January 29, 2023

HAVE YOU EVER heard of ‘Displacement’ – whether ‘total’, ‘partial’, ‘impending’, ‘imminent’, or ‘imagined’? And further:
DISPLACEMENT DUE TO – or from: the mines – or the resulting mine-tailings, new sub-divisions, even natural disasters like: (land) slides, floods, earthquakes, and so forth?
SINCE YOU ARE familiar – or have at least heard more-than-one of the above-cited, let me now introduce our Discussion for today – which may be akin to some of these, but never the same with any, and that is:
DISPLACEMENT FROM THE high-water dams of: Binga – located in the municipality of Itogon; and Ambuklao – in the municipality of Bokod; both within the Province of Benguet, Philippines.
A BRIEF BACKGROUND. It was in our old home in Debcöw Kawajan (the vicinities of which are partly visible as ‘remaining portions’ – in the Westward flank of the old Binga Reservoir Intake), my mother and her brother, Picad, were often roused by relatives from other Sitios who came with Afila to-o (Literal: “different persons/people”, but almost similar to English “strangers”).
THESE AFILA TO-O came to ‘talk’ with the villagers – my mom and uncle’s households including, re: a dam to be built thereat – ‘like that one in Ambuklao”. [My folks have heard about Ambuklao, prior].
THESE SAID ‘STRANGERS’ – iraka man sau, they were speaking (the) Iluko (language) – but with them were translators who spoke Nabaloi.
ACCORDING TO OUR folks’ accounts much, much later, most of the time, they were pervadingly persuasive – menga addok; but sometimes, they also ended with a sort of ‘warning’ (they called it ‘just a reminder’, or palagip laeng): that if our folks resisted, not they – but the solders, shall come.
[THAT MUST HAVE been the late months of 1953; I was not yet going to School (in Binga) and I remember my father already died a year or so that time. n.b. he died peacefully in 1952. God Rest his soul, GRhs)].
SOME MONTHS LATER, another set or group of Afila to-o were seen visiting – inspecting or viewing the rice fields and plantations. I heard my folks often saying: ‘they came to count, list down, and later report to their bosses – the properties and plants or fruit trees, Mulamula, of the people here.. so, these shall be paid before the Construction of the dam begins.’
IN 1954 OR so, the Construction began: we saw the bulldozers plowing, levelling, and meter-by-meter tearing the fields, plantations, and mountains. Later, the giant Euclids and long 10-wheelers dominated the scene – moving rocks, debris, earth, etc., to their destination, or dumping areas. Dynamite blasting was common, and our tender ears were conditioned to the shrill, throttling sounds of the compressors. More people – and some, many more – poured into the area and camp sites – many to apply for work; some, to do odd or good business; others, to live with their already employed, or working family heads in the dam-construction thereabouts.
AND THE ‘ORIGINAL’, Indigenous families or households? Where do you see them – in these times of the ‘Construction of the Dam’?
DISPLACED AND, ‘FORSAKEN’(?) With no more ancestral homes to gather into, with their fields plowed to indistinction, and their farms occupied by newcomers, etc., some of them sought refuge in the dwellings near Sitio Binga, [then of Bo.] Lucbuban, Itogon; some, further away; some, to other places, far. The promised payments of their damaged properties and plantations? They’ll have to wait ‘a little’, they were told.
IN 1960, THE Spillway Gates of Binga dam were officially shut – to mark the Completion of the Dam. Meanwhile [again],
THE ‘ORIGINAL’ FAMILIES – ‘Dam-displaced’ later so-called, since those times they were prevailed upon – naadok era, ‘to wait’; they have been waiting, sad but true: up to this time.
YES, SOME DAMAGED properties were paid – ‘in part’; but what about the 2nd, or third, or ‘completing’ part or payment?
THERE WERE OTHER Issues and Concerns promised: e.g. free electric light, employment, transfer of graves, resettlement or relocation, etc. but which of these or, how ‘serious’ were these fulfilled – or forgotten (?), the ‘displaced’ descendants of today can best articulate.
DECADES BEFORE, THESE had organizations – but (for) Binga only; or, for Ambuklao ‘only’. Now, they have formed the Binga-Ambuklao Ibaloi Settlers Association, Incorporated (BAITSAI). It is yet two-three years old in-coordination, or actual ‘active involvement’.
WILL IT SURVIVE or succeed – better than its past predecessor-organizations? Or, will it be just another ‘unending story’ segment of the dam-displaced ones? Ayuhh kha, sha!