December 5, 2023

Two Cordillera towns have declined the request of a team to shoot videos in their areas to be used for the President’s State of the Nation Address (SONA), citing the localities’ adherence to the policies they themselves crafted to protect their people from the threat of the Covid-19.
In Sagada, Mountain Province, the local Covid-19 Task Force has declined the request of film and TV director Joyce Bernal and company to shoot videos in the locality, even if the team already entered the town on July 5.
Vice Mayor Felicito Dula, Sagada Covid-19 Task Force officer-in-charge, has expressed gratitude to Bernal’s team for choosing the town as background for the President’s SONA, but he said they could not accommodate the request.
In a letter to Fern Castro, Bernal’s coordinator, Dula cited the policies that bar hotels, inns, and other tourist-related establishments from accepting guest reservations or bookings and another that disallows people coming from places categorized as “red” areas of Covid-19 to enter the municipality.
The visiting team members are mostly based in the National Capital Region, where Covid-19 cases are highly prevalent.
“The (strict ban on the) entry of people coming outside of Mountain Province to Sagada has been effective in maintaining the municipality as a Covid-19-free community. Sagada, specifically our health facilities, is not ready for a Covid-19 positive case,” Dula stated in the letter, as he asked for the team’s understanding to the local government’s decision.
In a post in its Facebook page, the municipality said Bernal and her team understood the town’s decision and that they apologized.
Bernal, however, asked if they could be allowed to spend the night in the town so that the team could rest before they could return to Metro Manila, to which the task force agreed since the crew was already checked in in one of the town’s accommodation establishments.
Bernal and her team, which included actor Piolo Pascual, had the required health clearances and other documents, such as letter from the Malacañang Presidential Broadcast Staff authorizing the group to shoot video materials in Sagada for Duterte’s SONA.
The team proceeded to Banaue, Ifugao the next day, but Mayor John Wesley Dulawan also politely refused their entry to the town, citing as basis the executive order he issued that bans travel in and out of the municipality from July 3 to July 10, also as a means to prevent the spread of the Covid-19.
Bernal’s team ended in Baguio City where they were allowed to shoot footages that will be used for the President’s SONA.
The team reportedly underwent the required quarantine protocols before they were allowed entry to the city.
“Prior to the trip to Baguio, despite having received a permit from Malacanang, the group made it a point to register and accomplish the health declaration form online, submitted all the necessary requirements and was approved consequently. Upon arrival, Piolo Pascual, Director Joyce Bernal et. al. has followed all protocols set in place. They were not given any preferential treatment. Like the rest, they were made to wait in line and had to follow all the protocols set in place,” a post in the Benjamin Managlong Public Servant Facebook page stated.
“As Baguio has well-equipped triage stations, we are capacitated to screen persons who enter our borders. Our safety as a city was never put at risk. The group of Piolo Pascual and Dir. Joyce Bernal respected Baguio City and its protocols,” the same post added.
Bernal is the director of the President’s SONA, which is expected to be delivered July 20. – Jane B. Cadalig