To some poor farmers in Barangay Bacungan, Puerto Princesa City, choosing between low-paying odd jobs and good income-earning prospects in illegal logging is always a tough decision to make every day as they make plans on how to feed their families.
For the longest time, Kit Escalante, the breadwinner in a family of six, had been choosing illegal logging reluctantly just to provide food for them.
The predicament for him only ended when The Yamang Bukid Farm hired him and gave him the opportunity to renew his life. When this day came, Kit willingly set aside the use of his chainsaw to earn for his family.
Kit recounted that for so many years, he and other illegal loggers in Bacungan had played hide-and-seek with forest guards. The stakes are high in illegal logging, but it was the only job he knew how to do to provide a better income for his family.
“Alam naman namin na illegal pero anong magagawa mo? Magugutom kami kung ‘di ko gagawin ‘yon,” he pointed out.
At the logging camp, he led five subordinates. He and his team can cut down up to 100 fully-grown trees a day.
When forest guards are making forest rounds, Kit’s team would hide as much as they can to avoid being caught and dragged to jail.
“Tago-tago talaga kami, lalo na ako kasi may chainsaw talaga ako dati, eh,” he said.
Asked why he chose illegal logging, he smirked and said: “Halos lahat dito, ganyan ang trabaho. Kailangan, eh. Kung ‘di ko gagawin, wala kaming kakainin ng pamilya ko.”
He said even his family members were forced to join him in the illegal logging trade, especially during tough times. His son would be the driver and his wife would be the lookout for danger or trouble.
“Pati anak ko dati sumasama na sa amin, siya driver, tapos asawa ko ‘yung look out,” he added.
He admitted that sometimes his conscience would haunt him as he thinks about the possible consequences of illegal logging —flash floods, landslides, and other destructive effects on the environment and the community.
“Sabi ko, ang daming napapahamak ng dahil sa trabaho namin na ito, lalo kapag maulan. Paano na ‘yong mga mapapahamak ng baha, landslide,” Kit said.
Kit said that with the help of The Yamang Bukid, he does not regret turning his back on illegal logging now.
“Hindi ako nanghinayang kahit mas malaki ang kita sa pagputol ng kahoy. At least ngayon, hindi ko na kailangang magtago,” he said.
Kit is grateful to The Yamang Bukid Farm for giving him a job that is earning enough for his family and giving him peace of mind.