DOES it seem odd to be talking about the autonomy quest in the Cordillera this time of the year, when everybody is just about looking for the good things, with this topic besides?
Well, if it is an advertisement I am writing about, I may just have defeated my objective in writing this article with that negative lead. It is not so enticing, salacious to the taste, or one that gets people interested outright.
But who really knows? The lack of advertising skill in promoting, or what others call “selling the concept” of an Autonomous Region for the Cordillera (ARC) is just as best than having armed groups to force the issue, or publishing all kinds of self-serving talk and pursuits, with trash but sweet words.
Still, I think advertising is necessary in selling an essential and needful bitter pill. But it is not always necessary, in fact, even wasteful, to use the same canon or tank to pin down the enemy in all occasions or situations. That is reason enough for me not to always compare the situation in the two regions of the country currently pursuing autonomy – one in the South with that of the North.
Involved with the pursuit quite long enough, there was I time I was in such haste, like the rest of my kind, to see the ARC realized. These days, I leave that aspiration in the hands of divine providence to let it come about, even until the last of me or those who oppose it, are gone.
The dream will live on, until the rivers in these mountains would have gone dry. Bless me oh God, no, that would just be too tragic.
The ARC dream was instilled long during the days when Spain conquered the Philippines. It was during their rule and their influences that made Filipinos in the lowlands believe their brothers and sisters, who have not been cowed and bowed as subjects of a greedy and insatiable Spanish god for gold, flesh, and blood are different from themselves.
The ingrained discrimination deepened and fostered the evolution of the Hukbalahap movement that persisted on during the Second World War and after liberation.
The hated crab mentality among the Indios and now Filipinos is well entrenched in our history. That mentality will always seek somebody to put down, if only to be always prominent above the rest. Will it not think deep within, that “Igorots are not Filipinos.”
I heard Pantaleon "Bebot" Diaz Alvarez, the current Speaker of the House of Representatives of the Philippines and who represents the 1st District of Davao del Norte, the Philippines talk about the quest for federalism on television last week. He was in the South campaigning for this cause.
If my radar is well tuned and got the message right, the federalism quest of this administration seeks to correct the economic, social, and political inequities that continue to exist in the country, readily co-opted into a variety of mercantilism, and were perpetuated by the powers that ruled the nation, whether foreigners or Filipinos themselves over the Republic’s citizens.
I go back to the pursuit of autonomy in the Cordillera. As viewed by the leaders and elders of the region, it is most desired that we have it before federalism, or we are back to where we started, being once more relegated to second class members of a federal state in Northern Luzon.
The quest for autonomy temporarily created the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR). Even this temporary structure brought about enormous benefits otherwise unthinkable and unheard of during the years and decades prior to its establishments.
For instance, under the CAR set-up, a regional office was established for the Department of Agriculture (DA). I remember the time when I first returned to the region after working in Manila, when the DA-CAR was set-up. The initial operational budget then for the office was about PHP 7 million.
Through the DA-CAR’s efforts and representations in partnership with the local government units (LGUs), that budget has increased throughout the years. Today (2018), that budget has increased 10 times at PHP 1.7 billion plus.
That budget is still small compared to what goes to the more established regions of the nation. We have lots of catching up to do but without a regional office for CAR, would the nearby regions plan and execute the desired development of the Cordillera as its citizens view it.
For too long, the eyes and sentiments of our brothers and sisters in the lowlands is that there is no agriculture but simply mountains in the Cordillera.
Now, please do not imagine I concocted that simply for the writing of this article. I heard it from Dr. Joseph JC. Madamba, former director general of the then Philippine Council for Agricultural Development and later, he moved to the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture or Searca.
When he authored a paper on the Cordillera’s agro-ecological zones (AEZ), he was simply disabusing the impression that the region does not need to be developed in terms of agriculture. It was though him that I first learned about AEZs, as “geographical areas exhibiting similar climatic conditions that determine their ability to support rained agriculture.
At a regional scale, AEZs are influenced by latitude, elevation, and temperature, as well as seasonality, and rainfall amounts and distribution during the growing season.”
In developing CAR’s or soon the ARC’s agriculture, we do not actually view it in terms of the Cordillera but the whole of Northern Luzon. Again those from other regions of the country cannot see that long enough, or even understand it since they do not live here. We can understand them. We hope they can understand us too.
I wish I can yet come across convincingly in delivering my convictions about the need for an ARC in Northern Luzon. In due time perhaps, meantime, all I can do is to be faithful to the cause.