Tibaldo: Chronicling life along Cordillera’s river systems

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I ONCE had discussions with three of our esteemed elders of Baguio media about documenting people’s lives along the river systems of the Cordillera. All of them have already migrated to the great newsroom in the great beyond and it looks like I’m the think tank carrier of their great ideas.

With the late Steve Hamada, Ramon Dacawi and Wilfredo Cacdac, we once brainstormed on the possibility of documenting all the major river systems of the region to be undertaken by willing contributors or documenters. The three opined that there must be interesting, unheard-of stories and never before seen images of people residing near the rivers that traverse the mountains of the Cordillera.

We have actually drawn a concept similar to the a-day-in-a-life concept of photographic or video documentation by interested participating chroniclers who may actually use social media in sharing, uploading contents whether narrative, pictorial or moving images.

This concept came as an offshoot of the “24 Hours in Baguio” pictorial activity that involved about thirty practicing photojournalists and amateur photographers that documented the city in its reconstruction one year after the killer earthquake of 1990. This was followed by a similar event “24 Hours in CJH” in 1997 where we photographed the former Camp John Hay days before it undergoes major redevelopment by the consortium that won the bidding conducted by the John Hay Management Corporation as part of the Bases Conversion and Development Act of 1992.

From Mt. Data, Bauko, Mountain Province where Abra River originates and straddles down to the provinces of Benguet and Ilocos Sur is the 6th largest basin in the Philippines according to DENR with an estimated drainage area of 5,125 square kilometer with its main river measuring about 198 km in length.

A technical working group (TWG) composed of various government and private sector representatives that also include the academe has been formed to look into the environmental condition and situation of the Abra River starting from its upland tributaries down to where its water meets the sea.

Among the programs presented by DENR were the protection of agriculture areas, flood protection embankment projects and irrigation systems but other than this, I am sure there are other livelihood activities like farming that can be interesting subjects for said pictorial.

The first time that I crossed the Abra River was in 1987 when I covered the Manabo Congress that formulated the “Manabo Pagta” which was later forwarded to then President Corazon C. Aquino outlining the terms and conditions or agreements set by those who attended.

I have also traveled along the banks of the mighty Chico River from its upper tributary in Bauko to the plains of Tabuk City, Kalinga since I entered government service as information officer. We’ve crossed the wooden bridge of Samoki many times before it was reconstructed into steel and concrete and I have walked the hanging bridge of Bugnay, Tinglayan Kalinga that leads to the house of martyred elder Macliing Dulag. I also consider myself lucky to have bathed naked at the Samoki area when the water was still conducive for washing. I missed the days when we passed by the Kalinga side of the river where we observed the sale of big bats with a wing-span of about six feet or two meters.

The Amburayan River from its upland tributaries from Atok and Kapangan, Benguet down to where it meets the sea in the coasts of La Union and Ilocos Sur is truly one of nature’s wonders. I say this because as a child, I was once swept by its irrigation currents in Sudipen, La Union that almost got me drowned. Up where it originates in Kapangan and part of Atok of Benguet, I became part of its environmental protection and conservation since my office is a member of the governing board under the Water Quality Management Administration.

The Bued River that follows Kennon Road always reminds me of my 1983 award winning indie short documentary film about the pocket miners panning gold in the area particularly at the spot just below the old police checkpoint of Camp 7.

Finally, the Magat River that partly originates from the rice terraces of Ifugao reminds us of the importance of forest covers that holds water for continuous irrigation for crops and farming purposes. It was through the late Ramon Dacawi that I came to learn about their Muyong customary practice of preserving the forest for generations to come. I will always remember what the late Willy Cacdac repeatedly said in one of our Balili River Summits that “We all live downstream.”

Those who are interested to take part in a day-long pictorial along the river systems of the six provinces in the Cordillera, please get in touch with me through my social media account or by sending your interest at me email:


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