As nearest road. By then the truck

As the warm morning sun glimmers off the newly
paved road, it heightens how this nearly one kilometer man-made structure
gracefully snaked through the steep alpine slopes until it finally reaches its
destination – a homey riverine community at the foot of the mountain.

One could hardly imagine that two years ago,
this was a slippery dirt road, where villagers like Jovita Maige had to trudged
through when she had to manually haul her household supplies from the main road
to her home. “Ed niman, mabalin ay uray
mo sino di isaa sin beey, mabalin ladta tan idateng di lugan. (Today, we
can bring home anything because vehicles are able to carry them down to our
village.)” she said.

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“Dakamin to ay umili di manglinis esa. (We, the people of the community, will be the
one to clean that road.)” Jovita quickly replied when asked about the
community’s part in the road maintenance. Although she is not a barangay
official, Jovita spoke about the project with clarity and confidence. How can
she not? It was a long road for the road to finally to reach her village and
she and her fellow villagers played their part in every step of that lengthy

Locked by mountains

Infrastructures like road are a dear price to
win even for a third class municipality like Bakun. For although one-way
municipal roads have already connected Bakun’s seven barangays, access to the
agricultural areas inside these barangays remains a challenge. Most of the
vegetable terraces are built along the arable flanks of mountains and near
water sources. The only accesses are foot trail or dirt roads which are
impassable during rainy season. “Esay
agew mi adi ay ibunag sin kalsada din nateng mi olay wat esay kalga. Sat sin
kabigatan asi min maibyahe ay emey ilako ed trading post. (It takes us one
day to manually haul a truckload of harvest to the nearest road.  By then the truck is only able to travel to
the market the next day.) Jovita added. 
It takes six hours to reach La Trinidad Trading post where farmers
usually sell their produce; by the time the truck arrives, the vegetables are
no longer fresh and middlemen, who dictate the price, could easily impose a
lower market value.

Roads of convergence

 “Ad-ado ay resolution di inamag di opisyal
mi para maimprove nan kalsada mi ngem magay pondo din munisipyo isunga adi
natungtungpal. (Our barangay officials made a lot of resolutions for the
improvement of our road but our municipal government could not fund it so it
never materialized.)” Jovita narrated. Engr. Colyong, admitted that even with
the municipality’s combined yearly Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) and share
from the Bakun Hydro Power Plant, the municipality still has to rely on outside
sources. Over the years, foreign funded projects implemented through government
line agencies have helped fulfill these infrastructure gaps. Among the biggest
contributors were the Agrarian Reform Infrastructure Support Project (ARISP)
phase III, a six year special project of the Department of Agrarian Reform
(DAR) which started in 2008 and the First Cordillera Highland Agricultural
Resource Management (CHARM) Project, a seven-year special project of the
Department of Agriculture which started in 1997.

In 2009, the second phase of CHARM Project was
launched and as soon as the municipal officials of Bakun learned that the five
CHARM1 Project barangays will be covered again, the MPDC anticipated that
improvement of farm-to-market access would be the topmost priority of the
people. “The CHARM2 Project is designed to ask what the people want so after
our participatory planning with the covered barangays, we were more than happy
to accommodate all their 20 prioritized needs.” Engr. Colyong related. However,
when his team presented this during the regular Provincial Management Group
(PMG) meeting of the CHARM2 Project, the list was narrowed down to five after
they were gently reminded, along with the other seven covered municipalities in
the province, to prioritize based on their capacity to provide a counterpart.
Back in 2010, the sharing scheme was 60-40, with the local government
(provincial and municipal) providing the bigger share.

Nonetheless, this did not discourage the Bakun
team in fulfilling the task assigned to them. “From the start, the CHARM2
Project made it clear that the Municipal Planning and Development Office will
take care of the technical proposals for the prioritized needs.” Engr. Colyong
narrated. The Mayor, on the other hand, gave him leeway on how to fulfill their
part. So that when the CHARM2 Project hired Community Mobilization Officers
(CMO) for the social preparation, Engr. Colyong personally requested that those
who will be assigned to their municipality are Bakun locals. “With this, I can
personally appeal to them to dedicate their work for the good of Bakun.” Engr.
Colyong said. True enough, with appropriate mentoring and encouragement, his
office and the project field staff became a seamless team in accomplishing the
rigorous requirements of the two-year participatory investment planning

For the rural infrastructure component, Sonny
Mendoza, the Municipal Engineer, related that the Municipal government did not
hesitate to hire a staff to help them prepare the needed documents. By the time
the CHARM2 Project directed each of the covered municipality to prepare and
present a detailed plan and estimate of one project to be implemented for one
year, the Bakun team had a proposal at hand, the 10 kilometer Bengbeng-Beyeng
FMR. The estimated cost was PhP 40 million computed based on a four million
peso per kilometer estimate. “However, during our presentation in the PMG
meeting, the Governor arrived and he was shocked to see the figures.” Engr.
Colyong recalled. “Who’s this PhP 40 million? Are you sure you are capable of
providing its counterpart?” the Governor asked and the room fell silent. It was
a painful nudge of reality for everybody. Among the covered municipalities,
only Bakun and Buguias belong to the third income class, yet both were struggling
to produce the required 60% share. “I could not answer the Governor’s question
so I just held my head to prevent my remaining hair from falling off.” Engr.
Colyong joked.     

The Governor explained that at first the
provincial government was not directly involved in the planning stage since the
municipal government was the implementing arm of the CHARM2 Project. “But when
I was looking into it, the implementation was slow because of the counterpart
scheme and the lack of appropriate personnel to assist the municipalities in
their technical needs,” the Governor explained. Later on, the governors of all
the six covered provinces negotiated with IFAD, the funding agency, until the
sharing scheme became 70-30, with IFAD having the bigger share. Later on, 20%
was covered by the Department of Agriculture leaving only 10% for the local

With this new development, Bakun’s proposal was
among the first to be funded. Their PhP 40 million FMR proposal required a
feasibility study and the Governor directed the Provincial Planning Development
Office to make it their specimen. “It was recomputed using now the 2 million
peso per kilometer rule of the CHARM2 Project, so it became PhP 23 million.”
Engr. Colyong said. With this as their guide, Bakun easily had the following
remaining proposals approved: four other FMR priorities, one domestic water
system (DWS), one footpath, and one multipurpose warehouse.

Determined to implement all of the approved
proposals, the Bakun team thought of borrowing money from a national government
bank for the 10% counterpart. “After the Finance Committee cleared this as a
feasible option, I confidently suggested it to our Mayor.” Engr. Colyong
admitted. Cresencia Lozano, the assigned Community Development Facilitator of Bakun
recalled the time when the Governor had to meet with the Bakun team when he
heard about their plan. “Why would you loan your IRA?” the Governor asked. The
provincial chief stressed that this might seriously implicate the development
plans of the municipality in the years to come. Bakun obviously wanted all
their approved proposals to be implemented, nonetheless they understood what
the Governor said so with flushed cheeks and bowed head, they conceded.

Such desperate attempts moved the provincial
government to shoulder part of the 10% share in most of the approved proposals
of the covered municipalities. “What I did was to request the provincial board
to appropriate a yearly lump-sum for the CHARM2 Project.” The Governor
narrated. Hence, the provincial government’s total counterpart amounted to PhP
36 million; _____ of which was the total share for the Bakun projects.

Recognizing and involving the rightful owners

“During public gatherings, we are proud to
announce that Bakun implemented all of its proposed projects amounting to more
than PhP 71 million.” Engr. Colyong said. This makes Bakun the biggest
beneficiary of the rural infrastructure development component in the province
of Benguet.

On how these were implemented with the people
in mind, is another story to tell.

During the planning and implementation phase,
the CDF made sure that the CHARM2 Project is introduced truthfully as a
loan.  “We made the community people
understand that this loan is to be paid by their children and grandchildren,”
Cresencia explained. She observed that this made them more conscientious in
fulfilling their role as stakeholder.

On the side of the municipal government, Engr.
Colyong explained that before the implementation kicked off, the CHARM2 Project
explained to them that since it is a special project, every sub-project to be
implemented has to have groundbreaking and turn-over ceremonies. This is not a
new concept, he added. “We have similar experience with the ARISP of DAR.” He
also explained that the concept of ground breaking was adapted from a
traditional Kankana-ey ritual usually performed before every construction to
ask permission and to apologize from the temengao
(mountain spirits) whose abode might be disturbed or destroyed during the

For Bakun, its groundbreaking and turn-over
events were not fancy ceremonies for politicking; rather they serve as
effective platform for information education and communication campaign about
the project. Just like the olden days during traditional feasts, the community
people are all invited. The best part is, the contractor pays the bill.

“Din nay CHARM2 Project, medyo waday arte na.
(This CHARM2 Project is quite special.)” Engr. Rene Aliba, a contractor who
handled two of Bakun’s infrastructure projects commented. “Sin experience ko
kada groundbreaking ya turn-over, emey ay PhP 25,000.00 di gastos ko sin
mapalti ya tokens. (In my experience, I usually spend PhP 25,000.00 every
groundbreaking or turn-over to cover for the animals to be butchered and the
tokens to be distributed.)” he added.

“Most contractors would say, ‘Ay anah’ (Too
much!) or ‘Maga met sin program.’ (It’s not in the program of work.)” Engr.
Colyong related. During the pre-bid conference, he would gently explain to the
agitated contractors that this ‘added expense’ could be charged to the 6%
Operating and Maintenance or to the contractor’s profit. “Ibingay yo bassit. (Please share some of it.)” Engr. Colyong would
usually say.

As to the people’s participation in the labor,
Engr. Aliba explained that he accommodated community labor whenever it was
appropriate. Pag din umili iman di nakitulong isan footpath mi (The community
people were involved in the construction of our footpath.) attested Helen
Balinggan, a Barangay Kagawad and a member of the Barangay Participatory
Monitoring and Evaluation Team in Ampusongan. “Inan-anusan mi ay nakibunbunag
si darat layad mi abe ay makdeng din kalsada ta waday iyat na ay mausar, (We
patiently hauled the cement to immediately complete our road project.)” added
Estela Tongalog, one of the end users of the Tambobong-Masalin FMR, also in
barangay Ampusongan.

In terms of monitoring and evaluating the
quality of the contractor’s work, the CHARM2 Project organized a barangay-based
Participatory Monitoring and Evaluation Team (BPMET) composed of some barangay
officials and sectoral representatives from the community. “Idi nai-implement
di, nantutulong met lang danan BPMET, din napos opisina ya din man-ili ay
mang-ila metlang sin nangi-obla nu usto ay inamag da din plano na. (When our
road project was implemented, the BPMET, local government officials and the
community people collaborated together to ensure that the contractor adhered to
the program of work.)” Jovita Maige added.

“We trained our BPMET members on how to do the
monitoring.” Engr. Mendoza said. He explained that the BPMET members learned in
theory and in practice how to properly read and interpret the program of work.
“Idi inmey kami sin pan-oblaan da ay kalsada, inila mi dadin inala da ay
gravel. Wada da di dadakke ya kinitoy. ‘Apay ngen da di’ emey mi kanan sin
contractor (We went to check on the on-going road construction and we observed
uneven sizes of the gravel sand being mixed. ‘What are these?’ we remarked at
the contractor.) Helen Balinggan recalled.

Engr. Mendoza said that even with limited
training, the BPMET could at least monitor the cement mixture and the thickness
of concreted surface. Engr. Mendoza observed that aside from the items in the
program of work, BPMET members were also keen in suggesting how the gutter
should be located because they are familiar with the actual behavior of water
on their road during rainy season. “Variations like these are accommodated.” he

“Say ka-importante na iman din doy
groundbreaking tan isdi ay maibaga din scope of work ya din maamag sidi ta
maamuan din umili. (This is the importance of the groundbreaking event because
that was where details of the scope of work are explained to the community
people.)” Engr. Aliba said.

“From the reports of the BPMET, we inform the
contractor through a formal letter to correct any deviations noted.” Engr.
Mendoza said. Depending on the nature of relationship established, the BPMET
members can talk directly to the contractor. “Ila-en yo adi na, kanan mi sin
engineer asi kami metlang i-report sin municipyo.” (We can directly ask the
contractor to look into the discrepancies; but we still report our observations
to the Municipal Engineer.)” Juan Aglayen former vice-chairman of the BPMET in
Ampusongan shared.

“Narigat di man-substandard iman tan wadan end
user ay manbanbantay, isunga sidoy amagen adi iman din wadas plano na. (With
the end-user closely monitoring the project, it’s not possible to have a
sub-standard work; you have to be faithful to the plan.)” Engr. Aliba noted

Engr. Medoza was impressed with the result of
the BPMET, “It’s one of the things that I will not forget from this CHARM2
Project. I think, we can adopt this in implementing regularly-funded projects.”

A lasting first impression

nakdeng din doy project, inmali da nakiprograma da din napo-an na ya
nangipatongpal. Man-iyaman kami tan naipatungpal et nay waday usaren mi ay
kalsada ya footpath (When the projects were completed, representatives from
the CHARM2 Project and the implementers attended our program. We were able to
thank them because now we can use a better road and footpath),” Estela Tongalog

“Of course, the purpose of the turn-over is to
let the community people understand that now the project is completed and ready
to be turned-over to them not only for use but also for maintenance.” Engr.
Colyong explained. Resolutions were inked in the three levels of local
government to formalize this turn-over of responsibilities. He added that with
this program, they were able to educate the people about the government process
of project implementation, “Hindi yung
pagkasubmit ng resolution sa agency eh pera na (That submitting a
resolution to an agency does not automatically download money).”

“Isna gamin kaman damdamo ay maila mi di
kamadi. Kamana na baw di way project na…narikna mi ay dakami ay man-ili baken
din nangi-implement di nansayaat. (Here in our community, it’s our first time
to witness these ceremonies. So this is how a project is done…we felt that it’s
us, not the implementers, who really benefitted from it. //BCL