By Atty. Antonio P. Pekas
Lake Danum (to the iSagada) or Lake Banao (to the iBesao) is not really a lake. It is just a pond for cattle. While the surrounding is still lush with trees and other vegetation, it is now commercialized. There are enterprising people who go there with their tables selling fishball, shomai, champorado, bottled water, among other snacks. I thought it was the original idea of an iSagada but I was wrong. It was from an Indian who visited the place and who readily spotted the business opportunity with tourists flocking there during these dry touristy months. There were about a dozen cattle in the area when we dropped by. Noticeably they have evolved through the years from seeing tourists every time. They were tourist-friendly.
Those rolling hills were our playground when we were kids. My mother and the rest from our barangay had camote patches a few hundred meters from the “lake.” Now big pine trees are hovering over those areas that have become grasslands. Education and greener pastures elsewhere have weaned people there from backbreaking labor as a source of livelihood.
Even the beautiful rice terraces facing our barangay (Besao Proper) when newly planted this time of year with their sides cleaned of messy grass to avoid rats from feasting on the panicles later are now grasslands. Most of them anyway. People have gone abroad or are selling wagwag in other parts of these islands—as far as Mindanao and the Visayas. Well, I guess we did not get educated to endure the painfully difficult life there all our lives.
Nearby Sagada has almost the same situation. No laborers for hire. People get a lot more from guiding tourists around. The rest of the populace have become millionaires operating hotels or inns and restaurants, some with bars, or also serve as “folkhouses.” It is in that town where there are hotels with helipads, so I heard. Do you think the economic elite of this country will enjoy the long and winding roads going there even if these have already been widened and concreted? No, I don’t think so. A helicopter would surely be more convenient, and the views might be better too.
I only go back home when forced to. Three years ago, it was because I was a sponsor in the wedding of my nephew in Sagada. This time around, I was to speak during Besao’s town fiesta. I could have readily refused as I did one time a few years back but this time I had to squeeze in the event in my usually busy days. For it offered a chance for my son to meet more relatives and to see the hovel where I grew up. A hovel it was, but for us it was a mansion. It is still there having been bought by a relative with what appeared to be the same GI sheets and wooden window frames. They must be more than 60 years old already. These are proofs they made things better in the past, and it seems life was better there in the past, not at all commercialized.
The commercialization there is not so different from the city. Just like in Baguio City where roads were widened at great expense and causing a lot of trouble to residents only for the additional spaces to become parking areas if not repair shops of vehicles including big trucks.
Similarly, in Besao Proper, the main road was widened and became two lanes and was nicely paved, but only for one lane to become parking spaces for residents. It might be one of the most far flung area in this country but there are a lot of vehicles there.
When I delivered my talk, I thought I squarely hit the nail on the head. On second thought, however, my point might have been anachronistic or out of sync with the times. The main point was that we were born in adversity and the culture that evolved from that we must carry wherever we were destined, to all corners of the globe. And this assures our survival if not success.
As I write this, the question pops up. Is that really true? Were the younger generations tempered by hardships thus imbued with a steely determination that could see them through anywhere? (More next week.)