Untold DENR field men stories

>> Friday, February 19, 2016

March L. Fianza

 If only Engr. Oliver Bilango informed me earlier about the delineation survey of Mt. Pulag, I could have found time to be with his team in some of the Ibaloy, Kalanguya and Ifugao hamlets that took them in.
I know nothing more than peeping through the strong lens of a survey instrument, curious to find out if things that are many kilometers away come nearer and clearer. What interests me most is the way field men live their lives in the open, abused by bad weather and away from the comfort of home.
The delineation survey, according to Bilango, was finished in three months from the time Regional Special Order No. 152, S. 2015 was issued by DENR-CAR Regional Director Ralph Pablo.
The next thing to do after the order was issued was to form a team. Bilango who was the team leader identified his members as Foresters Clint Tayab, Ramil Windo and Benjamin Ngalawen, Forest Ranger Abelardo Yaptan, Technical Assistant Oliver Willy Arais, Engr. Manuel Dictaan and Rogelio Dawagui, with over all coordinator Forester TeberDionisio.
Over cups of coffee, I sipped these untold snippets from Penro Julio Lopez, Cenro Ed Flor and Forester Bilango who had buckets of experiences to tell. I feel very comfortable with them as we have been friends after college since they started work on the “other side of the fence”.
And since the time I started writing stories for a newspaper, I already had the impression that news gathering comes easy when the conversation between you and your news source is relaxed.  
Surveying and delineating communities around Mt. Pulag is not as easy as its story being told. I could see it from the facial expressions and body language of the story tellers. Penro Lopez said what makes the activity more dangerous is when the community does not understand or refuses to understand why the government surveyors are there.
The conclusion from a plain farmer in the boondocks upon seeing the survey equipment is that his land and garden will be grabbed, and he will be driven away by the DENR men from his farm. Hence, the need to inform and educate the LGUs and farm occupants in any manner that they can comprehend, if only to gain their support.  
Another factor that holds back the execution of projects in the field is office logistics. True, forest rangers who should be quick in responding to emergencies, especially forest fires are ineffective because they are unable to mobilize.
In many instances, field men of the DENR, not only in the Cordillera but all over the country, complain of not having the proper motor vehicles to use in their work. I also know for a fact that there are vehicles parked in the offices but these are not in good running condition.
This is the situation in the “matuwid na daan”. The regional directors use two or more brand new vehicles but the Penros, Cenros and forest fighters have only their saliva to swallow (tilmunem). That is my observation, not a statement from the men who are sipping barako coffee with me, although I know that they all agree.
With an area of 11,588.435 hectares, the DENR team surveyed a length of 54.8 km around Mt. Pulag, marking some 73 corners, 20 of which were major stations. 
The survey team crossed at least 14 barangays situated inside the borders of Mt. Pulag in the municipalities of Kabayan, Buguias and Bokod in Benguet; Tinoc, Ifugao; and Nueva Vizcaya.
At the same time, actual occupants within the protected area were counted but that has yet to be known. Crossing 14 barangays was not a leisurely walk over Pulag Park. For the DENR survey team to finish stationing all corners, they had to slowly negotiate precipices to avoid accidents.
In addition to unexpected cliffs, Bilango related that the team had to cross rivers with the assistance of barangay officials and residents who were familiar with the terrain. Village farmers who came with them helped cut the wild undergrowth and cleared the way to warm temporary dirty kitchens.
I forgot to ask the guys how many sacks of 2x2 and 4x4 gin bottles they collected during the three-month delineation survey, although I am quite sure that the bottles they downed relaxed their tired muscles, made them warmer and closer to their loved ones, even if that was only in their minds.


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