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EPL, a La Cordillera
by Morr Pungayan

Before everything, we need to explain our topic title for everyone’s access.

By EPL, we mean ‘Exciting Political Life’; ‘exciting’ in the sense that it does not copy the famous or infamous Congruence of ‘Politics’ and GGG (Gold, Guns and Goons); or in short: “Politics ~ GGG”.

Further, ā la Cordillera shall be our phrase to convey not only Spatio-Temporal location as would have been if we used the English plain ‘in the ~’, but also the meaning of “in the fashion of ~”, “as usually observed in ~”, or even: “as seen as the unique – and different (!), political style in the Cordillera.”

Yet further, our Use of ‘Exciting’ embodies the implication of an ‘iregrettable career’ itself of being one politician in the area; and that of the term ‘politics’ (or political) shall be mostly in reference to the individual’s duration of Service – or Incumbency, as an official.

So, our foci of Analyses shall be on the elected (some get appointed) official’s life that: switches, commences, or fructifies into being ‘exciting’, upon Assumption to Office.

Ascendancy to Public Office

So, why or how is the Cordi politician elected or appointed to Office; or by what manner does he/she become one?

The following are the most generally-observed ways – from the least-often to the most-often: 1) by clean, ‘judicious’ Choice of  the  Electorate; 2) by ‘pure Luck’ – they call Gahat; 3) by name-recall via the native Principle of i-man; 4) by incidence of belonging to a Recent Past winning Lineage; 5) by virtue of descent from a village ‘nobility’ or Karangjan; 6) by the ‘Levelling’ Power of Adal/Achar/Ashall or Education. Some details now and/or examples.

The Electorate’s ‘Choice’. Though the ‘rarest’, this manner of Ascendancy has happened then and again.

In 1982, there was a ‘newcomer’ – single, young, and no ‘political name’. He ran for Barangay Captain against three strongly-backed opponents: one backed-up by the incumbent mayor; another, backed-up by the village ‘nobility’ (he was in fact a Karangjan descendant); and the third one: the then incumbent – an acknowledged protégé or bata-bata  of the Provincial governor.

The ‘newcomer’ got them all – sans influence, sans gold nor money; not even strategized nor well-planned Campaigning.

He just rode his palomino horse and with two of his trusted horsemen, he visited the Sitios – just telling them he was one of the Candidates and that he need not elaborate anything, since they knew his family Line.

When the ballots were counted, there was just one message that was understood by all: the Electorate spoke – they wanted that ‘newcomer’ one to be their new Barangay Captain.

Pure Gahat or Luck. We have several cases of this type – since they are of two general sub-types: 1) those that get elected – two or three times – then, no more; and 2) those that get elected beyond the 3x ‘limit’, then move on to the next level or position, and still get elected.

Our example for today is one of the highest officials of a Cordi Province. This current term is his third; but no, he is not retiring. His camp and his closer friends inform me he wants to be elected Congressman, come 2016.

Nine years before this current position, he was Mayor of a premier Cordi town – also three times. Was he also councilor before that? The informants I asked say: Yes po! and furthermore.

But at earlier age, I met him as a Payroll Assistant/ Utility for a big government building construction. I was a Security Guard then; and I knew him only by his first name – as it was often mentioned whenever Payday time was nearing: he was the fastest Assistant; in fact, the most patient – to wait for and secure the Signatures on the Payroll so that we, workers all, get paid on time!

From the fellow-worker he was, you could not almost believe it: but he built himself up, up-the-ladder of Politics, and he is not only enjoying in Present time; he is poised and raring to grab that next high position a year from now. As of press time, no strong Contender to match him has yet been sighted; so, he is not scared to square with the incumbent one – as long as they ‘play’, ag-ayayam, just ‘one-on-one’ (he says this sometimes, in a jesting fashion, doesn’t he?).

The Name Rings..When the individual voter, or family, or clan hears a name he heard before, he usually asks: “did he not run before?”

“Yes, and he lost”; or, “yes, and he almost made it to the last #8 slot…he was #9, and behind by just 10 votes”; and the like.

And then that guy whose name is again in-mention, suddenly gets the Electorate’s Sympathy (?) – they would often in humble tone say: ibotos tako i-man (vote, we, EXPR). Some would agree and say: aw, i-man, maikatlo na ay men run sisiya (Indeed, EXPR, 3rd time this is that he’ll run); and so forth.

The Sequence thus is: name-recall, discussions and weighings, the i-man Principle that binds, and the 2nd or 3rd try candidate is elected. [As of now, I can but translate the i-man in English as embodying the sense(s) of: “Indeed, and why not?”].

Recent Political Line. Before or after Martial Law (1971), the Lucky One’s ‘glitter’ was started by his father, a much older brother – even an uncle. When his time came, he just ‘rode’ on that Line which plays magic via the said Line’s name – family name, especially.

Our on-sight example started with a ‘frustrated’ Barangay Captain candidate who lost – how many times? When he was getting old, he settled for Barangay Councilman. His eldest son took after him: but he aimed high, as his father did – for Barangay Captain. Said son got it! The Lucky chap he is; or, looks much like. Is it the ‘Line’ his father started?

But he rose…from his late father’s lesser glitter: he got elected the 2nd time, and the third time. Now, he’s in the next higher Step: a councilor, and is enjoying his 2nd term as one. The ‘magic’ of his ‘Line’ does not stay there: a younger brother is likewise an incumbent Councilman, and enjoying too his 2nd term! See what a ‘Line’ can do - ā la Cordillera?

Village ‘Nobility’. In the versified, oral, and spontaneous Ba-diw, the raconteurs often sing of: ni baknang, ni karangjan (of the rich one, of the nobility). Whether the rendered Ba-diw is ‘classical’ or ordinary, the two terms – baknang  and karangjan may not be detached: the reason is, one is the co-referent of the other.

In the Northern part and in the other Cordilleran languages, the equivalent term is Kadangyan  (or Kachangyan). Yes, traditional ‘nobility’, especially in the village has always been there, since who knows when.

Our illustrative example is one of today’s highest officials in his province. One of his ancestors – Pinao-an by name, represented “all the Igorot peoples” in the Malolos Convention at the Barasoin Church. Another ancestor – still on his father’s Line – was a Kachangyan  of Tuvdai, and to this day: one of the Barangays thereat bears the name (and it is written so historically) of that ancestor.

Note well however: that if one asks any of his supporters, how he got elected – over and over in the recent Past, most, if not all, shall credit his victories on recent Data; rather than on his ‘nobility’ Line, to wit: his own father was elected for the same position as he holds now; two uncles became mayors in their respective municipalities; two cousins – still of his father’s Line – became vice-mayors of another municipality far-flung, and so on.

So, we come thus to our searching question: what about our model referant – does he not ‘invoke’ too his traditional, village “nobility”? And his cousins – two councilors of still two other municipalities and, still in his father’s Line: What do they invoke?

All angles considered, it truly makes one’s feelings good – if the audience is only aware of one’s Present assets, political worth, ‘charisma’, etc.; rather than traditional ‘endowments’ – ‘nobility’ village, for example, And so, the Success stories come in: versions, don’t they?

Education: the great ‘Leveller’. Many of today’s Cordi EPL officials, came to office by way of Education – Achar  or  Ashall they call it. This should be happy ‘News’ to a newcoming politician thereat: If you are not any of the former-mentioned ‘cases’ e.g. ‘Nobility’, Name recall, Recent political Line, etc., have yourself educated: and then – with a ‘little money’, plus “guts”, you’ll be elected!

“Just like that?” asks the non-Cordi, and the Cordi goes: “Yes, just like that…sometimes too – with a little Luck or Gahat.”

Indeed, and your place-model and mine could be Baguio City itself: When was the ‘last’ time we had a mayor – or vice-mayor, of the village (Kafagway) nobility Line; or, even of the recent-political Line?

Rather, what usually happens is: generally, all candidates – regardless of background political, ethnic origin, material (or ‘immaterial’) charm, and so on, could get elected – first or 2nd time… or, never at all!

Of course, in the other Cordi areas, the Scenes and Situations may differ with those in Baguio ‘politics’; yet, on the whole: Enjoying Political Life or EPL in the Cordilleras is much much more pronounced than in other Philippine Settings.

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