Domesticating our mountains

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By Robert L. Domoguen

Mountain Light

Monday, June 2, 2014


WE DROVE down to Bahong, rose country and followed a one lane road that led into deep canyons, in paintspots of pine and vegetable lots, yellowing grass supposedly brown now, aging oaks, and surprisingly emerging colonies of alnus.

Beyond Alno, the Tobishima road took us away from urban scent and noise, to where mountains lift ridges towards clouds, the ski slopes rising, land undulates. We moved on to our destination, following the road downwards into the river and up steep inclines. Sudden-u-turns, eyes fixed on the blue towers still garbed in fogs.

This road according to Engineer Filemon Salvador, will lead as to the triple B barangays: Banegbeng, Bagong and Ballauy, all in Sablan. Salvador is Chief of the DA-RFO-CAR Engineering Division. “This road we are driving on was alternately constructed by the Department of Agriculture (DA) and the CHARM2 Project in cooperation with the Province of Benguet and the Municipality of Sablan,” he told us
On top of the ridge, we stopped at the Balluay-Bagong junction. It took us about an hour to navigate the road in a fast moving car from Alno in La Trinidad to this place.

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The travel time recalled a past in the history of this road. Prior to the cementing of the road’s pavement, with funds from the DA and CHARM2 Project, it takes more than three hours to traverse the same route on a four-wheel drive vehicle. A native from the place, listening to our conversation disagreed. It takes us about a day, sometimes two days to go to La Trinidad and Baguio City and back here, using a four-wheel drive jeepney, he said.

The native’s testimony takes into account, the difficulty of traversing our rugged roads or goat trails, according to some visitors, but the risks operators take in servicing villages outside the major highways and roads of the region. If there are willing operators, only one vehicle does it on a regular return trip basis only. Meaning, the vehicles leaves the village early in the morning and returns back to the village in the afternoon. Sometimes, it does not return on the same day but the following day. In most instances, the owner of the vehicle comes from the same place or village.

We came here last May 29, 2014, on the request and invitation of Mayor Arthur C. Baldo of Sablan. The purpose of the visit was for us to witness the blessing and inauguration ceremonies of the completed Taba-an Coroz-Balluay Farm-to-Market Road and completed rehabilitation of Duyot-Bagong Farm-to-Market Road.

Mayor Baldo was on the site and extended his hands to welcome everyone of us. I recall during the beginnings of the CHARM2 Project that he said a few words during meetings. It turns out, he took the project seriously, made his list and worked with Governor Nestor Fongwan who use his presence and power to oblige us. They did a good job really. Sablan town, is the first fifth class in the Cordillera that completed its CHARM2 Project and commitments hundred percent. During the turn-over, Mayor Baldo even announced enough savings from their counterpart funds to extend the Duyot-Bagong FMR.

Paul Dio-al, Barangay Captain of Bagong was one of the happy person, last May 29, who heard the good news from the Master of Ceremonies as requested by Mayor Baldo.

“I was asked awhile ago if the CHARM2 Projects were of any help to our community. These projects include reforestation, agroforestry, agricultural livelihoods and rural infrastructure. I say yes of course. These are projects targeted to enhance our well-being and increase the income of our farmers,” Dio-al said.

Mr. Teofilo Anaciaco, Barangay Captain of Bayabas; James Rafael, Barangay Captain of Banengbeng; and, Ferdinand Canuto, Barangay Captain of Balluay agreed with Mr. Dio-al’s assessment. Our people greatly benefitted from the CHARM2 Project assistance. In a year or two, progress will become more apparent as their farm produce are accessible to the markets. Farm inputs are also accessible from nearby towns and there is little problem transporting these to the farms, they added.

We will not fail to mention Governor Nestor Fongwan here, in his unique engaging management style. He was there of course to meet his constituents and to thank everyone. “Awan labas (all of us), gathered here did a good job, he said.

I say unique, involved and concerned because Governor Fongwan, was a governor who attended most CHARM2 Project Regional and Provincial meetings and functions, followed up on-going operations and encouraged his troops, and most important understands the successes and failures of this joint undertaking. In the end, he speaks his mind, and the lesson is clear.

Indeed, we extend our heartfelt gratitude to our people-empowered leaders with their own brand of leadership that empower their constituents and communities, to tame these rugged mountains for the well-being of humankind, beasts and living creatures.

Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on June 03, 2014.

Opinion

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