• Blood in the land of Smiling Beauty – Cagayan

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    I had a chance to commune with the natural beauty of the north when I went to Tuguegarao City to pay my last respects to our Cagayan Valley correspondent, Rico Calubaquib, a few weeks ago.

    It was a long land trip— I went up via Nueva Vizcaya and Isabela and went back to Manila via the Ilocos.

    The tranquility of the rural setting was a stress-reliever. For an urban guy like myself, agricultural activities are always an amazement. The sight of golden wheat ready for harvest, heart-filled mango trees, scarecrows, haystacks, and carabaos swimming in swamps make good picturesque settings for a Browning-like poem.

    I was told that Cagayan is also called the “land of smiling beauty.” Cavers consider the province a spelunker’s paradise. Cagayan is indeed a beauty but the journalist in me wanted to dig deeper into the geopolitical landscape of the province.

    To note, Cagayan is Enrile-Mamba turf. Local politicians are either Mamba’s or Enrile’s. What struck me most was Tuao, which the natives mockingly call Ampatuao.

    Tuao is a first class municipality in the 3rd district of Cagayan. Some have called it Ampatuao, “Ampa” from Ampatuan, because of the alleged long list of human rights violations in this town.

    Tuao is said to be controlled by the Mambas– from the mayor down to barangay officials. It is said that whoever affiliates with the latter during elections will surely win.

    Once, there was a police report that a winning Miss Tuao candidate was abducted and raped by a local official. Investigation was halted because of alleged fear and money.

    Prices of petroleum products are either fixed for 3 months or jacked up abruptly. Oil price rollback is remote in the area. Cattles for disposal from Kalinga avoid Tuao for fear of confiscation by local authorities.

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