Finding inspiration for the ‘I’ of the Cordillera

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By Robert L. Domoguen

Mountain Light

Monday, December 16, 2013


LET ME begin this story with an actual and recent story on facing up to seemingly impossible challenges that come our way. It is part of our story as a unit of the Department of Agriculture here in the Cordillera.

It began on a Friday (December 6), when I saw this communication directing us to participate in an exhibit depicting the agency’s 2013 National Year of Rice (NYR) at the Trinoma Activity Center, in Quezon City. The exhibit shall be set-up in a space of 3 by 4 meters (width and length) at 10 p.m. of December 9 (Monday). The activity does not allow the use of plastic. Exhibitors may use indigenous materials instead.

The problem that confronted me that Friday afternoon was how to meet the requirements of this important activity with the remaining time we got. A second concern is that my young staff just came out of a very tiring event. Moving on this activity will demand overtime work without pay as in the previous one. It also meant sacrificing their weekend vacation too. I wish I had the talent to make work fun.

I asked the team to prepare an exhibit design in two hours. With its completion, we upheld Director Marilyn Catalina’s expectation under the given situation. Success is always an objective of any operation but failure does not mean much either. Learning lessons is an important goal and failure to participate is worst than failing on the job without giving it “your best efforts.”

Under the circumstances, we faced problems on materials, logistics and mobility. In government, it takes time to hurdle these problems. It takes several people in different units to have any request sail through until its final approved. You cannot do anything beside the rules and not be probed one way or in other ways. There are internal and oversight rules that make you accountable for any action in the use of government time and money.

What makes people and a team summon strength and do seemingly impossible things? I am convinced vision and values do it for us. Vision that makes us live, for without vision, the people perish according to the Bible. Ingrained values reinforce and make the needed work done. In our case, anyone in the team can blame anybody to justify non-participation. That is justifiable but nobody did that. We held together from beginning to end, until when we finally receive the “best exhibit” recognition and prize for our work from the organizers of the CelebRice, RICEponsable Fun Fair, in front of the huge crowd gathered at the Trinoma Activity Center.

The Information and Knowledge Management Unit (IKMU), my team at the Second Cordillera Highland Agricultural Resources Management Project (CHARM2 Project) went through a similar situation this year in spearheading the celebration of the Project’s 5th year Anniversary and Joint IFAD and CHARM2 Knowledge Learning Market (KLM). IFAD stands for International Fund for Agricultural Development.

There are reasons for not pursuing these twin events. The Project is facing credibility concerns due to internal and field operational problems. The details of field operations reveal several good accomplishments but after four years of Project life, we are actually on a red alert status in the overall assessment of our monitoring agencies ranged against goals and objectives. The situation we are in is either bad or good, depending on the attitude of stakeholders in the implementation of this project and “how lessons are being learned” for the benefit and use of beneficiaries. This is where vision and values comes in. Without vision and values, people follow anything but trends. It leads to nowhere but credulity and for us in the business of information, loss of credibility too. It was time to revisit values and visions, celebrate our anniversary and stage the knowledge learning market as a big event with the Project’s public, on the theme: “The “I” of the Cordillera; Enhancing the Region’s Inherent and Continuing Pursuit of Excellence.”

Through thick and thin, villages and communities in the Cordillera regularly observe times and seasons when every member gather with the rest to deliberate on the state of affairs, listen to the elders on policies or rules governing community living, and even celebrate. These are occasions when the community and its members deepen their individual and shared visions, understand “reasons for being” and learn from each other. Under the CHARM2 Project, one wonders if this motherhood stuff has anything to do with the construction of bridges, farm-to-market roads and irrigation canals, or the planting of trees in our mountains. If that is a problem, think again. How did our communities formulate their values and visions and manage to live in these mountains? How did they leave beautiful legacies of accomplishments in natural resources management, indigenous mountain agriculture and governance in their isolation for so many years, decades and centuries? They did not just pursue new ideas with great appeal that may not be appropriate in situ over the long term – just trends. In which case, talks on sustainability are not funny but credible. More to the point, if the dominant reason for being (vision and values) for the implementation of development is to make money during implementation, beneficiaries, supporters, and institutions do perish in due time.

Honestly, there were too many things that went into the KLM event that cannot be processed in one setting pertaining to leadership and community vision and values as these impacts on community development, policies, and the pursuit of excellence on mountain living. My small unit managed to get the event done with the help of the rest of the Project’s personnel, Benguet State University DevCom students and the agency’s partners. IFAD co-sponsored the event with IFAD Country Program Coordinating Officer, Yolando Arban helping us in planning the policy sessions and encouraging us from the day I consulted him about it to the last day of the event’s staging.

The testimonies of participants and top speakers during the event indicated the event was a success but it remains to be seen, whether the main participants learned lessons. The eyes of the Project’s direct and larger public are now also active participants in seeing to it that the “I” of the Cordillera and the Project’s vision to serve it with its development interventions are done in good faith in the last two remaining years of the Project’s life.

Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on December 17, 2013.

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