61st Courier Anniversary Issue
Beautiful Baguio: Relax, enjoy, and have fun
Being a minority across time
Exotic and mystical Abra
Home of the Isnag Tribe
Benguet has it all
Ifugao, home to bountiful heritage
The Pride of Kalinga
The land called Mountain Province
Benguet farmers'
woes over vegetable prices
Festivals for peace and progress
in Mountain Province
Kalinga: A roadmap to progress
A Napulawan experience
Displaced binga folks:
Pesky footnote in Napoco's legacy?
A peek into Cordillera’s last nature frontier
A taste of Abra
Atty. Federico Muñoz Mandapat Sr.:
A story of a war and sports hero
61st Anniversary Cartoon
Festivals for peace and progress in Mountain Province
by: Harley Palangchao

Long before a province-wide festival came into inception four years ago, people from the 10 towns and different barangays of this landlocked province gathered only during town fiestas, weddings, family and clan reunions, and, in some villages, after the harvest season. 

But over the years, some towns and villages have become increasingly enthusiastic to share the culture that molds them as proud people and the beauty of their place to their neighboring communities and visitors by coming out with home-grown cultural festivals. 

Barangay Kadaclan in the eastern town of Barlig, for example, has been promoting its distinct culture and its pride of place through the “Menaliyam Festival,” drawing local and foreign tourists despite the long travel from the capital town of Bontoc or from Region 2. 

In the western part of the province, the home-grown begnas has been attracting people from the place to come back home to join the festivity with tourists increasingly keen to be part of the rice-related festivity. 

With home-grown gatherings increasing both in number of people and value, it gave the Association of Provincial Executives and Mountain Province Gov. Maximo Dalog Sr. an idea of creating a provincial festival.

This gave birth to the Lang-ay Festival. 

Since its inception in 2005, the Lang-ay Festival has transcended mountain barriers separating people from the towns of Barlig, Bauko, Bontoc, Besao, Natonin, Paracelis, Sabangan, Sadanga, Sagada, and Tadian to come together to share the authenticity and diversity of their culture and tradition passed to them by their great ancestors who once lived under the shadows of the mountains. 

Celebrating the legacy of Igorot ancestors 
With people from all walks of life in this province already Christianized, the celebration of the Lang-ay Festival serves as a venue for the people to come together and share their common past. 

As Rev. Rodolfo Beltran of the Apostolic Vicariate of Bontoc-Lagawe puts it: “As we proceed with the celebrations of the Lang-ay Festival, we treasure to remember the values, which our forefathers have handed on to us, that we live in the faith and hand it on the children.”

Rev. Beltran added that celebrating Lang-ay means working together for the common good and that people become messengers of peace. 

True enough, Retired Bishop Francisco Claver shared the same view when he said that “whenever we celebrate the festival, we remember the memories of our ancestors because we benefit from their great legacy.”

Vehicle for peace and unity
Respected civic leader Ventura Betot agreed that home-grown festivals and the Lang-ay Festival are vehicles for peace and unity, where villagers, regardless of social status, become one in celebrating the common achievements of the ingenuity of the culture and tradition passed to them by their ancestors. 

“Festivals are venues of sharing and bonding, which would greatly help Igorots in their quest to maintain lasting peace and unity in this province. In fact, people realize the true human nature of the Igorots whenever we celebrate gatherings such as a cultural festival,” Betot said. 

He went on to say that the celebration of festivals gives people the time to reflect on the indigenous aesthetics of the province and at the same time document the past, which people proudly claim as their heritage. 

“Likewise, as we celebrate festivals and as people gather, they would come to realize that they are blessed people because even the mountains that surround us remind us that we are all on equal footing in the eyes of Kabunian in the great beyond,” Betot added. 

Coincidentally, it was during the Lang-ay festivity when tribesmen from Bontoc Ili and from three towns of Abra and San Emilio, Ilocos Sur renewed their century-old peace pact before joining thousands of spectators in the street dancing parade. 

Gov. Dalog said that individuals have the feeling of belongingness regardless of what tribe he or she comes from. “The socialization of people fosters unity in the province. We just hope that festivals, not only the Lang-ay Festival, will be sustained,” he said.

Economic and civic gains  
With home-grown festivals and the Lang-ay Festival becoming more intense, the tourists’ or visitors’ actual spending becomes more complex to compute with accuracy. One economist said that the conduct of festivals is keeping economic activities vibrant. 

For one, Mountain Province Trade and Industry head Juliet Lucas revealed that there are supposed “dying industries” like the weaving in Barangay Guinsadan in Bauko that have been revived since the birth of the Lang-ay Festival. 

“Festivals like the Lang-ay are indeed strong vehicles in making tourism and economic activities vibrant,” said Lucas in an interview after inspecting stalls at the Provincial Plaza compound where the best   locally made but high-end pro-ducts from the different towns are on display for sale to the public. 

Lucas shared that the Lang-ay wine, which is the One Town, One Product of the province, sells briskly in various local outlets in and out of the province.

“Lang-ay Festival greatly helped wine makers in promoting the product,” Lucas said, adding that there are 15 associations in the province that produce wine from the popularly known bugnay or wild cherry. 

Lucas said that festivals generate economic activities, which she said is contributing much to the local economy aside from providing income-generating activities to people who are concentrated on farming for domestic consumption. 

This year alone, wine makers, who are concentrated in Bila, Bauko, were able to produce numerous bottles of wines from 5,000 jars. Each jar can produce one to two cases of wine bottles. One case of wine is composed of 12 bottles, which is sold at P120 a bottle. 

With the success of local wine production, Lucas said that the Arabica coffee is now the focus of promotion, reason why Arabica coffee was served to the public at the provincial plaza for free during the duration of the Lang-ay Festival. 

In fact, Mountain Province’s bid to become the Arabica coffee capital of the Philippines has the backing of the Cordillera Regional Development Council after it was convinced that the province has the highest production of Arabica coffee nationwide. 

Benguet and Bukidnon in Mindanao are the two other Arabica coffee growing provinces. 

On the civic side of the festival, fund generated from Lang-ay tickets were used to procure materials for the repair of destroyed facilities of the Bontoc General Hospital. The improvement of the Children’s Park and the construction of amenities at Rizal Park were also funded by the Lang-ay fund. 

This year’s Lang-ay fund will be used for the benefit of persons with disabilities, like purchase of wheelchairs. 

Taking a cue from the success of the Lang-ay Festival, some towns in the province have adopted their own culture-bound festivals with an end view of preserving and passing their rich culture to the younger generations, hopeful that it will propel income-generating activities for the people.

From town fiestas to town festivals 
The latest festival to be launched this year is the Sas-aliwa in the town of Natonin with youthful lady mayor Ana Marie Banaag hoping that it will be successful and sustained in the coming years. 

Natonin villagers have reason to be happy that with the launch of their own festival, mass-based economic activities like the abaca industry will be sustained with visitors  buying apparels made of abaca fiber in wake of reports that the income generating industry is in peril due to bad road conditions. 

Recently, there was revelry in the main street of Sabangan town when residents celebrated for the second time their own Gagayam Festival last March 24 in time with their foundation day. 

This coming Sept. 15 and 16, proud villagers from the 13 barangays of the capital town of Bontoc will also celebrate their 4th Am-among    Festival in time for the municipality’s centennial foundation day. 

Bontoc mayor Franklin Odsey agreed that income-generating activities are slowly being accelerated since the first staging of the Am-among Festival, reason why the other mayors are being encouraged to take the lead role in forming their own home-grown festivals. 

Odsey, president of the League of Municipal Mayors in Mountain Province, said that with the spill over of visitors to nearby Sagada town during the Lang-ay Festival, officials are encouraging families to support the home-stay program as an alternative source of livelihood in Bontoc. 

“Festivals enhance eco-tourism and we observed that there is a spillover of tourists during the conduct of Lang-ay Festival so we encouraged the home-stay program,” said Odsey, adding that even tricycle    drivers earn much during   festivals. 

Even nearby Sagada town is directly benefiting because scores of visitors who attended the festival stayed in Sagada. 

The majestic village of Kadaclan, known as the “Shangri-la on the edge,” has been attracting foreign tourists notwithstanding the absence of a hotel or inn. The home-stay program being   offered by Dione Chungalan Sr. keeps eco-tourism in the village vibrant. 

He added that the hospitality industry also greatly benefits with most of the hotels and other accommodation facilities gaining.

The good thing about the celebration of festivals and town fiestas, Odsey said, is that it is the time all the town mayors and other local officials gather and conduct their regular meeting.

“We want to come out with a common stand on issues so that that concerns that matter most to our constituents will be addressed,” the mayor said.

Better festivals mean good tourist arrivals 
Department of Tourism director Purificacion Molintas reported that tourist arrivals in the Cordillera Administrative Region soared to 1,117,226 from January to December 2007, and Mountain Province got its modest share. 

Molintas said that Mountain Province posted a 29.3 percent increase in its tourist arrivals from 48,950 domestic and foreign visitors in 2006 to 52,408 in 2007.  

The invitation to expatriates from the global community to attend the Lang-ay Festival in 2006 even led to the creation of the “11th municipality” in Mountain Province. 

Molintas expressed optimism that the potential and still not famous tourist spots in Mountain Province are slowly being promoted courtesy of the home-grown festivals and Lang-ay Festival.

So far, tourist arrival from South Korea remains to be the top grosser in the whole of the Cordilleras with foreigners from Germany showing a substantial growth over the past two years, especially in Ifugao province. Bontoc is more than an hour’s drive to Banaue, the window of Ifugao tourism. 

With festival tourism trailblazing in the northern highlands, one hopes that God’s blessing would shower upon them to keep them beating their gongs and chanting their ancestors’ songs towards a more prosperous, peaceful, and united people.

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