December 6, 2023

One of the groups that I am associated with in Baguio even while I was away for a couple of years from our city, is the Baguio Apaches, which sends regular news of its activities to me.

This is because of the dizzying pace that our 2022 chief Jose “Ray” Olarte, a Baguio boy, led the nation (as the group likes to be called) in its activities and in no time transformed it from an exclusive private group of Baguio residents gathering in fellowship together with their families in an annual bonfire at year’s end sharing food, songs, fun, and laughter and the blessings of the year; into a full blown civic organization that has been conducting community projects not only in the city but also out of town humanitarian assistance.

Right after the turnover rites during the grand bonfire of 2021, chief Ray entered for the Apaches a memorandum of agreement with the Onjon ni Ivadoy Association, Inc. (Ivadoy) whereby, the Ivadoy, as the administrator of the Ibaloy Heritage Garden at the Burnham Park, granted the Apaches permission to conduct its annual grand bonfire there.

Chief Ray donated a sound system for use at the Ibaloy Heritage Garden. Both associations agreed to conduct projects and activities for the city. Since then, they have been conducting joint activities in the garden.

What truly caught my attention was the construction of a chapel at the Engineer’s Hill barangay, which is now duly recognized by the Archdiocese of Baguio and Benguet as the Chapel of the Divine Mercy.

Chief Ray covered the costs of the construction of the chapel with donations by some past chiefs and elders, but he credited everything to the Baguio Apaches, including the musical instruments and uniforms of the choir. The Engineer’s Hill barangay council awarded him and the nation for the project.

Through the dynamic leadership of Chief Ray, the Apaches harnessed the capabilities of the “peons” in many civic and community activities that included fund-raisers like the Apache Golf Tournament, which generated the highest funds so far in the 10 years that this event was conducted.

The main beneficiary was the Silungan Center of the Department of Social Welfare and Development which, among others, received kitchenwares, linens, water dispensers with contents, rice, and other food items for the abused girls and women under the care of the DSWD.

The First Apache Trail Run was also a success with the City Health Services Office as the beneficiary of a laptop computer and printer.

The Apaches also joined the 1st Fun Chili Cook-Off hosted by the John Hay Development Corporation; One Community Outreach Program hosted by the Archdiocese of Baguio; participated in the Baguio’s Dengue Drive with donation of dengue kits and posters to the city; Donated a suction machine for a beneficiary suffering from a systemic lupus; participated in the Brigada Eskwela at Quezon Hill Elementary School where a portion of the school grounds were paved by the peons and Apache Braves (members) to prevent flooding of the grounds.

The Apaches sportsfest was also a fund-raiser which resulted in the purchase of a suction machine and a specialized wheelchair for patients with systemic lupus and cerebral palsy.

The Baguio Apaches joined the 1st Dengue Summit where its efforts were duly recognized by the city government. It also joined the first and second legs of the Celebrate Community Joint Project with the Lions Clubs and Rotary Club Session Road. The Baguio Apaches is also a participant in the climate change program of the city government.

Through the leadership of chief Ray, the Baguio Apaches brought a truckload of relief goods for the earthquake victims in Abra where he and other Braves and peons delivered the goods to the local government unit of Bangued, Abra.

In all of these civic activities, chief Ray kept up the interest and enthusiasm of the Apache Braves and peons by holding a total of seven Apaches powwows, an out-of-town fellowship at his Damortis farm, and the realization of the Baguio Apaches garden at Wright Park that is now the home of the Apache icon and a tourist attraction.

New Apaches uniforms and shirts were available to the members and peons.

It is no wonder that before the election of the nation’s chief, many of the elders, past chiefs and Braves clamored for his retention as leader of the nation, but he demurred because he did not want to break tradition – truly a mark of a good leader.

Last November, through the efforts of chief Ray, the Baguio Apaches, Inc. was duly accredited as a civil society organization by the city government.

An Apache elder who was pushing for the retention of chief Ray beyond his term, remarked that during all his time in the Apaches, he has never seen such a dedicated and indefatigable leader than chief Ray, who is on the job as chief 24/7 and has never run out of resources. We agree.

Chief Ray raised the level of consciousness of the Baguio Apaches from the once private group of Baguio boys singing around the bonfire to a “nation” of Braves with a sense community.

In our books, Baguio Apaches chief Ray Olarte is our 2022 Civic Man of the Year.