THROUGH June clouds, at this hour,

who could discern where the road ends,

Or rain and water, where creek becomes a roaring river,

A tidal wave in the ocean returning to the sky,

Once more repeating its cycle,

A drop in our mountainscapes.

At this June moment, a brushstroke of light seeping in,

Warmth flowing in the veins, like cascading rain,

Gathered droplets, love flowing on the roads,

All around our mountains.

Oh where does it end? Climate change?

-Journal, June 17, 2014, Halsema Highway, Atok, Benguet

How much are we willing to give to get to where we are or to where we want to be?

Through it all, what is the meaning of our accomplishments?

This is subjective, as far as I am concerned. It grinds to the core of our being, what we really are. It also spells the difference among us given that innately, all things are equal.

It is not as if I have known this from within - since I was born. I just learned it recently. It started with a query by Benguet Governor Nestor Fongwan.

After going through the various provinces where the Second Cordillera Highland Agricultural Project (CHARMP-2) co-implements farm-to-market roads (FMR) with the local government units (LGUs), I told Governor Fongwan in one occasion that the best FMR projects I have seen are in Benguet Province.

“How is that,” the good governor asked adding that, “we followed the same specifications and standards recommended by the CHARM2-Project?”

Here is why, I say the best FMRs are in Benguet.

The CHARMP-2 simply provides a cap to its FMR investment per province and allows stakeholders, following the participatory process, to plan, design and strategize how they can maximize benefits from available investment and resources in behalf of the beneficiaries.

In Benguet, long stretches of the FMR projects were paved with cement.

In some places of the province, the FMRs featured a combination of cemented road pavement and tire paths. Under highland conditions characterized with high rainfall throughout the year, cemented roads wisely maximizes investment for this purpose.

Elsewhere road improvement projects, no matter how long it runs but undertakes canal diggings, road widening, ripraps and filling up the roadbed with gravel and soil is hardly usable over the long term – it may be good for month(s) – and then you go looking for another investor to fix the road again. What a cycle?

The Municipality of Bakun, Benguet is pretty much like the rest of the interior municipalities of the Cordillera. The landscape is beautiful with its deep canyons, towering hills and lush valleys. It highlights a persevering people with strong character. They are mostly isolated until now.

Under the CHARMP-2, the people of Bakun, headed by Mayor Fausto Labinio, along with the project’s workforce (LGU operatives) took courage and advantage of available investments for them to advance the welfare of their people.

First to be tackled was how the LGU operatives understood the project.

Without an understanding of what the project was all about, they sure would have failed during the community preparations and consultations that followed. During this process, they must win the people’s support, which is critical to the overall project success.

Under the project, we may increase production, but its meaning becomes negated by the lack of access to the produce. To build or improve the road and footpaths means days and nights of talking with the people affected by it. Some beneficiaries would have to give up portions of their precious farm lots to allow the improvements required by the project to take place for the benefit of the whole community without sacrificing project funds and investment. For their part, the LGU officials made allocations for their funding counterpart and consulted with the province for additional funding support, the Project Support Office (PSO) for guidance. During project implementation, the beneficiary-constituted monitoring and evaluation teams also did their part with great heart.

Doing all this in a well-orchestrated manner that understands what is happening is hard, almost impossible. In the end, Bakun as a whole won.

On top of project investments in agriculture and agribusiness development, community watershed and forestry management, and community mobilization, the municipality won the lion’s share in rural infrastructure development projects in the province worth P69,057,510. The total project costs covered the improvement of five FMRs, one footpath, and one domestic water supply project.

Last June 17, the Municipality of Bakun launched its last FMR project, the Bengbeng-Beyeng FMR worth PhP 23 million. As is the case with the other completed FMRs in the province, we are certain that this one, shall be completed, as a quality infrastructure project following its approved specifications and the best strategies that the local leadership have shown in valuing government investments for the benefit of the beneficiaries.

That optimism comes with the realization that a good development work makes its beneficiaries and all stakeholders and that includes Filipino taxpayer’s winners too. In community development, stakeholders pitch in their contributions, big or small, and we commend the LGU officials and project operatives for their faith and work that must highlight a beautiful region with its persevering people and caring character.

That is the most beautiful of all, one we have been longing to speak about for all the CHARMP-2 coverage areas and the municipalities, and provinces of the Cordillera as well.