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Monday, March 14, 2005

Barangay Paril

The strength of eco-tourism
Maria Eleanor Elape Valeros
December 19, 2004

The company driver stared at me perplexed at the thought of traveling to barangay Paril, which has always been associated with the southwestern town of Barili. I was suspecting, at his head scratching gesture, that he would decline to take me, TF proofreader Cerna Jagonal, and Cebu City Hall beat reporter Garry Lao to some hinterland barangay in a town that is a two-hour drive from Cebu city.

“My golly, molly! I said we’re heading to barangay Paril, one of Cebu city’s mountain barangays. It’s not in Barili. It’s next to Mabini, after Agsungot, after Binaliw – all mountain barangays,” I was explaining umpteenth time to our company driver where Paril is, after seeing the perplexity in his eyes.

Barangay Paril is located at the border of Cebu city and Compostela town, occupying 510 hectares of a watershed in Cebu city’s mountainous area, approximately 42 kilometers from the Cebu city proper and is accessible only via motorcycles for hire.

Finally, after the company driver figured out where we were exactly heading, we vrooomed our way to the highlands of Cebu one early Saturday morning, mellowed by the mist and the drizzle.

Paril barangay captain Eliseo Jopia’s household welcomed us with the aroma of lemon grass emanating from a big cauldron of soup. The undefeated chieftain who was in office since the early 90s would want to share with us his plans to rake in revenue for the barangay through the development of eco-tourism sites. But before heading to the said sites he mentioned with potentials to becoming interesting destinations, we shared first a hearty meal of kinamunggayang manok bisaya.

Jopia mentioned the potential of Mangyapyap river and the Baogo cave in barangay Paril as sources of funds for the barangay. Jopia said the third top project his council is working on right now is the renovation of their very own barangay hall, aside from road works and the water reservoir.

“Hangtod karon wa pa gyuy klarong ka-meetingan ang konseho kay nag-agwanta ra gyud mi usa aning gubaon nga barangay hall nga naigo sa bagyo,” Jopia said in between sips of the sizzling hot-hot-hot chicken soup.

Beads of sweat came rolling down our brows as we finished off the last spoonful of the soup, burping once in a while, partaking of the life at the boondocks embracing a watershed covered by the National Integrated Protected Areas Act.

In barangay Paril, one has to be very sure his means of livelihood would not mess up with the provisions of the Act, protecting one of Cebu’s five watersheds. The barangay council thought of turning to ecological tourism.

We had a tour at the Mangyapyap river gushing from the hillyland and the Baogo cave. The village chief would want to veer away from relying so much from the Cebu city government. He is looking at partnering with private entities in developing these geological features in an attempt to harness the potential of his place for tourism purposes.

The move is a response to find alternative income-generating sources for Paril residents who survive mainly on crop farming and menial jobs available at the construction sites in the lowland.

But then the barangay captain envisions the potential of developing the sites in a two-year time frame as he would still be soliciting the technical expertise of the city government aside from inviting interested private entities to chip in the realization of his vision. He is banking on the media too to help spread the word.

“Kung kami ra molihok ani, dili gihapon ni madali kay ang among priority dinhi sa barangay Paril ang farm-to-market road man and the water reservoir,” Jopia said.

Jopia is positive that once Paril would make it to the list of exciting destinations in Cebu, this would allow for the creation of a group of porters, motorcycle-for-hire drivers, vendors, tour guides, and the like.(/30)