Ann Dumaliang Shares Her Father's Values That Built Masungi
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Ann Dumaliang On Her Father’s Values That Shaped Masungi Georeserve

Images Courtesy of Masungi Georeserve. Art by Bea Lu.

Masungi Georeserve was just a barren land a few decades ago. But with the aid of Ben Dumaliang, the conservation site thrived and is now one of the largest reforestation efforts in the Philippines. For Father’s Day, Ann, one of Bens daughters, reflects on her father’s values that helped shaped Masungi.

Written by Ann Dumaliang

Father’s Day is a time to honor the men who have shaped our lives, and for my sister Billie and me, this day is always one of immense pride and gratitude. When people look at Masungi Georeserve, they often see our faces, but when they experience it, they experience our Papa’s humble heart and big soul woven into every nook, crevice, and rope in the place. My dad poured everything he had into Masungi—20 years before anyone took notice, twenty years before restoration was in fashion. He did this at a time when the edifices of large, lifeless buildings and industrial-scale development were, frankly, tempting to go by and what was simply honored as success. He used not only his life savings and skills in engineering and gardening, but his vision, love for nature, and unwavering dedication to push the creativity and thoughtfulness that make Masungi special. It is his spirit that tenderly nurtured it from a barren, lifeless area to one that is now a sanctuary, not just for people, but for many forms of life.

Images Courtesy of Masungi Georeserve

Growing up with our dad was an adventure in itself. While raised in Metro Manila, our childhood wasn’t filled with typical toys like Barbies that our peers played with; instead, we spent our weekends in the wilderness, taking long walks in the mountains, marveling at the stunning views, and learning how to navigate and take solace in the unexplainable power of vast wild areas. We stumbled and rolled down steep inclines as little girls, gaining scratches along the way, getting pricked by grass or bitten by insects. Summers were spent in farmlands under the scorching heat, teaching us the value of community and working the land, not as onlookers, but as peers. Heart-to-heart conversations with our dad on more ordinary days took place in the backyard, weeding the garden. His gifts, accompanied by his signature smile full of zest for life, were little clay pots with seeds. When times were tough, sitting among the trees brought a sense of calm. All of these experiences showed us the magic of life and the amazing capacity of our bodies and lives to heal and grow, grounding us in these truths.

Recently, I was interviewed for an award that valued the principles of integrity, excellence, and empowerment. I was pleasantly surprised, as these values highlighted our dad’s unique brand of empowerment.

Integrity

Dad always emphasized doing things the right way, not the easy way, making decisions that would bear fruit twenty years later or even beyond our lifetimes, as with the decisions made to preserve Masungi’s landscape. He made difficult decisions with a firm moral compass, teaching us that true integrity means standing up for what is right, even when it’s tough. While others might be motivated by pride, fame, wealth, or excess in pursuing resilience, his motivation was to grow resilience so that we can maintain our humanity and integrity —his own, others’, and that of the landscape we love.

Images Courtesy of Masungi Georeserve

Empathy

Many have called my dad progressive, but he is simply motivated by deep empathy and care. In a society and profession that often values having sons, he has never made me or my three sisters (no brothers!) feel incapable. He encourages us to get in touch with our own strengths and weaknesses, making decisions based on this more than societal expectations. Papa never imposed his dreams on us. Instead, he dreamed so big and with gentleness that it inspires everyone around him. His empathy extended to all forms of life. He would express disdain for a fire ant killed because it bit us, saying, “Kawawa naman, hindi ka naman mamamatay sa kagat niya” (Poor thing, you wouldn’t have died from its bite), signaling to us growing up that life is more important than self-preservation, and that calculated risks can be taken by anyone in honor of life.  

Attention to Detail and Excellence

Our dad cares about doing things excellently, quietly and humbly focusing on details that others might overlook. He is a man of action, not just words, leading by example rather than by command. He believes in demonstrating actual results over rhetoric and possesses intellectual humility, embracing challenges and continuously learning..

Images Courtesy of Masungi Georeserve

Beauty of Life and Contributing to It

Though an engineer by profession, Dad has the heart of a creative. His curiosity and boundless creativity are infectious. He has a stubborn optimism for the people around him and for the country, believing deeply in the beauty of life, the potential of our country and the importance of contributing positively to it, no matter your humble background.

In Masungi, one of the rock peaks is named Tatay, symbolizing not a towering presence over others, but an enabling and empowering one – reaching for the sky and bringing others to greater heights.  Happy Father’s Day, Papa. We love you so much. Thank you for being a protector, not just for our family, but for our team, the Filipino people, and countless other forms of life. There was a time when I wished you were just ours, but the world is undeniably more beautiful because your heart overflows. Thank you for being a rock we can lean on and for the heights you have helped us, Masungi, and the country reach just by being you.

As told to Daphne Sagun.

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