February 23, 2024

The Sagada Etag Festival was successful because of the people who prepared, monitored and supported the event. The committees met to evaluate the recent festival on Feb. 13. The group was well-represented. Some government officials attended and without doubt inspired the different committees with Sagada Mayor James Pooten welcoming everyone and commending its noble efforts.
Etag Festival overall coordinator Denver Sibayan deserves commendation for wisely and wittingly facilitating the evaluation of the festival. The working committees and volunteers who did well contributed a lot to the event’s success. They deserve commendations, too.
I am grateful to the mayor, Sibayan, the committees, and the Church of Saint Mary the Virgin for allowing our group to stage our Marcsongs Etag Concert. I forgot to mention in my last column Felix and Mary Falag-ey for being among the concert sponsor.

Luisa Lipawen is a successful businesswoman. She raised all her children well. They now have their own families and are successful in their business pursuits. Her kindness and generosity is beyond question. Her generosity is not confined at home. She donates regularly to the church and to charitable institutions.
On Feb. 13, she requested me to celebrate her baptism anniversary. The day became a significant date for me since it was the first time that I celebrated the Holy Mass for her particular intention, to remember her baptism day. She is an inspiration to the family, to the young, and to priests.

Richard Balabag Lonogan, or Ricky, was an unpresuming high school student of Antadao, Sagada. From the 261 graduates of the Philippine Military Academy in 2019, Ricky ranked sixth.
He never dreamt of becoming a soldier because of his height. He never dreamt of being among the top 10 graduates of PMA Mabalasik Class of 2019.
He first enrolled in Engineering because of his good knowledge in mathematics. It was through his math teacher that he encountered the PMA.
He tried his luck and passed the PMA entrance examination. Inside the academy, he encountered a lot of challenges, but which he was able to overcome. He was grateful to the blessings of poverty that gave him determination to pursue his dreams. Poverty was his source of inspiration. His sense of autonomy allowed him to support his parents by not depending on them financially. His intention was more purified by the Academy’s motto, “Courage, Integrity, and Loyalty.”
His sense of service that used to be associated with earning and source of living leveled up to selfless service. His lines were powerful: “I did not compete in the academic aspect of the Academy. I simply worked hard. I did my best. But unknowingly, I found myself among the cream of the crop. I did not avoid demerits. I simply obeyed the rules with honesty and patience.” I liked his quote, “Don’t strive for number one. Strive for excellence.”
According to this young, intelligent, and energetic soldier, “Competition can cause conflict. It can even compel us to step on others or destroy people.”
Ricky is a grateful person. He will not forget his roots, his family, school, and the church. He realized that the family is indeed the first institution to be immersed in for cultural and Christian values. He was never ashamed of his family. He is grateful to Antadao National High School, his teachers, and his classmates who helped him dream big. The foundation of his personality is traced to his family and the school.
Ricky was a rebellious kid but eventually matured to become a healthy critique. In high school, he experienced a drying spirituality, which he redeemed in the Academy. PMA brought back his faith and his love of God.
He narrated his faith-peak experience that left me teary eyed. In his first two months inside the Academy, he felt the deep sense of God during the Holy Mass. Unknowingly, he was shedding tears because he was absorbed by the sacredness of the church and the presence of God.
Ricky had been praying, “Lord, if only I can enter the academy, that’s enough. I will take charge. But I realized that I cannot do it by myself. I realized that I need God.”
Ricky received a bible from his sister, Irene “Andemang.” He kept it. There is a tradition in the Academy that when receiving a letter from friends or family, the number of words of the letter will determine the pushups. He received a bible with many words to mean unlimited pushups, which he did to improve his stamina and sustain his discipline.
Ricky comes from a big family of 11 – six girls and five boys. He is the ninth child. His parents, Lito and Victoria, are from Antadao.
Ricky is an inspiration to the millennials. He talks with credibility. He quoted Francis Kong who said, “Discipline is the weakness of Filipinos.” Hence, as one of the best graduates of the Academy, he believes that discipline must be given more attention. He believes that the Reserved Officers’ Training Course is one way to train and instill discipline among the young. He also encourages the young to take the PMA entrance examination.
He has proved that poverty is not a hindrance to success and the need of God will never end in vain.
Ricky is encouraging, at the same time challenging the people of Sagada, especially the young to refrain from illegal drugs, gambling, and other vices. He also challenged the youth to be firm and not to be deceived by the Communist Party of the Philippines/New Peoples Army.
“Ganduyan must maintain her good image, her identity, and her dignity. Don’t be a part of the problem. We must educate our people. Schools must be vigilant because schools can become a good place for drugs if not secured and sufficiently guided.”
Many quarters claimed the ideology of the NPA is already “irrelevant and unrealistic.” NPAs fight their fellowmen and their town mates. They kill their own.
Ricky encourages people to be vigilant against NPA recruitment and to help families deter them from going to the communities.
“We should stop insurgency and drive away the NPA because they never did good to the communities. We must be vigilant against their deceiving and persuasive speeches. As an officer, I wish for a Gawis ay Mountain Province by staying away from insurgency and the NPA. Let us instead support government programs but still remind government officials to uphold good governance. Our generation today needs educated and learned government officials. Honesty must be the gauge of a successful governance.”
We have many good moral leaders and models in our communities. I hope to scribble them in the coming columns.
Reach me at [email protected] or at 0905-165-3699.