Density Is Such A Not-So-Lonely Word

 

Population, when unchecked, increases in a geometrical ratio.

– Thomas Malthus

Most of us always have that love-hate relationship with Metro Manila. Inasmuch as we hate the perennial traffic, flooding, and congestion, if you happen to live in the Metro, chances are, you’ll miss them all. Metro Manila is becoming denser as years progress. As a matter of fact, it is 62 times denser than the national average (PSA, 2012). Yeah as if it’s still a surprise to anyone. In 2015, 12.8 million strong sharing the same air, land, road, water table, and that’s exclusive of the tourists, visitors, and transients visiting the big Metro. Metro Manila is almost the size of Chad, an African country. It is double the size of Denmark. While 12.8 million people is quite a story, congestion of people in the Metro is another interesting plot to see.

So, the question is where do our fellows settle most at? We’re quite sure that they don’t live on the river but along the rivers. You can go to Quiapo or Tondo and feel the dizzy sweat of your instant pals inside your personal bubble. Or sleep through the calm charm of large open spaces in UP Diliman and Katipunan. There is black, white, and a wide spectrum of gray when we speak of density of Metro Manila. I therefore thought of possibly visualizing the 2015 population of Metro Manila based on PSA (Philippine Statistics Authority) but put it with a twist.

Not A Rocket Science

Hey this is not some sort of rocket science, physics, or some study of entropy. This is basically plain visualization of population. The most realistic method is to illustrate the population through dots in the map. But sure, the map will basically be a plain-filled color because 12.8 million dots will fill the map. So I represented each green dot = 100 people in every barangay.

Is that it? Not so fast. Each dot will randomly fill the barangay space, that is, if barangays have no waterways, restricted spaces, etc. But that’s not the case. So, I tapped all known large open spaces and waterways that would be impossible for people to settle at and restricted the random dot to be placed there. I think that’s quite logical enough. I would have wanted to do the opposite on the existing roads; that is, gather the random dots to nearest highways, roads, alleys, and waterways, but I think that would require me more time since we are talking more than 5,000 kilometers of road, barangay and subdivision roads not counted yet. That’s quite a lot. So I think I’m ready. Here’s the result:

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An illustration of population growth in Metro Manila for every decade from 1990 to 2010, and 2015.

So, did you find your community? I found mine, quite true. Check yours.

A GIF Says A Thousand Words

Perhaps a moment of glance on the gif would tell us something:

  1. City of Manila is indeed the densest extending to Caloocan City (South) – with its historical role in the development of the country, it is no surprise that Manila continues to be among the densest in the country. Historical landmarks, universities, diverse services, commerce & trade, hawker shops, tiangges, transportation hub, and squatters are among the push factors in this city.
  2. Barangays along Pasig river have the densest population – does Mesopotamia ring a bell? Ting!! But this is another kind. People in Mesopotamia directly benefit from the Tigris and Euphrates. Here in Pasig River, I am not sure. We do not want to eat or drink something that came directly from Pasig River. Perhaps because the setbacks and communities along the river were among the neglected spaces by the local government thus easily occupied by informal settlers and communities.
  3. Decade 2000s marked the steady growth of south and north Manila – When the city of Manila started to deteriorate in 1970’s to 1980’s, then incoming Generation X’ers (babies of baby boomers who loved the imperial Manila) learned that city of Manila is no longer the pearl of Philippines. They started moving out to suburbs – thus BF Homes, Ayala Alabang, Moonwalk, Merville in the south, Corinthian Gardens, San Juan Greenhills and Loyola Grand Villas in the north were among the pioneer communities wherein considered fringes during 1990s. Moving forward, the fringes extended up to the borders of Metro Manila – North Caloocan extending to Bulacan in the north, and Muntinlupa extending to Cavite in the south. You will also observe the sudden increase in Batasan area in QC; perhaps that was during Erap and GMA’s relocation programs to Montalban (Rodriguez) thus directly covering the Batasan transportation belt.
  4. We seriously lack open spaces – large open spaces which serve as breathing lungs of Metro Manila are Rizal Park in Manila, Quezon Memorial Park (which is gradually becoming built up), UP Diliman campus, Ateneo de Manila campus in Quezon City, Ayala Triangle in Makati, and the Lamesa Dam Reservoir within the boundaries of Quezon City, Caloocan, and Rodriguez Rizal. More than these large breathing spaces, we need pocket open spaces that will serve population in every accessible way.

What’s Next?

I was not able to include Marilao & San Jose del Monte in Bulacan, Rodriguez & Antipolo in Rizal, Imus & Bacoor in Cavite, and San Pedro & Santa Rosa in Laguna on the map but they’re actually the next population giants.

Whether Metro Manila subway is on its way to Philippine infra scene, or Marcoses are on their grand return come next election, or BPO is still alive in the next 10 years, population is bound to grow, though there’s a diminishing marginal rate, we still tend to enjoy the country’s young population until the next 25 years. If current planned infrastructure will continue, I think, Metro Manila will start regressing population growth due to its continuous urbanization while fringes will continue to grow. That is, I’m speaking of decades of population changes, and I think that’s not gonna happen in the nearest future.

References:

Philippine Statistics Authority. (2016, May 31). Population of the National Capital Region. Retrieved April 2017, from Philippine Statistics Authority: https://psa.gov.ph/content/population-national-capital-region-based-2015-census-population-0

Philippine Statistics Authority. (2012, April 4). The 2010 Census of Population and Housing Reveals the Philippine Population at 92.34 Million. Retrieved April 2017, from Philippine Statistics Authority: https://psa.gov.ph/content/2010-census-population-and-housing-reveals-philippine-population-9234-million

 

Pullin’ Off that Pulag Pool

Mountain hiking is so appreciated nowadays that I myself felt the urge to climb the highest peak in Luzon. Towering at 2,922m AMSL, climbing Mt. Pulag is no joke. More than the needed agility to brave the steep slopes, one should be ready enough for at least five-hour walk ascent while catching up with the thin air at a cold atmosphere, and another five-hour walk and some hours of rest and taking pictures descent the mountain. Albeit its altitude and cold atmosphere, the mountain enthralls the mountaineers and hobbyists alike to climb the mountain, and if luck allows, a sea of cloud is waiting for you to be more mesmerized while biting your teeth due to sharp blows of the wind.

Before I start telling my Pulag stories, I took the liberty of plotting our path and reflecting it on a 3D map for me to able to understand further the geology and environment of the mountain. I tried to look for a plugin which could read a raw 3D version of the file I did for better appreciation of the terrain but I can’t find any. Hence, this lame picture.

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Simple 3D rendering of Mt. Pulag with Ambangeg trail (yellow line) and several camps (green, blue, and red; Camps 1, 2, and 3 respectively)

The yellow line is our track which took us about 5 hours to walk ascent and around 5 hours descent. Since we’re all newbies in hike and I’m not into promising and professional hiking, we took the easiest path – Ambangeg Trail. Seen in yellow line on the image.

<note: this section will discuss how mountains are formed, you may skip this paragraph if you hate history, geology, and science>

Mt. Pulag is just among the lively and vibrant mountains in the Cordilleras. Millions of years ago, during those era when humans were still inconceivable, mountains were just two flat continental crusts separated by oceanic crust. A continental crust is like a landmass floor the earth which oceanic crust is the earth floor oceans. Since continental crusts are lighter than oceanic crust. One continental crust subducts itself under the oceanic crust thereby creating a layer of elevated landforms stretching the whole continental crust. I am not sure but I think Mt. Pulag is formed through the Kayapa fault system.

When landforms are formed, plants and birds shall form their habitat in wherever they are possible to survive and thrive. With the non-challenging seasons of the country, i.e. Wet and dry season, diverse plant and animal species have formed in the ranges. Due to its enormous altitude, the life forms have adapted to each altitude category with which they fit.

<end of Geology lecture>

People in this barangay carry a good vibe attitude. Well that’s actually a common atmosphere in provinces. Fiscal affairs are not a thing, and it’s cool.

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Organic crops by local farmers. Taken during our first day at the homestay with an altitude of ~2,321m

Fronting our homestay is this beautiful, definitely organic, veggie plantation. They produce leafy veggies such as pechay and root crop such as carrots. I’m still quite awed with the strength of the old folks here. Some are almost or more than 50 I think? Yet they can flexibly squat and effortlessly sow their crops whole day.

Teasing us with a cold wind, and with an approximately of 2,300m of altitude, and a very quiet atmosphere farm, I felt the relaxing feeling I’ve been needing.

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When you brought your millennial behavior to the mountains. Taken at the homestay with an altitude of ~2,321m

Dishes are also very local, native, and organic. Our lunch was Adobo, it was awesome. We requested for a Tinolang Manok for our 2nd day lunch and they granted it. Hihi. #perks

The Hike

Our preparation started at around 11pm in our homestay. Checking every backpack we have, hiking gears – check. Candies – check. Water – check. Emergency kits – check. Flashlight – check. It was exciting and thrilling at the same time. I am not really into hiking so I know my limits and capacity. In case I cannot make it, I can simply wait at a nearby stop and wait for the descent – I thought. That calms me every hike.

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The infamous “sea of clouds”. If you will notice the small dot on the lower left of the image, that’s an alive human being. Imagine the scale. Taken at the summit with an altitude of 2,922m AMLS

After 5 hours of walk, talk, walk, rest, walk, and more walk, we finally reached the summit. Lucky enough, it was a cloudy weekend in Pulag thus exhibited a sea of cloud at the peak. Damn, it was heavenly, and legen.. wait for it.. dary! This was around 5:40-6:00 AM, just in time when sunrise was bathing on the sea of clouds.

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Enter a caption

Pictures and more pictures. Turn around. Pictures. and more pictures.

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The sunrise shot where the universe bombarded us with tsunami of clouds and freezing cold wind. Taken at the summit.

 

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Another epic view of the ridges of Mt. Pulag. This is the mountain when facing northwest. Taken from the summit.

Shrubs..

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This will be the start of the long walk. I took this upon descent from the summit which was around 7AM. This has an altitude of around 2,750 hence still grassland but approaching mossy forest.

and grasslands everywhere.

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Approaching the mossy forest, the sun is in its full shining glory hitting us. This was taken 2 kilometers away from the summit, with an altitude of approximately 2,730m AMSL.

Let me discuss a bit of detail here. We know that Mt. Pulag is 2,922m. But its environment has 4 different vegetation zones. As every hiker will observe, as one ascends to higher altitude, the environment changes.

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I plotted the elevation with its corresponding dominant vegetation zone. The summit is basically grassland while the next category altitude is dominated by mossy forest. It is evident with the pictures below taken betwee 2,400 and 2,700 meter-elevation.

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I don’t know what type of flower this is, I’m still looking for it. These species are the welcome committee in the mossy forest. Their fiery red flowers remind us to revitalize ourselves for the coming long trail. Taken with an altitude of approximately 2,720m AMSL.

Lower altitude but within 2,400 range is still dominated by mossy forest which is characterized by cool species which I cannot name because I don’t know them. But they’re cool.

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Trees are already dominant in the this vegetation zone. Trees thrive in the mossy forest with enough wind, sunlight, and cover from the mountain ranges. Taken with an altitude of around 2,710m AMSL.

A took them randomly because they just stand out along the trail.

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A lot of species of trees, plants, shubs, thrive in a rich forest. Taken with an altitude of around 2,710m AMSL.

A lot of species of ferns are also covering the forest. Several insects are also seen in the mossy forest with mostly bugs, snails and cool organisms. (yeah, idk them yet so I called them cool.:P)

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Ferns and plants in the forest with an altitude of around 2,700m AMSL

Good thing I have my powerbank to power my phone to capture all these stuff. I think I was among the tail and whip in the group. I walk slow and enjoy the view, and check the altitude.

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Seeing this relieved me a lot because this rice field is just near our jumpoff so it must mean, we’re almost done with the hike! Damn! Sahleedd! Taken at around 11AM with an altitude of approximately 2,400m AMSL.
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So this concluded our hike at the alluring Mt. Pulag. We were about 12 in the group and some have went home earlier, perhaps they missed our homestay badly. Hehe.

So what are my key takeaways in the hike?

  1. Mountain hiking may be enjoyable because you get to hike with your friends, but it is also not a joke because it requires physical strength and power. Nonetheless, at our age, we are young and energetic, it is best to put one of our neverending energies in hiking.
  2. The environment is irreplaceable and therefore non-renewable resource. Imagine, it took the mountain’s flora and fauna millions years to survive, thrive, and enrich to sustain the biodiversity of the mountain’s environment. As a mountain hiker, it is best to maintain, if one cannot help, the environment of Mt. Pulag.
  3. The ENRO (Environmental  & Natural Resources Office) is taking steps to maintain and restore the diminishing life ecosystem in Mt. Pulag. I saw their effort to information and mitigation drive, the stone guides created to guide the hikers to walk only along the trail.
  4. Mt. Pulag is among the surviving museum of environmental and geologic monumental feature. When you haven’t seen it yet, you must, but be wary of your responsibility to maintain the environment.
  5. People are the key factors to Mt. Pulag’s destruction and restoration. Locales and tourists alike may have committed mistakes in the past but they’ve already learned from it. It is good to meet the locales of Mt. Pulag environment. They are meek yet vibrant, submissive yet pursuing, and simple yet remarkable. The complete the allure that Mt. Pulag has.

Sidetrip:

Hikers won’t be hikers without them being adventurous and stray. Aside from the usual Mt. Pulag hike trip, there are some wonders – artificial and natural, that are worth seeing before going to the community in Pulag.

We took a sidetrip to Agno River and Ambuklao Dam Water Reservoir with the Ambuklao Hydroelectic Plant. It’s a massive infrastructure built during 1950’s. Imagine, this structure is half-a-century already and it still looks new and fine – well-maintained perhaps.

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The Ambuklao Water Reservoir
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view from the bridge in Ambuklao Hydroelectric Plant.

We also visited the hanging bridge and the drying tributary connecting to Agno River. I am not sure what happened or what is happening to this river but I think this is drying up.

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Of course, this won’t be possible without my gang, my colleagues, my college friends, Jackie, David, and Eugene! Special mention to Jackie who painstakingly prepared the whole hike for us. She’s the lost twin of Mariang Makiling and lost daughter of Lam-Ang. Very strong and adventurous friend. Till our next hike.

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That mandatory selfie with your friend when on a typical tour. The gang with the Ambuklao Water Reservoir as the epic backdrop.

 

Sources:

Hipol, R. M., Tolentino, D. B., Fernando, E. S., & Cadiz, N. M. (2007). Life Strategies of Mosses in Mt. Pulag, Benguet Province, Philippines. Philippine Journal of Science , 11-18.

UNISDR. (1982). Tectonics, Seismicity, and Volcanism of Luzon., (pp. 32-39).