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SANGAL DI KULTURA

Refining Government service

God said “Because I tried to cleanse you but you would not be cleansed from your impurities, you will not be clean again until my wrath against you has subsided.” Ezekiel 24:13

This week I have been processing papers in Baguio City Hall and in agency offices in San Fernando. It still bothers me that for an item in a process there are two or three signatories before it moves on to the second process item. It is taking me a hard time to accept that despite Citizens charter and the Anti-Red Tape Act, a SUMVAC activity has not been properly coordinated in the request of budget and even the setting up of chairs for the activity. I understand why the person next to me complains it is baffling, confusing and frustrating. I try to give maximum tolerance in dealing with government offices, having the experience of 3 years in government, out of my nearly sixty years.

Government is supposed to improve the lives of the citizens and protect them. Many countries will come up with means to attain this purpose, and many will debate on how government should do it. Structures are formed with the purpose of making live better. Yet in this most advance stage of technology and intelligence the ordinary person feels harassed with all the requirements to make his life better – be it to pay taxes or be it to exercise democratic assembly.

Closer to home this present administration came up with the Bottom-up-Budgeting (BUB). One purpose is for more participation, from those who are recipients of government programs.

This week another meeting was called to look into the process of a general assembly of skills training recipients, but still the organizers are looking for the proper venue to hold the assembly. It was also a time of reviewing the monitoring team’s budget. The Ugnayan ng Barangay at Simbahan (UBAS)—a partnership of local Catholic churches, the LBP, and the DILG for the observance of good governance principles at the community level will monitor the proper implementation of the projects. However, in the city of Baguio the local executive appointed representatives of church and Civil Society Organizations to form the monitoring team. I was one of those who form the monitoring team. After the first monitoring we conducted last year, my observation is that most participating agencies and representatives are not yet familiar with the mechanics of having recipients participate in the whole cycle of a project.

From the official gazette it states that at least 1,590 local government units have participated in the BuB program since it was implemented in 2013. There were a total of 42,221 BuB projects reported in the Open BuB Portal. Of this number, 13,712 projects have been completed as of December 1, 2015 (exclusive of dropped projects that were replaced, split, or merged). For 2016, about 14,325 local poverty reduction projects have been allocated P24.7 billion. This is an increase from P8 billion in 2013 for projects identified in 595 cities and municipalities.

It is unfortunate that some good government service cannot be sustainable because of changes in political focus of elected officials and the unchanging poor service of government employees and department heads. Those in career will blame the elected officials, while the elected officials say “it is your job to deliver the service being in those positions longer than us.” It is not the blaming game, it is not even the budget restrictions but it is a personal character that makes a person delivers acceptable government service. Despite the guidelines and the restrictions that a government person has to abide, still regular people suffer miserably in the hands of government. As God has challenged us to change, to be refined and to be clean – seemingly our government deserve the wrath of God.

Together Again

Summers and Christmas breaks are the perfect time for Reunions because most schools are on vacation. Families, clans, class, schools, organizations and people groups come together for common interest and strengthening the value of unity and self help through these reunions.

This coming May 1 is the UB Science High reunion, where we will be going back to our alma mater. I always find it refreshing as we will all stand and sing the Science High hymn,

The past week the 11th Igorot International Consultation (IIC) was held in Teng-ab, Bontoc, Mountain Province. It was the late Governor Leonard Mayaen who accepted the invitation to host the IIC which will coincide with the provincial celebration of the Lang-ay. Initially, the Weygan family intended to go where the nieces and nephews were to join the Katagoan caravan and on to the Lang-ay. Two family rooms and one single room was reserved. But with the unpleasant passing on of the beloved head of the province, Leonard Mayaen, everything changed. The activities of the province was canceled and so the family also decided not to join this IIC-11. According to Yvonne Belen who came from Netherlands, the attendance was acceptable as it was a little over a hundred participants considering the current developments in the province. I have attended the IIC in Green Valley, in London, in Australia, in Banaue and in Baguio Country Club. We hope that more will attend the next one in Hawaii by 2018.
Last February 6, 2016 we also had the Galeled Clan Reunion with the theme “Let’s join our hands to reach the world.” The next International Galeled Clan Reunion is on July 7-8, 2016 in Calgary, Canada. Here the members of the clan converge with people coming from the Philippines, USA, Australia and Europe. In these reunions relatives trace their roots, they meet relatives to renew, gain more friends and establish contacts with new found relatives. It is with the idea of strengthening bonds and knowing people in authority who they can seek help, identify professionals who they can go to, and identifying people in GO and NGOs who focus on some concerns they can form partnerships. One of the output of this reunion is the start of the Galeled Scholarship fund, where the Mayor Mauricio Domogan gave the initial fund. Another point of unity is the revival of the Galeled Cooperative that needs to be formally registered and managed.

My husband’s Abanay-Lumbaya family clan just had their reunion this April 16, 2016 at the BSBT Assembly Hall where we had people coming from Mountain Province, Manila, German, Netherlands and other places. One person we met was the family of Bayani Loste, based in Manila and a lawyer with specialty on Intellectual property Rights. He works also at the Fortun, Narvasa & Salazar law firm. Aside from the presentation of the families was the blessing of a set of gongs before it was used for a community dance. After that was teaching the young people to beat the gongs and to dance. It was encouraging to see everyone exchange insights on the positioning of the hands and the sway of the body.

It was my mother who has started me in tracing my roots with her family and dad’s family. When we were younger my mother would so a senga by butchering a pig and calling the different families to come and join the party. At the end of the party was the distribution of the “watwat” a piece of un cooked meat that was segregated to members of the extended families. who came and for those who did not come, my mother would send the drivers to go and give their watwat. She emphasized the importance of being part of the family and the community. My dad was the one who would go from one wake to another, doing bayao and Christian service. My parents would say “ta kabagian tako datodi” meaning they are our relatives. They would go to weddings because they are kakailian and even if they are not directly blood relations, they are in someway relatives because they are affiliated. And so the reunions conducted now are ways to strengthen those relationships. It is “together manen (again) times” where one gets a chance to meet those near and far.

But a critic says “reunion tapno ammo ti ibotos ti election” meaning “Reunion so we know who to vote this election” it is so because relatives are expected to support those who are in the clan. Similarly, classmates campaign for their own classmates and those in organizations cheer on those in their organizations or relatives of their members. And so it is “together again.!”

SILOKEN – a reason to take a nostalgic trip

Going home to Besao is a nostalgic trip as it reminds me so much of my mother. She used to tell stories of the life in the village. When I was in elementary grades she sent me to Panabungen for a summer and I stayed with Lolo Weygan. That summer was very memorable as we roamed the mountains, rivers and the valleys. We danced during the church fiesta and when summer was gone, I came back to grade four full of stories to tell. When I was younger, mom and I spent some time with our Lolo Telba and Lomana in Padang an. I remember that at night there were many people in the house and they tell stories which lull me to sleep while I was keeping warm in front of the fire which was kept lighted to keep the house warm. In the morning I would find myself sleeping in the cot, presumably my grandma carried me during the night.
So it was not a surprise to my parents, when I requested that Raquel Haight and I would spend a whole summer in Besao for our practicum. We would work in the Municipal Hall and in the afternoon walk up the hill to Calvary and watch the sunset as we talk of dreams, of challenges and anything that we find worth talking about. I don’t even remember most of them. During the weekend, when we were not doing laundry or otherwise, we would join the babalasang and babalo for a picnic. At one time we joined a big group entered the caves and ended up in Lake Danu. They brought pots, pans, rise and chicken which ended up to be pinikpkan for lunch. For dishes we had talupac (banana stalk) and we kamet (ate with our fingers.) Many other stories come rushing in my mind whenever I remember Besao, where my forefathers came from.

Last May, the Siloken Clan gathered together in St James High School for the reunion. This was through the invitation of the host families led by Roman and Nelie Basilio as well as Modesto Daytec Gaab. So from Baguio together with Aiza and Jan Michael and cousins Lydia Andres and Balusdan we left on a Friday morning assembling in BSBT so that the scheduled 7:00 am became 8:00. Finally, going and taking stops taking photos at the highest point of the Philippine highway system; in Abatan for lunch and purchased vegetables, at the Mountain Province arc, in Sagada and finally Besao. Upon arrival, we went straight to the Municipal hall to settle taxes and other documentary needs before going down to Padangaan. It was a reunion of some sorts, as cousins came and we talk through the night.

The next day was the reunion and it was full of fun, food and stories. A whole bus came from Panabungen led by Aunty Mary the surviving child of the third generation of Siloken. I am considered a fourth generation and my niece Aiza a fifth generation of Siloken. Another jeepful came from Sagada, those who came from Agawa and the other villages arrived much earlier. People came from as far as Patiacan of Ilocos Sur. I do not know most of them, but many seem to know some and it was a time of tonton (trying to trace the families.) Upon arrival people went to the Reading center of the church for food or they went straight to the registration table.

The program started with all the preliminaries until the most important part of introducing the families. There were four siblings Coman, Mimitan, Damgasen and Lapeyas. So they flashed the family trees to show where the families can trace their roots. The biggest number of participants came from MIMITAN. They include the Balangayao-Langgomay; Sayen-Duday; Laayam –Manuel; Weygan- Engway; Weygan-Catimban. The other families were also presented. And yet in the Mimitan family alone, we do not all know each other so it was a lot of photos taken so we can bring home and see our relatives.

Other families includes the Koman-Tandangan; Damgasen-Attondi and Lapiyas-Lagman. Then it was too soon to end the program and we all went for lunch of pancit, pinikpkan and lots of rice and pork. We enjoyed fellowship meal together and time to catch up with each other before everyone went their way before the night falls. It was agreed the next year reunion would be in the farm of Col Ernest Gaab. My niece and nephew decided to go to Sagada and I trekked down to Padangaan for another type of reunion with cousins and kakaanakans.

 

Ecology and life systems in the Cordillera

Summer is here, the birds sing, the flowers bloom and the soggy pathways beckon to the earth lovers and hikers. The sky paints a changing hue and the brown land turns into green, yet the inhabitants of the land hastens the changing of the earth and all that is in it.

In attempting to maintain ecology, there is a continuing clamor for the protection of the trees and the forest, yet every day I drive through Marcos Highway where one third of a portion of the highway is barricaded by Moldex for their construction after cutting all the trees on the slope of the hill. We have complained several times, Mayor Domogan was able to let them remove that barricade twice but such impertinence because the road portion is again overtaken by that barricade for the past two weeks. Also there is a growing protest over some construction going on in Sto. Tomas.

Baguio is the highest city in terms of elevation, in the whole Philippine archipelago and prides herself to be the only city without the fumes from tricycles, but that is no longer true. Tricycles of all sorts now run through the streets of Baguio from Marcos Highway to Kennon road to Trinidad road defying a City Ordinance No 28 s.2012 banning all tricycles in the city territorial limits. The ordinance was passed after a series of public hearings and consultations with bikers, motorcycle owners and riders, the taxi organizations, drivers and operators and the general public and after that the result was to ban the tricycles because of the terrain in the city of Baguio, a 45 degree road is too dangerous for a tricycle to climb because the cars following it are slowed down and once it stalls, the rest of the cars following are being placed in danger because of evading hitting the tricycle.

Ecology in the Cordillera is not something new, the Igorot culture tells us of a web in the environment. Our forefathers have an intense sense of commitment in the preservation of nature. To them the land, the forest, the waters coupled with the social institutions, the rituals and traditions are sacred parts of community life that are preserved and handed down from one generation to another.

Ecological imbalance manifest itself in the form of drought, famine, abnormal changes in temperature, increasing poor health and sanitation, pollution of water, air and soil. Include vanishing forests, dried up rivers and lakes and these all lead to a vanishing tribe. Retrospection tells us that such drastic changes in the environment made changes in the life systems of tribes in the Cordillera. The very tribes of indigenous peoples have been threatened by the source of life which is unnecessarily compromised. Source of life is the God given land, the forest, the rivers and the air. These are free, yet have been commercialized by few and suffered by most. Food production is the traditional life in our villages where rice, fruits, vegetables, cattle, poultry and river life sustains them. The ecological changed has altered that balance. Trees were cut faster than they are grown; forests are bared quicker than they are carpeted. Food source is threatened thus subsistence agriculture is looking at its demise. Free trade threatened the Benguet vegetable industry because of Chinese produce is dumped in the market.

We all blame it to climate change, but climate change aside from decades of natural occurrences, is also brought about by global warming because of human decisions, priorities and greed.

The life systems of the Cordillera changes, faster than we have envisioned it to be, yet when the end will come, we hope to see the Cordilleran standing tall when all have fallen.

BANA-AO SUMMER, ETCHED IN MEMORY

After a month long stay in the US, my husband and I are back to Baguio, the City we love and where we grew up. The month was well spent especially because we had chance to bond with friends living with Ed and Minda in San Diego and with Grace, Royce, Alan and Raquel in Arizona. Arizona was spectacular with the Grand Canyon, Flagstaff and Sedona experience that further strengthen faith in the Almighty Creator God and the commitment of people to preserve the present for the next generation.

Now, we are back and the past days have been gloomy and rains come easy, very much different from the summers I remember growing up. As a child, summer usually is no school except the Vacation Bible School, more time to play with friends and relatives. As a kid, I spent a summer in Bana-ao with my grandfather Juan Weygan and another summer in Padang-an with my grandmother Pinggay Cuanguey. In high school and college, summer was a lot of activities that included; summer class in BSBT or in college, attending weddings and other community activities with my mom or friends, climbing mountains and following rivers, raising pigs, planting corn and camote in Quirino Hill, and selling sayote in the market.

It was then right after Grade 5 that I spent my summer in Bana-ao. It is an “ili”/community of Besao, Mountain Province sharing boundaries with Tubo, Abra and Ilocos Sur. My parents “paw-it” or send me off with Aunty Bernice (one of our relatives) who was going home to Bana-ao. We took the bus to Besao Central and slept in a relative’s home. At dawn we took the pathway from Kin-iway down to the river and up to Bunga passing the regular foot path that circuitously went through the mountain side underneath the pine trees besides rivers and tall grasses that occasionally wave when the wind passes. I remember we would take short rest to drink water from the brook that runs beside the pathway, look up the fruit trees for snack and take twigs for walking stick. By late afternoon we reached Bana-ao and I was left with my grandfather in his house which is also near the houses of our relatives. It was a new place, new people with a new language. My grandfather’s house was elevated with a wide sala, three bed rooms and a spacious porch with a connective dining room and the kitchen made of wood slabs and GI roof. But I was told that they had cogon roof before it was changed to GI. Underneath is where the chickens and other animals as well as storage were housed. He had a yard, with avocado trees, bamboo and other fruit trees. At the back of the house he had a camote patch lined with camoteng kahoy/cassava plant and soy beans. There was a pipe that brings water comes straight to the kitchen and near the front yard where neighbors also use to come and fetch water.

It was a perfect rustic setting, perfect getaway for a grandchild who was requested for the grandfather to come visit. I do not remember going to the rice fields or the kaingin but I know some of the people go there and sometimes when I wake up in the morning I will see my grandfather coming back home from bringing the carabao and goats to pasture. I remember that I had fun with the kids going to the river, to the church and to different homes. We never lacked food for they grow rice, fruits and vegetables. I can’t remember meat but I remember that fish came from the rivers that we would eat bare fingers (no spoons) and lick our fingers too. Milk came from goats which they add to roasted rice or soya beans for our drink. Coffee was abundant and sometimes I would sneak a sip from grandpa’s cup.

It was also the fiesta/festival of the church and me and my age mates danced to the tune of “Hey Jude” by the Beatles. I cannot remember what we did, but I saw photos in my Aunty Mary’s house which will continue to remind me of that summer in the church. We were in white t-shirts and in maong pants and we danced in front of the church with the community people seated around the yard and in the slopes overlooking the church. During the fiesta we had lots of food – rice, meat, camote, root crops and rice cakes which they said was a tradition in the community and we had visitors from different places who trekked the mountains for the day. The women and men take responsibility in preparing for the activities and the food that everybody enjoyed. Children were carefree and roam the mountains, either for fun or for chores. Then summer was over and I have to come back to Baguio not even able to remember the names of my playmates and their parents.

The second San Diego Grand Canao will be held on July 18 to 20, 2014 hosted by BIBAK San Diego. There is going to be a welcome party at the St. Matthews Episcopal Church on the evening of the first day, followed the canao at the Golden Pacific Ballroom of the Town and Country Hotel and Resort. The farewell party will be at the ROHR park at Sweetwater, which was where the dance practices and rehearsals were usually held.

The First San Diego Grand Canao was held in 2008 “the beat goes on” where they were able to gather more than 700 Igorots coming from the different states of the United States, the other continents and from the Philippines in a celebration at the Sheraton Hotel and Marina, at the park and several homes, including that of then SD Bibak President Robby Mina of Baguio City.
Similarly, another expected gathering will be in 10th Igorot International Consultation (IIC) at Vienna, Austria on August 7 to 10, 2014 coordinated by Alan and Margie Akistoy. In the Philippines one major contact is Virginia Tamiing Doligas of Easter Weaving Room. At this time we extend our condolences to her and the family as her husband was one of those who died in the recent vehicular accident in Aguinaldo, Ifugao and laid to rest last Saturday, July 5.

Going back to IIC, the Philippines first hosted it in 2000 in Green Valley, followed by the 7th IIC in Banaue and the 9th IIC in Baguio Country Club where it was agreed that the IIC will be held every after a biennium. Other IICs were held first in Los Angeles then in Arlington Virginia for the 2nd , the 4rth in London, 6th in Melbourne, 8th in Vancouver. These consultations always have dancing, talks on care and posterity of Igorots as a people. It has always been a complete regard for preservation of culture, traditions and environment.

The only exception for bringing the consultation to the Philippines after London was to coincide with the Centennial of the World Fair which included the Igorot Exposition the 5th IIC was held in St Louis, Missouri. Lifted from the website of Igorot Global Organization, that momentous affair was described by Martha Clevenger of the Missouri Historical Society described the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis, Missouri in a book, “Diaries and Letters From The 1904 World’s Fair,” which she edited. “Indescribably Grand” is also a fitting description of the 5th Igorot International Consultation in St. Louis, Missouri on July 1 – 4, 2004. One hundred years ago, a group of indigenous tribes from North Central Philippines called Igorots, were on display at the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis, Missouri. One hundred years later, descendants of these Igorots return to St. Louis to participate in the centennial celebration of the 1904 World’s Fair and to attend the 5th Igorot International Consultation. This is an historic event. In attendance will be people from all over the globe and from all walks of life. They will come to participate and experience an Igorot cultural and education extravaganza – workshops, seminars, exhibits, trade booths, an ecumenical memorial service, a grand reunion; a showcase of Igorot pride, intelligence, simplicity, and vision for the future.”

The Igorots worldwide are fostering a spirit of care and a vision for posterity and yet sadly we have some of our present city leaders have displayed complete disregard for the care towards posterity and confused and deceived people. Take the Mount Cabuyao “rape of the bowels of the mountains and the forest” presently there are politicians and supposedly environmentalist believing in lies like “bulldozing is going on because they are protecting the road so it will not slide down to the water reservoir, avoid contamination “ in the first place why protect a road when in the first place it should not be there. When tree lovers propose that they will plant trees to cover the road, why do the leaders say planting to rehabilitate the bulldozed road will take years and they are willing to plant trees not on the road but somewhere else.” And yet people believed them, how gullible can the electorate be, why destroy the forest in the first place and they say that “it will take years to rehabilitate” of course it will take ages to do that so why massacre 740 trees and clear the underbrush that sustains the habitation needed for the other living creatures like the birds that fly the sky, the crawling and jumping creatures that traverse through the forest. Are we so deceived we cannot even see realities and perceived and analyze situations and motives. Who has seen the master plan of the Eco tourist center, for all we know there may even be a gambling den. For all we know, it would be a forest too- but who really knows? How unfortunate is this generation and the next.

LIFE IS NOT IN OUR HANDS

(published in Cordillera Today – Feb 9, 2014)

 

“Accidents, and particularly street and highway accidents, do not happen – they are caused” said Ernest Greenwood. Similarly, we remember familiar quotes and songs about traveling and exploring the new and fascinating, the joy and dangers, flying, sailing and driving, the beginning and the end of the journey before we come back and rest down at our familiar beds and eat at our family tables.

 

Friday morning a Florida bus rolled down the road between Banaue and Bontoc to the bottom of the ravine resulting to 15 death and 32 injured persons.  This brought about numerous comments ranging from condolences to asking God’s grace for the survivors and thanks for sparing them. At the same we get criticisms that the bus company was negligent, the driver reckless coupled with the treacherous, poorly maintained mountain roads produced such an accident.  Such news is alarming and dampens the adventurous spirit that continues to plan for summer break travels. But at the same time such incidents sometimes become wake up calls for bus companies and road maintenance, even after the fact. But we should not learn safety because of accidents. How ideal it is if due diligence have been observed before such accidents because danger knows no vacation. Nothing can repay the pain of the loved ones left by those who died in accidents for they did not have time to hug, kiss or say goodbye.

 

We were based in Bontoc from 1989 to 1994 when we had the BSBT Foundation, Inc. that conducted outreaches to the municipalities of Kalinga, Benguet, Ifugao and the Mountain Provinces. Such outreaches were short courses in typewriting, computer, electronics, financial management, cooperative management, community development organizing, herbal gardens and other relevant courses needed by the communities.  This was also the time that I drove the rough, long and winding roads, when there were not many lady drivers. Some drivers, when they see my red and white jeep, they gave me extra road courtesy. At times when my jeep gets a flat tire or a loose bolt, I leave it along the road and someone will bring it home for me – a student, a staff or other drivers.  These experiences exposed me to the treacherous roads which were carved out of the mountains as a result of the indigenous labor and ingenuity of technical people. It continues to amaze me how such roads were constructed, more amazed at how drivers and motor vehicles maneuver those roads.

 

One summer we conducted an outreach in Barlig and after the graduation we packed up and the next morning we travelled from Barlig to Bontoc in an overflowing public jeep with people and baggage in and out of the transport. When we were just passing the saddle from Talubin climbing up the road I was overcome with a heavy dark feeling and I closed my eyes and said “God help us.”  As soon as I said it, someone was banging the back of the jeep yelling at the driver to stop because someone fell off the jeep. The driver stopped and we saw that we were just few inches at the edge of the ravine. The man who fell came and said that he was clinging to the back of the jeep and then a black object covered him and he cannot see, he tried to remove it in his face and that was when he fell because he removed his hands from clinging.  We had a short stop trying to settle nerves because the driver was also shaken that he was about to drive straight to the ravine.  After all the sharing we finally got back on the jeep and arrived safely to our destination.

 

“Traveling is a brutality. It forces you to trust strangers and to lose sight of all that familiar comfort of home and friends. You are constantly off balance. Nothing is yours except the essential things – air, sleep, dreams, the sea, the sky – all things tending towards the eternal or what we imagine of it” said Cesare Pavese. For life is not in our hands it is in God’s hand, he gives and takes away. It is of innocent or arrogant perspective when we think we control our lives, because we do not. It is this reality that makes us seek the LORD and creator for eternity and meaning of the present.