Friday, September 23, 2011

Cebu Salimpusa Fullybooked!

Salimpusa. Ang salimpusa, saling-pusa, salingkit o salingket ay isang katawagan sa isang "bisitang" manlalaro sa anumang uri ng laro. Isa itong manlalarong bata na hindi pa totoong kasali sa laro sapagkat, dahil sa kaniyang murang pag-iisip at pisikal na gulang, hindi pa makasusunod sa mga patakaran at batas ng laro. Kunyari lamang na totoong kasali o tunay na manlalaro ang panauhing bata. Karaniwang isinasali nang ganito ang bata para mapagbigyan ito at maiwasan umiyak.

In this trip, I am a salimpusa in the group of my perennial travel buddy and colleague Ate Liezl. She’ll be meeting her college buddies. I just tag along and be the great salimpusa. Haha! The four women- Ate Emily,Liezl, Rachel and Bingbing became my new friends and travel companions in the Queen City of the South.

It is said that every person should maintain at least 3 kinds of friendships:
1. friends of your own age whom you can talk over your problems, plans and goals with confidence;
2. friends older than you to whom you can confide and be assured of wise counsel;
3. friends younger than you to whom you can share your life’s experiences.

It is not only in being helped but in helping others that you can find true friends.

Cebu, originally called as Sugbo prided itself with so many things. It has a lot of stories to tell. Before the coming to the Spaniards, it was the center of trade and commerce in the south. Trading with Chinese ships arrived with silks and porcelains bartered for honey, gold, wood and spices.

In 1521, the Spanish troops headed by Ferdinand Magellan arrived in Cebu and presented a Santo Niño (image of the Child Jesus) as baptismal gift to Rajah Humabon and his wife, Hara Amihan. Magellan converted most of the locals Catholicism.

But when Magellan reached the narrow strait to Mactan Island, Lapu Lapu, the chief, resisted his entry and fought against the Spanish troops killing Magellan in the famous Battle of Mactan. Cebu’s invasion was delayed until Legazpi and Fray Andres de Urdaneta arrived in 1566.

Cebu embraced Catholicism with great fervor. It’s no wonder old churches abound here. Ate Emily, our host, the Sec. of Tourism (hehe!) prepared our iterinaries. For the first day, we are the pilgrims. We visited Marian Hills in Simala, Municipality of Sibonga (located between Argao and Carcar City). It is around 2 hours travel from the Cebu City center.

Called as the Monastery of the Holy Eucharist, this is the church for the Marian devotees. It is very popular among believers for the miraculous Virgin. devotees are not just women but also men! :) I was astounded by the place. Just after a decade, the place improved tremendously. The ‘Mga Monghe ni Maria’[Monks of Mary] supervises the Monastery.

Personal letters addressed to the Virgin Mary are also displayed. Try to read them and you’ll be inspired. You can also write your petition letter or thanksgiving letter. People from different places flock to the church everyday!

From Simala, we passed by Carcar town public market and tried the famous lechon and puso (rice wrapped in coconut leaves) and softdrinks! One kilo of tasty lechon is only P300! Ate Liezl’s father cooks lechon too and as a lechon 'expert' taster , she swears it is one of the best lechon! The lechon’s tasty, you no longer need any condiments.

Aside from lechon, Carcar also is home to chicharon (not made of intestine but of pork skin), ampao, banana chips and coconut jam.

Carcar also houses the biggest shoe! Guinness World record holder which stands 3.6 meters, length of 7.6 meters and width of 2.9 meters!

Time to shop for shoes, but not for me, but for my inaanaks! (heard that Baby Kelon and Shan-shan loved those cute espadrilles!)

Then stop-overs to the old churches from the cities and municpalities we passed going to Simala. Churches in Minglanilla, San Fernaado and Carcar is just a-m-a-z-i-n-g! I always love old churches. I can get lost in the depths of its history, the power welded in the name of religion and people's manifestation of faith.

Santo Tomas de Villanueva or Pardo church

Minglanilla Church looks like a cake. It's already renovated.

San Fernando Church

Carcar Church (also known as Santa Catalina Church)

The next day is for the beach!! I love love loooooooove the beach. And it’s the reunion of Ate Liezl’s college barkada. Everyone was smitten by Clarke Isaac, ate Bingbing’s lovable son. While they keep abreast with their lives I and Clarke just milled around.

Sino ang tunay na ina?

The beach is the best place for modeling and jumpshot lessons! Hehe

By night, we visited Mactan shrine and shop for little trinkets as pasalubong. This is where guitars are made. For P1,500 , you’ll have your own guitar. I really wanted to but one for myself but I don’t know how to choose and I still don’t get the time to have guitar lessons. In time. 

But they kill starfishes to be used as ornaments! This made me cringe! :(

The island is also known for its danggit and sutokil (sugba, tola, kilaw). Fresh seafoods at Mactan Shrine is a must for seafoodies like us!

One could not leave Cebu without visiting it's historical landmark: Magellan's Cross and Basilica of Sto. Nino.

I just realized that Cebu people are really good with handicrafts. But with its fast development, nature is compromised. Water is one big problem here. The taxi driver told us their government made a dam for drinking water (is that possible?) but people from Leyte said, Cebu gets water from them. Bohol also is one supplier of potable water for Cebu as the latter continues its "development". Not just water, but also their fishes and trees! Hhhhmmmm….And as the city is fast developing and the land is now becoming limited, the solution? Reclaim large parts of the seas and make it an industrial zone!

Cebu has a lot of potentials. It is fast developing and becoming like Manila- in terms of skyscrapers and traffic! I hope Davao will not suffer the same fate in losing its potable water.

Enough with the negativity. Better dwell with positivity. This trip is finding new friends. Friends and ates who showed me that despite the societal pressures, one should be firm, enjoy and live life as it is.

Thank you mga ates for this wonderful South Cebu trip! :)

Flying to the Moon from Leyte and Back

How many times one can possibly fall in love?

Twice? Thrice?

Me? I fall every time I see the sun sets and rises! And when I went to Leyte, I’ve fallen in love countless times! (kacheeeeeezy! Echosera! Ahahahaha!)

I went to Leyte for a qualitative research method training composed also of MA students from DENR, DAR and VSU Alang-alang and us, from NGO. This is an opportunity to have short glances of love on this place. But this entails also knowing the little details that can make you squirm but its little charm will make you want to come back and fall in love all over again. Forgive me for the cheesiness but let me count the ways why I fell in love in Leyte.

I’ve fallen in love with Visayas State University’s campus! Visayas State University is the only university in the Visayas acknowledged by the Department of Tourism as a tourist destination because of its diverse flora and fauna bounding the mainland and sea from side to side. They have three ecosystem- from the mountains, lowlands to the sea! The campus covers around 8,000 hectares of land including the land reservation area in Mount Pangasugan.
With Mount Pangasugan (upper campus) and the Camotes Sea (lower campus), its administration promotes the school as a Resort University" for it has resorts, seafront suites, cottages, and bungalows catering to visitors and tourists coming over to the university.

I visited their rainforest hardening agroecological division. This is where truly endemic endangered indigenous species of trees- mala-kawayan, apitong, dao, diit and so many other species and varieties that I could not remember the name and even never heard of. One of the problems in our reforestation project is introducing foreign species like gemelina, falcata, ipil-ipil (we have a native ipil-ipil but it’s already endangered)- some fast growing trees that annihilated our endemic species. Introducing foreign species when we do not even have an inventory of our local species of trees! The thinking that anything foreign is superior made it impossible for our implementers to undertake comprehensive research/ databank of our own diverse trees. I was even schocked that mahogany is not endemic to us! When asked what’s the best tree to plant in reforestation project, Doc Buboy never gives a straight answer. Soil analysis, water holding capacity, slope are just of the many things to be considered to make it successful. For instance, you cannot plant a certain variety of hard wood speciez at a sloping hill when it is not suitable for high altitude places. Or there are plant species good for watery area like dao. Mala-kawayan, for instance are best suitable in high altitude area.
Doc Buboy Dargantes explaining tress adaptability and the mala-kawayan's agroecological properties (I could not understand some of the terms! hahahaha!)

The National Greening Program (NGP) of the present administration is not solely about planting any tree but also knowing the plant’s suitability in the area for it to thrive. In the face of global warming, reforestation program should be comprehensive and could use VSU’s expertise in determining the right tree to plant in lowland or highland, dry or water prone area! :D

Sun arising in Mt. Pangasugan

It’s sad to know that Mount Pangasugan (part of it is reservation and protected area of the campus) has several mining application. During 1990s, they successfully stopped it and the former governor were caught saying in a presscon, “Never mind the forest.” This made the people mad. He lost the vote on the next election. I think the anti-mining vote is quite huge. (This is same in South Cotabato wherein all of politicians esp. for gubernatorial position last election vowed to stop mining in the area! Hello Gov. Pinggoy! Remember the covenant you signed?!)

I fell in love with the bikes! Teachers and students use bikes in going around the campus and even in the city! (so parang Korea or Holland lang ang feeling?! Hehe) Ate Liezl wanted to take her Masters here. And we joked with Doc Buboy that we’ll apply as RA!

I fell in love with qualitative research (again?!). I like Ms. Roa’s thesis on gender analysis in food security research. It showed a different way of seeing things, of being particular and maximizing the time in the field. The resource persons in the training are very accommodating too. No air whatsoever of their accomplishments. They happily shared how research- whether quantitative or quantitative can be useful especially for policies. We are lucky to have this opportunity to meet very passionate teachers and advocates. they told us we have to an eye for details and have the framework on seeing new things at something we used to think as mundane. Crucial part of the learning process is applying theories. Our group was assigned in Brgy. Kilim, one of the coastal barangays of Baybay City. We talked to the fishermen and fish vendor. They shared their problem on the unregulated entry of commercial fishing vessels. This made them powerless, they could no longer fish. The once bountiful fishing area for small fisherfolks (only using bingwit) has to contend with vessels coming from neighboring municipalities of Albuera and Cebu City. One peculiar thing shared also is the dynamics between the residents and the “separatist” group of Philippine Benevolent Missionaries Association (PBMA) founded by Ruben Ecleo in Dinagat Islands. They live in one sitio in Kilim, have their own resort and have their own fiesta (even grander than that of the barangay’s!). hhhmmm....

I love the old church and the plaza! They have the church built in 16th century! It is the 3rd oldest church in Leyte. It’s a classic Spanish pueblo wherein church are the center of the community’s social life.

I love the richness of the island's history! The islanders of Leyte were among the first to welcome the Spaniards but they were also among the first to resist the Spanish invaders. The early revolts and uprising against the encroaching Spaniards was started by the freedom, war–like, heavily tattooed inhabitants of Leyte known as the pintados.

The place is also known in our history books as the place where Magellan landed in the island of Homonhon. Then Magellan crossed Limasawa. On March 31, 1521 Eastern Sunday, was celebrated the First Mass in the Philippines. Although this has been contested by some historians believing that it is in Mazau in Butuan. However 1998 publication by the National Historical Institute supports its initial claim that Limasawa was the site of the First Mass.

The famous Leyte landing by General Douglas MacArthur with President Sergio Osmeña, General Carlos P. Romulo, Major General Basilio J. Valdes, and other key officers of USAFFE and the combined Allied liberating forces. It is to immortalize MacArthur's words, "I shall return."

Leyte is also in the world history as the site of the Battle of the Leyte Gulf during World War II. And the four day battle culminated in the beachhead landing of the Allied forces headed by Gen. McArthur.

Right now, it faces a different battle- the battle of political clans. Romualdezes are from here. Imelda Romualdez- Marcos' ancestral home is in Palo, his father’s house is now the Sto. Nino Shrine in Tacloban) ruled esp. during Martial Law. After EDSA, they fled fearing the strong anti-Marcos and his cronies sentiments. New political clan took over. The Petilla’s (and Cari’s in Baybay. They are related by marriage. Smooth political moves, eh?) Before the Romualdez had Sangyaw festival. The new festival was named Pintados. After several decades, the Romualdezes came back and regained their political clout. So the city had an ordinance declaring Sangyaw as Tacloban’s original festival. There once a time that delegates for the Pintados parade were blocked by the city! Leyteneos, can you keep up with this? TSK!

I just love seafoods! Our last night is seafood foodie bonding. It’s wonderful talking to Ate Daisy and Doc Buboy. Never ending talk about German technology, Leyte’s marine reservation and never-ending academic endeavors for the benefit of mankind! Hehe

Full moon seafood grill dining at Bayluan Park

In Tacloban, we dined at Bayluan Park. The Sto. Nino was lost and found in Samar. The ritual is called as “Bayluan” wherein the Sto Nino was return and exchanged.
Funny and sad that this is also a disputed place. The land is owned by the Provincial government while the development was done by the City. (Tacloban City ruled by Alfred Romualdez while provincial Government ruled by Carlos Jericho Petilla). City Hall faces Bayluan Park, guarding the place. Expect to see the fierce battle in new form in this historical town during elections.

I love Na Ning’s interiors! Sports-themed murals, funny cocktails, beers from country of your choice, games on flat screen TVs, table soccer! This is owned by the Palami siblings and located near the entrance of Leyte Park and Resort.

I love the beautiful color mats! Made from tikog, this colorful beautifully woven mats are created in Basey, Samar.

I love sunset and sunrise! I experienced one of the best sweetest sunset in Baybay and over San Juanico Bridge, the longest bridge in the country! What more can I ask for? :)

San Juanico Bridge, is 2.16 kilometer bridge and 41 meters high that crosses over picturesque San Juanico Strait connecting the islands of Samar and Leyte. The bridge is a vital link between northern and southern Philippines through the Pan-Philippine Highway. This engineering marvel was built by Japanese engineers in 1969 and finished in 1973. We were euphoric riding the motorcycle as we traverse the length of the bridge watching the marvelous sunset over emerald green waters of San Juanico Strait.

It feels like being in two places at the same time! From Tacloban to Samar within 20 minutes. Zoooooom zoom!

So, how many times does one can fall in love? 0_o

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Coffee Dreams in Kulaman

A lot can brew over a cup of coffee. One of the best conversations I have with friends are over a cup of coffee. One reason perhaps, why cafes are fast proliferating with different blends of coffee, milk and other flavors here in the metro.

I for one, love brewed coffee to perk up my day. So how about a tour on where the best coffees are produced? Sounds fun, huh?!

I was invited to take the slot of my colleague for a visit in one of the assisted communities of our partner NGO- TRICOM (Tri-people Concern for Peace, Progress and Development of Mindanao). Together with another partner, the Kaisampalad Inc. (KPI), the three has a collaborative project, a programmatic approach for local economy in different subsectors (coffee, banana, abaca, and coconut) development of conflict affected areas in Leyte, Agusan del Norte and Kulaman.

The area to be visited is the assisted community of Manobo Dulangan in Sitio Sewayeg and Brgy. Pangaan in Kulaman (now known as Senator Ninoy Aquino) municipality.
The municipality was part of Kalamansig before. By virtue of Presidential decree 341, it was created as municipality out of Municipality of Kalamansig. Then by virtue of Republic Act 6712, Kulaman was declared a municipality and renamed as Senator Ninoy Aquino in July 11, 1989. The poblacion retained the name Kulaman, and currently the municipality has 20 barangays.

The Manobo Dulangan Ancestral Domain approved claim is 26,994.2158 hectares covering three municipalities (Kalamansig Palimbang and Senator Ninoy Aquino) with 11 barangays.

Iterinaries were prepared by the TRICOM staff assigned in SK. It was a happy route with detailed descriptions like “…the temperature in this area usually drops until 14 degree Celsius in the night and the relative atmospheric humidity is quite high….cold…cold…cold”. Happily, we prepared and brought our socks and jackets! bbrrrrrr!

We met other participants from Caraga. After a 5 hour bus travel to Tacurong (bus driver’s too respectful of the streets and quite a politician. He’s been talking to every passenger who’s getting off from the bus! Haha!). Other pax from Leyte and Kidapawan were already waiting for us in Isulan.

From Isulan, Kuya Daniel, one of youth leaders and TRICOM volunteer in Sitio Sewayeg met us. With a hired van, we traverse the road to poblacion Kulaman for 4 hours. We watched the panoramic view of Sulatan Kudarat in View Point and listened to happy chattering and jokes of Kuya Lando (the van conductor). Then rain started to fall as the fog slowly spreads. The chilly wind sweeps our faces, everyone being lulled into sleep. The group arrived at the lodging house at around 6:30PM. A hearty dinner of tinolang manok and pork adobo was served. Then the group had a short briefing on itinerary, community profiles and protocols for cultural sensitivity in Manobo Dulangan villages.

Next day, we woke up early for the courtesy call with Mayor Dante Manganaan. He is an Ilocano coffee trader in the area. The group was served with BrownCup hot brewed coffee, local brand developed by the Gacayan General Merchandise. Mayor’s staff gave a short history of the municipality- one full of controversy. After it was proclaimed as municipality before, it was recalled and several attempts to regain its municipality status were denied. After EDSA, it was renamed after the befallen husband of the former president Cory Aquino in order to be approved.

Government programs such as 4Ps, Kalahi seeds and Cash for Work Program are directly implemented in the municipality. As the Mayor said, it’s better that national projects are directly implemented by the municipality. It lessens corruption especially the program on road construction. They would like to promote the area for its tourism especially for its unexplored caves. Ms. Gemma Viereas shared that that they hosted the 3rd Mindanao Caving Forum last 2003 (with Pastor Erwin Emata as one of the convenors). They plan to bid for National Caving Congress by 2012 to boost local tourism.

Then the group dropped by at the house of Brgy. Captain of Brgy. Tinalon (wherein Sitio Sewayeg belongs). The captain had a motorcycle accident and he’s already recuperating. He gladly welcomed the group and talked with TRICOM staff on illegal selling of lands in the area. He’s very supportive of the programs in the area.

Then the group on hired motorcyles resumed the travel to Sewayeg. Sitio Sewayeg is at least 20 kms away from the town center of Kulaman and is mainly accessible to motorbikes. It is one of the 64 Manobo Dulangan villages located in the northwestern part of the Ancestral Domain dwelled by more or less 13 households headed by Datu Apon Sako as the tribal chieftain. The village covers at least 335.156 hectares, wherein more or less 116 hectares are planned to be utilized for agroforestry purposes, while the rest are intended for uses such as production forests (166.9 hectares) for the tribe’s ethno-botanical sustenance and wildlife catch, protection forests (50.58 hectares) as reservations for cultural functions and wildlife habitat, and a small reforestation area of 0.69 hectare.

Meeting the members the community 

Obo Manobos of Kidapawan shared their experiences on lobbying with LGU with leaders of Manobo Dulangan.

The man-land ratio is relatively high that interest from migrant settlers to acquire lands within the Ancestral domain also high. Selling of lands at a very low price happens. However, the land use policy of the tribe have had somehow prevented this to occur since most of their clan members are in the interest to safeguard this remaining area of their once abundant territory.

Coffee beans. More than just a livelihood. 

For Datu Apon, one strategy that aided them in their quest in safeguarding the lands is by establishing coffee orchards in the entry points of their ancestral domain. In this way they realized that occupancy and possession of lands are respected by the migrants when they put something visible symbols of occupancy over an area, in this case, the coffee plant.

TRICOM had assisted them on their CADT claim last June 2009 and on their management zoning for the ancestral domain. Manobo Dulangans are also warrior-like tribes since they are in the boundary and surrounded by different tribes. On its left side are the Tedurays, in Palimbang side are the Maguindanaoans then in west side is the T’bolis.

Tran River is the boundary between Tedurays. It has a huge logging concession owned by Consunji. Coffee thrives in the area as there is huge demand and a market for it. While it serve as a visible symbol of occupancy in their ancestral land, it is also one of the reasons why IPs lost their lands. There is massive selling of IP lands at a very low price especially during drought or when a family member got sick. Lack of social services especially on health forces the Manobo Dulangan to sell their lands. Also, migrants coming from Pagadian City started to come and settle in their area.

We visited the coffee orchards. They also shared their management zones such as the hunting areas and production forests (where coffee orchards are), their restoration areas and protected zones (the no go zones forests).

Dancing, continuing tradition. 

Coming down from the coffee orchard on the hilly part of the AD, the group heard someone playing the flandung (flute) and toga (guitar) in one of the households. The group entered and asked if they can listen to the song. They welcomed us at their homes and sing, giving thanks as the day ends.

I just love sunrise and sunsets! 

As the sun slowly sets, hues of red, yellow and pink awash the skies. Dense fogs started to arise, signaling a very cold night. Dinner is early as there is no electricity in the area. And Datu Apon Sako gave their house as sleeping quarters of the participants, sacrificing their own comfort, showing hospitality at the only way they can.

wild palm called pula and rattan for food.

Everyone woke up early the next day and served with brimming cup of hot brewed coffee. Breakfast consist of wild palm called pula (called as anibong in Surigao) cooked with corned beef.

As the group awaits the coming out of the sun to dry out the slippery road, the children started to dance. A traditional dance of courtship was presented. Datu Apon also showed their memory game of Bugkag sa Mae, corn kernels are lined in different numbers and you have to guess how many remained on the spot he/she chooses (I don't know how to describe it since I'm bad with numbers and memory! ugh) :D

The group had to move along by 10AM and visit the Pangaan tribefolks. Village Pangaan together with Sewayeg is part of Brgy Tinalon which is at least 12 kms from Kulaman. It is located along the road going to Sewayeg and is populated by more or less 30 Manobo Dulangan households. The tribefolks chunk of the big ancestral domain is only 81.5 hectares which is relatively smaller as compared as those of Sewayeg and most of the villages of the entire ancestral domain. This happened due to the fact that their territory is embedded in the CARP wherein parcels of their lands were alienated from their possession as the limit of 3 hectares per beneficiary are satisfied. With this, even though they are the priority beneficiaries, the excess parcels were distributed to migrant settlers in the area. AFRIM sees it as Department of Agrarian Reform’s (DAR)way to bloat it accomplishment. Another case of multiple land tenurial instrument issued in one area. Case of overlapping claims and conflicting agendas! :(

Meet Gwapo, the coffee technician in Pangaan
The group has yet again to start its travel and end its journey by spending time at Elan’s Haven, which features an underground river and wonderful rock formations of the Tinalon cave. Cold water runs from the Tinalon river that "disappeared" in Brgy. Pangaan and coursed its way in Tinalon cave.

Soon we explored and get lost inside the rock formations and the white snake that crossed our path sending other participants to shout and laugh after. There's a part where water's quite deep, they said it's only waist deep. I laughed. To whose waist are they referring? If they're referring to Ate Mabel, a companion who stands almost 6 feet, then I'm in big trouble! haha!

Thank God for the funny and caring companions. It was such a wonderful experience. 

One of the best spelunking/ underground river trekking! 

After the sumptuous lunch, the group have to get back to poblacion Kulaman and end the travel with a debriefing. That night, I was struck by Kuya Rey's words: We in the NGO world are working for irrelevance.

What we do as NGO is just like hammer, trying to pound in order for the government to work. We are not here to replace the government. We will disappear but the government remain. What we have to do is to help and facilitate people's learning to claim and fight for their rights.

This cross visit gave us new realizations. There are different faces of poverty. Large resources and cultural assertion does not necessarily mean political space are widely opened. There should be a balance of economic, political and cultural spaces in order for the people to truly say they are empowered. One challenge for the 3 NGOs working on this project is how to tap different opportunity in the value chain to support the communities in different subsectors. To ensure that in every cup of coffee coming from Kulaman, the Manobo Dulangans who produce it has an equitable share in the process and secure their land and livelihood.


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