Tribes, Treks and Rain Forests - Rewilding 3,000 Hectares of Ancestral Domain

Rewilding 3,000 Hectares of Ancestral Domain in San Felipe, Zambales Through Regenerative Agro Forestry

The Philippines is the most vulnerable country to climate change disasters. On top of that, we experience

1. Flood

2. Drought

Which translate into crop failure for farmers, billions spent on disaster, and higher energy spend and stress on the population.  It also pushes food prices up and disrupts our lives. In some cases, triggering violence for the extremely poor.

What if there was a simple solution to prevent flooding, reduce drought and manage our weather better so that farmers, fisher folk and us in the city can have a more enjoyable and smoother life?

We used to have 70% primary rain forest; today that number is below 3%

and it's the main reason why it floods (trees absorb up to 2000 liters of water), there is drought (trees release hundreds of liters of water into rivers daily), and it gets hotter (trees can reduce temperature by 13 degrees Celsius).

In 2016, MAD Travel and The Circle Hostel started working on Tribes and Treks, an eco tour with the Aetas of Yangil which aimed to build livelihood while restoring the forest ecosystem. The goals were

1. Restore 3,000 hectares of rain forest

2. Grow 100 hectares of food forest

3. Grow 1 hectare of herbal medicine forest

4. Provide livelihood through sustainable eco tourism

In 2017, more than 20,000 pioneer tree species were planted, acknowledging the harsh environmental conditions brought about by a 7 month dry season filled with strong wind and volcanic ash that does not hold water well. Soil tests revealed that the ground lacked nitrogen and did not hold water well due to absence of organic matter. The planting of pioneers was to ensure shade and increased organic matter that would increase water retention and restore nitrogen back into the earth.

Supporting the Planet - Native Trees:

To bring back the ancestral domain to its full potential, native trees are also planted. The following species are currently growing on the top portions of the hills of the ancestral domain, starting with Mount Pinmayong

Narra, Tibig, Mulawin, Palosapis, Agoho, Talisay, Kupang, etc. More species will be added in the 2023 planting season.

Supporting People - Agro Forest Industries

With full knowledge that people need to earn, and that  tourism alone cannot sustain the 160+ families (3 tribes) living in and around the ancestral domain, a 20 year plan was crafted with consultation of the community to build sustainable industries that played to the strengths of the land and the people.

The industries outlined are:

1. Cashew Agro Forest - fruit and nuts . The trees grow very well inside the volcanic ash valley and do not require a lot of tending. There is also a regular cashew trade in Zambales and Bataan provinces. Additionally, there is a cashew shortage in Manila, which often buys nuts from Vietnam. The community is beginning to harvest cashew.

2. Fuel Wood Agro Forest - The Philippines has a BBQ and grilling food culture which is also a source of deforestation across the country. A 40 foot tree is worth only 10 sacks of charcoal. Often, communities cut rare or productive trees just to cook, without replacing them. Using scientific research, we were able to identify species of trees perfect for fuel wood. These species can be cut or harvested from regularly without risk of dying, unlike other rare tree species. Additionally, they are fast growing and can be eaten by goats and cattle - thereby providing a 2 in 1 benefit. Madre De Cacao and Calliandra were both planted within the area.

3. Bamboo Agro Forest - one of the most versatile plants in the world, giant bamboo was seeded in 2016. Today the community has the ability to further propagate and harvest it for its variety of uses. They are currently using it for bamboo products such as stars, cups, spoons, forks, etc.

4. Organic Honey - all the native and agro forest tree species produce flowers, which in turn attract honey bees. After 4 years honey bees were spotted within the restoration sites and the selling of organic forest honey soon followed after. Honey is only harvested in the dry summer season based on tribal law, which considers that bees only create honey surplus during the dry season. 

You can see our proof of concept nursery below, which shows pictures of before and after the planting which we have tracked for over 5 years.


The growth of this 1,500 square meters of woodland has helped invite biodiveristy (honey bees, birds coming back) and has also reduced the temperature in the area. Its an amazing, regenerative spot to be in!


When do you plant?

We start growing in January, so that by June when the rains come, we can plant in the mountains. The community will scale the mountains and expertly plant the trees at the beginning of the wet season so that the watering is automated.

How are they cared for?

The community will then be hired to return to the trees every 4 mos to kill grass, weeds and ensure that the tree survives. Replacements will be made for those that die. After 3 years, the trees will be tall and strong enough to survive on their own.

What is your methodology?

We are following a permaculture model where we are looking at minimal energy usage, and investing in growing the soil, so that the soil energizes the trees to grow strong and bear fruit. To do this, we also grow pioneer tree species that help  create shade for the trees in the area, and will create a lot of leaf waste which turns into fertilizer and topsoil.

Please download the file HERE


What are we planting?

We are planting some agro forestry crops, and some native trees. For 2020-2022, the focus will be on the agro forestry crops as we want to create immediate livelihood - cashew is our go to tree as it grows well in the volcanic ash of Zambales, and the community knows how to raise the tree well.

This may be followed by jack fruit, coconut, bignay, Tamarind (sampaloc) etc.

2021 Updates:



2022 Updates:


Since 2020, Bioten, Nadine Lustre and For The Future have been helping raise funds to plant 88,000 trees. As of June 2022, 30,000 are being planted.


Can i join the planting?

At the moment, no. Travel restrictions are still in place. We will contact you once travel is allowed and we can resume the tree planting programs safely.

How do i get updates on my tree?

By sponsoring a tree you will be eligible to receive exclusive updates from our projects - and also invited to different events once we can travel again!

How long will this program run?

This is a part of a longer, 20 year plan to re-wild the planet and empower people in the province of Zambales. We've been around for 5 years now and rest assured we will be there for the next 20.

I want to learn more and help out!

We are always looking for help! please email


Media Features

Manila Bulletin: Growing Trees and Tourism

TGG Driving Social Change

Purveyr: Sustainability, Community & Agri-Based Tourism

Rappler: Tribes and Treks

BuzzFeed: Purple Yam Chips & Reforestation

CNN: Good Design Award Philippines

 ASEAN Good Design Award Winner

Japan Good Design Award MAD Travel (G-Mark)

Ten Accomplished Youth Organizations Award - Livelihood

TEDx Sustainability & Tourism - MAD Travel

88,000 Trees With Nadine Lustre

Planting 88,000 Trees with Nadine

Metro Style: Nadine and the Environment