Saturday, July 21, 2018

Benguet Association of Tourism Officers (BATO)


BATO

The Benguet Association of Tourism Officers (BATO) has turned over a new leaf with the election (or appointment) of its new officials last week (yes, this is not the ‘bato’ that gets you executed these days). The organization wishes the best in life for Engr. Nicomides Caliguing the association’s outgoing president, who held the position for seven bountiful years. We also wish the same for Ma’am Claire Prudencio, the Benguet Tourism Officer head and pioneer who has also retired recently this year. They say that the most awaited adventures of ‘apo-stolic’ duties are much more interesting than the world of travel and tourism.

Since the other twelve Municipal Tourism Action Officers conspired to get me into such trouble (or maybe just to compel me to attend the regular meetings, hehe), I don’t really much have choice but to accept the responsibilities of heading the association after the outgoing officials. As the youngest among the Benguet tourism and cultural workers, I acknowledge that my abilities and knowledge are way too limited for such obligations. But since my fellow tourism workers believed in me, it would only be just and proper to believe in myself too. I thank them with a humble appeal for them to work with me, guide me, and even admonish me should I stray away from our goals.


Benguet agri-products ffind their way to the capital trading post
Our first organizational meeting as new officers explored our status as an organization, our direction, and our future activities, which includes our participation on the upcoming Benguet Adivay celebrations of 2018. As an additional activity, we proposed for a Benguet Tourism Conference (which I suspect to be a first) that will gather tourism workers and stakeholders in the whole province.  As the first order of business in our care, we intend to make the community know about our organization that mainly serves as a tourism partner of the Benguet Provincial Government and its Municipalities. This includes conferences, seminars, and tourism-orientation activities since tourism can be a tool for environmental protection, culture and heritage preservation, and community development.
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I write this article from the beautiful queen city of the south where tourism is flourishing to a very swift extent. ‘Suroy-suroy sa Sugbo’ (Going around Cebu), their gems or attractions traditionally employs the best tourism elements in the country – great tourism products and natural resources, the rich sea and its beautiful shores, culture and heritage, innovations, and substantial tourism investments. It has that unique beauty of its own that attracts foreign and local visitors alike – that unique inviting town soul which makes travelers stop with awe and admiration.

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Just how quickly the summer days have passed, we will soon feel that familiar air of September – the memories and longing through the years etched in the lines around our eyes from both laughter and tears. And, like most of the young romances which are born only to fade away, we try to shy away from the convenient numbness in attempt to start feeling again. The future, albeit scary, is always fascinating.



Saturday, May 26, 2018

La Trinidad History Conference


An event is truly successful when it inspires a future action. Hence, the 1st La Trinidad History Conference has succeeded in rousing appreciation and interest in La Trinidad’s and whole Benguet’s History and Heritage. The event not only saw renewed passion for local human stories, it also enthused our decision-makers and officials to give their active and positive support on future historical researches / write shops, and programs for the preservation of heritage, including the needed institutional support.

 The activity, which was organized by the Tourism Development Services of the Local Government and in celebration of the National Heritage month, is also a prelude to La Trinidad’s 68th Foundation Day celebrations on June 16, 2018. While economic programs and regular services nourish the physical aspect of a town, appreciation for arts, culture, and heritage nourishes its soul. A town which does not have a “story to tell” is a lifeless town.

What I learned from our main Speaker, former NCIP-Commissioner chairperson and co-author of the book “A People’s History of Benguet”, Ma’am Zenaida Brigida Hamada-Pawid, is the term “composite history” – where researchers compile the different versions of stories, since all of them are still genuine stories of the past. Hence, Barangay Pico’s origin “Piho” or the native term for the small houses, and the other version, “Piko” for the agricultural tool, can be placed together to co-exist in one story book. Same with Buyagan’s, “Buya-an” (a place for spectators), or the other version’s “Boyagan”, or the name of the hunter which was devoured by a huge snake in that area as narrated by our IPMR, Pendon Thompson. And of course, the origin of the name La Trinidad; some say it was inspired by the “three prominent hills” (overlooking Poblacion where the seat of Cabecera was established), and others maintain the older version that it was a namesake of Donya Trinidad (allegedly the wife of Spanish soldier Guillermo Galvey).




The Conference reminded the participants one important thing, that La Trinidad (even before Baguio City as an American city) was the recognized “Cabecera” – a center that attracted people, and where even animals gathered to drink in its lake’s clear waters (Laguna de Benguet) hundreds, maybe thousands of years ago. It was the capital in administrating a large part of the Cordilleras during the Spanish period, even before its present role as the capital of Benguet Province. It was a prominent town and has been a subject of flattering stories where conquistadors describe as, “a very large town situated in a broad and fertile valley the inhabitants of which were very rich and brave people….” (Espedicion al Valle de Benguet en Enero del año de 1829).

Since the past generally affects the events and courses of action for the future, what does our history tell us? Perhaps, La Trinidad should stop thinking that it is only a second-rate Cordillera town after Baguio City. That its residents should drill in their consciousness to have stake on all issues involving the place as their own home, and contribute to its betterment. That perhaps, La Trinidad should strive to become the best town, not only in the Cordilleras, but the whole country.



Monday, March 26, 2018

Valentines in the Valley 2018


Valentines in the Valley

February 14 is my birthday, not Valentine’s day. When some people have already buried Feb. 14 in their calendars to oblivion, I am (un)fortunately mandated by my own being to celebrate the same. The fact is, my name came from ‘Val’entines day, which further added ‘Red’ to (intentionally) highlight the color of the heart. “Adu la angot!” expressed my unmarried friend whose name is “Mary”.

The Valentine season as they say is a time of victors and victims for those who volunteer and vie for the cupid’s arrow. Depending on who you ask; it is either a valuable volition, or a virulent vexation, usually a failure to honor a verbose vow, or simply a violation from the romantic villain. For the veterans of the game who have endured such vicissitudes of fate brought by said valentine madness, it is just another vacant day not in vain. Since, as “V” said: “the value and veracity of such shall one day vindicate the vigilant and the virtuous”.

Obviously, such fad is economic more than cultural. February is the gain season for our rose and flower farmers in La Trinidad, the better time for our coffee shops and restaurants, and an opportunity for many of our local gift shops to exploit. Money is meant to be used and shared after all.

For those who want to spend a romantic time in the valley, you can hike and have a picnic at Mt. Yangbew, or at Mt. Kalugong eco-park. You can also visit Jeffrey Visaya’s garden at Brgy. Bahong/Alapang and spend the day with their plants and flowers. Of course our town is teeming with great coffee shops. Hunt them all from Km.3, Km.4, Km.5, Km.6, to Brgy. Poblacion. For those who prefer to go out at night, La Trinidad has a cowboy bar lane in Km.6 (from Oldwest to Cowboy town).
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The “Eternal Student” book published to cap my 30 years of existence (kuno) is out. I dedicate them to my supportive kapamilya and friends. I planned to consign copies to local bookstores and offer them for a cause – following a tradition that calls for us to share what we have in order to welcome more ‘blessings’.


Monday, January 8, 2018

Marching in January

The rank and file workers start the year with stories from their own hometown vacations, while those who have no other “ili” can only listen in curiosity. By nature, we prolong the bliss and joy of pure family time and rest period, by talking about them. The boys went to their mother’s Kapangan, the home of the Igorot Grand March, though they are also from Sagada, Buguias and Bauko, and Bontoc. Of course, their real home is still in La Trinidad and Baguio City.

Then the chat surprisingly turned deeper when “grand march” was mentioned, Cath (recalling her thesis) concluded that said Kapangan’s pride (grand march) is the result of the past’s culturally deprived generation, “the children will be admonished for simply holding the gong then”.  “…that is why they needed an outlet or alternative for their social yearnings” I completed, as the culture (though originally Polonaise) is like the Benguet’s “kinoboyan” which undeniably came from  western influence.

A debate with cultural purists is futile though I do not really have a quarrel with them. When the world spent centuries breaking barriers, and diverse colors have been woven to single human fabrics, it would be treacherous to live in the frozen bubbles of delusion. Our multi-cultural children and their culture are the evidence that the world has moved on, there is really not much things as pure anymore. Yes, we look back to appreciate, and learn, maybe reminisce…but we do not stay there for long, we have to march forward.

Our local grand march is characterized by unity (holding hands), and optimism/ perseverance (marching), which are the keys to a better workplace, organization, or community. The culture is perfect tone-setter for the whole year.


Today is a new beginning to improve. As long as we are alive there is hope to change ourselves, if not the world, for the better. January is a time of investments for the whole year, so we have to hit it running. Let us start marching in January.


Thursday, December 7, 2017

The Trinity

By Valred Olsim

The cross-carrying armored conquerors came with ordained swords – purging the pagan relics and substituting them with the Christian religious icons. Then, the paths were named after the Saints, and villages were named after Christian doctrines, events and symbols. The unification of lands at the foot of Montanosa was named “La Union” (The Union), and the valley town where the Cabacera (Capitol) overlooks “three prominent hills” was named “La Trinidad” (The Trinity).

The skeptic may insist that La Trinidad was named after Spanish Soldier Guillermo Galvey’s wife, Donya Trinidad, but Galvey’s military records show no wife, and the name “La Trinidad” was actually recorded to have been given by Galvey’s successor Commandante Manuel Scheidnagel, decades after Galvey’s death. As an imperative, Conquistadors dedicate a subjugated place to their Christian faith, or to the Royal crown…not to their wives or girlfriends.

Before the Trinity of Benguet, there was the island of “Trinidad (and Tobago)” which was encountered by Christopher Columbus in his “third” voyage. It was named similarly to the Christian doctrine of the Holy Trinity which holds that God is three consubstantial persons or hypostases—the Father, the Son (Jesus Christ), and the Holy Spirit— or as "one God in three Divine Persons".

The number three is popular in the context of symbolism and spirituality. It can refer to the harmony of “Mind, Body, and Spirit”, the “3rd Dimension”, the “three wishes”, the resurrection on the “3rd day”, the “three stages” of birth, life, and death, the “three timelines” of past, present, and future. Hence, the number “three” is said to mean “completion”.

An i-La Trinidad friend reminded me that for a successful life, one must have the three essentials of friends, family, and faith. A day should be fun, fruitful and fair. And we should always have the three values of love, hope, and joy. Three is indeed, a special number. Just the same, the Trinity (La Trinidad), is a very special place to me.




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With newfound vigor, I’m back to the job of telling good stories about the Trinity (La Trinidad). Despite the mounting number of meetings and paper works, we made sure that we will have a year-ender event which is related to tourism. Hence, we have organized the 2nd La Trinidad Tourism Conference on December 20, 2017 at the beautiful Mt. Kalugong Eco-park. We imagine it to be a meeting of tourism stakeholders and tourism-interested members of the community, and at the same time an avenue to appreciate the gems of our town (since the yearly conferences will be held on the different tourist spots of La Trinidad). We will also have an afternoon music jam to further add value to the event experience while offering coffee and wine to the attendees! Due to the limited capacity of the mountain park and the unique condition of the access road, we only produced 200 tickets to effectively manage the activity. Interested persons may visit the Mayor’s Office for the registration forms and tickets! Asen taha shiman da! Men-iila tako isdi! Kitakits!




Wednesday, December 6, 2017

BACK TO WORK

Aside from absorbing some mounting collections of letters and codes, the six month sabbatical I had also re-educated me about life’s lessons that I sometimes overlook. Indeed we are all eternal students of this life.

I am back for work, and I thank my workmates for holding my designated fort. Salamat talaga kakadwa! Even though the La Trinidad-LGU is naturally modest, the 2017 year just as the past years, is their year of awards and rewards. La Trinidad is again a recipient of the “Seal of Good Local Governance Award” which proves that the LGU has a passing mark in financial administration, disaster preparedness, social protection, and peace and order, and also in the essential areas of business friendliness, tourism, culture and the arts, and environmental protection. La Trinidad was also awarded with the best Cooperative Office in the country, the Red Orchid award for No Smoking implementation, the National Gawad Kalasag for our Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office, and various awards and citation on the Regional and Provincial levels for Solid Waste Management, Agriculture, and many other areas. It is good to be back to our service-oriented agency.

Despite the challenges of our everyday, we are still the lucky ones who live to work (not work to live) –this entails the presence of “purpose” which is the very core of a meaningful existence. This also means that we will spend more than half of our lives with work and workmates more than our personal interests and loved ones. Hence, our 8-5 or 40 hours of weekly work (not including regular overtimes) compared to only 30 hours weekly awake time for family, should be at least comforting and meaningful. Lest we want to live the tragedy of being immersed with 8 hours of conflict and negativity every day, we have to try our best to encourage a healthy and supportive working environment for all of us lowly workers.

As a laborer for the past ten years in different institutions, I hope to humbly share three tips on how to effectively work with workmates: 1. Speak kindly, 2.) Be Organized and, 3.) Smile, always.

As they say “it is not what you say, but how you say it”. Workers do not mind doing extra work if they are tasked respectfully and considering the basic human dignity. I am not really a judgmental person, but I do judge people according to how they treat the smaller people; the janitor, the security guard, or the lowly salary–grade 1 to 5 employees. The power-trippers, or the people who only respect power but treat the rank and file like disposable slaves, unfortunately arouses gossips, politicking, and needless stress and contempt in the work place. As a reminder for the lucky junior and senior officers (even the heads), kind words uplift the lower rank employees and build an environment of trust and positivity.

When I was younger (and as an artist and rock & roller), I worked with chaos and recklessness. Despite surviving for some time, there were couple of times that such care-free outlook cost me important ventures. Some workmates advised me to learn the skill of management and organization. This will prevent blame-games and confusion at work because all the levels of tasking and specialized delegations will be covered for efficiency. I am still learning those skills.


Smile. Energy, as they say is contagious. When you enter work with the look of depression, your co-workers and even clients will have the tendency to spend the day with the same drive and perspective. Smiling is the most inexpensive and the simplest way to encourage a lively and healthier working environment. As doctors remind us; Smiling contributes to the success of our work, our health, well-being, and happiness! Smile at work everyone!



Monday, October 2, 2017

Valle de Benguet

“I have heard some Igorot say that beyond the great mountain called “Tonglo” which overlooks Santo Tomas and Agoo, and is one of the noteworthy mountains of Luzon, there was a very large town situated in a broad and fertile valley the inhabitants of which were very rich and brave people and made war upon the pagans of the foothills.” (Espedicion al Valle de Benguet en Enero del año de 1829)

The expedition diary of Lt. Col. Guilermo de Galvey in 1829 is a fourteen-day account of his voyage to “Valle de Benguet” (present day ‘La Trinidad Valley’). Galvey is without a doubt, “the greatest despoiler of the Igorots Spain ever sent to the Cordilleras”.

Seventy years after the punitive expedition of Tonglo by Pangasinan Governor Arza, Galvey marched to the mountains with his Igorot friend, Pingue, about a dozen officers and a troop of  fifty,  and some 200 ‘Polistas’ (Filipinos forced into labor). They crossed wild rivers and climbed steep rocks. For days they shielded themselves from the traps of ‘pagans’ and heavy rains, until the eight day where they finally ‘came upon the pine trees’.
 
At 4 am that day, they finally arrived at the valley where Galvey wrote: “…we discovered from the heights the beautiful valley of Benguet, the lovely sight of which surprised us all, so that even the soldiers gave vent to their admiration by joyous shouts”.

Galvey’s troops were advancing when two drunk Igorots with spears planted themselves and confronted them furiously. They were later bound after a brief scuffle and another group of Igorots were brought to Galvey for interrogation. He set them free and told them to go back and tell the headmen to see him the following day and assured them that no harm would be done to them, but that if they attacked, he would burn their village.

That afternoon he described Valle de Benguet as: “…a valley of a league and a half or more in circumference; it is surrounded with springs and forms a basin. The soil was very well cultivated, with immense fields of sweet potatoes, gabe and sugar cane, but no paddy in this tract of land. All was irrigated and fenced in by dividing lines of earth after the manner of Spain, and provided with wells. The houses which had numbered some 500, were of broad pine boards and very dirty. He finally decided that it is in the valley that he will establish the capital of the district.

At 8 pm however, their camp was attacked by Igorots, and Galvey, in response, killed a number of natives and captured twelve Igorots – all of whom were drunk and were shouting savagely.

On the next day, Galvey found himself surrounded by more natives who were angrier than the night before. It is at this tipping point that Galvey decided to “give them a lesson”. He and his troops stormed the village firing at the natives and burning down some 180 houses.

After that unforgettable violence, Galvey and his troops went southwest with twenty-eight Igorot prisoners. They continually descended towards the west for days until they arrived at Aringay in the fourteenth day.

As a final reflection, Galvey wrote: “…the expedition, though short , served well for those I made later, as the Igorot of Benguet shortly afterwards asked me for peace and have since been my friends. On different expeditions I have passed eight or ten times through their valley, and far from attacking me, they have treated me with kindness, providing me with rice, cows, and other food. Still, as a consequence of this expedition and of smallpox, this town has been reduced to about a hundred houses. I am, however, doing everything to make it flourish again, and my highroad reaches there”.

Ten years later after the expedition, Don Guillermo de Galvey died in 1839. Despite popular tradition that La Trinidad was named after his supposed wife Dona Trinidad de Galvey, his military records in Madrid revealed that he is in fact unmarried (soltero).

In 1875, one of Galvey’s successors, Commandante Manuel Scheidnagel renamed “Valle de Benguet” to La Trinidad.



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In my ridiculous moments, I wonder why our Igorot ancestors had to get drunk before they took any action against the foreigners (or just about anything). Maybe it has something to do with the “shy mangu” and “agbainbain, ngem nu nabartek ket mang-ibabain” stereotype. Just maybe. But then, we have a history of even defending our “right to get drunk”, just read the case of People vs. Cayat.