SEVERAL annual events in the city and La Trinidad were recently called-off by local authorities.
Foremost are the Panagbenga Fair in the city set in February and the Strawberry Festival in La Trinidad a few weeks later. Both events are geared to jumpstart the tourism months in the summer that draw thousands of tourists to the city and the Capital Town of Benguet.
The cancelations of these events, initiated by the respective local government officials, are commendable for health security from the coronavirus epidemic that ensnared the lives of thousands of Filipinos and some three million persons around the globe. Benguet, which geographically enclose Baguio City, has been in the top five list of coronavirus-infected provinces in the country.
Other tourism-oriented activities in the first quarter of the year are also canceled.
The “Onjon Ni Ibaloi” or Benguet Day annual celebration every February at Burnham Park is canceled following directives from city hall, according to Roger Sinot Sr., one among the Ibaloi leaders in the city. The “Onjon” is a gathering of Ibaloi tribal men and women coming from the city and neighboring towns of Benguet.
Also postponed is the gathering of members of the Baguio Correspondents and Broadcasters Club (BCBC), where the election of officers is held during the first month of the year. The election, I was informed, will be held during the arrival and selection of the “Lucky Summer Visitor” any day of the Holy Week.
As to whether or not city hall will allow this summer activity to continue, it will depend on the Covid-19 situation by then. However, the selection of a new batch of BCBC officers must be held.
The “Lucky Summer Visitor” is an annual tradition traced to the infant years of the BCBC in the 1960s. The program was to select the 100th thousand visitor coming to the city during Holy Week but was later amended to randomly select one from bus passengers in any of the three route entrances to the summer capital.
The lucky one and his/her partner are accorded royal welcome, first with the presentation of a symbolic “key” to the city. Freebies include free hotel accommodations and sponsored breakfasts, lunches and dinners, a city tour, and a chance to pick fresh succulent red berries in the strawberry fields in neighboring La Trinidad town.
The cancelation of the above-named activities, to our understanding, is to further prevent the spread of the virus and save lives.
In the intervening time in Metro-Manila and other places in the country, we see religious functions being carried on with thousands of believers in attendance. It is terrifying and distressing to witness parishioners breaking pandemic protocols by not wearing masks and violating rules on social distancing.
A bad example is the annual celebration of the Black Nazarene in Quiapo, where fanatics push and shove each other for a touch of the religious icon. The church administrators, perhaps, were more interested in the tithe collection rather than the health of their flock.
Submission to religious tradition and mandatory attendance are presently excusable with the Holy Pope Francis expressing concern for the safety of church members.
Ironic and odd to watch on TV one of the Quiapo church priest expressing “hope” that the parishioners will not be affected by the dreadful pandemic. Possibly, his “hope” will be blessed even as the new strain of the Covid-19 virus was already registered to one resident of Kamuning barangay in Manila.
Postscripts: US President Joe Biden took his oath of office last January 20th to become the 46th President of the great nation. In attendance were three former Presidents, namely, Clinton, Bush, and Obama. Former President Carter, at 96 years, much of his desire to attend the inauguration, could not attend due to poor health.
Outgoing President Trump refused to attend the inauguration of President Biden and turnover of the presidency, breaking a 152-year protocol at the Capitol Building in Washington DC.
The turnover of the US presidency from Republican to Democrat Joe Biden has fueled speculations in coffee shops among Filipino foreign relations observers on how President Duterte would manage to get along under the new US administration. Duterte had a falling out with then outgoing President Obama, a Democrat, and later on, boasted of good relations with President Trump.
Key issues revolve around the economy, as well as security in the South China Sea.
Nonetheless, the United States remains on top as a trading partner even as the Duterte administration has succeeded in enticing China to invest through billions in peso loans in infrastructure programs in the country.
We look forward to improved Fil-Am relations and peaceful co-existence in the Asean region.