Monday, May 6, 2019

The BLISST concept and the Igorots

Baguio City’s urban landsacpe
There are mixed reactions to the viral video of Dick Gordon saying that Igorots go down to Manila to make “palimos” (beg) because there are no more opportunities in Baguio. Others say that he was just making a point to emphasize the sorry state of the city. This happened during the hearing of the proposed Baguio, La Trinidad, Itogon, Sablan, Tuba, Tublay Development Authority (BLISTTDA).

Here’s my take on that issue. Those Igorot people going down to Manila to make palimos are not from Baguio but from other places in the Cordilleras.

Not all beggars are Igorots and only few Igorots are beggars. And only a fraction or none are from Baguio or Benguet. I remember one time when an elderly from one of the municipalities came to the city to try begging, his relatives immediately took her home when they found out. They said “kababain” (shameful). No matter how poor some of the people of Benguet, they can always get by without having to resort to begging. 

Even one mentally-challenged individual I know don’t go around begging. She just roam the city and the people who knew her just give her food if she pass by their shops.

Even the beggars in Baguio are not from here. The elderlies at the Botanical Garden posing for picture in exchange of cash are also not from here. The shy nature of the Benguet people prevents them to beg, and to them, this is a shameful act. This one is what Gordon should understand.

Baguio is not deteriorating because of lack of opportunities. People come to Baguio because there are many opportunities. Even the beggars from other provinces see better opportunities in the city, and unfortunately, people who visit the city thought that those are the very Igorots they come to see. 

Like any progressive city, over-population is part of the problem and with it comes other issues like housing, garbages, sanitation, land-grabbing, and other problems.

No, we don’t go down to Manila to beg because of the lack of opportunities. We go down to Manila to seek for work because salary rate is higher there. Even if we are a highly-urbanized city, our salary is still provincial rate here (whoever is that author of “provincial rate” when basic commodities is higher in the provinces than in the NCR).

The statement of Gordon to make a point is flawed and if you discriminate a race to make a point, it will just take-away the logic in your argument. 

But we do need change in Baguio and the surrounding municipalities. But it’s already late to relocate people. During the senate hearing, Gordon suggested that people from Quirino should be relocated. Something that the current Baguio Congessman denied having stated but the video doesn’t lie. Gordon even cited the city of Pudong in China as an example where hundreds of thousands of residents were relocated. In his statement, when earthquake happens, the people there will be in great danger. However, that wasn’t the case in the year 1990 when a magnitude of 7.2 earthquake hits the city. Most of the casualties were from the big buildings like hotels and schools. And the school with the most casualties has even built even higher buildings. 

I believe what’s needed is to preserve what’s left and minimize any hard projects in the city. And also stop approving buildings that are higher than 5 storeys. We also need leaders who support no cutting of trees in the City. Gordon said we need to plant more trees but how many thousands of trees were cut in the last 20 years or so approved by the cities administration and the so-called protector of the environment called DENR? 

Any other opportunity for development should be given to the nearby municipalities. If the neighboring municipalities are developed, people there don’t have to search for opportunities in Baguio, thus preventing further increase of population. As they say in Mt. Province, “adi tako bukudan di gawis” (let’s not be greedy and share the wealth). So Baguio should stop taking all the opportunities that comes its way and make a serious partnership with nearby municipalities. But how should it be done? 

I believe Baguio’s charter should be changed also for this opportunity to push through. I remember last 16th Congress when a bill was proposed by then Congressman Aliping to revise the century-old city charter to pave a way for transition to the BLISST concept. It was approved in both the Congress and the Senate but was vetoed by the (so-called) noynoying President Benigno Aquino III. Perhaps under a different President and a better presentation of the bills, this concept will be finally realized.

The BLISST concept is not new, it came out after the earthquake when several Baguio residents and leaders sat down and talked how to revive Baguio after the devastating earthquake. The concept never materialized and we ended up with an extremely crowded city, the history of the earthquake forgotten or set aside. So perhaps, what we need are people who can really understand the situation of Baguio and also understands its people Igorots or not. I believe this is the best way to make the BLISST concept realized.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Who is your hero?

Bugnay, Tinglayan, Kalinga, the village of Dulag Macliing.

Hero ba? Syempre may kanya-kanya tayong hero. Ako si Dulag Macliing, isa sa mga taong lumaban at napatay ng mga sundalo ni Macoy. Kung di sya lumaban kasama ng iba pang katutubo, natabunan na sana ng tubig ang Bontoc hanggang Tinglayan.
The project was to build 4 big dams along the Chico river that would have affected many villages in Mt. Province and Kalinga. The people opposed the project but one of the most vocal was Dulag Macliing from the village of Bugnay in Tinglayan, Kalinga.
But the death of Macliing was just the tip of the story. There were many community elders and leaders detained in Manila who were opposing the project. Stories of intimidation, coercion and threats were rampant. We don’t know how many more died but this has led to unity among the warring tribes.
The people from different villages forged peace pacts through the traditional systems and united together to oppose the dam project. They kept vigil at night and barricaded the sites - men, women and children were all involved. They took turns in cooking, planting, keeping vigil and watching over the barricades. Almost everyone in the villages affected was mobilized. Each day, callers were assigned to provide the signal whenever government men brought in construction equipment and materials or if they made a move to start to build the dam. And they heard the loud cry which is the signal - everyone stopped what they were doing - and go to the site and stop any move to construct the dam.
The Igorot people persisted and in 1987, 20 years after they started the survey of the project, the government officially shelved the Chico River Dam Development Project. The Igorot people rejoiced and held celebrations. This was a historic event because it was the first time that an IMF-World Bank-funded project was successfully stopped because of the militant opposition by the people.
A few years later, the government had another proposal, to create not only 4 but 17 dams across Cordillera. But because of people like Dulag Macliing, these government projects that are supposed to benefit the majority did not push through.
The continuous opposition of the people is based on how history has treated them. One of the important examples was Ambuclao Dam where the people were promised land where they can be resettled and the government said that they will be paid - these promises were never fulfilled and the project never benefited displaced people.
It was only the time when they planned to build the dam along the Chico river that the government offered and gave them a resettlement site - but in an area so far away from their original village, where there is no clear source of water, where the land is not arable and in an area that is malaria-infested and it was on an island so far away from home.
Many of the people got sick. They left the area to live with their relatives. Others went to live in the cities but were considered as squatters. At another time, they were offered a resettlement area in the nearby lowlands. Again this was not arable and worse, it was the ancestral home to another group of indigenous peoples. Some went to Casecnan - in an ancestral land of another tribe where they are presently again being threatened to be displaced because of another World Bank-funded dam project of the government.
History has taught these people to fight for their lands. Some sectors had been saying that had they allowed the construction of the dams, they should have received the promised support from the government.
Another project of Marcos was the Pantabangan Dam where until now, many of the promises were not fulfilled and some of those displaced have become outlaws because they’ve lost their sources of income and the promised support of the government was not fulfilled. I went to live for several months with the people displaced from San Juan in Pantabangan and what they become is not exactly how the government promised it to be.
Dulag Macliing and the elders who stood up and fought the government oppression were on the right path when they opposed the project that will only benefit the big foreign investors and the pockets of the politicians facilitating the approval of the project.
So there you go, Dulag Macliing and the people like him are my heroes, not some politicians who oppressed the many and give away people’s rights for the greedy corporate business.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Elizabeth Oropesa to Showcase Artworks with Baguio Artists

Filipino actress Elizabeth Oropesa will be showcasing her artworks at Hotel Albergo with Baguio Artists Roland Bay-an and Fred Agunoy on October 18.

The 62-years old Multi-awarded Oropesa was famed in the 70s but never ceased to earn awards 'till the 2000s. But aside from her good acting, she is also holding a degree in alternative medicine. She recently retired from full-time acting to become a healer and artist.

Known to have a third eye, she will be exhibiting her abstract painting with fellow abstract painters. The exhibit titled "North Meets South" depicts the birthplace of the artists: Bay-an and Agunoy coming from the North while Oropesa is from the southern part of Luzon, Bicol.

Roland Bay-an who is turning 65 on October 18, is a veteran artist from Baguio and has been a resident artist of Tam-awan Village for several years. Many of the younger artists look up to this friendly master artist.

Soft-spoken Roland Bay-an inspires promising young artists. 

He recently frequents Bookends Bookshop where he displays his arts along with young and promising artists. They are informally calling themselves Bookends Art Circle. They are also doing a sketch for a cause to help people in need.

Along with Bookends proprietress Maricar Docyogen and several journalists, he started Pasa-Kalye, a street exhibit and gallery along T. Claudio Street. The Pasa-Kalye Street Art Exhibit is a regular weekend activity where Baguio artists can display their artworks and crafts.

Fred Agunoy on the other hand, is an architect by profession. He was recently featured for his Duterte bike series created from construction and scrap materials like damaged door knobs, tire, shower head, and sink.

Agunoy said he liked the macho aspect of Duterte so he made the series incorporating his knowledge in architecture with his arts.

His main art, however, is impressionism like Bay-an using watercolor, acrylic and oil medium.

After their exhibit at Hotel Albergo, Oropeza will be gracing another two-man exhibit by local artists at Fred’s Gallery. 

The exhibit titled "Tinalikdang Elementura" will showcase the works of Art Lozano and Allan Brilla.

Art Lozano is a member of Tam-awan and also part of Bookends Art Circle.

Allan Brilla who will be showcasing remarkable resin arts design is also a member of the Bookends Art Circle. 

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Why NIC is the best choice

* He is a top 10 legislator out of 294 members of the House of Representatives.

Nicasio Aliping, Jr. is the only Congressman in Cordillera during the 16 Congress to hold this distinction as a top legislator. Although only in his first term as Congressman, Aliping has to date authored 25 and co-authored 142 House measures. Out of the total, one-half has been approved on 3rd Reading by the House of Representatives, 28 of which are now Republic Acts, four are awaiting action by the President, and 42 are pending action by the Senate, while seven measures were adopted as House Resolutions. Aliping ranks among the TOP TEN CONGRESSMEN with the most number of bills (authored and co-authored) that were enacted into law (HREP Bills and Index Service Statistical Reports). 

This is why we voted for him, to be our representative in the legislative body and he did it with flying colors.

* Aliping was able to succeed where others failed.

Once, his defeated rival said that his election was ill-timed because of the abolition of PDAF (the Priority Assistance Development Fund of lawmakers prior to Nic joining Congress) . The Congressman proved that PDAF is not the only source of funding. In the end, he was able to source funding for pending essential projects in many Barangays, Schools, and Agencies of Baguio that would have taken years to complete if were funded from the usual PDAF.

Funding for these projects were sourced and coursed through the different government agencies: DPWH, the Road Board, Department of Education, Department of Agriculture, DOLE, PCSO, PAGCOR, etc. He was also able to find funding from other legislators and committee heads, including the Speaker of the House and the Vice President to bankroll several necessary projects. He was also able to double the budget allocation or General Appropriations for the City each year allowing for faster implementation of needed projects. 

Several of these significant projects were school buildings in seven National High Schools, and Baguio was the first to inaugurate a Senior High School Building in Cordillera. It was recently inaugurated in San Vicente National High School. 

Still more development money were sourced for other projects through the Road Board. One is the pedestrian overpass located along Bokawkan road where several accidents occurred in the past, including a student and a grandmother who were hit while they were crossing the very wide road. Another is located in front of Baguio City National High School along the most dangerous stretch of Gov. Pack Road where several accidents also happened which included one where a librarian of the school who was just hit by a speeding car. The last one is located along Upper Session Road for the use of pupils and teachers of Quezon Elementary School.

The difference with the former administration is, the P40 million PDAF was divided to 128 barangays allowing for only about P200,00.00 for their projects. This amount is not enough to finish a barangay hall project. 

Aliping’s was able to find funding to complete projects in most barangays. Several other projects like the flood control substructure in Middle Quirino Hill where the creek was covered to stop people from throwing their garbage into the water and at the same time making it a safe pathway. There are a number of covered courts and multi-purpose buildings that were immediately completed. Many of these multi-purpose buildings are for the use of pre-schoolers and senior citizens. 

We usually notice road projects by the DPWH in main thoroughfares, which are regularly maintened by the agency. What we don’t know was there are also road concreting projects in several barangays and most of them are almost completed.

Barangay Road Project in Sto. Tomas Proper.
* The upgrading of the Baguio Athletic Bowl alone is a good reason to vote for him.

Why are we giving him much credit on that project? For more than 40 years, the dilapidated grandstands and oval never saw major repairs. One reason is, allocating funding for it was not under the menu of projects which the DPWH can legally fund. At one time, Baguio leaders contemplated a partnership with a foreign private entity, which was opposed by many, including my organization that once adopted a portion of the Pine Trees of the World Park.

Congressman Aliping tried other means and he was able to resolve the issue on funding for this project and during his first year, funding was allocated under DPWH. We probably are the first one to receive funding for this kind of a project through this agency. On his first term alone, he was able to source a total of P114 million for the Athletic Bowl and the improvement is still ongoing until all of the dilapidated buildings and other structures are improved.

He is not a miracle worker but he gets things done.

* Enhanced Significant Projects

He continued significant projects started by his predecessors. He increased the recipients of the student financial assistance and changed the name of the program, removing the name of politicians. According to him, why name this program to a politician when the funds are from people’s taxes? The Student Financial Assistance Program (StuFAP) has about 1,177 students who benefit yearly.

He also increased the budget allocation for DSWD and a total of 7,215 indigents availed of the assistance. 

Patients of BGHMC numbering 2,131 have already benefitted from the Medical Assistance Program (MAP) implemented by the Department of Health with the increased funding he allocated.

*Teaching them to fish

At least 106 individual beneficiaries and several livelihood organizations in various Barangays were granted livelihood assistance by the Department of Labor and Employment in 2014. These are ongoing programs, and with augmentation coming from other party-list Congressmen, through Aliping's intercession, a greater number of Baguio residents will be benefitted.

* He is indeed the Alipin ng Bayan.

Social responsibility is not one of the regular jobs of Congressmen, but his fervor to help the needy is innate. Even when he was a councilor, his L300 van dubbed the “Alipin ng Bayan” has serviced many of his constituents. When he was elected Congressman, he multiplied this assistance through the Baguio Congressman’s Social Responsibility Foundation, Inc.

The Foundation was able to assist the needy who cannot be accommodated by other government agencies like the DSWD or the DOH.

The “Alipin ng Bayan” transport services have successfully assisted in transporting athletes, senior citizens, the sick, deceased, and assisted in several medical missions including 16 medical missions in several municipalities in Leyte after the onslaught of Typhoon Yolanda.

It may seem to be a small matter, but transporting a deceased loved one could be very expensive especially when the body is transported passing several towns or provinces.

The Foundation has also extended financial help to several organizations, barangays, and churches that are not qualified for government assistance or the needs are immediate.

On several occasions, when the budget of the foundation was depleted, he donated his month’s salaries, amounting to P60,000.00 to several of these organizations. 

He and his team of candidates have also funded several projects in Barangays from their own pockets. Completion of Barangay hall in Greenwater, water pump in West Quirino Hill and several others.

If other Congressmen are known to take cuts in projects, this Congressman did not require the contractors to do so. He asks them for donations to the foundation instead. And the donors are given receipts, and part of these donations are the reasons why transport services to the needy are provided for free.

* Not hypocrite and easy to talk to.

Anyone can talk to him but he is frank to tell you if things can be done and will not waste your time with promises if it's not possible. He is willing to help anyone in need of help.

* What about his case?

There’s a saying “we are a nation of laws, not of men”. There is a reason why our laws were created - to guard our rights against judgmental people who only see the superficial information and make rash conclusions accordingly. So in other words, “We are a nation of laws, not of judgemental people”.
Let the wheel of justice take its course – WE ARE NOT THE JUDGES TO THIS TRIAL!

But this is what I know. He is being accused of cutting more than 700 trees. One mature tree is more than enough to fill a truck with lumber. This means there must have been hundreds of truckloads that traversed the Cabuyao road in order to transport the 700 or so supposedly cut trees. So why hasn’t a single resident of the area or the police checkpoints reported ever seeing such a truck leaving Mt. Sto. Tomas? Why are there no trees found on his properties? A hundred mature trees would be hard to hide, much less 700. Is DENR sure of its number? Or were they just pressured to bring out those figures? He already have a road going to his property, did he really build a road that he does not need? Are these really new roads or as the farmers claim, are actually old logging roads by Kairuz Concessionaires still being used to transport vegetables? Do we really know the situation up there that we become judges without checking the facts? I’ve been there and I have my own story to tell but let the court decide on this one.


Are we going to miss this great opportunity and go back to the old ways? Do we want to see meaningless projects like a concrete pine tree in exchange for a real one?

Are we going to take a chance on a new politician who has questionable motives? One who created a school that is only for the elites and not affordable by the needy? A so-called manager who has several cases of questionable labor practices? Whose family own big real-estate corporation with  

We had always been whining about change, I believe change is what our incumbent Congressman is giving us.

There are many things that he was the first to initiate like some of the things I mentioned above, and we expect more from him. He is someone brave enough to initiate changes and succeeds.

He passed his BAR exam on his first take, he won as councilor in 2001 on his first try, and he won as Congressman on his first run in 2013. I don’t believe this is luck, I believe this is about planning and preparation. He is well equipped and knows what is needed.

And NIC can bring us there.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Groundless, Ridiculous Nudity suspensions on Facebook

So here’s another issue of an Indonesian woman whose account was suspended for posting historic photos of her countrymen, many of these were photos of women showing their breasts. Those photos were posted as her protest to the recently concluded beauty pageant where women wearing traditional “kebaya” were censored (blurred out) “to protect the culture”. Kebaya is an attire that only covers the breasts and lower body. This move was made by Indonesian conservatives.
Here's the image of the censorship as broadcasted on TV.

Dea Basori, 23, questioned the censors and searched the net for traditional Indonesian attires. Some of those she found were topless photos of women wearing traditional attires. She posted the photos on facebook to counter the censors. “I did this to counter the censors,” she said. “Whose culture are you protecting?” she added. “Is their definition of culture a true reflection of it?"

But that’s just another story of an illogical, unjustified account suspension. You may read the full story here.

I also posted an old photo of topless girls in Barlig, Mountain Province taken in the early part of 20th century. They were doing the traditional back-strap loom weaving. After a few weeks, I received a warning from facebook that the photo was reported for nudity and explicit content.

Here's the photo I posted with the original caption, taken circa 1900:

Igorot girls loom weaving in Barlig, Mt. Province. Tiffany Williams photograph collection, University of Michigan.
I don’t know how facebook does its evaluation on reported nudities. Perhaps suspensions are automatically programmed. I do hope these will be changed as they are now facing several issues and also a court case when they banned an artist from France for posting nude artworks. Here's the story.

I don't think historic photos are offensive and should be taken as an educational material. But I believe, the problem does not lie with facebook. It lies with the people reporting these contents. I don’t know the kind of mindsets of people who seem to see mammary glands as sex objects.

Their perverted thinking is affecting and infecting a lot of people and I believe this is the reason for these reports. I hope facebook will put up a team of open-minded people to review these reports and separate nudities and sexually explicit contents from art, educational and historic images. 

Saturday, January 17, 2015

The Symbol of Greed

The recent development in SM showed the true colors of this corporate giant. This greedy Corporation does not really care about Baguio sentiments. They came here to make money and that’s it.

I thought they had a change of heart willing to negotiate and consider the sentiments of the tree advocates. When I heard they approached some of the tree advocates willing to negotiate, I thought that was a good move and that they have a heart for Baguio after all. They were presenting a new plan where only few trees will be cut. It was a good plan that I believe many of the advocates would be willing to agree with. I guess that was just a wishful thinking. They never really intended to negotiate but a ploy to put off the advocacy.

These Corporate giants are as greedy as they come and in one night, SM cut 60 trees (according to them) even disregarding their earth-balling promise. Maybe there are more trees cut than what they revealed. Who would believe a lying corporation?

But why are these trees so important for Baguio people?

Part of the creation of Baguio was to rise from the ashes, ashes from the devastation of World War II most particularly caused by the American’s carpet bombing to drive out the Japanese army. Baguio was one of the most devastated Cities during World War II likened to Manila and Warsaw in Poland. And part of that rising from the ashes is to plant trees in historic and open spaces so that once again, the City will live up to its name as the City of Pines.

Luneta Hill became one of the favorite planting areas for visitors who want to add more trees to the remaining few left by the bombings. Many visiting celebrities and dignitaries have ceremonial tree planting there and many of those grown trees were the remaining symbols of the thousands planted by people who wanted to rebuild the City.

Those 182 trees were the remaining symbols and reminders of those who came with “noble intentions”. Those trees are not just woods; they are part of Baguio’s history and its struggle to remain a city of pines.

No matter how many trees SM City will plant, they can never equate to what those trees symbolize or represent. In fact, their very deed shows how their intentions are very much opposite of those who came ahead of them.

SM’s plan is to create a vacuum that will make the City suffer some more from traffic. Putting up a parking space will not solve the traffic situation in Baguio. It will just worsen it when all people will be bringing their cars to the City instead of leaving it home. It will create a vacuum increasing the volume of cars that will pass through the Central Business District.

SM is masquerading with the idea that they are here to help solve the City’s problems.

But how can they even help the City’s problems when they don’t even pay enough salaries to their workforce? How can we even trust a Corporation who cannot even follow the basic law in giving fair wages? Their intention is to earn and historic symbols and heritage are insignificant to them.

SM will always be a symbol of greed.

I wish an investigation should also be conducted on why the government would sell a public land to a private individual with no benefit whatsoever to the public in general except for the promise of jobs and more parking. Jobs that attracted more migration and parking area that has caused more traffic.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Black and White Photo Challege

I was nominated by my friend Ghemar Pawid for this challenge. I am to post One black and white photo each day for five days and nominate others to do the same.

This challenge reminded me of an advice I received from an artist few years back. He told me to improve my photography by shooting black and white. He said it is a challenge to create an image in monotone, in the absence of colors.

With this statement, there are a lot of questions that came to mind such as aren't black and white considered colors? Aren't colors the main factor to consider in photography?

I will try to recall all the answers explained to me and write it in my next blog.

Meantime, here are the photos I posted on facebook for the challenge.

Day 1. Bayanihan sa Playa 

Day 2. The techie Igorot

 Day 3. The maker

 Day 4. The last catch

 Day 5. The load runner