one discovery for most local people–particularly youth and middle aged people from the ‘atolan ‘amis nation–was the sheer size of pacifalan
although nearly everyone could tell you the number of hectares and something of the history of pacifalan, there was something novel about stepping on what was a relatively unknown road into pacifalan and seeing its sandy hills unfold there, sloping down toward the water on two sides. in everyday visits to pacifalan to fish and gather, both our itineraries and the extensive growth of tall grasses and pandanus constricted vision. with the clearing of the space for the music festival, one suddenly grasped the expanse of the space. and with that, one could also feel danger
pacifalan, which means a place of sailing ships, may or may not owe its name to the arrival of dutch or portuguese merchants. what we do know is that for the last twenty years, this piece of land has been in the sights of corporate developers, who itch to make pacifalan an oceanside resort. seeing the land with the ocean on three sides, one began to see what these real estate speculators and hotel builders saw in their plans. moreover, this year’s ‘amis music festival required coordination with the east coast scenic area management committee (dongguanchu). would clearing the land and holding an event there place the land under greater pressure? it was hard to say
holding the ‘amis music festival in ‘atolan did suggest that the ‘atolan ‘amis nation might do more with pacifalan. at least, the nation could keep the herd of cows (belonging to a settler businessman) now grazing the land semi-legally away and maintain the space for community events. suggestions included moving the kiloma’an, the annual ritual of the community from its present location to pacifalan. these plans, if realized, would require the construction of much infrastructure including, minimally electricity, running water for toilets and washing, and perhaps even permanent roofed structures for dancing. whether the community should develop the land will likely become an issue in assemblies during the next few years. as development would require coordination with dongguanchu, groups administering the community (such as the kakitaan (president) or mikomoday, the age set tasked with managing community affairs) would need to engage in diplomacy and a great deal of negotiation. would development of a space for kiloma’an mean opening pacifalan for tourists? and now that the road into the center of pacifalan was known, should the mikomoday seal it? viewing the expanse of pacifalan and feeling that the ‘atolan ‘amis nation had capacity to manage this land raised many questions once the initial euphoria of holding a successful event that centered ‘amis experiences and sovereignty affected everyone. time to take a deep breath and think
if pacifalan remains controversial, it has something to do with the material qualities of the land itself. several people in the community told me that they felt that something was wrong about the long row of concession stands and the two stages; to them, the cleared land felt as if it no longer was traditional country but something else. not quite the artificial landscape of dongguanchu sites, it was still a bit too denuded. even those who would like to see pacifalan to become more accessible, at least for community events, couldn’t miss that the land was fragile. the lush growth of grasses disguised that most of pacifalan was sand
yes, sand. now i realize why many elders in ‘atolan recall growing peanuts at pacifalan as well as grazing cattle. the land wouldn’t grow much else. looking at the sand and the five thousand or so guests trod up and down hill, further ripping up the grasses, i began to worry, too: the wind in november picks up. if grasses didn’t grow here, would the tipos (the northeasterly gale of winter) lift pacifalan and carry the soil elsewhere? would a rainstorm send the entire mountain into the ocean, killing corals upon which the community’s traditional subsistence practices depend? any plans to construct infrastructure here or even to use pacifalan for occasional events needs to consider how to preserve the fragile soil
thinking of pacifalan as forming us through our relationships to the land, we might need to ask, what does pacifalan want? how might the community adjudicate between a need to demonstrate its management of the land with the land’s fragility? how might the community convince dongguanchu and other powerful actors that ‘atolan’s stewardship of pacifalan might require it to remain relatively undeveloped? how might the community figure out how to let the needs of the land enter their purview even as land appears as a resource?