July 19, 2024

Now is the time to reflect on our stance. “Walang iwanan, lahat kasama”. As a citizen of Bontoc, do we help build this community or do we isolate ourselves or isolate others? As you think about this, maybe it’s good to remember one of the rhymes we were taught when we were young – Magtanim ay ‘di biro, maghapong nakayuko, ‘di man lang makaupo, ‘di man lang makatayo.

Ang tingin ko dito sa nag-compose eh compliance lamang at hindi commitment to planting rice. If we were to recreate the song with much commitment, how would it sound? I know at the end of my speech a fellow Bontoc would be able to compose such.

We engage rather than grandstand. We see that no concern is too small and that we are humble and prudent enough to address them.

I stayed in Abra for a couple of months and I remember an instance when we were invited by Tineg Mayor Corinthia Crisologo for a conference because the school heads were not attending meetings she called and some were not going to the schools during the pandemic.

She was well-aware of data in schools within her munisipyo. This was brought about by her exposure in some of the self capacity building activities she took as she prepared for her position.

This invitation was a way of telling all of us that the local government values the people and that she has to tell them what they need to hear. To her, no concern is small and that these concerns have to be addressed by both parties involved. Her being in the position to bring parties together, she did that well. It does not need to be a grand project to make us engaged. Even small concerns such as those that affect simple folks are important.

Just like how a seemingly simple pest situation can infest a whole plot of land, if the source of the problem is not addressed you might be setting yourself up for bigger problems later.

We connect than disconnect. We need to create common ground.

A month ago, we had the opportunity to interact with local officials and residents of Barangay Graceville, Bulacan. It was a 2015 model barangay awarded by the prestigious Galing Pook awards for outstanding local governance program.

One striking example of community engagement was when the barangay captain initiated a regular activity where the barangay officials attend the flag-raising ceremony of Barangay Graceville in the different sitios scheduled every Monday.

The officials use it as an avenue to give information on services of the barangay and the chance to gather their issues. These key conversations were essential in understanding their hope and vision for the barangay. This 360-degree feedback creates opportunities and self-improvement mechanisms. Hindi pang-Maritess o Marisol na taga-sulsol ng intriga lamang kundi pagtulong ang kanilang isinagawa.

The success of Barangay Graceville is an example where the barangay local government was true to its promise to serve. Fostering a mindset of shared goals through outlining responsibilities, and a mindset of learning not a culture of blame. As one 70-year old Graceville kagawad said, “Masarap manungkulan na ikaw ay nakakatulong na hindi lahat ay galing sa barangay o sa gobyerno.”

Og-ogfo is our indigenous practice that continues to bring people together most especially during the cycles of the planting season. This is a common ground for each one to be able contribute and will be able to reap fruits from their labor.

These four key ingredients I have seen in my different engagements all over the Cordillera – initiating and not maintaining the status quo, building not isolating, engaging not grandstanding, and connecting rather than disconnecting.

And I see and believe that these have been embedded in the structures and rituals that we already have as a people of Bontoc. We just seem to have taken it for granted doing them during only special events such as weddings, births or deaths, campaign periods, or harvests.

October is Vocation Month. We constantly pray for vocations. We animate the young to the religious life and priestly life.

Reach me at [email protected].