ASIN, TUBA, Benguet – I hit the sack around midnight last night. I was real drunk after finishing three cans of Cali and a bottle or two of liquor. I know that is funny. During my youthful days in Quezon City, my friends and I used to spend many a night swapping stories drinking liquor and beer until the wee hours of the morning.
I avoided drinking any liquor for over a decade now. If I did, I was ever careful, not to go beyond consuming three bottles. Still, even at that limit, I suffer the consequences of fatigue, numbness and fever the next day. I limp and perspire profusely. Really, drinking for me these days meant summoning courage or turning away in retreat. No, I cannot say it’s a situation of forced cowardice and defeat. Drinking liquor was simply part of an aggressive and a carefree past. In my current state of health, it never was a battle involving courage or manliness.
Last night, was a night of drinking beer and some liquor for men, and Cali for our lady co-trainees in a weeklong training on process documentation. We did some singing and watched our fellow participants express themselves in their own different ways. It was real fun seeing development planners and men at that do an impromptu declamation and sing songs that came with all sorts of body language. The women, old and young, rendered cultural songs and dances that made us laugh and think deeply about this rugged land and the folks back home.
During trainings under the CHARM2 Project, a night of cocktails is not just entertainment and drinks. Here at the Riverview Waterfront in Asin, a venue fast becoming as a learning center for us and our fellow operatives from the local government units (LGUs), the singing, storytelling, self-expressions and presentations from the participants deepened the sharing and understanding of why our people think or do things as they do in the pursuit of development. I enjoyed the cocktail sessions, and forgot my vow to avoid any hard drink.
The training sought to impart knowledge and basic tools in news and feature story writing, photo journalism, video documentation, desktop publishing, and writing the minutes of project meetings, among others. Many of the participants wondered about the relevance of spending their time with this type of training. Writing about their thoughts and works in pursuit of community development has never occurred to them as part of their work. Not a few complained about the difficulty of focused mental work and the discipline that it entailed.
I understand. I am an agricultural extension worker by profession. I went through some of these subjects myself to be able to write and communicate for and in behalf of the agencies I worked with. After years of practice, my writing is still amateurish at best. It is too much to expect development planners, and agricultural technicians to become experts in writing and documentation work after a week of training. Still, I insist that any professional should write and share the good experiences in his field for the benefit of others as another path to finding fulfillment in life. Most of our co-trainees are development operatives. They know and understand development and the realities of its pursuit in their own communities more than anyone. Their insights and that of their constituents, including the documentation and sharing of best practices in the pursuit of development are precious inputs in the continuing quest for genuine progress in our highland communities.
I was encouraged last night about the correctness of that thought in one aspect. Before the program, I glanced at the output of the participants on news and feature writing encoded by my staff on my laptop computer. Engineer Berry Sangao of Kabayan, Benguet wrote about how the local officials came to appreciate the CHARM2 project’s potential contributions in the municipality’s goal of enhancing their development thrust from eco-tourism to agro-eco-tourism. Engineer Berry is the town’s Municipal Development Coordinator (MPDC) who also sing well. The feature story that he wrote informs us and put everyone updated about this development shift in Kabayan and how the different components of the CHARM2 Project will conspire to uplift economic livelihoods in agriculture, tourism, environmental protection and conservation, and community organizing and mobilization. Coming from someone who lives in the place and reporting on his field of endeavor, I find the story credible on its own.
There are voices from this group that tells me about how the participants are already felling homesick, missing home, wives or husbands. We sympathize with the mothers whose dripping breasts reminds them of their babies at home. Whether it’s a development shift or a personal sacrifice, these shared stories will certainly be treasured and become part of our history in the CHARM2 community and the Cordillera as well.
This morning, I had a heartwarming chitchat with Mr. Joel Sannadan, MPDC of Baay-Licuan, Abra. He wondered why I got tipsy last night after drinking a few cans of Cali. He did not see me drink beer and a cup or two of liquor. I showed him the scratches in my limbs that got too itchy last night. Joel worked with a religious NGO before transferring to the local government as a development coordinator. From Joel’s stories, I get this deepening realization about our indigenous medicines and practices that are fast disappearing from the landscape of our memories and environment. I like folk medicine as I come to understand it. It has its own faults as much as I know that its scientific and commercialized counterpart has its negative side too. I like folk medicine done with much hope and a compassionate heart. It is a practice of healing that takes no thought of taking advantage or credit for the alleviation of another’s suffering conditions. Its credibility leans heavily on the community’s experiences of its efficacy. Joel gave me stalks of a wild vine in the mountains of Licuan-Baay to be cooked and drank as tea. “It will cleanse the blood and help alleviate your condition,” he said. I gladly accepted the offer and asked him that we need to do some documentation work about this indigenous cure.
Writing cannot be learned in a week. It is a lifetime course of organizing and sharing your daily thoughts and experiences. Some of the participants in this weeklong training may not take the challenge. Others do well, by taking my book, a compilation of published news and feature stories and analyzing its flaws. At the end of the year, we will sit down together and produce a better one. I thank Madam Betty C. Listino and Sir Filmore Y. Awas for their professional help in this engagement to train local development workers become documenters and writers. We certainly need more active voices from the grassroots to share their thoughts and that of the local populace to enrich and challenge our collective thoughts and development pursuits.