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With the recent inauguration of the DPWH- Mt. Province District Second Engineering Office (MPDSEO) buildings at barangay Saliok, Natonin here covering the more than 100 kms national road from Barlig- Natonin- Paracelis towns have a story to tell after the absence of vehicular road for so many years!
The Paracelis- Natonin road construction was the concept of a Belgian Catholic Priest named Fr. John Antoniseen in the midsummer of 1972. In a meeting with Natonin folks he quoted the words of the late U.S. President John F. Kennedy: “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” He was joined by another Belgian priest Fr. Jerry Boukaert.
In 1973, the road construction began with the engineering skills of Antoniseen supervised by Boukaert. Initial release of P90,000.00 by the provincial government then Gov. Jaime K. Gomez was for workers meager wages. The late Natonin Mayor Raymundo Lapasen, Sr. mobilized his municipal council that allotted P2,000.00.
Without compensation from the government the 2 priests supplemented the available income from Mission coffer. They secured counterpart donations from charitable institutions. U.S. Aid, and Private sources. It financed necessities like saws to cut huge –towering trees, riprapping and blasting of rocks. Students from the Immaculate Heart High School- IHHS) helped in the project for free.
Five to seven hundred residents from 11 barrios voluntarily submitted themselves for self-help project were scheduled by groups to render some days labor to construct the road. A kilo of flour, bulgar and other food package were distributed by the Natonin Catholic Mission to labourer. When Fr. Antoniseen was transferred to Saint Louis University as a Board of Trustees, Fr. Eugene Van Ackere, also a Belgian Priest took his place to continue supervising the construction with Boukaert that every barrio were motivated to share their labors for good.
On November 10, 1975 convoy of vehicles led by a Philippines constabulary car have their first trip from Paracelis to Natonin rough road – 3 years in the making.
In about that time, a Barlig parish priest Fr. Huberto Boumans from Holland was constructing trail from Barlig to Banaue Road. Using funds from benefactors abroad, he bought a bulldozer, jack-hammer in the breaking rocks that started the road but remained unfinished, perhaps due to inadequate fund.
Likewise in 1975, Manila media in print, radio, television were invited by Fr. Van Ackere to cover Natonin requesting government, private assistance and business establishment to help in the pro-poor eastern towns’development. The eastern frontiers found their stories in newspapers, radio broadcast and shown in channel 9,PTV. At that time, the Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL) was managing a 4-seated small airplane Supervised by Joane Shelter who was for 25 years translated the Bible into Barlig dialect. Kadaclan mini-airstop was supervised by Takashi Fukuda and David Ohlson who authored the Bible into Barlig dialect. Both air transportations stop at Bagabag, Nueva Vizcaya.
Before that time, this writer interviewed the late Barlig Mayor Marcelo Babian of a P100,000.00 released based on R.A. 5979 with the intervention of Col. Henry Acmor, Provincial Commander to start the Barlig- Natonin road construction. Another P230,000.00 was approved for the construction of Barlig Emergency Hospital.
In 1979, the ministry of Public Highways released P2,542,000.00 by Director Jose Pendoza. He was accompanied by the late Ben Palispis, Benguet Governor and Chairman on Regional Development Council in a helicopter ride at Paracelis. The funding will be used by the Military Engineering battalion to construct the Natonin-Purag road under the command of Captain Francisco Niwane. After finishing their work, they were pulled-out to Cagayan Valley since continuation of the road was taken by private contractors from Manila and Nueva Ecija.
Under the late Cong. Victor Dominguez, series of funds were released for Barlig-Kadaclan road of 36 kms forested terrains. Private contractors……. come and go. Some abandoning their works, some neglect to pay laborers while contractors delayed the project which angered the populace. Auditors came to have audience with Kadaclan-Lias tribes then a dialogue with Dominguez in Bontoc.
For the road to continue, Cong. Dominguez sourced out funds to complete the Barlig-Kadaclan-Purag road to meet where the Engineering Battalion had stopped construction. Many long bridges have to be constructed like Kabawa Bridge in Barlig, Saliok bridge in Natonin and Bananao bridge in Paracelis; bailey bridges in small rivers. So that on March 20, 1991 Cong. Victor Dominguez and Col. Henry T. Amor with their staff attended the new road inauguration at Kadaclan, Barlig as they continued their journey to Natonin- Paracelis the following day.
Although the 3 eastern towns were interconnected by rugged road during the 1990’, rampant problems of erosions, wash-outs, muddy and slippery-sharp curves like logging road demanded vehicles to use winch and chains put in wheels to advance. And because of the slow road improvement after linkage which was interpreted by inhabitants as political lethargy, the Barlig- Natonin-Larcelis Leadership joined Mayoyao, Aguinaldo and Alfonso Lista (PALMANABA) to be separated as geographical unit to hasten development.
But as time passed, road concreting was introduced by the late Cong. Pilando in Paracelis. Then the late Cong. Maximo Dalog Sr. in almost concreting the major national road continued by his son, the incumbent Cong. Maximo Dalog Jr.
It can be recalled 4 decades ago, eastern towns here were reached by hiking lengthy trails that government officials dare not to visit. Natives took the hard tortous trek with heavy load as a way of life as their ancestors did. Food supplies are man-carried to Bontoc or the lowlands where students were enrolled. No market outlets for ethnic products. Sick people were transported by hammock to far clinic or hospital. Lack of schools, health centers and other basic facilities. However, the combined efforts of religious sectors, GOs, NGOs, and supporters abroad- the road was realized.
Today, the fruit of sacrifices and road-yearning, the socio-economic, educational and tourism opportunities will creep-in gradually erasing the backwardness of easterners.
With the establishment of the DPWH-MPDSEO sponsored by Cong. Dalog Sr., the road stretch from Barlig down to Paracelis could be maintained to the fullest with the leadership of ….Cong. Dalog Jr.
District Engineer Rustom Martinez in his area of jurisdiction shall sustain implementation into an all-weather road, thus upgrading the life of inhabitants with more revenue to the provincial government. By DIONIE CHUNGALAN