Saturday, July 21, 2018

Benguet Association of Tourism Officers (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.
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.

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).
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.