Robert Domoguen
Sunstar Baguio, Wednesday, February 25, 2009

In reflecting and pursuing its national mandate and yet upholding and promoting local ethnicity, PTA, among all the other national agencies is fulfilling the requirements of the Constitution and Executive Order 220 for the current administrative set-up to demonstrate and ultimately prepare the region for autonomy.

Certainly, we would not have wasted the years and two plebiscites if all agencies, local government units (LGUs) and government functionaries would have implemented their functions to demonstrate the goodness of the region’s current set-up leading to the attainment of the local peoples’ constitutionally enshrined aspiration for autonomy.

THE title and texts of this write-up was inspired by the observed manner the Philippine Tourism Authority (PTA) promoted local culture, sceneries and peoples through festivals.

The decision to highlight these observations in this column came about during a light banter with March Fianza of the Philippine Northern Times during the First Regional Development Council (RDC) meeting held last Feb. 13 at the Luna Open Gymnasium, Luna, Apayao.

I have heard PTA Regional Director Pura Suanding Molintas report on the conduct of these festivals in the region on various occasions through the years. From the “Panagbenga” Festival of Baguio, we now have at least eight major emerging festivals that are similarly focused on developing and promoting local tourism by showcasing local culture; scenic spots; and livelihood products.

These include Mountain Province’s Lang-ay Festival; Benguet’s Adivay Festival; Kalinga’s Ullalim Festival; Abra’s Abrenian Kawayan Festival; Apayao’s Say-yam Festival; and a host of interesting municipal cultural festivals throughout the region.

From Director Molintas’ reports and by participating in some of these festivals, I have noted a shift in the observance of provincial and municipal anniversaries in the region from their usual fiesta and commercial orientation to community celebrations based on the culture and traditions of the local populace.

This is because in the planning and promotion of these festivals, the PTA in consultation with the LGUs and local communities who are the primary stakeholders decided early on to undertake the celebration of these festivals by highlighting the character of the people, their culture and traditions; their best livelihood pursuits and products, and scenic spots, according to March Fianza who had the opportunity to participate in the planning and consultation phase for some of these festivals.

“You will note therefore that gambling activities in its various forms and other entertainment which used to form part of anniversaries and town fiestas are minimal if not entirely eliminated as part of these festivals because they are not inherent to the place,” he added.

In her report during the RDC meeting in Apayao, Director Molintas said the PTA’s involvement and support to the conduct of community festivals and promotion of local tourism goes beyond the confines of the Agency’s infrastructure to maximize the benefits of an integrated development-oriented tourism program, one which upholds interdependence.

Thus, PTA’s tourism funds are shared with other agencies and LGUs to enhance tourism development.

It is plain as good, what the PTA has demonstrated as a National Government agency under the current Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) set-up.

In reflecting and pursuing its national mandate and yet upholding and promoting local ethnicity, PTA, among all the other national agencies is fulfilling the requirements of the Constitution and Executive Order 220 for the current administrative set-up to demonstrate and ultimately prepare the region for autonomy.

Certainly, we would not have wasted the years and two plebiscites if all agencies, local government units (LGUs) and government functionaries would have implemented their functions to demonstrate the goodness of the region’s current set-up leading to the attainment of the local peoples’ constitutionally enshrined aspiration for autonomy.

I really wonder if forestry, land reform, agriculture, infrastructure development programs and projects, among others, would have been implemented to demonstrate to the people the greater benefits they would enjoy under the current set-up, more so under the aspired- for autonomous set-up.

What happened was that most of these development programs were carried out minus the administrative and autonomous objective and vision, but mainly in accordance to national priorities and directives.

The ultimate result is what is commonly understood and expressed right now, the negatives of this pursuit, a very far and distant cry to those that we have heard in the 70s until the early 90s.

We remain as an administrative region and the dream for autonomy remains, perhaps until the constitution is amended and all other government issuances on autonomy are scrapped with finality.

Until that time comes and whether the final judgment will make the Cordillera a regular region, revert its provinces to their original set-up or we finally attained autonomy; one agency at least, did its best to demonstrate what could have been done to respond to a people’s aspirations for development and progress. In essence, it is to make such aspirations and their attainment more relevant and meaningful to the people and nation building.

(Mountain Light is published only in this paper every Tuesday of the week. This special issue comes as an endeavor to contribute in the ongoing quest to attain an autonomous set-up in the region which is good for the Cordillerans and all Filipinos. You can send your comments to this email address: rld_sunshine@yahoo.com.ph.)