In February 2012, Mitsubishi Motors Philippines Corporation (MMPC) accepted an invitation to a project called the "Bachang Weekend Warriors," which called for 500 pairs of hands to participate in restoring the Batad Rice Terraces over one weekend. Mr John Chua, a famous local veteran photographer who initiated the project, joined hands with MMPC and other local companies to embark on a mission to the Batad Rice Terraces. The movement aimed to help restore the endangered terraces through "voluntourism", where tourists travel and volunteer for a charitable cause. In turn, the voluntourists got a chance to experience the Ifugao culture and the spirit of Bayanihan (meaning "brotherhood" or "community"), which is fading out at the cost of modernization.

What makes the Batad Rice Terraces significant? They are one of the most spectacular rice terraces within the Banaue Rice Terraces, located in the Ifugao province of North Luzon. Ifugao is named after the local term "I-pugo" – "I" for "people" and "pugo" for "hill" – which translates to "People of the Hill." According to legend, the People of the Hill were inspired and empowered by the spirit of "Bachang" (an Ifugao dialect for "brotherhood"), and had carved these impressive terraces from mountain to mountain with their bare hands almost 2,000 years ago.

In 1995, the Banaue Rice Terraces were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. However, due to its gradual degradation caused by drastic changes in weather patterns, the rice terraces were listed in the World Heritage in Danger in 2001. Within the Banaue Rice Terraces, the millennia-old Batad Rice Terraces were the worst hit by landslides when strong typhoons hit the Philippines in 2011, which resulted in an urgent call for volunteers to assist in the restoration.

After some crucial planning and preparation, MMPC created an expedition team comprising a 14-member local motoring media contingent, together with its 10 staff, to participate in the restoration project. Mitsubishi also offered its own transportation and provided nine vehicles – consisting of five Montero Sports, three Stradas and an ASX – perfectly suited for the long and bumpy 12-hour journey located in a mountainous area.

The team also drove through a few provinces and passed by the highest point of the Philippine Highway System, 7,400 feet above sea level, in Cattubo, Atok, Benguet. Although the long drive was the toughest and most challenging part of the journey, the Weekend Warriors found the magnificent scenery along the way extremely rewarding. As pointed out by one of the team members, "Never did we imagine we'd be riding in a jeep, and everywhere you look there are heavenly views of majestic mountains in the fog and endless flora and fauna.

"Moreover, the high spirits and camaraderie amongst the team members made the journey a worthwhile experience, and allowed them to forge a bond of brotherhood. The Warriors also worked with the locals by using the hoes they donated; they helped in the digging of ponds and gathering of rocks and soil to build walls for the damaged portion of the terraces.

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Mitsubishi Motors plays a part
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Did it feel like the spirit of Bachang had come alive? Indeed, the Bachang spirit is a familiar term even to MMPC members. More commonly known as “Bayanihan” in Tagalog, it was said that the Bayanihan culture first began in MMPC when the company was formed 50 years ago. It is therefore not surprising, that when John Chua approached MMPC to join the Batad Rice Terraces Restoration Project in the spirit of Bachang, its proposal was quickly embraced by the President and CEO, Mr Hikosaburo Shibata, and his vice president for marketing, Mr Froilan Dytianquin.

Besides participating in the restoration of Batad Rice Terraces, MMPC also took the opportunity to extend help by donating school supplies and teaching materials to a nearby Batad Elementary School. Recognizing the significance of education in molding young minds, MMPC sees potential in these school children of Batad, who may be “Warriors of Ifugao” of the future.

Upon returning from the journey, the 14 local motoring media personnel spread the word by sharing their experiences with the community. In doing so, the program caught the attention of both local and national governments. This led to more government bodies taking part in the project and so, after several rehabilitation tours, “Bachang Weekend Warriors” eventually garnered the support of government and corporate sponsors. As a result, the Banaue Rice Terraces were officially removed from UNESCO’s List of World Heritage in Danger on June 2012. It was a small step taken by MMPC, but it’s a giant leap for the nation.
Besides volunteering and bringing in a fleet of media to do volunteer work, and encouraging the whole nation to respond to the call for aid, MMPC has generously provided the organizers vehicles for future rehabilitation work. In recognition of MMPC's humble efforts and significant contribution to the success of the Batad Rice Terraces Restoration Project, Governor Eugene Balitang of Ifugao province has presented a plaque of appreciation to the team.

In an interview with Mr H Shibata, he noted, "the removal of the Banaue Rice Terraces in the List in Danger is a milestone for the whole nation. It shows the world what the Filipinos can do to preserve a national treasure that was built by its ancestors 2,000 years ago. It also brings appreciation to the Filipino tradition and culture."

One of the weekend warriors, Mr Dytianquin, was proud with what the vehicles MMPC had provided could do. "The long journey proved that the vehicles we manufacture and sell are not just for everyday commute, but rather for transportation to places, even to destinations for you to carry out significant roles and create a big impact that somehow can change or renew a nation."

Moving forward, MMPC will continue to promote the spirit of Bayanihan or Bachang in the Philippines, and more CSR measures will be carried out in the future to provide help to the community.




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