Like most of the Cordillera, Besao is classified as ‘forest reserve’. A whopping 85% of its land area is supposedly forest lands, timberlands or unclassified forest. In the land that’s kate-kategna’d you-ease, they say “go tell that to the marines”.
There are also the ‘untouched’ natural features of ancestral domain: the watersheds, pagpag (mossy forests and jungles), high mountains, hunting grounds, sacred places burial grounds and others. To the untrained eye these wilds would indeed appear to be in their uninhabited natural state. That is so due to intelligent planning and even wiser stewardship by the indigenous communities. It is a ‘brave’ or ill-advised politician or bureaucrat or whoever dares to suggest that these are ‘forest or timber reserves’, by the book or by cook, by hook or by crook. Colonisers have attempted in vain to invade these impervious mountain fastnesses and to conquer the impetuous Ibilig. Through the might of imperial armies, the cross, or sweet words legislated, these have all been tried and tested, and defeated. You’d think they’d learn. But again the uninitiated, the ignorant, the greedy exploiter will keep on coming back.
There are however tenurial and territorial issues, destructive distractions that may be the undoing of the united front against wholesale dispossession. There’s no spoils to divide when we are conquered by infighting and disunity.
The two vital resources of water and timber go hand-in-hand, and when these start to get scarce, there may be some problems. The conflict with Sagada is mainly due to watershed rights while the conflict with Tadian is because of the rich timber resources of the pine forests. Water and timber are the two conflict fronts which could bring unrest and discord to neighboring communities. To preserve our watersheds and timberlands, perhaps we should go back to basics.
A sustainable forest and watershed will keep providing its bounty, for as long as we do our part. It is not about us anymore as about the future generations. If we wreck the wild environment, will they have wildlife to see let alone hunt? Heck, if we wreck, will they even have a home?
Even the lanes on a two-lane road are on different planes.
It’s also quite natural to build houses right on top of each other, on the overlook.
In Besao, all roads lead to home.