Domoguen: Dances in the rain

Mountain Light

BEGINNING June 29, 2020, I will start holding office at the Baguio Animal Breeding and Research Center (BABRC) of the Department of Agriculture-CAR, as the facility's OIC-Center head.

The BABRC office is located in Purok 1, Dontogan, Baguio City.

In earlier times, the facility was popularly known as Baguio Dairy Farm. Until recently, the directorate of the regional office of the Department of Agriculture (DA-CAR), deemed it proper to have the station renamed into its current name.

In over three decades of my employment at the DA-CAR, we have been planting pine and coffee trees all over the slopes of this 94 hectares facility during the rainy months of June to August.

On many occasions, the rains caught up with us. It made the trails slippery and brought out the leeches that crawled on to your feet and other parts of the body.

Losing your balance on muddy and slippery trails or feeling jerky because some leeches are dangling on some parts of your body could set you up dancing crazily in the rain.

Besides tree-planting, we would climb-up the mountains, especially towards the end of the year, when you can watch the cumulus clouds scattering like dust as the unseen hosts rush to their battle stations in the skies.

Well, that is partly conjured in the mind while you wander by your lonesome along the hillsides. But what is really awesome are the birds like the shrikes, egrets that visit the station on their way south from the distant northern shores from September to November. Come February to mid-March, some of the birds from the south, including the black crows, also visit the station. By that time, the blue mountain has changed the colors of its skin to yellow and now mostly brown.

Indeed, each time anyone of us comes to this facility, we feel a sense of renewal. Our mood changes with the moments in a day; with the elements and fleeting clouds above us; with the colors of the seasons; with the falling leaves; and, with the wild sunflowers and Arabica trees when they bloom.

President Manuel L. Quezon had the foresight to proclaim and preserve this prime land for animal breeding purposes, particularly cattle. During the Marcos regime, sheep and goats were also grown here.

The first time I heard about the area occupied by the facility, in the late 1990s, it was more than 100 hectares. Last week, Dr. Luis Lang-oy, outgoing BABRC Center head who served in that capacity for the last 11 years, reported that it occupies 94.13 hectares in Barangay Dontogan, Baguio City, and parts of Tuba, Benguet.

The evolution of the facility to its full potential as a learning resource center and for the generation of practical information and knowledge, good and best practice on dairying, livestock production, and breeding has been continuously harassed by overnight ancestral claims over the land including illegal entry, forced occupation, and squatting.

Left alone to function based on Proclamation Number 603, the BABRC serves the general welfare or commonweal. Its preserved forest cover, reforested slopes, and wide-open spaces served as watershed and lung of the City of Baguio and Municipality of Tuba, Benguet. For years, the Baguio Water District has been allowed to drill and pump potable water that was distributed to the locals.

When the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP-CAR) awarded almost all of BABRC's land area to an ancestral claimant, some trees were cut, portions of the land were bulldozed, and the claimants sold parts of the land to buyers. Worst, NCIP's action also opened the floodgates for squatters to come in. It was a good thing, the courts intervened that restored peace, order, and a promise of proper resolution on the ownership and utility of the land and its resources.

It may take time for this to happen. Meantime, as a government research and development (R&D) facility, know that if you come here, you have entered a piece of your journey's homeland-a place in the mind and spirit, where you can dance and embrace physical oneness with nature, and the goodness of a caring people. It is a place where you breathe the freshest pine-scented mountain air, drink healthy spring water, and Frisian milk. It is a place of migratory birds, and native flora and fauna. It is a place where breed and produce dairy cattle, sheep, goats, chicken, native pigs, organic vegetables, fruits, and industrial crops for food or dispersal to local farmers.

It is a place where highlanders and Filipinos think and meditates about science and the arts, and other things, besides requisitioning and putting every mountain space into housing.


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