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Wednesday, July 25, 2012

PPC RETREAT AT DERAMAKOT FOREST RESERVE

Article by DalliusLL and
photos by George Bell L
Peter Lagan in black t-shirt briefing the councilors
SANDAKAN : The Parish Pastoral Council of St. Mary's Cathedral went for a one day one night retreat 22/07 – 23/07 at Deramakot Forest Reserve (DFR), a 55,139 ha of logged-over lowland situated some 175 km from Sandakan. It took them 4 hours and endured a 70 km bumpy gravel road ride to reach DFR base station, surrounded by thick tropical jungle. DFR is the first natural tropical rainforest in South East Asia managed in accordance with sustainable forestry principles.
Fr Thomas (seated 5th left) with Forest Officers and Pastoral Councilors
The weekend of silence in this heartland of Sabah was to provide an opportunity for the councilors to refresh, spiritually and physically as well as to experience the wonders and beauty of God’s creation. In the evening they were briefed by Peter Lagan, DFC District Forestry Officer on the well managed Forest certified Eco-friendly harvesting of tress and on forest conservation program. The night session was recollection and discernment on pastoral activity of the parish.
The 7.00 am Eucharistic mass was celebrated by Fr. Thomas Makajil, attended by Catholic forestry staff, working at the station and all council members. The morning mass celebrated a midst the cool, refreshing breeze with chirping of birds and the sound of jungle lives echoed in the background seemed to heighten the presence of God in this natural environment. In his homily, Fr Thomas related that the retreat is similar to that of Jesus asking his disciples to come to a lonely place and rest a while (Mark 6:30-34), and at the same note reminded the councilors to take seriously Jesus teaching with regard  to taking care of His creation and being a good steward.    
Fr Thomas also commended the Forestry Department and its personnel Pilis Malim, Peter Lagan and their team on the effort, dedication and holistic approach in conserving the environment in DFR. He stated that in the book of Genesis, God has entrusted the responsibility to man as the care taker of all His creation. We should be responsible to look after and do our best to nurture God’s creation back to its original state. He concluded by saying, “God revealed His love in the presence of His creation that we experienced today”.
To demonstrate how a reduced impact logging was done, the councilors were invited to witness the felling of timber in one of their 135 compartments area (100 - 600 ha per compartment). On their way, they managed to see a deer crossing their path, lots of fresh elephants dung and lots of animal’s footprints that affirmed the animal thrived in the area. On reaching the site they were briefed on the process of harvesting and experienced first hand on how a tree is logged. Though it was scary to hear the thundering crashes of a fallen timber, but it was also proven that the impact on the surrounding vegetation was minimal. The harvesting of log is not more than the annual growth, which is about 2,000 trees every year in a management cycle of 40 years.
Everyone was back to the base at 12.30 pm, and on his closing address, the chairman Patrick Seah thanked the forestry staff for their kind hospitality and the invaluable knowledge imparted to them. They reached Sandakan, Monday, 23rd July at nearly 6.00 pm, tired but refreshed.

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