With Tanim Kalikasan’s thrusts in rehabilitating grasslands and watersheds in the region, we were travelling and crossing creeks, rivers and even mountains to reach different villages to ring the bells of their awareness in saving mother earth….to plant a TREE.
Equipped with strong determination and commitment, some pairs of clothes, pen and paper, my beloved camera, some biscuits, I am now ready to a journey to the unknown. The place that we intend to reach is still unknown not only for me but even to almost of the people of the Municipality of Santol, in the province of La Union due to its almost isolated condition.
From the City of San Fernando where our office situated, the journey begins. It took us more than an hour to reach the town of Santol, and then we rode to hired motorcycle for almost 2 hours traversing hill to hill with winding roads and steep ravines of rocks. To first timer like me, fear and excitement blend within me. The very steep downhill makes my stomach feel tight every time the engine of the motorcycle roar’s on its best because of the heavy load. Motorcycles are very prone to crashes because of the terrain and muddy roads. Thanks to our expert drivers for bringing us safe in the end of the road…..for motorized vehicle and hiking begins. As we embarked our back packs from the motorcycle, the green surroundings caught my eyes. Land cover still thick with patches of residual forest and scattered patches of vegetable gardens painted the green horizon. The cool and fresh wind in the morning seems refreshes our soul from city life and recharging our stamina to the upcoming three hours of hiking. Along the way, birds and insects greeted us through their unpublished but most treasured songs that heal my aching legs and cramping lungs due to the steep trails and heat of the sun. After an hour of hiking and almost halfway to our destination, we overheard a loud roar of falling water between the mountains that according to our guide that is a falls and also a sign that we are halfway to our target village, the Barangay of Sapdaan, Santol, La Union. Because I saw a lot of falls before in different places and my mind was pre-occupied by the beauty of nature along the way, I ignored our guide in telling us the beauty of nature just ahead of us. As we go along the splashing and roaring sound of the falls become louder and louder, and as we peep in between of the hills… whoooaaahh… there’s lying a beauty that seems waiting so long to be unveiled. The cool breeze produced by gravitational force reaches us fifty meters away from the falls base and removes all the body heat due to long hours of hiking and by the sun’s temperature.
Barangay Sapdaan is situated northeast of Santol, La union and also as a political boundary of the municipalities of Kibungan on the east and Kapangan on the north in the province of Benguet. People of the village belong to KANKANAEY (igorot) tribe. And farming is their main source of income. Main crops include sweet potato, rice, vegetables and tiger grass. This peace loving community sometimes disturbed by fear and tainted with shame because some of the villagers adventuring in planting cannabis illegally.
PRice terraces situated along hills and creeks. Vegetable gardens and sweet potato plantations also scattered on the hillside. As the village chieftain says, 90 percent of their agricultural products are mainly for consumption and the remaining percentage was brought to market either in Santol town or in La Trinidad, Benguet for other domestic needs.