We are campaigning

CTALK - Cito Beltran - The Philippine Star

SAGADA, Mountain Province — Last Monday morning we boarded a plane and flew to Cauayan, Isabela. From there we traveled by land to Solano, Nueva Vizcaya. The following day we drove up to Lagawe, Ifugao. By nightfall we had driven up to where the Banawe Rice Terraces are located. The next day we drove on passing Bontoc and onwards to Sagada, Mountain Province. In a few hours we will be driving back to Bontoc. Yes we are campaigning, but not for political office.

I am once again travelling with my friends from BMeg feeds to conduct BMeg Fiestahans that are designed as one day fiestas where we serve up free lunch, give handouts, do raffles as well as special promos all towards building up interest for people to listen to a two-part, four-hour lecture where I share my “Ay Mali” practices as a hog raiser and then followed by Dr. Eugene Mende of the PVMA who gives the science of hog raising. The northern part of the Philippines is of great interest for us because there is a high concentration of backyard raisers unlike in the lowlands where there tends to be more farms or large size commercial farms. Here in the Mountain Province the knowledge we share is especially important because materials and practices still remain traditional, thus making hog-raising less profitable than in the lowlands.

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A secondary benefit from our educational campaign for me as a journalist is that I get to pick up a lot of issues or stories along the way. Like when we drove to NAIA Terminal 3, I noticed that many NAIA and airline employees working in Terminal 3 have to walk several hundred meters exposed to sun or rain because there is no covered walkway from the rotunda. It also seems odd that airport officials did not provide an access gate or drop-off point for commuting employees that is nearer to or in front of Terminal 3 building.

I guess this is because most of those managing the airport are political appointees and not industry professionals who would have considered the access and movement of airport employees who don’t have cars. It might be worth considering getting all the companies and government offices with employees working within NAIA or MIAA, to organize their own shuttle bus strictly for employees and pool their budgets on a per head basis. This would be a blessing to employees and would also help reduce vehicles coming into the airport.

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While driving towards Banawe, I learned that the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) has been maintaining people to watch a large area of land in Solano, Nueva Vizcaya that was intended for development as a domestic airport that has yet to be. Had this airport pushed through, many people heading towards Banawe, Bontoc and Sagada would be able to fly nearer to these towns and would have a shorter drive. Even the locals were lamenting the continued delay of the project because it would surely be an incentive for more travelers to visit the various mountain towns and their rice terraces.

Another matter that needs closer supervision and coordination would be the various road works being undertaken by the DPWH. There has been a lot of road projects out here in spite of the numerous landslides and some parts of the road being washed away down the mountainside. All the good roads make long drives pleasant to tolerable. One problem though is the lack of advisories so travelers know what areas are open or accessible to visitors. A number of foreigners were a bit stressed about having to get off jeepneys and transferring to tricycles to get to the municipality of Batad to go to the Rice Terraces because no one sent out advisories that only tricycles and motorcycles could pass due to road repair. 

While in Sagada, I learned belatedly that there was a curfew in place from 9:30 p.m. to 4 a.m. all intended to maintain peace and order, protect tourists, and limit the possibility of crimes taking place. No one seemed to be bothered by it since Sagada is really such a laidback place with hardly any place to go to after 9. But the fact that the information was not posted or publicly known was a bit of a concern since no one likes the possibility of being accosted for breaking a curfew you do not even know about. 

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Sagada is nothing like the movie in my mind.

I don’t know why, but every time someone mentions “Sagada,” I automatically associate it with the movie “Kung Mangarap ka at Magising” that featured the then very young movie stars Hilda Koronel and Christopher De Leon. In my movie version, Sagada was all about romance, the pine trees, the fog and the clouds kissing the tree tops, glimmering pebble roads constantly washed by rain and dew.

All that are still here, but they’ve added lots of tin roofs, a mish mash of architecture and yes, there is still a lot of romance just by the number of kids running around. The good-news-bad-news is that eating dog meat is apparently not as popular as it used to be judging from the over population of dogs that are a “spoiler” for visitors who could better appreciate the town on foot but are scared off by so many barking dogs. But don’t lose heart, I’m only talking about the town center. If you choose to stay a kilometer or two outside the town, you can easily imagine what Baguio was in the ’60s.

There are a lot of little cafes, lodges and pension houses as far as a kilometer outside the town. We stayed at a lodge named Maferré after the famous photographer who documented the lives of the people in the Mountain Province, Ifugao, etc. Many of his photos hang on the walls of the lodge. The coffee is good, sample the sun/air dried salted pork cut into thin slices that are tastier than commercial or imported bacon and couple it with local mountain rice and read a good book, or go for a walk, enjoy the scenery outside the town and pray. This is a good place for all of that.

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