Burgis Conservation

photo courtesy of www.ivanhenares.com
photo courtesy of http://www.ivanhenares.com

OF COURSE, you’ve already read about the buzz created by conservationists regarding the construction of a mall in downtown Laoag. They claim that there are two Gabaldon buildings in the compound where it is to be built, and that the structures must be preserved on account of their historical and cultural significance.

It started when Ivan Henares—a travel blogger, heritage conservationist, and fraternity brod of Provincial Board member Kris Ablan—visited the province last December to deliver a lecture on blogging. Incidentally, he got wind of the issues surrounding the Laoag City Central Elementary School where the shopping monstrosity is to rise.

He immediately blogged about it at www.ivanhenares.com, and his post generated a moderate amount of comments. Here are some excerpts: Continue reading “Burgis Conservation”

Kampay!

I may have been too busy drinking gulping SanMig Light the past years that I failed to notice one good alak manufactured right here in Sunshine City Laoag.

Discovered it lately through a blog entry detailing  a tambay at tagay night held by YTRIP (a youth-led NGO that promotes sustainable local tourism and responsible travel) in the last quarter of 2008.  The group got several bottles of wine from parts of Luzon and tried, tasted, and drank the night away.

Their exhibits included:

Bugnay (Ilocos)
Basi (Ilocos)
Duhat (Ilocos)
Pineapple (??)
Camote with Pineapple (Banaue)
Tapuey (light) (Banaue)
Tapuey (toasted) (Banaue)
Lambanog (Quezon)
Strawberry (Benguet)
Grape (Benguet)

While they concluded that…

The night’s biggest favorites (the winners!!) were the Tapuey (light), Tapuey (toasted), and the Lambanog. And that the losers being the Strawberry and Grape wines.

duhat-wine4.., the Duhat Wine, according to three tasters, is “the closest to how wine would/should taste like”.

I agree.  Suabe ang guhit sa lalamunan. Sarap ng tama. It’s a bonus that it also offers all the health benefits that red wine promises, i.e. good for the heart, antioxidant, anti-cancer properties.  Yes, it is as good for the body as it is for the spirit.

The delight that is the Duhat Wine is actually a product of careful research and product development conducted by Cormel Foods with the support of the Department of Science and Technology and the Mariano Marcos State University (where I teach).

At  just 150Php a bottle, oh my, das leben ist gut!

Finally, an honest-to-goodness night market

THE LAOAG CITY NIGHT MARKET IS A BEAUTY TO BEHOLD. Anyone who has a clear pair of eyes and who has entered the city via the Laoag Padsan Bridge on a Wednesday or Friday night would attest to this. Well-lighted and symmetrically arranged, white tents flashing the trademark “sunshine city” logo seem like fairies welcoming you to newfound paradise.

Located at the sunset boulevard right across city hall and below the four-lane Padsan Bridge, Laoag’s is one of only two night markets that I take my hats off to, the other being the Marikina Night Market, which, incidentally, is also set up in the city’s riverbanks-cum-park.

It took a long journey before the night market finally found home. It started in 2002 in downtown Bonifacio Street, which was crowded and suffocating. On account of issues legal, it was later transferred at the vicinity of the city public market. Plagued by garbage problems and cold public response, everybody thought the night market had (almost) died.

But leave it to Mayor Michael Farinas and her tourism-genius-of-a-wife Chevylle to pull a magical string. They transformed, in the words of fellow writer Cristina Arzadon, “what was formerly a dark and decaying section of the Padsan river dike to a well-lighted boulevard complete with shaded structures for those spending time gazing at the majestic view of the Laoag bridge at night”. This now is home to the night market.

The existence of places like these where you can buy wallet-friendly commodities is a welcome respite for consumers like me who are already battered heavily by the global economic crunch. From clothes to house ware to fashion accessories, toys, trinkets, coloring books and more, the night market offers dirt-cheap joys.

Transcending the material, it is also heartwarming to see families, friends, and lovers celebrate the joys of togetherness while enjoying the scene. Cheerful Smiles. Friendly Embraces. Holding hands. Locked arms. The night market is certainly not just a market at night.

While there, don’t miss Gina’s Goto, atbp., a real gustatory delight. Always served hot, Gina’s goto is a mouth-watering antithesis to the December breeze. Their vegetarian pansit, matched with pickled kangkong stalks, is also a certified hit not only to our Muslim brethren, but to anyone who craves for something tasty, sans the guilt.

I was tempted to write about the night market in the middle of this year but thought to give it some time, given Filipinos’ ningas cogon attitude. I wanted to wait and see whether this beauty does not fade faster than I can say “Merry Christmas”.

Guess what? The night market is even more robust than when it reopened five months ago. With police and security personnel quietly looking after peace and order, and with both vendors and buyers maintaining the cleanliness that Laoag is so well-known for, the promise of paradise is kept.

Kissing the hand but avoiding the ring

BISHOP SERGIO UTLEG sent me an email asking if I could meet him personally regarding my previous column [“Slap the Bishops: Support the Reproductive Health Bill (IT, Nov. 10-16)].

Initially, I was bent to shun the proposed meeting because I don’t exactly love being in awkward situations. Convinced, however, that what the bishop has to say deserves my ear, I obliged.

I thought of inviting the bishop to our place for dinner, but my mom, a daily communicant and church volunteer, strongly opposed. It was one of the rare moments she was not proud of me, she panicked at the prospect of the bishop discovering that I am her son.

So, on Wednesday evening, I asked my friend Angelica Salas to accompany me to the Bishop’s Palace to meet His Excellency. Putting her best foot forward, my usually vivacious Mareng Angge transformed into a “mayuming katekista” the soonest we stepped on palace grounds.

A blue barong-clad Utleg welcomed us at the Palace lobby and led us to his office. And when we were seated, he looked at my eyes and flashed a toothy smile for a few seconds that seemed to me like eternity. He began the conversation by asking why I wrote of him as a bishop “best known today not for anything spiritual”. He said he was curious to know, and wondered if it was because he is often seen bicycling. Continue reading “Kissing the hand but avoiding the ring”

A fellow Ilocano Bedan writes

Glenn George G. Cajigal, former Vice Mayor of Badoc town, writes via e-mail:

I READ your column on Ilocano Bedans and Red Lions Fans. I am a Bedan and I really love to watch the NCAA games, especially those that are played in by the San Beda Red Lions, the number one team in the league right now.

You were able to mention some Bedans in our province. Allow me to add to your list. I know a few like Vice Mayor Allan Nalupta of Batac, his brother Brgy. Chairman Thirdee Nalupta, and their cousin Charles Nalupta. There is also a certain Pinong of Batac who happens to be my classmate in CAS Batch ‘93. Then there’s Mr. Allan Lao of Laoag City, Atty. Angel Miranda Jr., and Elmer Rubio of Badoc. My family members also belong to the Bedan community: my dad Judge Novato Cajigal (San Beda Law), my brothers Marcus and Novato Jr. are sons of Mendiola, too.

Herdy, I like your idea about creating an organization of Bedans in our province. Just let me know and am very much willing to help and support you. Thanks and more power.

Herdy’s Riknakem: Looking forward to working with you, brother. Salamat for your support. Animo!

Attn: Bedans and Red Lions fans. Let’s cheer and drink beer




“When I would approach the coliseum, my foolish heart would thump wildly. A loss could mean the campus would be in mourning. The heroes got to the mountain top.”

-Rene A.V. Saguisag
Former Senator, San Beda alumnus

Umpa! Umpa! Umpa! Umpa!
Beda Beda Beda Beda Fight Fight Fight!
Hey U Kim Kum Kawa!

I KNOW SO LITTLE ABOUT BASKETBALL. All my life, I have played hoops but once, and that was in freshman high school physical education. It was a fifty-second stint briefly punctuated by a traveling violation. I never tried again.

But then, in the past ten years, since I stepped in the hallowed grounds of San Beda, I have always been an ardent supporter of the Red Lions and the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).

Even now that I am working, I would not think twice of taking a leave from work so I won’t miss an important game, the same is true with many of our alumni; PLDT/SMART Chair Manny Pangilinan would certainly agree. And, why not? Some people go to spa parlors to regain spent energy. We go to the NCAA games.

I still know so little about fouls, violations, and the rudiments of basketball. I usually wait for other Bedans to clap before I do. (Sometimes I cheer, by mistake, for the opposing team), but I have mastered the art of shouting “defense!”, have memorized every letter and note of our cheers and yells, and have also gotten used to going home with a heavy heart after watching the Red Lions lose in games that they could have handily won.

For twenty eight years since their victory over Ateneo in 1978, the Lions never won a championship. Those were decades of heartbreak and despair. But even the darkest of sagas do end. The story changed two years ago when lady luck smiled and the opposing team’s buzzer-beater shot failed. We won the do-or-die match by a balding man’s hair strand. We grabbed the championship. Our battlecry, End 28 at 82!, was prophetic. We ended 28 years of defeat in Season 82.

I was lucky to be at the Araneta Coliseum when it happened. For a while, I could not believe that we had actually ended nearly three decades of title drought. I only realized that we made it won when a stranger embraced me tightly and we both wept. Indeed, it was a night when you could embrace anybody in red.

From the coliseum, Bedans trooped to the Mendiola campus where a glorious feast was to happen. Food and spirits were flowing like manna and rain from the heavens. Now proudly hangs in my bedroom is the 2006 championship shirt signed that historic night by our heroic cagers, including the gentle giant from Nigeria—Sam “The Ekwelizer” Ekwe, King Lion Yousif Aljamal, Alex Angeles, Pong Escobal, Borgie Hermida, and fellow Ilocano Ogie Menor, who decided to play for San Beda, turning down (and rightly so) the tempting offers of La Salle. This experience is one of the most ecstatic in my life, and this I will keep on retelling until I fade in the sunset (not so soon, I pray, so I can cheer for many more seasons).

Last year, the San Beda Red Lions duplicated the same feat and, in this 84th season of the country’s oldest collegiate league, are gunning for a third-straight basketball title. With either the Letran Knights or the Jose Rizal University Heavy Bombers (who are still battling it out in the semifinals as of press time) at the other side of the bench, the road to a glorious three-peat will not be a cakewalk. Letran, the league’s winningest, boasts of 16 championship victories against San Beda’s 13. JRU, for its part, is the league’s hungriest, having won their last championship 36 years ago, in 1972. So, the Lions can never be complacent, and neither should we, fellow supporters, if we really want to fortify our basketball dynasty.

Now based in the province, I can no longer see the Lions see action in flesh and blood. I will have to be content with watching the games live on television. But I need folks who will join me in believing. I do not want to commit the same mistake when, in a recent San Beda-Letran game, I turned-off the boob tube when there was less than a minute remaining in the fourth quarter and Letran was up by 6 points. Forgetting the Animo! spirit, I was resigned to a defeat, only to find out in the news later on that San Beda had won by 2 points by virtue of a Hail Mary shot in overtime. San Beda’s neighbor in Mendiola, St. Jude, the patron saint of desperate cases, must have done his part as well.

And so I invite fellow Bedans and their families, Bedan-lovers, supporters of the Red Lions, and anybody whose life has been touched by San Beda, including our lawyers here who took the bar review in Mendiola (like my cousin Erme Labayog): Let’s gather together, cheer together, drink together, and, if we lose (God forbid!), weep together. Even if you are not from San Beda if you love good, intense, passionate basketball, please come… and don’t forget to wear red.

Once a Bedan, always a Bedan. Right now, I only have the following names: former Laoag City Councilor and Ilocos Publishing Corporation President Jay Ramos, National Youth Commission Chairman Richard Alvin Nalupta, K. Reyno, D.A. Bitancor, Badoc’s Atty. Philjer Noel Inovejas, Richard Co, Christianne Flores, Mr. Felipe of NCC, and my nephew Jerome Geronimo. I know that a young Fariñas, a son of former City Mayor Cesar Ventura, and a gorgeous varsity debater also attended San Beda but, alas, their names escape me. I am sure Manong Pepoc (Pastor) would also be glad to come had he not gone to the great beyond. He will be our prayer warrior up there, together with Raul Roco whose composition, the “Bedan Hymn”, we shall sing with pride, win or lose.

It will just be the beginning of a rediscovered brotherhood. I hope Ilocano Bedans can organize a group similar to UP Namnama, and contribute to the development of our locality. In the same breath, I hope our universities and colleges in the province can also fortify their sports programs and create an honest-to-goodness league where stars are born, and where school loyalties run deep.

The powwow can be held in my place or yours. It does not matter the venue for as long as we’re together (and there’s beer… and television, of course!). 09297793969 is the number to text or call.

Animo San Beda! Fight Team FIGHT!

Provincial bliss

MRS. MATIPO of our university library was the 50th person to ask me this question: “What made you decide to come home to the province and teach here?”

It was mid-June last year and I was meeting the librarian for the first time. She learned from her son, MJ, one of my treasured students, that I had taught in Manila schools before moving here in Ilocos.

“Many want to work in Manila,” she added, in an attempt to put her question in the proper perspective.

I had long wanted to stay in the province and it did not begin as an act of altruism. Nurturing no illusions of self-importance, it was not the “I want to go home to Ilocos and share my talents with my province-mates” sort of thing.

I first imagined working in Ilocos during one of those mornings in Manila when I was getting late for work and I still had to press my clothes (one of the things I do not enjoy doing). That morning, I was yet to eat breakfast, and my tummy was already rebelling. Food was usually something fried, something instant — something I was beginning to take with revulsion.

I was walking briskly to school when a decent-looking man approached and showed me something. “Bilhin mo na itong necklace, mura lang” [“Buy this necklace, the price is cheap”], he said. The piece of jewelry looked real and expensive, but it was broken. “Mamahalin ’to, kasi ’nung hinablot ko ’to, umiyak ’yung nurse” [“This is an expensive kind, because the nurse cried after I snatched it from her”], he added with pride.

That was the straw that broke the weary camel’s back. On the same day, I typed an application letter to the Mariano Marcos State University (MMSU), the best university in the North. That was in March last year.

Only a few days were left before the start of the semester and a reply had yet to come. One more year of Manila then, I thought. That meant another year of missing the birthdays (including that of my Kuya Henry on Sept. 11 and of my Grandniece Ananda on Sept. 21), anniversaries and other special occasions of family and friends. Another year of bad food and bad air, of ironing my clothes (and losing them in the laundry shop), and of receiving frantic messages from my Mom each time the metropolis was stricken by terrorist attacks.

But the call for a demonstration teaching and panel interview came, and I was thrilled.

“Aside from teaching, what else can you contribute to the university?” I was asked in the interview.

Honestly, I wanted to just teach. In schools where I had taught, I contributed more than I should, and I wanted to be more relaxed this time. That’s what I told the panel members who, judging by their facial expressions, were unhappy with my answer. So I added that writing and debate are areas where I might contribute.
The most memorable question came from a senior faculty member: “For how long do you intend to stay here?”

“I can stay here forever,” I replied without batting an eyelash. If my 20/20 vision did not betray me, I thought I saw the professor’s eyebrows rise a bit and her academic forehead crumple a little. She was doubtful. No one knows for sure what Mother Destiny holds in the future, but I was sincere when I said that I could imagine myself working in the university until my hair is gray.

Shortly after, I was called in to work. I met my dean, and then I was led to my department on June 12, Independence Day. I was all smiles.

It has been fifteen months from that memorable day, and the smiles have not faded. I have even purchased a desk mirror so I can marvel at my face when I am smiling, which is a hundred times more often now than when I was working in the big city.

And, why not? Here, I live very comfortably. “Manang” Glory, our well-loved “kasambahay” [househelp], is so kind to pamper me. From food to clothes to cleanliness in my room, she makes sure that everything is A-OK.

Aside from our home in Laoag, which is better than my living quarters in Manila, I got a room at Coed’s, the university dormitory. My room in Manila was enough only for a bed and a table, had no window, and, if not for an exhaust fan, I could not breathe. In contrast, the well-ventilated and spacious Coed’s dorm gives me a fantastic view of the fields, which I could only imagine in Manila when I was stuck in traffic.

On top of material comforts is the immense joy that family life gives me. I have friends, and I have had friends who came and went and forgot, but my family has stood by me at all times, high and low. And, no, I would never exchange for anything the joy of coming home to my grandniece Ananda’s kisses and embrace after a long day at work, and finding out what new words or new tricks she has learned.

In the university, I am blessed to work with dreamy academics whose cognitive brilliance is matched by youthful idealism and cheerful dispositions. Our students, most of them children of farmers, are as competitive, even better, than many of their counterparts in Manila.

I had wished to just teach and relax and veer away from added responsibility but, when you are surrounded by people who breathe excellence, it’s difficult not to get infected and do your share. People might find fault in government for a number of things, but outstanding state-run universities such as ours are not among them.

Growing up with the belief that the only tourist attraction we have in Ilocos is the late strongman’s mausoleum, I used to find my province boring. But when my colleagues in Manila regaled me with stories of how they experienced a piece of paradise in Ilocos, my pride for my place was unmatched.

This is not to say Ilocos is heaven, and that I will forever be in bliss. I know that this is just the honeymoon phase. Difficulties and crises will come in my career and personal life, but given the inner joy and energy I bear, I will get by.

There are times when I miss the city, especially when I need something I cannot find in stores here. There are times when I long for the malls, their artificiality and the empty lifestyle they propagate. And, oh, yes, I miss the surprises of living in the nation’s capital, such as watching a movie and finding out after the lights are turned on, that seated just a meter away is Madam President and the First Gentleman.

At my young age, I have had the opportunity to work in various set-ups, from the seat of power in Malacañang to the corporate jungle of Ortigas and Libis to the marginalized communities in Metro Manila to the glistening world of show biz and mass media, and to the universities of the bourgeoisie. I have been blessed to travel to many parts of the country, from Aparri to Dumaguete to Cotabato, and have had the chance to visit other countries, too.

But I have never been happier than now, working in my province and in the university that captured my heart.

****
DONNA RIETVELD of The Netherlands writes via email: Hi, hope you are well.

Just want to say that I LOVE reading your column. Basta, nakaka-relate ako. The way you wrote about the 2 Glorias is really a work of art.

I am accessing Ilocos Times via the web so medyo late lagi ang column but I am going to check out your blog regularly from now on.

I am from Pasuquin but I have now adopted The Netherlands as my country. Thanks to you and the staff of Ilocos Times, I still get to update myself with what’s happening up north.

Regards and God Bless.

Herdy’s Riknakem: Thank you, Donna. You are one more important reason to burn the midnight oil to meet the every-Wednesday deadline in this publication. The consuming loneliness in writing is briefly punctuated by kind messages such as yours.

“Hindi mo makapa ang iyong nararamdaman; hindi lungkot, hindi saya, hindi bagot, hindi din naman balisa. isipin mo na lang na lahat ng nilalang, nahihimlay, nahihimbing at nananaginip nang nag-iisa. walang nagsusulat, dahil walang nagbabasa, walang bumabagsak dahil walang pumapasa. sa bawat bagong iyong natutuklasan, ika’y natututong kay rami-rami pa palang di mo alam.” – gary granada.