Sadanga recalibrates and refocuses

By Penelope A. Domogo, MD

“ Based on their disease profile, I would say Sadanga is the healthiest municipality in Mountain Province… for now. ”

On February 13, 2021, Mayor Gabino Ganggangan of the municipality of Sadanga posted in his facebook wall a public advisory to his constituents on the “Sadanga New Normal”. It is a strong statement on looking more objectively at the evidence on covid and responding appropriately and wholistically. Thank you, Mayor Ganggangan, Dr. Irene Limmayog and the rest of the Municipal IATF and the people of Sadanga for being a showcase of healthy living and local governance! It’s been more than a year now since this pandemic erupted in Wuhan, China in December 2019 and yes, we already have enough evidence, locally and internationally, to guide decisions. That’s the beauty of the free information highway- you can have data at your fingertips. But before going more into the advisory, let me tell you about Sadanga. We appreciate others better if we know where they are coming from.
Sadanga holds a special place in my heart as it’s one of the first two places I have worked in after graduation. And I have had the privilege of growing with it in my 38 years of work in Mountain Province. Sadanga is a small town in Mountain Province that sits in the border of Kalinga and Abra provinces. Population is around 9,000, about the same population as barangay Loakan Proper in Baguio City. Sadanga’s population is scattered in 8 barangays in a land area of 83.3 square km. Six of these barangays are along steep mountainsides and 2 are near the Chico River. Being “warrior” villages in the past, houses in the villages are closely clustered. The e-Sadanga are mainly farmers with beautiful rice terraces near its villages, producing their famous “gumiki” and other native rice varieties and a variety of beans of all colors (white, black, red, yellow, etc) and peanuts. Together with Tinglayan, I think Sadanga produces most of the beans and peanuts sold in Bontoc- when it is the season.
Based on their disease profile, I would say Sadanga is the healthiest municipality in Mountain Province… for now. Formerly Natonin municipality had this honor but with roads reaching all of its barangays except Maducayan and Balangao, lifestyle diseases have increased here, relegating the throne to Sadanga. Roads practically mean access to western goods- this means white & brown sugar, soft drinks, flour and its products, hotdogs, corned beef, ham, milk and all the unhealthy processed foods. Roads also mean commercial feeds and those toxic chemical inputs and all these translate to excess production of unnatural eggs and poultry and pork which people happily eat, unmindful of their damaging effects to health. Roads also mean NOT walking far. For Sadanga, five of its 8 barangays are still unreached by road and this, I think, is their strongest ally to ward off disease. Although barangays Demang and Anabel are not that far from the road, Belwang, Bekigan and Betwagan require sweat-breaking walks.
Another major strength of Sadanga is their self-reliance- when the other municipalities were gorging on the western fatty, meaty, eggy, floury foods, they have been eating their indigenous food- rice and vegetables including camote and beans and peanuts. This is because they can produce enough for their supply. Thus it was only much later that the e-Sadanga ventured outside- Baguio City, overseas, Isabela, etc. With their healthy lifestyle, they have kept the strong constitution of their ancestors. BTW, perhaps you have read last year about Mayor Ganggangan waiving the relief food packs from national government in favour of more needy communities. This would be surprising to those who only know Sadanga as a 5th class municipality. The truth is that here (as in all Igorotland), although the people may not have palaces, nobody goes hungry from lack of food.
At first, Sadanga imposed the strictest “no entry” to Sadanga. I was informed that people were free to tend their farms (thank goodness!) and go about their normal probinsiya lives but nobody could enter Sadanga, just like what new Zealand did. Sadanga was covid-free for the whole of 2020! I hope Governor Lacwasan can give them recognition and award for this.
Come December 2020, people were already “battle-tired”- abiding with social distancing, protocols and yet no relief in sight. The holiday spirit made people go home and find relief and comfort and joy in family and togetherness. Of course, we know how people behave in reunions and holidays- excessive eating of meat and sweets (soft drinks, sweet coffee, sweet salads, chocolates, bread, candies, cookies, alcohol), staying late at night, crowding inside houses for long talks. The right recipe for panateng and covid. On January 7, 2021, Sadanga reported its first covid case. The Municipal Health Officer, Dr. Irene Limmayog, said there are 63 cases as of this writing and that most of them have recovered. I guess most of the cases are salaried or wage-earners, not full-time farmers. Wanna bet?
Coming in the heels of this outbreak comes Mayor Ganggangan’s public advisory. I agree with the Mayor’s premises- he has done his homework, his statistics are public information, he knows how his fellow e-Sadanga live. For the past year also, he and his people have observed, listened, analysed and evaluated, not once or twice but many times. That is science. Common sense is a prerequisite to scientific thinking. I would imagine that 14 days being home-bound and not having anybody to talk and not used to gadgets would be torture to one who is used to being out of the house during his/her waking hours. That would be enough to make one sick. Regarding travel, I think the e-Sadanga are not that keen on just travelling for leisure thus if they travel it is really because it is necessary so it is sensible that travel is not restricted. They cannot just travel anyway if other places require documents from Sadanga. I have no debate with the 9 measures listed to be done (Please refer to the mayor’s post). May I just add that they also continue their healthy indigenous diet and intense physical activity.
So far, it is only Sadanga that I have seen which has come up with its appropriate localized covid response. I see this as a win-win situation. If the people are able to live their normal healthy lives in a healthy caring environment, then the government would not be burdened by disease. That is the essence of local autonomy and good governance. One size does not fit all.***
“But there will be no poor among you (for the Lord will bless you in the land which the Lord your God gives you for an inheritance to possess), if only you will obey the voice of the Lord your God, being careful to do all his commandment which I command you this day.” Deuteronomy 15:4-5

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