THE island of Luzon is traversed by three mountain ranges. Its geological spine, the Sierra Madre Mountain Range, is a 540-kilometer stretch from Cagayan to Quezon. The Cordillera Mountain Range, measuring 320 kilometers cuts through Nueva Vizcaya, Quirino and Nueva Ecija, and between the two is the Carballo Mountain Range. These three nurture the headwaters of the mighty Cagayan River. The Sierra Madre and Cordillera were so impenetrable, the Spanish empire could barely stake territory with Cross and Sword.

Now a strange and insidious thing is happening in the Sierra Madre, especially in its mountain slopes in the provinces of Rizal and Laguna. Big businessmen from Manila are buying tracts of land there; it is whispered that some operate through dummies, natural or juridical, and acquire land covered by tax declarations which, as any law student will tell you, are not conclusive proof of ownership.

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