On June 1, you took your new job as provincial tourism officer of Ilocos Norte. You left a teaching career in the university to assume a responsibility where you feel you can be of better service to society.
I talked to you against it, first because you are a real gem in the academe, and second because I will miss working with you, but you seem resolute and eager, and so I fully support you and wish you well, as any real friend should.
You have always had my respect, and you know that. You know, too, that I believe you are one of the most creative minds in the province, er, in the country. You loved your job in the university, and your job loved you back. As a result, students under your tutelage won regional and national awards. With your theatrics, showmanship and exceptional talent, you have endeared yourself to your colleagues.
As you endeared yourself to me. Thank you for doing the cover and layout of “The He(a)rd Mentality”, a perfect testament to your Dionysian ecstasies. “Don’t judge a book by its cover” is an old maxim our book defies, for the cover you skillfully crafted gave perfect justice to my work’s content. You made me cry with your difficulty in beating deadlines, but that is not exactly unusual with real artists whose worlds defy both time and space. I am glad the end did justify the tearful means.
You are a real gem, Aian, but not all good people, of course, must hide inside academic walls and content themselves with passionate theorizing and making students believe in an idealized world. Leave that dreamy job to fools like me.
You are lucky to be working with a governor who is not only brilliant and diligent, but who is genuinely sincere to help bring out, as her hero of a father did, the greatness inherent in the Ilocano. I know she is unforgiving when it comes to quality of work; mediocrity is not in her wide vocabulary. You will surely learn a lot from her. Not many people afford themselves that chance.
You are on my mind, Aian, as I gather data for our CHED-funded research, “Mapping the Trail and Impact of Agribusiness Products in the Tourism Sector in Region I and the Cordillera Autonomous Region.” Funded by the Commission on Higher Education, I am doing this with another faculty researcher from MMSU and in collaboration with our counterparts in Benguet State University and the Ifugao State University. I and my partner Marjorie are doing Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, La Union and Abra where we are to conduct interviews with managers of tourist establishments and producers of food products.
We are in La Union, traveling from one town to another, as I write this. Before Boracay and Pagudpud earned international spotlight as prime beach destinations in this part of the world, La Union was the place to be. Due to ecological mismanagement and lack of foresight, the glory days are over. The many resorts dotting Bauang beach are now just a remnant of a glorious past. There is surfing in San Juan, but how many (or how little) of tourists do actually surf?
We have not gathered significant data as there are not a lot of food products sold here. Tourism and agriculture officials concede that La Union does not really have its ‘food identity’ very much unlike Ilocos Norte. They have nothing like our empanada, bagnet, miki, and longanisa which fuel tourists’ sojourn to gustatory climax.
Today, La Union is struggling with its tourism efforts. The governor, La Union Capitol sources say, is mainly occupied with peace and order; tourism, while not neglected, is not a top priority.
Ilocos is not difficult to sell. Its sights are breathtaking, food products are a delight. And you have a provincial leadership that progressive and bullish. All you need to do your job well, Aian, is a decent amount of creativity, foresight, charm, and beauty—the first two you have in abundance, the latter qualities I leave to your many suitors to judge.
On a side note, while food and sights are not among the strengths of La Union, I have a very positive observation about personnel in their government offices.
Going around the province, we had to deal with agriculture and tourism officers of every town, and all of them had been very helpful. In fact, they would give much more than what you need or what you think you need. Public service at its best. They may be some rotten eggs (which organization doesn’t?) but we were lucky not to get across any of them.
Today, the government bureaucracy is still teeming with employees who look like the legendary “langaw na nakatungtong sa kalabaw.” Snooty and snobbish, self-important and boastful, inept and corrupt, their contributions to good governance are inversely proportional to their bloated egos. Even as the president has always stressed that the people are any public servant’s boss, there are government employees who play god and revel in whatever amount of power they have.
I believe, with all my cholesterol-laden heart and balding head, that you, Ianee Barlahan Raquel, are not among them.
Do us proud then. Surprise us. Kick some a**. Ilocos is beautiful, and so are you.