to experience the outdoors in all its glory, even if this means having to forego some urban luxuries. For one thing, it’s location in the mountainous areas of Antipolo Rizal makes it hard to reach. This was especially true as early as a decade ago when infrastructure was not as advanced as today and traveling to far places was a challenge.
Fortunately, because of some improvements in roads and highways, it is now easier for guests to reach Mt. Purro and for that reason, their market has also expanded.
Water shortage is another thing guests will have to take into consideration. Since there is a limited water supply, the management cannot provide guests with bath towels. Despite this, they have complete bathing facilities. It’s just that they ask guests to bring their own towels because they are reserving the water supply that would have been used to launder them for other use. This is the reason why they ask for some understanding from guests and future visitors.
During the COVID-19 crisis, as community lockdowns were implemented, Mt. Purro Nature Reserve was one of those businesses that was affected. The Mt. Purro Nature Reserve used to earn enough money to sustain their day-to-day operations, but due to the pandemic, Malvar sadly shared that there has been no revenue since the quarantine period started. Nonetheless, with the savings that they have, they used the time to conduct renovations of facilities such as the dining area, which they relocated outdoors for a more spacious facility that can adapt to emerging social distancing protocols. Moreover, staff also underwent training that will improve their service skills.
As of now, the plan that they have is to reopen the eco-park in accordance with whatever rules are in place post COVID-19. Moreover, Malvar also expressed the importance of food security during this pandemic. From here, they are planning to convert some garden areas into a vegetable farm. Instead of planting flowering plants, they will go into intensive vegetable farming.
Photos courtesy of Mt. Purro Nature Reserve
For more information visit Mt. Purro Nature Reserve on Facebook.
This article appeared in Agriculture Monthly’s July to August 2020 issue.