Rosy but grounded. Ambitious but compelling. Elegant but inclusive.
By all indicators, Governor Imee Marcos’ 5th State of the Province Address delivered Aug. 25 at the Plaza del Norte Hotel located on a land area disputed by Laoag City and Paoay has been the best by far.
Riding on the notable transformation of Ilocos Norte in the past few years, the people’s very high morale and sense of pride, and the equally high levels of trust and confidence the governor enjoys from his constituents, Imee urged her people to dream bigger: Ilocos Norte as the country’s best province by 2020. The road map is creatively called IN2020.
More than just the usual detailing of the achievements in years past, the governor clearly spoke on the bright prospects of the future and what all sectors must do to help achieve it.
Let me quote some of the best parts of the speech that lasted 49 minutes and 49 seconds, interrupted 33 times by the audience’s generous applause:
On poverty alleviation
“Poverty in the coastal and mountain zones had climbed up from 21 % in 2003 to 24% in 2010. We responded aggressively—food packs in the lean months, 16,000 scholarships a year, barangay roads, fishing boats, tools, and new agricultural packages. 9.9% laengen ti nabati pay, nasapsapa ngem 2015 nga nagun-od ti MDG, nga mabingay iti marigrigat”
On good governance
“Hindi lihim na nakunsume ako sa sistema ng Capitolyo noon, nagngingitngit sa ilang empleyadong laging absent! Ngayon nagkakaunawaan na kami, at nakatutok ang bawat digital Ilocano citizen, sumbung nang sumbong ng text at tweet!”
On windmill developers abusing nature (and our hospitality)
“Going green is part of our provincial DNA. Last week, we constituted a multipartite monitoring team for renewable energy projects. Ironically, despite their mission to provide clean energy, wind construction sites have not always observed local ordinances on quarrying, coral preservation, and the protection of endangered plant and marine life. In Ilocos Norte, let it be known that even the country’s biggest companies have to comply with the law—the law of man and the law of nature.”
On transforming Ilocos Norte into a learning province
Let us take education beyond the classroom, beyond age and place. Let us convert Ilocos Norte into a learning province, so that every field and beach is a science lab, a Heroes Walk in Laoag or in Bacarra is a library in the park, and Sirib buses become learning movie houses.
On MMSU, garlic, and heritage conservation
Palagay ko panahon na ring pag-usapan ang MMSU. Our premier educational institution has begun to rethink its role in a quickly-diversifying economy. Originally focused on agriculture and forestry, bigger enrollments are now found in business, engineering, tourism and computer sciences. Our farmers also await from MMSU research and innovation that will impact their lives— when can indigenous Ilocano white garlic be developed into weightier, sturdier, new and more productive varieties?
The first conservation school in the country has been launched in Paoay CIT-MMSU, to revive the classic trades of carpentry and wood-carving, handloom weaving, bricks and stone masonry. NCCA, Spain’s Escuela Talleres, and the Betis, Pampanga workshops are behind us. We all watched with horror when the Bohol churches fell during the earthquake. Let us be mindful that after Bohol, our province has the most number of colonial churches. And only with long-term planning and fervent prayer can we safeguard them.
And, my personal favourite: On volunteerism
“In truth, 6 years is a very very short time to achieve all that we must IN2020. Government cannot go it alone, we need you to volunteer and assure help in continuing change and transformation. If we can set in motion a virtuous circle of generosity and volunteerism, awareness and participation will ensue, your volunteer work will generate savings for government, which will in turn fund more student jobs, more loans for women, work for tribesmen, fishermen and the handicapped. A virtuous cycle indeed!
“Sa ngayon, iilan ang nagvo-volunteer, mga suki ng kapitolyo sa barangay, Red Cross, ang Chinese Chamber. Lahat tayo ay abala sa trabaho at pamilya. Ngunit hindi ako naniniwala na ang Ilocano ay hindi matulungin. Dahil nakikita ko kayo sa barangay, naghihirap upang mabuo ang ating kalye, ang sipag-sipag ng mga magulang at titser tuwing Brigada Eskwela, at ang malasakit ng mga doktor tuwing kami’y mag-Capitol Epress. Damang-dama pa rin ang mga donasyon ng mga balikbayan sa bawat munisipyo, at maraming Ilocanong kasama kong tumulong sa Tacloban.
“Itan! Tapno awan ti maibati, awan ti maisiasi ken awan ti haan a maikkan iti tulong.”
I am glad that the governor urged the people to do their share in catapulting Ilocos Norte to the place where it should be. An extensive volunteerism campaign doesn’t also amount to savings but, more importantly, gives the people a sense of ownership of government programs. The are made to understand their roles not only as beneficiaries but as key actors in development.
There was a marked increase in Miss Imee’s use of the Ilokano language. Unlike before when Ilokano content did not exceed five percent of the entire speech, almost one-fourth of her 5,263-word 5th SOPA was in the vernacular. Here is the actual breakdown: 23% Ilokano, 33% Tagalog, and 44% English. Imee did struggle with speaking lengthy Ilokano, but its the effort to struggle that really counts. Mother tongue and plurilingualism advocates must be very happy with this development.
Attendance and seating arrangement
One thing that struck me was that some young people—youth leaders, provincial scholars, and other achievers—had even better seats than mayors.
Indeed, present were a lot of young people, including over a hundred collegians and some high school students who all looked their best. The oldest attendee was nonagenarian Magdalena Gamayo, the only master weaver of Abel in the country and a National Living Treasure. The audience was touched when the governor had a solo picture with her after the program.
The set was simple, nothing ostentatious, but very refreshing with a lot of plants in it. It is really green too as many of the stage props are reusable.
The governor herself noted that in years past, some people gave more important to fashion than the speech itself. It was not true this year. There were no scene stealers, nothing outrageously good nor abhorrent..
I also noticed that more abel fabric has been used for the gowns. I particularly liked the uniform gowns of the ladies from the Provincial Tourism Office. It was designed by no less than their boss Aian Raquel (I always knew he is multitalented, but I never realized he knows decent fashion design as well). The sleek dress is multifunctional. Made of binakol, the top with structural paired sleeves may be paired with either pants or a short skirt.
In contrast, a famous personality from Laoag City (not a politician) also wore an abel gown, but it really looked off. Done by a famous designer, the over-imposing top made the thirty-ish beauty look like a a cross between an overloaded ship and an old-fashioned spacecraft. In fairness, she still looked terrific regardless of what she wore. Still, the gown could have been better.
By the way, Imee’s blue gown is an Amor Albano creation. Its design makes a classic terno look contemporary with the play of silhouette and texture.
On a personal note, I wore a modest barong, actually a hand-me-down from my father, which Joel Dul-loog was so kind to repair on very short notice.
After-event food and refreshment
Attendees generally commented that food served at Plaza del Norte this year was slightly better than in past years. A group of provincial scholars remember enjoying the following: banana bread, cream puff, puding a kasla maja ti kolorna, bread a round a babassit nga adda meat idiay unegna, lechon baboy, and chicken a ‘dimi ammo’t lutona.
A famous Ilocos Norte physician noted that of all the food served, it was only the lechon baka that he really enjoyed. It was unfortunate, he said, that before he noticed the roasted cow, he already had his tummy filled with forgettable pasta, pastry, and other meat dishes.
Me, I was so busog with Imee’s speech. And it was really all that mattered.