Famine of time

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By Robert L. Domoguen

Mountain Light

Monday, June 30, 2014

MY GOD, my God...
all embracing eternal love,
my heart knows a famine of time,
a famine of meaning, a window through your eyes,
that tells me who you are, beside the whispers of the wind,
overwhelming sickness needful of your unending touch...

6/28/2004 (Baguio City)

I spent the last few days rummaging through my files, looking for a raw album I transferred to my net computer. Time gone, I am but resigned, something went wrong, it was lost during the transfer process.


In that album are photos highlighting the signing of turnover documents to the beneficiaries of the farm-to-market road (FMR) and multi-purpose warehouse in Banengbeng, Sablan.

So here, I must replace precious images in word pictures. I anticipate it is difficult.

We travelled late in the morning of July 24, to Oring, Banegbeng, Sablan. We prepared our materials for the launching of school-on-air (SoA) in Abra to take place the following day. We intended to go to Abra, later in the afternoon after the turnover activities - take the night trip.

On arrival, it turned out we were still early so I immediately hiked the completed FMR noting the pavement was 100 percent portland cement (PCCP) from end to end. The DA standard for constructed FMR pavement is 70 percent PCCP and 30 percent gravel. The CHARMP-2 FMRS in Benguet, especially in Sablan more than compliant with the DA standard. This makes us glad because the investment was valued, wisely used. Obviously, PCCP FMRs will be used long-term and this must be shared to the other LGUs.

In Oring, Sablan, we met the barangay and municipal officials led by Mayor Arthur Baldo. His image, handshake and communication gestures are quite familiar now, thanks to the CHARMP-2 Project. I met him and encountered his people in our common places of concern in Sablan four times, particularly in the barangays of Bagong, Ballauy, and Banengbeng, Sablan's triple "B" barangays.
In our work and beings as highland folks, these encounters were laden with meaning.

Meeting the officials of Sablan with their constituents in the field where we worked as partners in completing development projects has made the town for me, not just another part of Benguet that I pass by along the road when I travel to the Ilocos or to the province of Abra.

With them, I tasted Tapuey and coffee brewed there. Under a big tent on a rainy day, we ate boiled sweet cassava allowed to ferment for a day.

This delicacy has a taste and flavour that comes with the natural environment. The camote, pineapple, banana, red pepper, cucumber, gabi, ube, and other agricultural products that are familiar to me as products from Sablan are no longer just that - products from Sablan.

Eating these in place with the people, tells you a lot, very much different when you buy them along the road or taste these in the eateries or restaurants.

Agriculture in any place has its unique meaning. In Sablan, the growing and sharing of food is very challenging because of the stiff terrain and the difficulties of transport. Unless you visit the place, you think food is easy to have, to waste. In the municipality's triple "B" barangays, it is a a great honour to eat the meal so generously shared under the given conditions of these places.

By the way, life was hard here. Mr. Washington Wide (66), said that before the roads were built, thanks to the combined efforts of the DA, CHARMP-2, provincial and municipal local government units (LGUs), farmers have to wake up at 2 A.M. "You see them with their "saleng: torch climbing up the mountain in convoy towards La Trinidad, and Benguet to sell their produce," he said.

In the triple "B" barangays, even without the roads, the people ate complete meals a day, and slept in concrete and G.I homes. "The native folks, have been helping each other "bayanihan" ever since, that is why," reported Bagong Barangay Captain Paul M. Dio-al.

Governor Nestor Fongwan and Mayor Arthur Baldo's presence in those visits to the triple "B" barangays has in many ways filled in some of the "famine of time, touch and meaning" from the "powers that be" to the quest of our marginalized highland communities for survival in their given conditions. The barangay officials readily engaged these good officials in the briefings they gave about their concerns while we hiked on the newly completed farm-to-market road project.

Big deal? Yes, it is a "heartwarming" sight always when government officials shun their title and simply become like the people they serve during their visits in localities where their constituents live. For both officials, these visits were added opportunities for consultations. For his part, Governor Fongwan committed to improved the school buildings in Bagong and Bangbeng, and announced a medical care service that Benguet folks can avail of, for as long as they are attended to in identified medical hospitals in the province.

I am a Cordilleran, and a person who talks about how proud I am to be a native of this region. I am never proud as I am now, with the recent encounters that tells me what it means to be here. Boy, have we not waited too long to just laugh at our blinders and care - do what we must for each other ... ah embracing love, let it define what we are as Cordillerans. We carried that thought on our way to Abra.

Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on July 01, 2014.


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