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The 'Sleeping Beauty Mountain' and the mighty Chico River

By: Joahna G. Goyagoy

Kalinga province is a dazzling bounty of things to do and see. It boasts its pristine waterfalls, crystal-clear rivers, national park, subterranean river, hot springs, mountain lakes, rainforests, and rice terraces. It has legendary mountain ranges, too. One of which is the so called 'Sleeping Beauty Mountain' in Tinglayan, a grandeur that one may not opt to miss.

This mountain was not named as such for nothing.

Tale goes that in the early days, there was a man in Tinglayan named Banna and a woman from Dacalan in Tanudan who fell in love with each other. Due to a war which ensued between the tribes of Banna and Edonsan, their love ended to a tragedy. Banna was killed and Edonsan left weeping in a mountain where she fell asleep. From where she lied formed a mountain shaped into a woman which they now call, "Sleeping Beauty Mountain".

This mountain is also known as Mt. Mating-oy. For the Lubo tribes in Tanudan, the 'forehead', which is its highest point, is the Mt. Patukan.

As folkloric as it is, beneath this mountain is yet another wonder that also deserves to be told. The legend of the mighty Chico River. This river is fed by waterfalls flowing from the Sleeping Beauty Mountain.

Legend has it that the Chico River was the sister of the Abra River.

These rivers, as the tale goes, were once two siblings who were very obedient, kind, and industrious. However, they had very cruel parents. Because of that cruelty, these siblings decided to run away until they reached the top of a mountain, to which these days, is called the Mount Data.

Knowing that they had nowhere else to go, they prayed to Lumawig, the God of the Skyworld, to turn them into streams of water. The brother became the Abra River while his sister became the Chico River.

Today, the Kalinga people regard the Chico River as the 'River of Life'. True to its name, the river is tapped for providing abundant sources of power generation, irrigation, and fishing.

Accordingly, the Chico River is one of the major river systems in the Cordilleras. It has a stretch of 174.67 kilometers. Its headwaters are located on the northern slopes of Mount Data, Bauko in Mountain Province. It flows eastward across Mount Data before taking a northeasterly turn toward Bontoc in Mountain Province. It continues its northeasterly course to and through the province of Kalinga, where it is fed by the Tanudan, Pasil, and Saltan rivers. From Kalinga, it flows into Cagayan province where it drains into the Rio Grande de Cagayan.

Its tributaries are the Bunog River in Tinglayan to the south, the Tanudan and Biga rivers to the east, the Mabaca and Saltan rivers in Balbalan to the North, and the Pasil River further downstream.

The Chico River, according to accounts, is one of the longest rivers in the Philippines running along mountainsides of centuries-old rice terraces, rustic villages, and lush green foliage. In Kalinga, it snakes its way through the municipalities of Tinglayan, Lubuagan, Pinukpuk, and the city of Tabuk.

As the people of Kalinga call it as the 'Mighty Chico River', it boasts not only of its great potential for irrigation and power source. To many of the folks living near the river, it has been a source of life. Indeed, beneath its strong rapids making it one of the best spots in the country for water rafting adventures, are several fish species that are sought after for its unique taste and rarity.

Research shows that the Chico River is home to several fish species such as tilapia, carp, eel, prawns, half-beak, catfish, mudfish, goby species, gurami, to name a few.

As such, in Tinglayan alone, a lot of the villagers here depend on fish as their source of livelihood, if not a ready reserve of daily food on each family's table. In fact, the spirit of community is evidenced by their fishing activity. For instance, using a fishing gear which they call as 'lin-lin' out of mosquito net tied with bamboos on the edges, fisherfolk would invite as many community members in scaring away the fish toward the 'lin-lin'. The fish caught will be feasted upon by them paired with rice and a hot brewed native coffee after.

The fisherfolk themselves attested that the Chico River blesses them with bountiful catch almost on a daily basis. This catch is pegged at P300 to P350 a kilo. For them, this amount helps defray their day-to-day expenses.

One of them said in their local dialect, 'We never ran out of food. The river is always there to provide us with something to eat.'

The locals even claim that fishes that thrive in Tinglayan where the Chico River traverses, are more sumptuous and more flavourful than those in Lubuagan, Pinukpuk, and Tabuk.

For these fisherfolk, they envision a future where their children will live boasting the splendour of the Sleeping Beauty Mountain and relishing the bounty of fish catch in the Chico River as much as they do.