BONTOC, Mountain Province – Mayor Jerome Tudlong, Jr. led the town’s constituents in their renewed commitment and support for the Cordillera’s pursuit of autonomy when he received the symbolic unity gong from the delegates of Sadanga on July 10 at the Bontoc Municipal Capitol Auditorium.
The Unity Gong Relay made its way through municipal governments in the province to promote regional autonomy and garner support from local leaders.
Sadanga Vice Mayor Paul Farong-ey in his turnover message said Sadanga is one with the Cordillera as he rallied unity in the pursuit of regional autonomy.
He added the benefits of becoming an autonomous region have been thoroughly explained, and once achieved, the regional autonomy will be enjoyed by everyone, by this generation, and the next generations to come.
In his acceptance message, Tudlong said the conditions in the Cordillera are different from the lowlands and the coasts, such as topography and indigenous culture, which are reasons for some national policies, programs, and projects that are not appropriate to our situation.
He said resource management systems, ownership and property concepts, social and family values, and indigenous knowledge systems and practices remain strong in the Cordilleran communities. Thus, granting autonomy to the region would empower local leaders with decision-making authority that will respond to particular conditions, needs, and aspirations of the Cordillerans.
Gary Pekas of the Provincial Government of Mountain Province who is also a member of the Speakers Bureau for Social Preparation of CAR into an Autonomous Region talked about the significance of the Unity Gong Relay and answered questions from the participants during the open forum.
Also present during the Unity Gong Relay Program in Bontoc are the members of the sangguniang bayan led by Vice Mayor Eusebio Kabluyen, delegates from the Provincial Government of Mountain Province led by Gov. Bonifacio Lacwasan, Jr., and personnel from the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples Mountain Province headed by Atty. Wilson Kalangeg.
Employees from the municipal government and partner national government agencies also participated in the activity while the Sangguniang Kabataan Samoki Chapter headed by Chairperson Anton Zaren Nasungan showcased a cultural performance.
Tudlong, who led the turnover of the unity gong to the Municipality of Besao led by Mayor Bryne Bacwaden on the same day hoped the Unity Gong Relay will not merely be a ceremonial activity but rather will bring a strong message to every Cordilleran to rally and give their support for the realization of an autonomous region.
“For the past years, we have witnessed how our leaders and other partner stakeholders gave their effort, commitment, and perseverance in rallying support in pursuit of regional autonomy. Yet, it is disheartening to know that some of those who have been passionately campaigning for the long and overdue aspiration to become an autonomous region have gone to great beyond and still did not witness it become a reality. They did their part. Now is our turn to do ours,” he said.
He also appealed to the participants to relay the messages on autonomy to their families and respective communities.
The inter-municipality turnover of the symbolic unity gong is part of the activities in celebration of the 36th Cordillera Month celebration, with the theme “Celebrating One, Resilient, Diverse, and Inclusive Journey toward Regional Autonomy”. This year’s celebration is hosted by the province of Apayao and the Regional Development Council Committee for Indigenous Peoples Concerns chaired by Lacwasan with the NCIP headed by Regional Director Atty. Atanacio Addog. –Alpine L. Killa-Malwagay