“It was Erap who personally chose this site to be the current’s viewpoint. It was also Erap who told me once the construction of this viewpoint is done we will have lunch together for celebration. But the lunch didn’t happen at all — he was brought to jail!” And that was ten years ago. This is how vivid the story was in the mind of manong Max while he laughingly narrating it to us on our last day of dispatch in Banaue — as if it was happened just a few days ago.
But who is manong Max? Let me unfold the three glorious mysteries behind the name.
First off, Maximo Aguian — manong Max as we called him — is a septuagenarian geodetic engineer who retired in the 80s and went back literally to his roots of being a farmer from working in the concrete jungle of Manila. Second, he and his wife owns the iconic two-hectare rice paddies that you see in the back of a 1,000-peso bill. Third, but not least, the Philippine government named the well-known tourists’ viewpoint in Banaue after him — Aguian Viewpoint.
Our face to face with manong Max was purely incidental. We arrived at the viewpoint still mid day and we were welcomed by harsh light of the king sun with flat color foliage. An unlikely set-up for a majestic backdrop. Since it was a sunny day after all, we decided to stay and kill time until the sun sets. But nature has its mood swings as well. Later that afternoon, the day’s mood of scorching heat turned overcast. Instead of leaving the place, we decided to stay for a while with a hope for the king sun’s sunny mood to return one last time.
Whilst waiting and playing the waiting game, manong Max came in to the scene from tending his paddies — still with his red hard hat on — he greeted us with a welcoming smile. After putting down his long and rustic shovel and a pair of black rubber boots, he sat down and begun to ask questions of who we are and why we are here and etc. From the normal exchange of questions and answers between local and tourist, our simple conversation with the old man became lengthy and it led us in unfolding an impending dilemma inevitable not to ignore in the near future.
Below is an excerpt interview with manong Max by writer Mari-an Santos from The Fight for the Terraces, June-July 2011 issue of InFlight magazine:
I (Santos) ask what will become of his terraces. He (Aguian) shrugs and says they will go to any of his grandchildren who decide not to study at college. “Once the young ones go to school, they won’t come back.” Maximo’s seven-year-old grandson Tyrone walks up and down the walls of the rice paddies, never once losing his footing. Who knows, maybe one day he will inherit this piece of earth and continue to cultivate it. There is always hope.
To read the full story of The Fight for the Terraces, June-July 2011 issue of InFlight magazine, visit inflight.ph