BAGUIO CITY – Despite the COVID-19 pandemic and the restrictions on mass gatherings, the 33rd Founding Anniversary of the Cordillera Administrative Region pushed through virtually last July 15, 2020, with a small onsite gathering at the UP Baguio. The event was led by  the Cordillera Regional Development Council (RDC) through its Economic Sectoral Committee chaired by DTI Regional Director Myrna Pablo, and NEDA as secretariat of the RDC.

All Cordillera provinces/city participated through their elected leaders to include RDC Chair and Abra Governor Maria Jocelyn Bernos, Apayao Vice Governor Remy Albano, Baguio City Congressman Mark Go and Mayor Benjamin Magalong, Benguet Legislative Caretaker Congressman Eric Yap and Governor Melchor Diclas, Ifugao Governor Jerry Dalipog, Kalinga Congressman Allan Jesse Mangaoang and Governor Ferdinand Tubban and Vice-Governor Dave Odiem; and Mountain Province Congressman Maximo Dalog, Jr., Governor Bonifacio Lacwasan and Vice-Governor Francisco Tauli.

These leaders declared their support for the establishment of an autonomous region of the Cordillera. They cited enhanced cultural identity, responsive policies for the region, and progress for all, at the forefront of why we fight for regional autonomy.  Mayor Magalong noted that regional autonomy should also be accompanied by good governance, transparency, and genuine leadership.  With this, Governor Lacwasan called on the administration to certify the act establishing the Autonomous Region of the Cordillera, as priority legislation.

The leaders also emphasized unity and collective action as critical, not only in the pursuit of our aspiration for autonomy but for resiliency as well during troubling times such as this COVID-19 pandemic. They further asserted that the crisis has showcased the indigenous Bayanihan culture, unity and cooperation, and displayed the potential for development that can only be realized in an autonomous region. Accordingly, it is through this unity in vision and cooperation that the cry for regional autonomy could be heard at the national level.

Other local government officials joined in on the celebration as well.  In Kalinga, Lubuagan Mayor Charisma Anne Dickpus, Pasil Mayor Alfredo  Malannag, Pinukpuk Mayor Irving Dasayon, Rizal  Mayor Karl Baac, and Tinglayan Mayor Sacrament Gumilab, all gave messages in line with the celebration. They highlighted the importance of unity in battling adversities. In Mountain Province, the provincial government together with Congressman Dalog and Governor Lacawasan, held its simultaneous small celebration where government officials participated in the beating of the unity gong. In Abra, notable is the festive participation of Abra’s Sangguniang Panlalawigan who showcased their colorful local Abels during the virtual event.

While the 2020 celebration of the Cordillera Day was not how it used to be with the Unity Gong Relay and mass gatherings, the different Cordillera provinces found unique ways to commemorate CAR’s anniversary. Indeed, the celebration of the 33rd Founding Anniversary of CAR manifested the united vision of the Cordillera to become an autonomous region. The Unity Gong rang loud. It reverberated the Cordillera’s cry for regional autonomy.