Cowboy traditions live on at Pony Boy’s Day-A A +A
By JM Agreda
Thursday, March 7, 2013
IT’S probably only in this part of Luzon where one could still wear leather boots and jackets, don a cowboy hat, listen to country music, ride a horse and do the line dance.
This old Baguio tradition was relived once again by Wright Park pony boys who started a tradition of horse racing and other western-style fun games several decades ago.
Digging up mementos of Baguio’s past, one could see its early settlers saddled in horses as they traverse the grassy plains and pine covered hills of early Kafagway.
The Ibalois were known as good horsemen even during the Spanish period. Prior to the arrival of the Americans, the local Ibaloi community have already established their rancherias as the Baguio plateau is one vast grazing land for cattle. Now a century later, their descendants continue the tradition that was further enhanced by the influence of the Americans.
Baguio cowboys then often bring their goods traded at the Old Stone Market through horses negotiating mountain trails that only the brave often dare to cross.
The influence of its early Western settlers, Baguio, the former American Hill Station, continues to be the seat of the brave cowboy and cowgirl traditions up north.
Wright Park Pony Boy’s Association president Jude Saydawan shared the Pony Boy’s Day was originally called as Gimikana and held every summer as a competition among men who rent out ponies and horses to tourists at Wright Park in Pacdal village.
But considering the tradition as not exclusive only to their group, the Wright Park riders opened their activity to other associations that started the early beginnings of the Baguio Pony Boys.
Later on, the activity became part of the city’s annual Baguio Flower Festival or Panagbenga and participating associations now include Kabadjo Handlers Association based in Camp John Hay, Country Club Pony Boys Association, Green Valley Pony Boys, Itogon Caballeros Association and BSU Highland cowboys and cowgirls rodeo team.
This year, with some 500 participants coming as far as Clark, Pampanga joined the yearly fun games that include small to big horse races, bronco races, pole bending, flag and barrel, lady jockey races only common in Western states.
Councilor Nicasio Aliping, committee chair for the Pony Boy’s Day for the past three years, said the Pony Boys Day is a symbol of Baguio’s early roots.
Now, that it has grown into an annual festivity in itself, Aliping said they have to further improve the competitions with additional games yearly. Prizes that only involve a boasting pride and a few hundred bucks in its early beginnings now has soared to P300,000 for prizes alone.
“Pony boy activities have a big impact on the tourism of Baguio that is why beyond the fun games we are also banking on improving the lives the riders,” he said.
But Aliping said a group is never without problems. During the rainy season, many horse rental activities are affected by low tourist arrivals.
That is why Aliping revealed there are plans of forming a cooperative to be joined by all associations to ensure the livelihood activities of pony boys are not affected by tourism off-peak seasons.
The councilor believes the cooperative will help provide a whole-year round source of income for the pony boys by engaging in leather crafts, saddle making, horse breeding among other activities.
He also added these alternative sources of livelihood will not only boost the morale of the pony boys but also ensure their families are fed and children are given the right education.
But most importantly, he said among the foremost goal of the annual Pony Boys Day is to spread the word that horseback riding is not dangerous.
He said as long as people find it safe and know that the skills of the pony boys are at par with global standards, they are also ensured of patrons who are willing to enjoy family activities of horseback riding activities.
This way, the tradition of Baguio cowboys and cowgirls live on for the future generations to witness and experience, he said.
Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on March 07, 2013.