AS AN operative of the CHARM2 Project, I went to Riverview Water Park in Asin, Tuba, last Sunday, July 4, 2010 for the fifth time over the last two years.

This beautiful resort is just about 30 minutes ride from Baguio City. Ideally situated beside a river in a deep forge, I had always felt the temperature of the place in a perpetual merging state, where the cool mountain breeze entwines with the rising hot lowland air. The cold and hot air wiggle in an expanding spiral of comforting microclimate that one experiences only in places like this.

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On the road to Asin, one can see that houses are fast invading the bamboo and mossy forest along the mountain slopes. The creeks that flow downstream to the river beside the water park resort carry sludge and silt. That river is as good as dead. Another emerging problem is the burning of trash. The stench of the smoke invades and disturbs asthmatic nostrils hoping to find respite from the city's smoggy air. If the urban sprawl towards Asin does not abate, I fear that the future of the water park will be gone as a health resort and a pristine hideaway for stressed city dwellers in the next decade.

Asin is not part of the coverage of the CHARM2 Project but many beneficiaries from the region's six provinces visited the Riverview Water Park, being the venue of Project-sponsored training courses undertaken in their behalf

The current administration of the City of Baguio hopes to work with the Province of Benguet and the Municipalities of La Trinidad, Itogon, Sablan, Tuba and Tublay in pursuing the BLISTT concept of sufficiently willed urban planning and development. In the case of Asin, all land and its resources should not be misused as people do in Baguio City - for housing and any other use anywhere in the City's land space disregarding all thoughts of appropriateness. Under the BLISST, Asin to me must be developed for its tourism and hydropower potentials but its pristine state preserved.

Lost native delicacies

In the midst of our training in Asin, I just felt I had been missing some winged delicacies available in our homes and villages decades ago. I am referring to edible, crunchy insects rich in protein that come in their swarms in the Cordillera highlands during the onset of the rainy season. That was good news to us then, compared to the dreaded invasion of dengue mosquitoes from the lowland climes to Baguio City and elsewhere in the Cordillera at these times.

I did not readily realize I wrote an article about these lost native insect delicacies until Master Google showed me I did write one some 26 years ago. That article is still available in the internet, thanks to an international scientific publication entitled, The Food Insects Newsletter, that preserved it. Here are excerpt of that article that responds to what this native palate missed in recent months and years. I bring it back for today's readers with some editing.

A number of folk in the Cordillera uplands (over two-decades ago) come by simple but protein laden meals. Mountain rice spiked, laced or mixed with insect viands used to be common everyday fare during the onset of the rainy season especially among families in the interior whose isolation prevents them from even thinking from buying exorbitantly priced meat and fish. A survey conducted by entomologists at the Mountain State Agriculture College (MSAC, now Benguet State University) in this town found that the insect-eating provides the upland folk with their daily protein and other nutrient needs. The more popular edible insects include June beetle, grasshopper, ant, mole cricket, water beetle, katydid, locust and larvae of the dragonfly. Laboratory examinations show that such insects are "loaded" with protein, fats, and calcium, thus providing nutrient needs of those who eat them.

Eating insects is an old custom among the various minority tribes in the highlands of North Luzon. The habit is due to food needs and a way of reducing pests which attack food crops, according to entomologists.

Highland folks have taken to trapping the insects that come out in full force during the middle of the dry season and early weeks of the rainy months to feed on newly planted food crops. Those who trap them usually build fires in open spaces at onset of evening. Basins full of water are placed around the fires. Other trappers use nets, woven baskets or simply pick the insects off the ground. Highland folks have been introduced to such "eating delights" by their parents and grandparents. But those born and bred in the citified ways of nearby Baguio City and elsewhere in the country have never eaten insects, the MSA study found. The majority of respondents in the study who said they eat insects come from the rural areas.

Aside from the insects' dwindled state, eating them given the present state of their polluted habitat is not recommended. You would not eat ants (red specie), for instance, whose former forest habitat is strewn with all types of garbage or waste.

Today's readers would simply acknowledge the above narration as part of the endless transition of time, climate, landscapes, and of human practices taking place in our highlands. Indeed, but waking up early this morning, still here in Asin, I wonder if we need to rush or force our wills, often misguided, to effect change, As I watch the sunlight slowly brighten the mountainside opposite where Riverview Water Park sits, I think about the fast changes taking shape in the environment. The mountains in front of me give hope of some permanence in the midst of on-rushing change. The mountains have been there for quite an eternity of time. I am happy with their greenery and the humming of the river below. I am glad that man has yet to blast, scar or completely distort them in the name of development. Good planning and development must understand natural design that upholds our roots and need for quality existence being entwined with the natural environment and a beautiful geography. (Robert L. Domoguen)