It’s back to people’s consultation for Cordillera Autonomy

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By Art Tibaldo

Consumer Atbp.

Monday, May 19, 2014


I RECALL many years ago when I was still studying in Manila, my younger brother Francis who was then a high school athlete competed in a school based regional event representing Baguio City in the boxing division.

It was the Ilocos Region Athletic Association (IRAA) and the regional meet was held in Abra. Baguio City, Mountain Province and Benguet was at that time still part of the Ilocos Region including Abra which has lowland municipalities with the same characteristics as that of other Ilocos towns. My brother emerged as a gold medalist in his weight division but aside from his medal that brought honor to his alma mater, he vividly recalls the pulp and paper mills of the Cellophil Resources Corporation, which is owned by a Marcos crony. Francis narrated to me how he saw thousands of cut trees and timber being transported through a huge conveyor system leading to the main processing plant in Tayum, Abra. Incidentally, my family at that time was engaged in buying and selling metal scraps, bottles and waste paper that we sell in Manila’s recycling plants.

I finished college without any inkling that I will eventually be involved in communication or public information since the course that I took is unquestionably befalling towards the arts. And so it happens that I was involved with media related profession and I even covered some of the people’s uprising including the Tarlac to Tarmac a year after the death of Sen. Ninoy Aquino. I volunteered with the reformed National Media Production Center that later became the Philippine Information Agency and it is through this office where I was involved in the documentation and coverage of the upland people’s clamor for regional autonomy including the Mt. Data follow up peace talks and consultations. While with the PIA, I have witnessed some historic events that transpired including the 1987 signing of Executive 220 by President Corazon C. Aquino that signaled the creation of the Cordillera bodies. There was the Cordillera Executive Board, the Cordillera Regional Assembly and the Cordillera Bodong Administration that has an armed component called Cordillera People's Liberation Army led by the rebel priest Fr. Conrado Balweg. We were involved in the public consultations with these three bodies but majority of the Cordillera people rejected the concept of autonomy.

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I once wrote about the fictitious road to Cordillera Autonomy as being rugged, dark, murky and tainted with blood by those who fought for the upland region’s unification and freedom from the dictates and machinations of imperial Manila that exploited its natural resources. I also depicted this road through an editorial cartoon as a road to Calvary or freedom with all forms of obstacles along the way from armed enemy, deep ravines and crocodiles waiting below to gnaw and swallow those who might fall. It was a confusing period for me as a young artist who is contemplating to find a niche in mass media. I heard many voices and recorded unfolding events using my film camera. My encounters and coverage of the people responsible for starting the move for an autonomous form of government deepened my understanding of Cordillera History, its people and customary practices that are unique and distinct to the natives.

After a series of consultations, forums and media blitz, members of particular sector involved in the information, education and communication committee have once again reviewed their strategy and discussed matters on how to effectively push the concept of autonomy as a form of regional development. The two day workshop was held at the Kultura Resort of Pugo, La Union with NEDA as the lead convenor.

Today, it looks like we are still on that road leading to an elusive dream of Cordillera Autonomy. My wife and I were involved from the very start of this campaign even to a point when a self-proclaimed titular head questioned her being non-Cordilleran running an office based in Baguio City. While we are still at it, more innovations were met and new strategies were formed. The Regional Development Council for CAR will now adopt the “One Cordillera, Yes to Autonomy” as the new tag-line and over-arching message with a matching visual symbol that shows a gong as a symbol of unity, profile of a person blowing a Tangguyob that symbolizes people heeding to a call and the rice terraces that would reflect the uplands of North Luzon.

Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on May 20, 2014.

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