Thursday, June 16, 2011

Ilocos Norte: Burgos-hopping - Finding vandalism in Kapurpurawan and meeting the dragon lady

Kapurpurawan In Warm Sunlight
Kapurpurawan in the warm light of sunrise • Image by Oggie Ramos for InFlight
The first few times I've been to Kapurpurawan, I was so in awe of the place that I didn't even consider stepping on the limestone formation for fear that I will just contribute to the erosion of this now-famous rock.  This last visit, I was compelled to take tighter shots for a magazine feature which means giving in just this one time with a promise not to do it again.  So imagine my chagrin in finding vandalism on the rocks around the wedge-like formation. Tsk tsk. Can't people leave this masterpiece of Mother Nature alone?

Ilocos Norte Kapurpurawan Vandalism
Vandalism on the rocks
Graffiti on the rocks. I took a snap of these stabs at immortality with my cameraphone and I say 'shame on you' to all those who did this.  It's not as if the stories of the locals about having seen Kapurpurawan steadily diminishing in size over their lifetime is not enough cause for concern.

Anyway, walking over the corals in the early hours of the morning is therapeutic to me.  There are no other people in sight save for the locals gathering porphyra (red seaweeds) along the coast.  (The seaweed is called gamet in Ilocano. It is exported to Japan as nori and used primarily as a wrapper for sushi.)

No matter if I've seen the sight before, watching Kapurpurawan (or Capurpuraoan as the locals call it) bathed by the early morning light is always a glorious treat for me.  It confounds me even more why people will want to spoil this beautiful place carved by nature over thousands of years.

Meeting the dragon(fruit) lady.  As a sidetrip, our guide from the Ilocos Norte tourism office suggested we pay a visit to a dragonfruit plantation.  I've heard of this in my previous visit but never got the opportunity to do so at that time.  This time around, I'm glad I was able to.
Aling Edita Dragonfruit Farmer III
Edita Dacuycuy, the dragonfruit lady of Ilocos • Image by Oggie Ramos for InFlight
Though we didn't have an appointment, the owner of REFMAD-V Farm in Barangay Paayas, Aling Edita Dacuycuy, gave us a very warm welcome.  The plants were months away from fruiting but seeing the 3 hectare farm, the first dragonfruit farm in Ilocos, was a treat.  There was a lounge area where instructional materials can be viewed on a big TV while having a cold dragonfruit popsicle.  Up on the attic of the house, there are rooms with a nice view of the plantation.  (The rooms will soon be up for rent for those staying overnight; prior arrangement has to be made).  At the back, there is an outdoor dining area where one can enjoy mainly dishes made from dragonfruit such as a rather tasty longganisa.  A fishpond lies adjacent to the house while at the far edge of the property, there are areas for composting and producing natural fertilizer.  You can say it's a self-reliant, self-sustaining place and enterprise for Aling Edita, who is acknowledged as the one who brought dragonfruit farming to the region.

The farm has an interesting back story and Aling Edita has come a long way from being a professor at the University of the Philippines to championing dragonfruit farming.  The venture started out in 2006 as a way to produce just enough of the fruit, which has medicinal properties, to give to their daughter who suffered from cerebral palsy.  Originally from Pasuquin, Aling Edita first sought the local government unit of the town for an ideal location for dragonfruit growing.  She eventually located the farm in Burgos after her request was ignored.  What started out as a small-scale project has now translated into one town's preoccupation with Burgos singling out the dragonfruit for the One-Town, One-Product program.
Dethorning the Dragonfruit Leaves
Removing the thorns is prickly business • Image by Oggie Ramos for InFlight
Seeing Aling Edita up and about, personally attending to us guests on a hot weekday morning, I can't help but notice her contagious enthusiasm.  That she helps other farmers interested in dragonfruit farming and makes planting materials readily available at a good price are a testament to her selfless spirit.  After enjoying a hearty breakfast of dragonfruit longganisa and a dessert of dragonfruit ice drop, we even left with complimentary planting materials as parting gifts. In my mind, it would be a nice experience to revisit one day soon and spend overnight on the farm.

Attributions: InFlight Magazine April-May 2011 Issue • • For questions/inquiries on dragonfruit farming, call REFMAD-V Farms at 0920.2767940


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