Saturday, March 13, 2010

awe and shock

true confession time. for two and a half years, till last december, our job title was travel editor. but the ironic thing is we hardly ever got to travel. aside from having to deal with daily deadlines, the management didn't like us leaving the office. so, as per their instructions, we often had to turn down media junkets or pass them on to the sales & marketing department. quite frustrating. that's like not allowing a fashion editor to watch fashion shows. so now that we are freefreefree (i.e., jobless ;-) we can go wherever we want, whenever we want! so last monday, we took off with the hubby for a road trip through the cordilleras and we saw parts of the philippines that we didn't even know existed. our first stop: the banaue rice terraces. we all grew up reading about this place in school books, as a tourist attraction, something to be proud of, a real "wonder of the world." and we never had the desire or inclination to see it "in the flesh"—till now. but here's something we discovered: as we drove through mountainside highways along the cordilleras, we realized that there are thousands upon thousands of these rice terraces, some dried up, others planted with other crops, but most of them still in use for planting rice. they are not isolated just in banaue—which has the most accessible rice terraces, thanks to its commercialized town proper, view points, and small villages like batad and mayoyao—but they are all over. it was a beautiful, scenic drive, with hardly any other cars, going from banaue to sagada, sagada to baguio, at heights of 1,200 to 2,300 meters—awesome! but don't look down, it'll make your head spin! but not once did we get to inhale that fresh mountain air. because each time we tried, all we could smell was smoke. the "kaingin" system is alive and well in the cordilleras, wherein they burn patches of land to make way for planting agricultural crops. that or probably to make way for building new houses or inns, who knows? it was a sad, shocking, disturbing sight to see. throughout the drive, there were plumes of smoke and even trails of flames on mountainsides—so bad for the ozone layer. and every so often, we would hear the menacing hum of chainsaws from afar. does the local government condone this practice?? (see photos below. that's not fog!! click to enlarge)

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