TWO FACES OF DEVELOPMENT: AGONY IN DISGUISE FOR ISABELINOS
The passion of Jesus Christ in our Christian observance of the Lenten season is personified in the two faces of agony seen among Isabelinos; one from the remote mountains of the sierra madres and the other- in the highly urbanized proper of Cauayan city.
Two groups of people manipulated by greed, exploitation and tyranny are both threatened of economic dislocation from an impending scheme forced down to the throat of the settlers.
“Para na kaming binigyan ng notice of eviction” meat vendor Abundo Andres 35 laments as he recalls being handed a letter distributed by the local government of Cauayan city. The letter was supposed to be a “good news” informing him and fellow vendors that the administration of City Mayor Benjamin Dy will initiate the improvement of the city market's meat section building.
However, the city government has to rescind their contract of occupancy and then relocate them somewhere else in order to give the administration a free hand in the construction of a “better and bigger” building. “After all, as former occupants, we will be given the priority and preference to be awarded the space we choose in the new structure,” Andres continued. But wait; Andres and his fellow vendors will have to sign a conformity of revoking their current contract that binded their existence in their stall they held for more than a decade. “It's an absolute insult; we are treated illiterates by these people eying our eviction from the place that has provided our families of a hard earned decent living to cope in this difficult times,” Andres grieves.
The following month; the real motive behind their impending dislocation was heralded by the City administration's proud announcement of hosting the establishment of a new mall in Cauayan.
It was ushered by a billion worth investment in the guise of developing Cauayan as a highly urbanized city in Cagayan Valley region. The neighboring capital of Ilagan has earlier inaugurated two huge malls to the envy of other cities in the region.
Savemore, a big time capitalist that controls the chain of Supermarkets nationwide wants to establish in Cauayan. Its capitalist wants the heart of the Cauayan City Public Market to build its formidable establishment to the detriment of thousands of vendors who are now sitting duck targets for economic dislocation.
Susana Gatdula 33, a small grocery owner wept to hear that the city government plans to relocate her business in the outskirts near the boundary of the adjacent town of Cabatuan.
By late March; thousands of vendors and stall owners have trooped the highway to demonstrate their indignation of Mayor Dy's plans. It was the first in Cauayan that its people have taken up mass actions against the political scion that has dominated the city and Isabela for four decades.
“Kami ang naglagay sa mga Dy, kami na rin ang mag-aalis,” the protesters cried.
Meanwhile; the sounds of roaring sawmills and chainsaws have finally stopped in the notorious logging hub of San Mariano. Serenity has finally dominated this mountain town minus the chirping of birds and crickets that were used to be hosted by trees in the surrounding vicinities of the foothills.
“What's the use of President Aquino's logging ban; when the trees here have all gone?” questions Matildo Ramayan 52, a farmer tending his corn plantation in the municipality's logged over area.
Ramayan and some 800 families some of them Aeta natives have shifted to farming since the denudation of the Sierramadres in their area.
Middle aged Okles Manuel, a female aeta native who could not deter her age and birthdate because of illiteracy said their men gave up hunting as their primary subsistence. They all plant corn she added.
With their election to Congress in 2010 of a townmate- Board Member Ana Cristina Go; the settlers have rejoiced thinking of a better deal that could make their living better.
A month later; the Congresswoman and Gov. Faustino Dy III happily announced San Mariano's consideration of the Green Futures Innovation Incorporated (GFII) for the establishment of a bio-ethanol plant. The plant aims to produce bio-fuel from sugarcane that enables economic and environmental friendly fuel combustion for its less pollutant emission. However, to make the plant moving, sugar cane must be planted first but where?
The bone of contention emanated from the said point where settlers displaced by the logging halt should now surrender their position in order give way to the ideal 11,000 hectares sugarcane plantation needed by the GFII to keep their ball rolling.
No one from the settlers responded to Provincial Administrator Noel Lopez' invitation to forged a memorandum of agreement with the GFII to shift from corn to sugarcane. However, their sugarcane product should be binded to the GFII's monolpoly.
The scheme has never succeeded in Isabela since the Tobacco monopoly imposed during the Spanish era to the Cassava monopoly introduced by then Governor Faustino Dy Jr. that brought his political debacle in 2004 when he lost to a neophyte Grace Padaca.
Adding fuel to the settlers' misgivings of Congresswoman Go and Governor Dy's offer was the challenge made by Lopez. The provincial administrator sought the affected people to show their land titles and other documents proving their ownership of the land they are currently tilling otherwise they have no business staging indignation with the peasant group- Danggayan Dagiti Mannalon ti Isabela (DAGAMI).
DAGAMI has convinced the settlers to fight for their position and is now giving the politicians a run for their dominance in the issue, again in the guise of progress.
Recently, 4th District Congressman informed this writer of an impending inclusion of a hardcore leader of DAGAMI as sectoral representative to the Sangguniang Panlalawigan endorsed by Malacanang. The Provincial Board has no recourse but to accept it.
The trek of the peasants in the city of Cauayan and the settlers of San Mariano will come a long way like the path of Christ to calvary. Even the Lenten season over; their sacrifices linger unless their lone cry in the wilderness is heard.