Nonnette C. Bennett
Can a watershed and tourism coexist in this changing world?
Suyo, Ilocos Sur is the best example for this possibility with a lot of political will and proper directions of its governance and people. Timing wasn’t perfect because the aftermaths of the earthquake and recent storms did not make a recent trip to this designated Chico River watershed of Ilocos Sur a totally pleasurable one, but it was most pleasant.
Mayor Mario Subagan, who was given a fresh mandate in 2021 is driving tourism and information technology as the economic activities while maintaining the rich forest reserves. This meld may not sound logical at the moment when many parts of the municipality are not covered by cellular phone service but can tap into the WiFi services of a local cable and internet group for global communications. Given the alternative solar energy that can power internet service, this can spell the difference in the potentials of the watershed town.
In summertime, the resorts of Suyo must be full of life for local families and out-of-towners. All endowed with the rich spring water that flows freely from the mountains, the numerous pools and facilities welcome many tourists to prime the economy.
We were billeted at the town-owned Suyo Eco-Mountain Resort, which has swimming pools, slides, and cottages.
Similar to Baguio City that hibernates economically during the rainy season, there were no guests but us in the resort. The earthquake that eroded many parts of the slopes along the main road and the regular afternoon rains had caused even more loose rocks to cover the main road to the pools and facilities would be additional factors to restrain visitors.
Apart from the pools and resorts, waterfalls are the evidence to the lush vegetation and trees that maintain the water resources. These are the other attractions in Suyo.
Sangbay ni Ragsak is one of the more accessible waterfalls. After the rains, the raging waters sprayed water everywhere in a mist, almost like Niagara Falls. It is not so much the beautiful and amazing view but the decisive rules and regulations against drinking and gambling that are in place to show how the barangay and municipal officials know their business and want to guarantee a safe and wholesome experience in their area. The ordinance that prohibits animals is wise because this shows that the repercussions of allowing animals into such areas can be harmful and tragic. It also underlines the measures that were given much discernment to at the same time ensuring the environmental conditions that are special to the area.
Not only pools and waterfalls are among the natural resources for tourists in this locality, but also a vast rolling terrain with a breathtaking vista of the West Philippine Sea and Tagudin, Ilocos Sur.
Mount Tapao is a destination and landmark of the liberation of Suyo from the Japanese forces after World War II.
There are bikers and motorists who come through the site, but the cleanliness and order are remarkable. The view of the mountains shows Bessang Pass on clear days. In this area, the absence of trees makes it intriguingly opposite to the other parts where trees are lush, and the river flows freely. A perfect site for development or construction can be located in the five-hectare terrain that connects to the bustling Tagudin main road. It is said to be a proposed site for an economic hub in the future that would not impact on the watershed status of the municipality.
It would show the world that guided development does not need to eat into the mountains and cut trees to happen, no tradeoffs are required to cope with growth and globalization. The stern hand of governance against illegal structures and environmental pollution can be implemented.
I am thankful for the short spin in Suyo courtesy of Mayor Subagan who knows what he wants for this municipality as he keeps his promise to the future of Ilocos Sur generations by protecting the watershed of Chico River and seeking appropriate measures to modernize it. Sleeping in a resort without cell service but an Internet connectivity that allowed me to work and be in touch with my social world sends me a signal that with modern technology that is based on renewable resources like solar power, ecological preservation can still be obtained.