Almost two decades

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The global pandemic of Covid-19 has made a lot of changes in our lives. The economy is in slowdown, and there are still restrictions in our movements and activities as the coronavirus continue to widely spread. More than 200,000 Filipinos were affected with the virus and, sadly, thousands also died. Millions have been displaced from work, while many are struggling to survive because lack of sufficient food is getting more pronounced. Not even the DAILY STAR is spared from the impact of this pandemic, leading its management to decide to consider a “pause” at the end of this month. I hope this is only temporary, as this long-running community paper had established itself as an institution in Bacolod City and Negros provinces.

I am grateful with the opportunity to be part of this paper every Monday for close to two decades. While there were instances when I missed some issues, I would say that having this column has already been a part of me. It was in June 2001 when Ninfa Leonardia and Carla Gomez, DAILY STAR’s president and editor, respectively, invited me to join the paper as they launched the environment page, and I thought it was an honor to share the page with now national scientist Dr. Angel Alcala.

At the start, I was doing feature articles, and later on a full column and thus Conservation Matters became my byline. When I started here, I was also winding up my seven-year career as the park superintendent of the Mount Kanla-on Natural Park, and after which I settled in Metro Manila as an independent professional or consultant on biodiversity conservation. I thought then that writing for the DAILY STAR was part of my continuing advocacy for environmental protection and conservation of our natural resources, aside from making my presence felt in the province.

I was delighted and yet humbled to have a column alongside with respected and veteran journalists in Bacolod City of the likes of Leonardia and the late Primo Esleyer and Rolly Espina. On the process, I was learning from my craft in improving the narrative, composition, and even editing since I compared my drafts with the published versions, and I owe a lot of this from Carla as my editor. The DAILY STAR became one of my solid foundations in advancing my professional career, especially so that my work involved and is still involving a lot of composition, such as preparation of protected area and other conservation management plans, conservation impact assessments, project proposals and reports, and other technical papers, among others.

In a huge way, the DAILY STAR has chronicled my 19 years of journey in the field of conservation, not only here in the Philippines, but also when I started to venture in the global front of conservation work. Aside from that and based on numerous feedbacks I received, my column has somewhat contributed in conservation awareness and education, and to a certain extent, triggered some direct conservation measures, not only from the public but as well as in concerned government and nongovernment organizations.

I may have offended some individuals due to some critical concerns carried in a good number of my articles, but nothing personal about them, as I just wanted to bring to their attention the necessary actions that should be undertaken. However, numerous of my subjects took up positive development and more educational as I always emphasized the need to protect our endemic wildlife species and their habitats, as well as the conservation of protected areas and natural ecosystems. Through my column, I shared experiences and lessons learned in conservation not only in Negros, but in other places where I visited, too.

As I park my column with this issue, I am thankful to the officers and staff of the DAILY STAR in making my journey in biodiversity conservation even more meaningful. Much more, my deepest appreciation to all those who took time in reading and following my column through the years, and thank you for some feedback. I am hoping that this piece would not be the last, as the work for biodiversity conservation is far from over, and the DAILY STAR is already part of that unfinished business. As I bid goodbye for now, those who are interested in my articles may subscribe or follow my personal blog at http://errolgatumbato.wordpress.com, which I will reactivate soon. Until the next edition of Conservation Matters!*

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