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Barangays Banabahin Ibaba, Buenavista (Tigas) and Ilayang Ilog: A synthesis of Rural Life in the Philippines

I must admit I haven’t gone there for ages but Barangay Banabahin Ibaba in Lopez town in Quezon Province has diminished its rusticity on a certain degree. This impression is based on stories I hear from kin about the present state of life in general in the place. There are also reports about the decreasing number of yields or the extinction of non-seasonal fruits like cashew, lipute (an exotic local berry), yambo (a wild variety of the macopa or Java mountain apple) etc. 

Judging from the neighboring nearer barrios which I visited some time ago which shared the same contours and habitations, I felt nothing has changed except for a few concrete establishments like an unfinished two-story building in one corner along the Lopez-Buenavista Road or the sprouted small houses here and there, Banabahin Ibaba was a synecdoche of backwardness.

Let’s start with way our tenant has been turning in his share of responsibilities with my elder sister who has inherited a property in the estate our parents left us which she cultivated in her free time as a school teacher. I also have a nephew who takes care of his bequeath land from his dead father, my elder brother. My sis and my nephew have their respective rice fields and coconut plantations with apportioned intercropping in them. Since my sister is in the US, she wouldn’t receive any fruits of her and her tenant’s labor only perhaps when she goes home and sends fillers that she’s around during common holidays like Christmas or Holy Week the land keeper would traditionally goes to town literally to submit to her his yields like half a sack of rice or a small bag of sweet potatoes.

I didn’t know fully the arrangement of my sis with his tenant so I couldn’t speak of what sharing or percentage of they had.

Once one of my married female first cousins was my sis’ assistant or occupant in her properties but she would always be hard up with money. She would bring farm harvests to her landlady just as the other tenant would do. That’s all to this filial quasi-cacique relationship.

The next thing I knew was that my cousin went to Manila to work as a babysitter in an ordinary family household not entirely the upper middle class unit which could pay her much.

Meanwhile, the one manning the land has remained loyal to his avowal to till the soil and its relative bounty no matter sans report of whatever agricultural produce he has gained the whole year-round.

Poverty in the countryside is also the dominant scenario in Banabahin Ibaba after all these years.

Most people blame the so-called indolence of the Filipinos that mired them to abject desolation.

It’s more than meets the eye, though.

In Barangay Buenavista (not to be mistaken with the other part of the Lopez-Buenavista Road, the name of the second phase is a town) or Tigas, most of the time its residents are busy with idle talk because they themselves allow the obscurantist attitude to prevail in their lives like superstition or folk beliefs as what the late progressive historian Renato Constantino had said, “veneration without understanding,” petty gossip, impressionability of superficiality, false hopes being peddled by politicians and other brother’s keepers etc.  

At this time of political opportunism, business monopoly and exploitation, military might or bigotry local leaders continue to buy and influence barrio folks with a fifty peso bill and a 350ml Emperador, deceptive commercial offers or promos to accumulate more profits, ideological brainwashing or gender biases and other prejudices in exchange for loyalty of the masses—not only come election time but the 24/7 ordinary movements of the quotidian, daily purchases of goods, everlasting pursuits of the elusive real peace and order or the eternal rights to equality and compassion among peoples—albeit the preservation of the status quo like perpetuation in power or blind following among their constituents and clientele.

These barrio folks are vulnerable to any temptation of bribery in all its forms especially in these times of financial vacuum if not distress, social depravation and spiritual hypocrisy so unscrupulous and dubious people can win baits on them just to sustain personal vested interests at the expense of the ordinary people whom these forces vow to serve. 

Meanwhile, the road to IIayang Ilog has not been improved after all these decades. It’s just a short distance, though, but it takes eternity to finish the whole stretch of the road. It should have been meant for easy marketing of local agricultural produce or for meaningful social meeting.

It has preserved a still large idyllic green landscape, though, but the endangered species like the batches of deer or monkeys are all gone only cockroaches, ants of all hues and sizes etc. have remained. Thanks, however, to the other jungle sentinels in the birds of all shapes and colors, in the reptiles of all kinds still intact in their habitats etc. which haven’t been devoured by man or by their own kind. They have at least conserved a semblance of an ecological whole. When Fil-Briton filmmaker Jowee Morel, sociologist and theater artist Cho Fernando and I went up and down Ilayang Ilog, we saw these green snakes slithering in the grasses across the pathways as we traversed.

We rode down horses because there wasn’t available wheeled transport of any kind except at the farthest end of the unfinished pedi-road where trykes plied to and from the town.

Poverty was also ubiquitous in Ilayang Ilog

There were already electrification and building of telco lines and cell power sites. There were also stores selling San Mig Light and aperitifs. There were also prospects of putting up convenience stores or fast-food chains or manicured farm-to-market roads not necessarily in the stillness of the wilds but at the foot of the hill where a considerable size of population reside that people around love to imagine they had.

But are these really signs of progress or compassion of the community leadership or are these showoffs what constitute cosmetic governance?

Yes because country people can have access to easy communication which could liberate them from ignorance and oppression or taste the latest flavors of beers for fellowship. 

 

No, if the people use only modern gadgets of telecommunications for shenanigans or irrelevant messages or if they don’t receive enough like the right amount of economic shares in the farm labors or if their privileges like bringing down to them the utilitarian infrastructures beneficial to each resident aren’t delivered by public works especially if these are already mandated and budgeted.

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