Top Journalism Paper and Editor

Retired Prof. Emma Baban Keith visited my wife yesterday to hand her a 1979 Mountain Collegian newspaper which had the headline “Mountain Collegian, Best College Paper in Region 1”. The reason she took all the trouble to bring it to Grace was that the editor-in-chief of the newspaper was me. I took home the distinction of being the best editor in chief.

I remember that time. Proud of what we accomplished, then Dr. Rodolfo Abastilla gathered the trophies and plaques won and brought these to then BSU president Dr. Bruno Santos who said

“What will I do with those, put them in the bodega?”

It was sad day.

My staff during that time were Richard Lapia (deceased), Elmer Masidong (deceased), Claro Esoen. They became prominent national newsreporters.

I moved on to write for the international arena.


One of Abi’s Poems


an old woman tells me
by the warmth of her humble
sloped home
that life is hard in Guina-ang
but her eyes and brow
they are merry as verses spill from her soul
weathered hands from toiling earth and rain
speaking, telling, what She can only say

down below beside the rice granaries of Tongfar
community members prepare
the sugarcane
and the young men and women
from the old woman’s house
will join tomorrow’s patpat
for the precious inti and basi

in Guina-ang
life is hard
the old woman tells me.
toil is the earth
and land is the life.
the peasant village-tribe
is familiar with the time of year and day
when to rest
when to wait
when to reap.

children befriend the cold and drizzle
like playmates in the day
barefoot in the clayed soil
cracked cheeks and frayed hair
never ending stories and songs

to greet the birth of another year
the church is packed with young and knowing souls
women are in their best beads
tapis, apoyong
the gongs sound deep into the mountains
towards ridges and open rice paddies
the day is long but the night
is longer.
tomorrow, the gongs will be cradled
into safekeeping
until the next consensus
until the next butchering.

as time in history
is doing to such indigenous communities
there is fear of the creeping
loss of tradition and culture
that binded the village at the turn of planting and harvests

yet in Guina-ang
where life is hard—
so the old woman says—
and her eyes do not lie,
people live, people toil.
knowing when the next reaping,
the next wait.


by Abigail Bengwayan


The poem was written by Grace Taguba and published by the Mountain Collegian on August 1979. I am sharing it to remind us of the age-old  indigenous tool that has helped thousands of Cordillerans in their agriculture. Michael

Boy With Gimmata (in Sagada)

It is your ancestors’ past

Which makes that gimmata stay

on your still-to-be seasoned shoulder.

Their indigenous minds thought of it,

Their busy hands gathered the vines in

your once-unexploited woodlands

and wove these for themselves and you to use–

yes, even for your offsprings.

To you who carries it now

Do you dare change it

With synthetic bags and baskets?

The President Wants To Know What His People Think

When President Noynoy said he wanted his cabinet people to undergo media seminar, it was not only because of the inexpereinced handling of his spokesman Atty. EdwinLacierda and DEPED Secretary Bro. Armin Luistro of the media.

Rather, P-Noy  meant more than just media relations. He meant that his Cabinet should be able to to improve relations with everybody and get the message across to the citizenry.

He wants all  public servants  to communicate effectively with the Filipino people, with all the sectors that comprise his new constituency, especially the masses, even while he acknowledges that mass media are vital vehicles.

He expressed that  “We want to engage the people on the agenda that we have — so the best way is through you — and to communicate what the plans are, the time frame. Not just the substance, the form is also very important.”

Meaning, his main concern  is effective and efficient two-way communications with his constituents.

Good media relations are simply a means for achieving that objective.

As a communication practitioner myself,  I strongly support his move and welcome it. I also hope that P-Noy create a group in his government that will establish an organic network of experienced and talented communicators from the fire service, law enforcement, utilities, public health, disaster and crisis aid, and emergency management professions to offer exceptional training experiences. This will foster collaboration between agencies that respond to crises by means of social networking tools, as collaboration is paramount to successful mitigation.

Tree Eliminates Millions of Years to Produce Gasoline

Gasoline comes from crude oil which has been stored deep into the ground and converted from fossilized materials for milions of years.

But a gene from the petroleum nut is able to make gasoline without undergoing the abovementioned process. We are currently trying to identify the gene out from some 30,000 genes of the tree. When we are able to do that, then that gene will be protected ands conserved to ensure the production of sustainable source of fuel.

The Petroleum Nut, Promising Results

For those who have been following up the petroleum nut discovery of ours, here are the latest development we have made:

1. It can DIRECTLY totally replace, we repeat, REPLACE LPG for cooking without undergoing any physical processing except plain sedimentation.

2. It can be directly used for lighting.

3. We’re running the engine tests currently.  We started last Friday and should have those done in about 2 weeks.

Chemical Analysis
Based on our chemical analysis, the petroleum nut samples  had nonane (9 carbon alkane), pinene (a small monoterpene), and beta-phellandrene (larger terpene).  The pinene is the chemical that gives the oil the ‘pine/lemon’ smell.  Basically, these oils are made of small hydrocarbons and that’s why it catches fire so easily.  LPG is similar in that it is really small hydrocarbons and that’s why it burns so well.  The petroleum nut chemicals are larger than LPG, but only by ~4-8 carbons, which doesn’t make a huge difference apparently.  The petroleum nut chemicals are also cyclic, which makes them different from LPG.  I’ll send all of these things in a more formal report when I can get the engine data together.

Fuel Property Analysis
We looked at two different kinds of the petroleum oil.  The first was the oil without the white waxy layer that forms after settling for a couple hours.  The second oil had that white wax mixed back into it for comparison.  Initial fuel property testing shows that 20% blends of the petroleum nut (without wax) has a flash point lower than standards, but otherwise passes all ASTM biodiesel fuel property specifications.  Essentially this means that it could be sold for biodiesel, but it catches flame too easily (low flash point) and so would be a transportation risk.  I think we could have guessed that may be the case from lighting the fruits so easily.  The petroleum nut oil with the wax failed several tests including flash point, sulfated ash (emissions standard), ramsbottom carbon residue (another emissions standard), etc.  So basically, if this stuff was used as diesel fuel, it would need to settle out the wax first before use to maintain clean air regulations.

Engine Tests
I was there when we ran the 20% petroleum nut oil:80% diesel #2.  The engine didn’t explode!  That’s always a relief.  It will be two weeks before we get the final numbers back, and then I can give you a pretty detailed report on what we found.  Of course, all of this information and everything above will be put together for publication sometime late this year or maybe early 2011 and you will also get a copy of that final completed report.

We’re still in the initial stages of testing, and I was surprised to find that the oil had nonane rather than heptane, but presence of nonane has been reported before.  As for isolating the genes involved, that will take a much longer time.  We’re looking for 2-4 genes out of ~30,000, and that can be a difficult task.  I have been doing my homework about what is known in petroleum nut and also another plant, Pinus jeffreyi.  The pathway to make nonane or heptane is really strange in plants, so basically we’ll be starting from scratch as far as the genetics go.  I’ll keep you updated on that side of the project as I go of course.

Expect a more formal update in mid-July.

Hopefully, this will be a e sustainable fuel for the Cordillera region.


Leading by Serving

Leading by Being the Servant

We work voluntarily to  help liberate people from poverty. When I established PINE TREE (Project Initiating Employment through Training in Environmental Enterprises) I was thinking of two things–helping eliminate poverty and environmental  decay — through socal change. I then made it my group’s mission.

Our strategy is to help liberate people from poverty by allowing them to use their God-given skills, talent, opportunities  combined with ours for service and in our case, without or with little personal material benefit

We work on the conscience that having been gifted with more or better (education), different skills and knowledge as well as experience, health and access to resources, we work to serve first because we care–for people and for Mother Earth.

This is because we feel we were chosen and called to do so and it is an honor to be in that situation.

Michael A. Bengwayan Ph. D


PINE TREE, the Cordillera Ecological Center