Thursday, December 14, 2017

The Endangered Mossy Forests of Kabayan, Benguet

Through a message sent by a concerned reader, it came to my attention that the mayor of the nearby town of Kabayan in Benguet seems to be serious about the idea of cancelling out the declaration of Mount Pulag as a protected national park. The mountain and its surrounding forests were declared as a national park back in 1987. This declaration was instrumental in protecting the mountain and the surrounding forest reserves.

Now, Gideon Todiano, Mayor of Kabayan wants this declaration nullified. If he pursues this, it would be very bad for the park. In an article published by the Bombo Radyo Baguio website, Todiano cites problems with the management of the park as among the reasons why he’s adamant about the issue. He also cites the unclear role of the town in managing the park, unresolved land claims, and millions of pesos of unpaid taxes due to the unresolved land claims.

Todiano raises a lot of valid points here and these are really serious matters but I don’t think that removing Mt. Pulag’s tag as a national park will resolve the issues. In the short-run, maybe. But in the long-run, it will be disastrous not only to the mountain and the surrounding forest reserves but to the town of Kabayan as well. With that said, I hope that Todiano, the town, and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources talk over things and resolve issues without resorting to this bizarre idea of undeclaring the place as a national park.

And let us not forget that the Mt. Pulag National Park covers not just Mt. Pulag itself but numerous mountains and forests within Benguet, Ifugao, and Nueva Vizcaya.

Early this year, we climbed Mt. Tabayoc and explored the nearby lakes and mossy forests in Ballay, Kabayan. These places are still parts of the Mt. Pulag National Park. Huge swaths of the mossy forests have already been converted into farm lands. The speed of how forests are turned into farm lands can double or even triple if the place is no longer a national park. It will be open season for everyone.

Of course, it’s understandable that the people in Kabayan need land to farm. But let’s not forget that Pulag, Tabayoc, the lakes, and the mossy forests are watersheds. If these forests are gone, there’d be no source of water to irrigate the farm lands. There should be balance in everything. These are the only remaining mossy forest covers in the province. Again, I’m hoping that Todiano, the town of Kabayan, and the DENR resolve issues surrounding the park without having to “undeclare” it as a national park. I'm confident that they can come up with solutions that will protect both the mountains, the mossy forests, and the interests of the town's citizens.

Here are some photos from the trip we made in Mt. Tabayoc in Ballay, Kabayan several months ago. The place is beautiful with its mossy forest covers and lakes. These places are worth saving and protecting.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Christmas Tree Art Installation In Baguio City Partially Burned Down In Suspected Arson Case

What's up with Baguio City and the burning of Christmas trees? In January of this year, the giant Christmas tree installed at the center of the Rose Garden in Burnham Park was reduced to ashes in a suspected case of arson. Now, the Christmas tree art installation atop Session Road nearly had the same fate when it partially burned early morning on Monday (December 11).

According to the Baguio City Police, the art installation on Upper Session Road was partially burned around dawn but the cause is yet to be established. Somebody (or some people) not happy with the design of the installation may have attempted to burn it down. If proven that this is the case, it would be tantamount to arson. But we can't discount the possibility that the case may be an accident. The installation has electrical wires and parts so there's always the chance that rogue electricity caused the blaze.

The installation is the work of Maela Liwanag Jose, a Baguio-based artist. It received mixed feedback during its unveiling. But art is art. Just because you don't like the work doesn't mean you have the right to ruin it. You don't look at a painting and hammer it down to pieces if it doesn't adhere to your artistic tastes. On my part, Jose has my support. Truth be told, I'm among those who didn't really embrace the design of the installation. But I appreciate the fact that Jose took the risk of creating it. The work is unique. It's out of the box. And that's great. The best artists are those who create new ground instead of going with the flow.

Fortunately, only two panels of the installation were burned. Restoration of the work will start soon with the assistance of City Hall.
Photos by Ivory Collins.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

April Osenio Of Team Lakay Loses Via TKO In Bangkok, Thailand

April Osenio's return to the One Championship ring after more than a year of inactivity proved disastrous when she succumbed to strikes courtesy of China's Xiong Jing Nan on Saturday night (December 9). The two squared off at a catch-weight bout in the undercard of One Championship: Warriors of the World at the Impact Arena in Bangkok, Thailand. Jing Nan snatched victory via technical knockout in the very first round.

Looking to rebound after her loss to Jenny Huang last year, Osenio opened the first round with aggression. Not to be outdone, Jing Nan answered with aggression. The story of the fight quickly turned to Jing Nan's favor when she took Osenio to the mat. She worked on her ground and pound then attempted a submission. Osenio was able to reverse the position but she decided to stand up and allow the fight to continue on their feet. The move proved ill-conceived as Jing Nan upped her game and doubled her pressure. With Osenio backed up against the cage, Jing Nan started teeing off on her. Osenio crumpled and the referee quickly stepped in to stop the contest.

Experience and ring generalship won the fight for Jing Nan. With the victory, Jing Nan improves her record to ten wins and just one loss. Osenio drops to two wins and three losses. With the dearth of fighters in One Championship's atomweight female division, Jing Nan will likely get the shot against the champion Angela Lee.

Xiong Jing Nan (right) celebrates after her TKO victory over April Osenio at One Championship: Warriors of the World. Photo: One Championship.
The main event for One Championship: Warriors of the World was a championship affair between Yoshitaka Naito and Alex Silva for the organization's strawweight strap. Japan's Naito, the defending champion, is as tough as they come but Brazil's Silva had answers to everything he did. The fight went the full distance and the judges rightfully gave the Brazilian challenger the unanimous decision victory.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Is Mt. Kabunian In Bakun, Benguet Recommended For Beginners?

This is the trail leading up to the summit of Mt. Kabunian in Bakun, Benguet. Someone asked if I would recommend the mountain for a beginner and by beginner I mean someone who hasn't climbed before. My answer is no.

Try a much less difficult trail before you go for the likes of Mt. Kabunian. If you've read articles online describing the Mt. Kabunian trail as an easy trail, take their descriptions with a grain of salt. Lots of salt. The problem with most of the information you find online is that they've been written by experienced climbers. Needless to say, an easy climb for them can turn out to be a very difficult climb for you if you're a beginner.

Mt. Kabunian isn't too high of a mountain but the trail can pose a challenge to beginners. In all honesty, it's the most dangerous trail I've ever been to. That's not an exaggeration. The trail especially the final assault to the summit features steep cliffs and rock drop-offs. One wrong step and you'll be hurtling down the mountain.

See the picture below? The mountain at the background is Mt. Kabunian. You'll have to zigzag through the incline's rocky face to get to the summit which is the highest point on the upper right corner. It's easy to be comfortable while on the trail but you have to be extra careful of your steps.

This is not in any way an attempt to discourage people from climbing Mt. Kabunian. It's an offering of advice that you be ready for the trail especially if you have a fear of heights.

One last piece of advice: if you are planning to climb the Bakun Trio (Kabunian, Lubo, Tenglawan), it's probably better if you climb Lubo first. It has the easiest trail and it provides you some sort of a teaser of what to expect from the trails of the other two peaks.

Welcome to the Cordilleras! Have fun climbing!

Mt. Kabunian in Poblacion, Bakun, Benguet.

Friday, December 8, 2017

From The Boondocks: Episode 1

The Last Question by Isaac Asimov [Short Story] - Isaac Asimov has written countless short stories during his very productive career. He has personally made the statement that The Last Questionis by far [his] favorite story of all those [he] has written”. In the story, Asimov imagined how human history and consciousness would play out in several trillion years. It began with two drunken computer technicians on May, 21, 2061 to the day - trillions of years later - when the universe as we know it dies and is “snuffed out”. Is this dying out of the universe the end of everything? Is there a chance that life springs out from the empty abyss? Maybe, maybe not.

The Great Human Odyssey [Documentary] - This is a documentary I would highly recommend to anyone interested in learning about the origins of man. It’s a very fascinating ode to the resilience of our species over thousands of years. Without the documentary, I never would’ve known that all the civilizations that flourished in North, Central, and South America likely came from a small band of people that originated from Siberia. I never would’ve known that genetic studies show that Pacific islanders originated from Asia. There’s compelling evidence from studies done in the fields of archaeology and linguistics that further support this theory.

These studies point to human migration at least 40,000 years ago wherein people reached island groups such as Indonesia and the Philippines when sea levels were very low. Although there is no archaeological evidence of the earliest boats used to cross towards the far-flung Pacific islands, Papua New Guinea holds a bit of evidence on how people may have fanned out into the Pacific. For hundreds of years, Papuans have been building long and fast canoes. Earlier versions of these long canoes may have been the ones used by ancient islanders to sweep and populate the Pacific.

It’s also interesting to know that sweet potatoes were found in Polynesian islands and skulls belonging to Polynesian islanders were found in Chile in South America. Sweet potatoes evolved in South America so who brought these to the Polynesian islands? Did natives of South America bring the potatoes to Polynesia or did Polynesians go to South America then brought the potatoes back to Polynesia? Thickening the plot even further was the discovery of Polynesian skulls in Chile. These are just bits of a large picture painted by this engrossing documentary.

Resurrecting the Tasmanian Tiger [Documentary] - What took evolution millions of years to create took mankind only fifty years to completely destroy. This is the unfortunate story of the Tasmanian tiger which was hunted down to extinction by humans. The last one of these animals died at a zoo. The real tragedy here is that the animal was wiped out based on irrational fear. Farmers in Tasmania wrongfully thought that the tigers were hunting and eating their sheep. In reality, feral dogs were the ones responsible. Serving as the foreground in this documentary is one man’s mission to bring the tiger back from the dead. In short, an attempt at de-extinction.

An actual photo of the now-extinct Tasmanian tiger (Thylacine). Image: Wikipedia Commons.

Last Week Tonight With John Oliver: Alex Jones [Television] - John Oliver is one of the best working satirists today. And he proves this well-deserved distinction yet again with a well-researched takedown of Alex Jones in this segment of his HBO show Last Week Tonight. For the uninitiated, Alex Jones is a conservative media personality most well-known for his conspiracy theories and crazy proclamations. Oliver’s contention is that Jones shouldn’t be taken seriously and he compellingly shows why. Jones spreads lies, conspiracy theories, and crazy (and often very dangerous) ideas. In a perfect world, this segment should send Jones to irrelevance. Unfortunately, given the tons of people still defending Jones’s antics, it seems like Oliver’s work only managed to scratch Jones’s armor. Which is sad, really, because this world needs more Olivers and less Joneses.

The Congo Dandies [Documentary] - Want to be weirded out? Then see this documentary. Strange, just strange. I’m stuck trying to process what kind of thinking propels these gentlemen to act and dress like they do. Is it a shallow attempt to generate fame? Or does it have a deeper cause like escapism? Maybe the men are so disenfranchised by poverty and the squalid conditions around them that splurging on clothes (even if they can’t afford them) allows them to momentarily escape these conditions.

Nova [Documentary] - This documentary once again highlighted my reservations when it comes to contemporary and modern art. Most of the time, I don’t understand the works in question but when the artists talk about their creations, they seem to be too sure about them. All I really hear are various levels of pretentious drivel. Modern art is still a mystery to me. I don’t understand why a chair placed in the middle of an empty room can be considered art. It’s just a chair in an empty room. To come up with explanations to imply that it means anything other than a chair in an empty room is rather insulting.

My problem with modern art is usually directed to installations and conceptual art. I don’t have a problem with abstract paintings, mind you. Abstract paintings are decorative and they can look aesthetically pleasing when hung on a wall. They don’t mean anything but at least they serve a purpose. But the empty chair in an empty room? What purpose does it serve?

Cenk Uygur vs. Ben Shapiro on Politicon [Debate] - American politics has always been very fascinating to me. Truth be told, I sometimes follow it more urgently than I do Philippine politics. Don’t get me wrong, both American and Philippine politics are often dirty and toxic. But I find American politics to me more intellectually stimulating. You can learn a lot about the world and how it works by simply watching the conversations between liberals and conservatives. When I delve into Philippine politics, it just makes me sad. There’s just too much stupidity among politicians and too much credulity among constituents. Following these everyday will take its toll on your mental well-being.

Anyway, back to the Uygur-Shapiro debate. I have a bit of familiarity with Uygur’s politics since I sometimes catch him on The Young Turks. And I consider myself a fan of his work. As for Shapiro, I’ve heard of him but I don’t know much about his work. Well, he made me a fan during the debate. This is the type of conversations or debates that I want to see in the Philippines. Sadly, everyone here seems to be stuck in his or her echo chamber and unwilling to engage in rational exchanges. They prefer to spend their time calling each other Dilawan or Dutertard over in the interwebs.

Scrapped [Documentary] - Today I learned that large ships go to Bangladesh to die. And when they die, they take Bangladeshis with them. Apparently, the country's a glorified graveyard for useless ships. It’s a saddening tale but I wasn’t that surprised by it given the fact that Bangladesh is among the poorest nations on the planet. Being a poor country also means very poor treatment for workers inside the country. The two come hand in hand.

The Art Bastard Show [Mockumentary] - If you are among those who are confused or even angered by the current state of contemporary and modern art, this mockumentary is right up your alley. It doesn’t break any new ground but it’s worth the watch. It also starts well and slowly loses steam to the end (because things get rather redundant). Your experience might be the opposite of this observation if you are an art or a design student. (Further reading: What is a mockumentary?)

The Bridge [Documentary] - It envelopes you with a certain kind of sadness. It forces you to mull deeply if there’s someone you know who might jump off a bridge when life becomes too much of a burden. The Bridge is about suicide but it doesn’t attempt to provide answers as to why it happens or how it can be prevented. That’s what makes this documentary very powerful in a unique way. It simply shows those who have given up on existence as they pace back and forth on the Golden Gate. Some jump to the waters below. Some hesitate. Some are rescued. It is what it is, I guess.

Monday, November 27, 2017

KJ Natuplag Of Lagawe, Ifugao Captures PBF Featherweight Title In Highland Brawl

Kurvin John (KJ) Natuplag, a boxing prospect who hails from the town of Lagawe in Ifugao, shone the brightest when he bested Danilo Pena of Paranaque City to capture the vacant Philippine Boxing Federation featherweight title on Sunday night at the CCDC gym in La Trinidad, Benguet. Natuplag was declared the winner via technical knockout when Pena's corner decided to stop the fight right after the end of the seventh round.

Natuplag vs Pena served as the main course for the boxing event dubbed Highland Brawl 2: War in the North. The stacked card also featured five supporting professional bouts and nine amateur fights. The event is part of the official activities for the month-long Adivay Festival.

With the victory, Natuplag improves his record to 6 wins, 0 loses, and 1 draw. On the other hand, Pena drops to 27 wins, 28 losses, and 5 draws. Below is an updated list of the results of the matches during the event.

Main Event
KJ “El Matumbo” Natuplag (Ifugao) vs. Danilo Pena (Paranaque City), TKO Round 7 for Natuplag, 126lbs, PBF Featherweight title

Supporting Bouts
1. Jules Victoriano (Baguio City) vs. Juanito Paredes (Metro Manila), Unanimous Decision for Victoriano, 126 lbs | Featherweight bout
2. Brian Lobetania (La Trinidad, Benguet) vs. Jayson Nicart (Bacoor City), TKO Round 4 for Lobetania, 108lbs | Light Flyweight bout
3. Enrique Magsalin (Baguio City) vs. Romeo Tenorio (Sarangani) Split Draw, 109lbs | Catch weight bout
4. Orlandino Sinaloba (La Trinidad) vs. Bryan Padolina (Bacoor City) Majority Decision for Sinaloba, 122lbs |Super Bantamweight bout
5. Kathleen Papti-e (Itogon, Benguet) vs. Renalyn Dacquel (Abra) TKO RD 1 for Dacquel, 114lbs| Super Flyweight (Women’s Division)

Amateur Bouts
1. Esli Dhon Saclag (Kalinga) vs. Jonathan Soriano (Baguio City) 40 kg Draw
2. Chris Caday (Buguias) vs. Hope Ignas (Atok) 55 kgs TKO Round 2 for Ignas
3. Gilbert Dionisio (La trinidad) vs. Eugene Tuguinay (Itogon) 49kgs Unanimous Decision for Gilbert Dionisio
4. Jones Catalino (Buguias) vs. Mark Autida (La Trinidad) 52kgs Unanimous Decision for Mark Autida
5. MJ Uduna (Ifugao) vs. Roy Domigsi (La Trinidad) 60kgs TKO RD 2 for MJ Uduna
6. Andrea Cola (Italy) vs. Judy Kimpa-oy (La trinidad) 72 kgs TKO RD 2 for Andrea Cola
7. Zak Kaiser Moga (Itogon) vs. Chim Apopot (Kibungan) 58kgs Chim Apopot Winner
8. Christopher Miguel (Tuba) vs. Bradley Delmas (La Trinidad) 55 kg TKO RD 1 for Miguel
9. Bryan Caw-as (Kapangan) vs. Jeffrey Kimpa-oy (La Trinidad) 67kg Unanimous Decision for Caw-as

Natuplag (right) and Pena (left) during the weigh-in. Photo credit: Winston Gonzalo from the Highland Brawl Facebook page.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

November 23 (Thursday) is a Special Non-Working Holiday in Benguet

This coming Thursday, the province of Benguet will sing, dance, and feast with a "canao" to mark its 117th founding anniversary. The local government of Benguet was established on November 23, 1900 right after the Americans took control of the archipelago. It also happens that the feast, the "canao", is the centerpiece of the month-long celebrations for the annual Adivay Festival. The parade will also happen on this day.

To allow more i-Benguets and outside participants to get involved with the celebrations, November 23 has been declared as a special non-working holiday in the province. The declaration was made and announced two weeks ago by the Office of the President through the Office of the Executive Secretary.

This year's Adivay Festival carry the theme "Benguet Culture, Our Future: Sustaining Cultural Identity Amidst Global Changes". The kick-off program for the festival was held on November 13 at the Capitol Grounds. The activities will roll on until the 26th of November. Check out the calendar of events for the Adivay Festival 2017 here.

Photo by Daniel Feliciano / The Cordilleran Sun