Oct 18

On the Road to Panabungen, Besao: Country Charm

The Tirad Pass mountain comes into view. Patiacan, Ilocos Sur is at the mountain's foot.

by Joel T. Fagsao
Laylaya, Besao, Mountain Province.  It was my first time to travel to Panabungen, Besao and I was looking in anticipation what the place would look like. Starting off from Bontoc at 6:30 A.M. we have to change vehicle from a van to the more capable public utility vehicle (Ford Fiera copy) in Besao Proper.  We were to visit Panabungen School of Arts, Trades and Industries to conduct an information drive on Consumer Education.  The road condition had some rough parts but it was passable all right.

The vista was just breathtaking.  We stopped on the road within Bunga (Besao) to stare at the outline of the mountain range known as Tirad Pass (Ilocos Sur).  Below it, you can have a glimpse of Patiacan, Ilocos Sur.

Passing by Catengan, we knew we were near Panabungen. Mango trees of Panabugnen, dot the landscape and of course, cows.  We had cows all over and a lone horse on a field while farmers did their share of the day’s chores.  I waved at some folks and they returned the gesture with smiles.

The pine-walled houses that we pass by retain their country charm and let you think that as if father time has virtually stopped in this land.

At 9:30 A.M. we reached Panabungen-at the end of the fifth gate.  Roads here are “gated” to prevent the entry of cows.  Benjie (Benjamin Gayodan) has to get down to open and close the gates as we pass.

Panabungen, a sitio of Laylaya, Besao.

After a heavy snack of rice cakes and brewed coffee prepared by the teachers of Panabugnen School of Arts, Trades and Industries, we took a brief rest and went on our business. I did a prior learning assessment of the student’s knowledge on consumer welfare and rights and the students did well.  In one of the presentations, a student shared his knowledge of the importance of a warranty card when making a purchase say, an appliance.

Robert (Changat) presented on the 8 basic consumer rights and responsibilities.  We also shared about the importance of knowing what the marks PS and ICC mean in imported or locally manufactured products such as electrical, appliances and other known products.

Calling it a day at 12 noon, we had lunch of free range chicken (I joked about calling it “chicken na naka roaming”) salted meat and vegetables.  After lunch, I had a look at their computer lab and came to know of the school’s dire need for spare parts.  Out of the twelve computer units, only two were functional.  There seems to be a need for some fixing of the school’s facilities as well.

Students of Panabungen School of Arts, Trades and Industries listen to a lecture on Consumer Rights and Responsibilities.

I came to know that Laylaya is composed of three sitios, Panabungen,  Bana-ao and Laylaya proper.  Our workmate, Cayetano Liwaliw explained that Laylaya sits on a tri-boundary of Abra, Ilocos Sur and Mountain Province.

As we made our return journey to Besao Proper I cannot help but wonder what potentials the community has.  Laylaya can take advantage of its scenic surroundings.  Too bad, I could not take shots of Besao’s famous sunset-which the folks claim is seen well in Laylaya.  Eco-tourism is a potential area of development for the barangays that are within this road network.  I imagine taking a horseback ride –even just following the road from Besao Proper to Laylaya.  A quick look at the Internet (WWW) shows that there is a growing interest among motorcycle enthusiasts to take the Bannaue-Bontoc-Sagada-Besao-(Panabungen- Babasig-Patiacan)-Quirino-Cervantes route.  In the website of www.motorcyclephilippines.com, photos and stories of the group’s adventures fill several pages.  Excitement, breathtaking scenery and the challenges of making it in an “unexplored” frontier fill the pages as the motorcycle riders tell of their experience.

Soon our group of local cycling enthusiasts might want to give this route a try.  I also imagine putting suspended (cable) cars in the area similar to the cable cars in Lantao-Island, HK.

Besao has a lot to offer for the adventurous visitor.  It would however have to tread on a narrow path, as stakeholders have to consult the locals as many programs in the guise of development often times have a negative impact. It would also be in the best interest that the locals take the initiative in providing eco-tourism oriented programs.  Home-stays, souvenir shops, horse back riding, a village walk, a farm walk (visitors work with the locals on their farms) , a mountain walk.  Photo enthusiasts, sports buffs, car (4×4) enthusiasts and many others are potential visitors to Besao’s boundary communities.  It would also be nice for the people of Besao who have gone to establish themselves here and abroad to make a homecoming and take note of the fact that they have a place that has retained the country and old world charm-a rare commodity in the fast paced material world that we live in.

The scent of pines. The deafening silence.

Meanwhile, mining and logging should be a no-no in this area.  It’s just so pristine, it would need the protection of everyone for the next generation-s to enjoy.