NENEN Cervantes, 29 years old, a member of the Mandaya Tribe, embodies strength, resilience, and an unwavering commitment to her duty as the only female forest guard in Davao Oriental. Juggling the responsibilities of safeguarding the forests, nurturing her family, and taking on demanding field tasks has become second nature to her, as nothing comes before her call of duty.
Recently, Nenen is one of over 100 forest guards trained and capacitated in Davao Oriental.
Nenen stands tall as the sole woman who has embraced the challenge of becoming a guardian of the remaining forested areas in the province.
Nenen resides in the remote Sitio Magubahong, Brgy. Abejod, within the ancestral domain and forested area. From a young age, her father instilled in her the significance of caring for the land and its resources. This upbringing fostered her deep appreciation for forest protection, ultimately inspiring her to pursue a career as a forest guard.
One of the driving forces behind Nenen’s decision to join this noble initiative was the devastating impact of Typhoon Pablo, which left her family with almost nothing. Recounting their hardships, she emphasizes the vital role forests play in safeguarding communities.
“Dakong bili sa akoa ang maapil ani nga na inisyatibo kay nakita nako unsa ka importante na maprotektahan nato ang kalasangan. Sa kalasangan kami gakuha sa among mga pangadlaw-adlaw na panginahanglan ug kining maong lasang usab ang mapanalipod sa atoa kung naa man mga katalagman sama sa bagyo (I hold great value in being part of this initiative because I have witnessed the importance of protecting the forests. Our daily needs come from the forest, and it serves as our shield during times of peril, such as storms),” she shared.
Undeterred by the predominantly male-dominated field, Nenen proudly declares her capabilities in shouldering the weighty responsibilities of a forest guard. She fearlessly traverses challenging terrains, braving dense forest areas and crossing treacherous rivers. Nenen has no reservations about pursuing her chosen path.
“Gusto nako na makatabang sa pagprotekta sa kalasangan kay gusto nako na anaa pay makita na mga kahoy ug mga mananap ang akong anak (I want to contribute to protecting the forests
because I want my child to experience and witness the presence of trees and wildlife),” Nenen added.
Nenen’s unwavering determination and passion for forest conservation serve as an inspiration to all.
Because of this, she was voted by her fellow forest guards in Cateel ancestral domain as their team leader. She exemplifies the strength that lies within women, breaking stereotypes and proving that gender is no barrier when it comes to protecting our precious natural resources.
Her remarkable journey as the only female forest guard in Davao Oriental speaks volumes about the importance of gender equality in environmental conservation efforts. Nenen’s commitment not only safeguards the forests but also paves the way for future generations, ensuring a sustainable and thriving ecosystem for all.
As Nenen, alongside the other forest guards, continues to protect and preserve the forests of Davao Oriental, they will remain an indomitable force, a beacon of hope, and a testament to the power of an individual’s dedication to safeguarding our natural heritage. Ruel Kenneth Felices of BaiAni Foundation Inc. /Contributor