Sunday, July 22, 2007

Negros Island

Anybody who wants to see gorgeous topography needs to check out northern Negros Island. From Bacolod you head north and follow the curve past towns named Cadiz, Calatrava, Toboso before you hit San Carlos City which is separated from the island of Cebu by the Tanon Strait. You make your way back to Bacolod by cutting through the mountains ending in a town called Murcia. The Spaniard who originally designated these names probably was reminded of the old places back in the Iberian Peninsula.

You will see chocolate hills, rice terraces, mountain peaks and promontories with spectacular views of the azure sea, pine groves…. I was amazed by the scenery. The land was mostly undeveloped, there was no cellular phone signal and there were long stretches of highway under repair. There were quite a few buses overloaded with people clinging tightly all the way to the rafters.

All the 7100 islands of the Philippines put together would be as big as Arizona but when you compute all the coastlines that demarcate each island you will come up with a figure that will dwarf the combined coastal area of the continental United States. Discovering yet another beautiful area in the country fills me with hope for better prospects in the future.

But I spoke with a former landowner who was forced by the agrarian laws of the land to “sell” his farmland at a much reduced price to the tenant farmers. In 5 years, due to lack of support and the inability of the farmers to purchase seed, fertilizer, pesticides, the farm had become unproductive. The land was pawned and idle. I spoke to those who had farmed the land and who were now reduced to planting a tiny amount of crops that was barely enough for their own needs. They were smoking cigarettes a lot more and drinking rum and looked forward to those fiesta days when they would slaughter, kaldereta-style, some of the goats that kept the grass trimmed. This was not exactly a bunch brimming with hope.

Point is, there is much beauty surrounding us and the climate is gentle and the soil is rich. Have we become spoiled by all these blessings? Is this what the absence of struggle brings? But will industrialization and more money and more material things bring happiness and peace and contentment? I’d like to see the kids get better educational opportunities. I’d like to eradicate the roundworm infestation that is prevalent in these environs. I’d like to see less cigarette-smoking and more tree-planting. I’d like to see farm to market roads in better condition.

If you have a chance, visit Negros Island.

1 comment:

r.g. lacsamana said...

Hopping from island to island was hard to do in the past because of limited air transportation, plus the expenses involved. But you are right - there are so many beautiful spots at home, remaining neglected because of poverty, among other things. Negros at one time was one of the bright spots in the South because of its vast sugar lands and haciendas. I wonder if it's safe now to travel in that island, or whether there are hostile elements that may pose a risk to peripatetic travellers like a lot of us.

The security situation in the Philippines is one reason why a number of "balikbayans" may be hesitant to travel beyond their hometowns and Manila. That, indeed, reflects badly on the political leadership.