Of Communication Towers and Contaminated Waters

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By Art Tibaldo

Consumer Atbp.

Monday, August 4, 2014


FOR the Cordillera Administrative Region, July 15 is considered a special day Twenty seven years ago, President Corazon C. Aquino signed Executive Order 220 that was meant to prepare the upland region for an autonomous form of government. The bid failed because it was rejected by the upland residents twice in a plebiscite. As the campaign for it continues and my wife led a team of government and private media to cover the 27th CAR anniversary in Bangued, Abra, I decided to babysit and take my grandson for a ride.

The clear morning sky of Baguio suggests a normal day while news of Super Typhoon Glenda is believed to landfall in Bicol and parts of Luzon within the day. I strapped my baby grandson’s car seat, readied his milk, diapers and extra clothing and some snacks.

We left our place at around 10 a.m. with Akiboy sucking his bottle of milk at my back. We drove up the hill leading to the former US Naval Radar atop Mt. Kabuyao passing a group of cyclists in their mountain bikes. I can say that they are into outdoor sports as they are all properly outfitted with helmets, sunshades and kneecaps. I envy them for having the knee power and strength to pedal all the way up to the radar and communication towers which is hundreds of feet higher than the elevation of Baguio’s Burnham Park. My ride, an automatic SUV spared me the agony of having to use my injured left knee. I sold my 4x4 Suzuki Vitara when my family of four needed extra space for a bouncing baby and it was like a joyride for me and Akiboy since there were few cars on the road even along the residential area at the Green Valley. A doctor and personal friend advised me not to hike mountains anymore as my kneecaps and patella has already taken its toll. I used to carry heavy loads when my family was into buying and selling of scraps for recycling. We had a junk shop and the hardest labor I had was when we tossed, piled and carried on our shoulders bundles of used paper, carton boards and plastics to the recycling plants in Caloocan and Valenzuela in the big city. After all, I have no regret at 53 because my schooling at the University of Santo Tomas in the late 70s and early 80s was made possible because of our junkshop business.

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The road to Mount Santo Tomas used to be bumpy, muddy with big potholes layered with gravel and crushed stones. Operators and maintenance crew of telecommunication companies used to load their wagons and pick-up trucks with rocks so that the extra vehicle weight will enable the rear wheels to tread the slippery road. Today, even a 1.5 liter sedan and light AUV can already reach the place with ease. Having seen the place twenty years ago, I am quite amazed that the place has become a hiker and biker’s favorite destination. As I drove up midway to the summit, I recalled that there used to be a dairy farm where we old time Baguio residents get fresh milk. Some quarries and rock formations within the area were considered sacred by the native Ibalois. Just like the caves of Sagada, there were burial grounds of Ibaloi ancestors within the area.

With my wide eyed baby grandson at the backseat, we drove up listening to DZRJ’s collection of Beatles songs stopping at every spot that I can use for my purpose. From atop the hills of Mount Kabuyao, one can actually see a panoramic view of Baguio. My aim was actually to shoot pictures and update my photographic files on the city and its suburbs. Lately, I’ve been chronicling and taking visual images of the creeks and rivers of Baguio City and its nearby municipalities. I wanted to prove that the creeks and rivers that we see today are indicative of climate change. Earlier, I drove up and climbed the summits of the Carabao Mountain that divide Baguio and La Trinidad. I went to the city boundaries of the city and other towns of Benguet just to check on their rivers if wastes coming from the heavily built up city has indeed affected them.

Both mount Santo Tomas and Kabuyao are sources of potable water of Baguio that dates back to the period of the early Americans. A hydro-electric plant was built as part of the Camp John Hay reservation below Santo Tomas. A rainwater catchment basin lies near the radar in Mt. Kabuyao and water from it is siphoned to a filtration system below.

Atop Mount Kabuyao and Santo Tomas, one can already notice farming activities that even shows a semblance of the rice terraces of Banaue. Aside the road widening and construction of slope protection ripraps, one can notice the growing number of residential houses and increase of human activities. There were studies made that wastewater coming from the expanding community goes directly to the basin.

I went up to the PAGASA weather station hoping to meet the personnel on duty and check on their rain gauges but the gate was closed and no one inside noticed my coming. A view from the station shows newly harvested vegetable farms just above the catchment basin. I took out the baby and let him sit on the grass which fascinated him to the point that he almost nibbled a leaf.

The creeks that lead to low lying rivers are all dry as viewed from the zoom lens of my Nikon. I snapped photos from all angles like I’ll never return to the place again. I stopped to snap images whenever I saw a good angle and the open window allowed me to shoot behind the steering wheel. My diesel fed engine may have burnt a gallon or two but my camera’s SD card compensated it with new materials that I can add to my digital files. With the dry creeks that I recorded, the forests that were converted into farms and the new activities over at the mountain will definitely serve as a vital input to my personal research and study proving that the creeks and rivers are nature’s indicator that indeed the climate is changing.

Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on August 05, 2014.

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