LAGAWE, Ifugao -- Thirty-one (31) years ago, today, the Philippine government under President Corazon Aquino issued Executive Order (EO) 220 that created the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR).
EO 220 recognizes and granted the age-long desire of the mountain peoples in the Cordilleras of North Luzon to be united as one autonomous region. This aspiration was enshrined in the Philippine Constitution of 1987.
Today, EO 220 is still a promise – a work in progress. Its full realization is yet to be attained by the Cordillerans and the Filipino nation as a whole. The question now is will the nation trash the 1987 Constitution and the autonomy quest for the Cordillera along with it? Will the final version of the Federal Constitution honor this quest and the aspirations of Cordillerans for self-governance?
During the Cordillera Day Celebration Fellowship Night yesterday at the Don Bosco Gymnasium, Lagawe, Ifugao, I was asked by Fr. Felix Bay-ong of the Vicariate of Bontoc-Lagawe about what we are celebrating with this year’s observance of the Cordillera Day.
Honestly, I did not know how to respond to the question. All of a sudden, I found myself imagining how our villages in the Cordillera evolved with time from their isolated and marginalized conditions to their current state today.
The act informed me that there is indeed so much to celebrate with this year’s observance of the Cordillera Day.
For sure, transportation, communication and a number of rural infrastructures moved and transformed various aspects of mountain living away from antiquity towards modernity.
From the messages shared by NEDA-CAR Director Milagros Rimando and RDC and RPOC Chair, Baguio City Mayor, Mauricio Domogan, during the Cordillera Unity Gong Relay activities, I heard almost all sectors in the Cordillera have made great strides towards economic progress
Their assertions were validated by data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) indicating that among the 17 regions of the country, the CAR posted the fastest growth in 2017.
According to the PSA, growth in CAR picked up to 12.1 percent annually from 2.3 percent in 2016. This outpaced NCR’s 6.1 percent and the national growth rate of 6.7 percent, an indication that CAR, comprised of the provinces of Abra, Apayao, Benguet, Ifugao, Kalinga, Mountain Province and Baguio City, has finally arrived as a competitive economic player after languishing at the bottom for decades.
A representative of the Commission on Higher Education (Ched)-CAR also told me over lunch that the enrolment gross participation in the region (for college students) is second highest nationwide.
But it is not all roses and bright stars that I see in our mountainscapes though. I find some of the talk and discussions with the gathered guests disturbing and confusing.
When some leader equates the goals and objectives of the autonomy cause to what his or her group has yet to receive from the government not what we need to do together for the sake of the Cordillera and its peoples, I can understand why until now, I have never understood Darwin’s Theory of Evolution. Some look at the theory as foundational to the current pursuit of science. I see it more of a curse to the Cordillera’s quest for development than a tool for the advancement of practical knowledge and quality survival.
For sure, Darwin’s myth on the evolution of the Earth’s species has attracted thousands of followers throughout time in different parts of the globe who continue to generate and promote a body of knowledge that professionals in various fields take as truth in good faith.
Following Darwin’s theory, good people will wait for all the apes and monkeys of the land to evolve into human beings, if they will not become extinct first before they do the right things in advancing and making effective the constitutional mandate for the Cordillera’s autonomous governance. Now, I happen to be among the good ones and my genes made me write that so better hear it.
Theoretically, Darwin’s theory and the principles that came out of it since it was propagated have other better uses but not this. We cannot wait another 31 years more before the Autonomous Region for the Cordillera (ARC) is born. If the ARC is a horse, a dog, or an animal, it will take its normal time to be born otherwise it is stillborn – dead long before it sees the light.
We need the new focus for the ARC quest embodied in House Bill 5343 to move forward together than continuing with those things that have been dividing and weakening us.
On whether the Federal Constitution incorporated the region’s ARC aspirations, the draft of the Constitutional Committee has indeed proposed the creation of the Federal States of Muslim Mindanao and Cordillera distinct and separate from the other proposed federal states, according to Mayor Domogan.
That is good news still. What remains for us under the circumstances is to remain standing as one and keep watch so that what our ancestors have fought for and left us as a continuing struggle is clearly understood and will not be lost.
This is a call then for the Cordillera Peoples Liberation Army (CPLA) and all groups in the region to hasten and enhance their evolution into a strong and unified force for the Cordillera and its peoples. Unless we all sacrifice our individual and group interests, we may have buried the genuine autonomous governance that we seek deep in the sands of human greed and presumptuousness. I hope not.
We yet celebrate the creation of the CAR, a most tangible governance structure set-up by the Philippine government that continue to function in preparing the region to become autonomous. This year’s celebration theme is “CAR @31: A Regional Autonomy for Good Governance.” It is congruent to the renewed quest for regional autonomy in support to the RDC’s thrust of autonomy towards federalism.