To restore a heritage

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By Robert L. Domoguen

Mountain Light

Monday, March 10, 2014


AFTER a sip of brewed coffee and set to leave Luisa's this morning, I saw Ramon Dacawi seated on a table. Now, I cannot just leave without a few words with him, someone who does not wonder why the day is too long.

This morning, I know when to exit a banter with Mondax, that is how Baguio's media fondly calls him, how most of us in the community know him as writer; and someone who made people forget their pains, laugh with his stories, that on second thought was a lecture, a mark of a kind man.

I will not talk to him about his longest running charity work this time. I know that he thinks about someone in need most times; and how to bring support or assistance to so and so in some hospitals hereabouts. About the sick folks, I learned from his stories, that over the years, many were farmers and their children included. Many died of cancer. We never came around to knowing exactly why.

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Let us go to Ifugao on Saturday, I ask him. "What for," he asked in return.

The Secretary of Agriculture, will be there to inspect our completed activities in the area, I said, adding that a veteran like him must be there.

That did not convince him. He is among the more passionate media practitioner around when it comes to covering the news, and one who write his insights on rural development from current coverage in his column.

Characteristically, Mon Dax's coverage of past and current events lives through the years. Past government secretaries and operatives were resurrected to fame and credit from time to time in his longest running column, "Bench Warmer" that saw print in most of Baguio City's weekly papers, and now at the Sun Star Baguio.

The others whom he wrote about are not lucky, depending on their legacies of thoughts or deeds. But all were treated fairly I should say. His bench and cup of coffee are warm and the time is not too short with him.

"I don't like to be a spectator about some curiosity," he said. Whether I understood what he meant, I simply elaborated further on why I asked for his company in Ifugao on Mach 15-17. I reported what we had accomplished in the province. There are many yet to be done or undone to restore the rice terraces. If you are there, you may even give the Secretary some insight on the matter, I told Mondax.

He got interested, not so much with my invitation but about what we have done on the terraces, thus far.

First, he said, "you made the people dependent on government in maintaining the rice terraces," which was not our fault by any means. We intervened because the calamity caused by Typhoon Kiel and Pedring was beyond the community's capacity to restore on their own. Also, the Provincial Government of Ifugao urgently requested the DA's assistance.

We talked about the extent of the damaged paddies in Batad, Banaue, Ifugao and the cost with a total of PhP 21 million on infrastructure projects alone. He asked about the involvement of the local populace in the planning and implementation of the restoration activities, the rituals done, and the observance of cultural traditions and practices. I told him that these concerns and the urgency to get the project done was among the major reasons why the DA regional office turned over the funds to the Provincial Local Government Unit (LGU) to implement.

We covered more actually, including the engagement of the youth and how the nearby barangays and municipalities, in the restoration activities, particularly in stone cutting, walling and hauling of rocks. I also explained that in so many years, this is the first time that several projects have been undertaken for the rice terraces of the Cordillera, and more. There are also research, development and extension activities programmed for the region's traditional rice varieties.

When Mondax shifted gears and started talking about lessons learned and an exit strategy for the Batad restoration project, I told him we will send the letter of invitation on Monday. He must talk to the implementers of the project and with a group of media, interview and cover Secretary Proceso J. Alcala's visit to Ifugao. He agreed.

I smile knowing Secretary Alcala, Mondax and the media would make each other laugh, have fun even as they seriously share their thoughts on the restoration of the rice terraces. Thank you Mondax, in advance, I whispered. I shall listen myself, to the lessons learned in this kind of project engagement.

Now, I need to tell my superiors about Sec. Alcala's expected time with the media on the night of the 16th of March in Banaue, and the presscon that follows in Lagawe before Secretary Alcala leaves for Manila on the 17th.

Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on March 11, 2014.

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