March 2, 2024

The sound of merrymaking and gongs filled the air, as thousands of people from the 13 towns and far away lands gathered to celebrate the 123rd Benguet foundation anniversary through the Adivay Festival grand cañao on Nov. 23 at the Benguet Sports Complex in La Trinidad.

Following the civic parade, the traditional pig catching or depap in the Ibaloy dialect followed, where strong representatives from the 13 towns entered the corral and caught the pigs, which they would later cook and serve to hungry revelers.

The owik tan tayaw followed, where provincial officials led by Gov. Melchor Diclas and wife, Ever, Vice Gov. Ericson Felipe and wife, Dr. Gharie Liza, and Rep. Eric Go Yap performed the tayaw as directed by the elders, asking for blessings from the Almighty for a more successful and vibrant future of Benguet.

What followed was the sound of 13 pigs being simultaneously staked to the heart to signal, even to the farthest barangays, the favorable start of the celebration.

Diclas in his opening message, told of a story of a stranger being lost in another village. The villagers took pity on this stranger, so they built him a home and cared for him.

Diclas said the Benguet people are like the villagers in the story, where the people are truly caring and have a deep sense of extending help to anyone in need.

University of the Philippines Baguio Professor Jimmy Fong, during his speech in the earlier Benguet Awards, said the ugali or values is deeply ingrained in the Benguet culture.

Fong cited the peaceful practices of Benguet such as aduyon and binnadang (helping hand or the equivalent of the Filipino trait bayanihan) as well as avoiding doing things that would harm others or the paniyew.

“But things are completely changing, our peaceful habits have led to our advantage, but sometimes to our exploitation,” Fong said. 

But Fong said the 10 awardees, with their various advocacies, have carried in their heart these exemplary Benguet values that brought them the accolade they were able to receive. He hopes that this would be multiplied to all iBenguets as well.

But one thing that does not change in the province is the assurance of watwat for everyone who attended the celebration – every reveler, whether from the 13 towns of Benguet, ambulant vendors or guests from neighboring provinces, enjoyed the main celebration and went home full and with takeaways.  

There was no special guest during the main program, but the gap was filled with recorded video greetings from some senators wishing the people of Benguet a happy festival.

For the future celebration of the founding anniversary, Felipe said there would be improvements to be done such as expanding the program to include street dancing and a float parade.

Yap, for his part, said he was overwhelmed seeing all the plans that he committed to the people of Benguet come to fruition, such as the finishing of the multipurpose gym and the start of the Aquatic Center, all within the Benguet Sports Complex.

Yap said the planned convention center also to be put up next to the Aquatic Center is also in the pipeline. The revelry continued until the evening, with the battle of the bands for the celebration with the theme, “Benguet: Gateway for unforgettable getaways”.  – Ofelia C. Empian