May 18, 2024

I wish to give my tribute to a good old friend, Mayor Gabino Ganggangan, before he will be laid to rest on Feb. 5 in Sadanga, Mountain Province.
Farewell, dear comrade. A good father of his family, a respected pangat, a true leader of his town, a spokesman of peace and development in the Cordillera, and a good example of a politician where service, dedication, and humility prevail over prestige and wealth.
He placed the small interior town of Sadanga in the Philippine map through organizational partnership, sisterhood ties, and self-reliance.
But what caught the attention of national media is his bold statements against the communist movement.
For example, he was quoted by media saying, “Leave the Cordillera because their agenda is not the agenda of the Cordillera people. Stop recruiting and stop exploiting the youth of the Cordillera,” referring to Communist Party of the Philippines/New People’s Army (CPP/NPA) recruitment.
“Stop recruiting into the armed revolution the kabataan (youth) of the indigenous peoples in the Cordillera. We, Cordillerans, know our aspirations and we know how to get them.”
Mayor Gabi spoke his convictions and people listen. That is because it was framed on logic and experience.
We were together with then Fr. Conrado Balweg’s Cordillera Bodong Alliance/Cordillera People’s Liberation Army (CBA/CPLA) as regional staff negotiating and establishing the Cordillera region.
We were then young professionals but his level of understanding on Cordillera struggle for self-determination is way beyond his age.
That is when we call him ama Gabino proving himself in discussion during several sleepless nights of planning and assessments.
I can recall several instances at the Cordillera House when we always discuss with humor along with Edwin Muyao (+), Rudy Tarapen, and Fausto Kadatar. Other staff like Juanita Chulsi and Marianette Laguicao sometimes wonder about the seriousness of issues discussed in jest.
We talked about weird possibilities, extreme situations and laughed about it. But that is when I thought Gabi is a visionary given the opportunity.
True enough, kadwa Gabi soon became a leader and spokesperson on Cordillera autonomy, peace, and development then an accomplished local chief executive.
Before Fr. Balweg’s assassination in December 1999, Gabi, an engineer by profession, manong Fernando Bahatan, Jr. and myself were supposed to be presenters in Germany of an Integrated Development Plan for Cordillera selected areas.
I was impressed he was a technical person, probably residues of being a licensed civil engineer. The plan was shelved but we continued to pursue development visions in our own way.
Looking back at the struggle for Cordillera autonomy, at least the Cordillera region was established in our time.
It was a stepping stone to the real autonomy that Fr. Balweg, mayor Gabi, and great leaders of the Cordillera had envisioned.
Knowing that any struggle is a segmented approach, we look forward to our young sons and daughters in the Cordillera to speak for themselves their dream and aspirations of a better Cordillera region.
Even from afar, I still continue to monitor mayor Gabi through fellow media friends like his stand for people, culture, and community. He lambasted alleged pseudo-non-government organizations fronting the CPP; he spoke in behalf of mayors against budget cuts; he spoke to be self-reliant during the pandemic lockdowns; and even suggested practical Covid spread mitigation. Yet, he still maintained organizational unity of the CBA-CPLA, attended to tribal, social, and family functions.
He was a very busy executive, tribal leader, and family man. Until his pacemaker cannot catch up with his pace….
Farewell, kadwa Gabi. Happy reunion with Ka Ambo, ama Yag-ao, Atty. Nestor Atitiw, John Sagmayao, Edwin Muyao and other visionaries now in the great beyond.
(The author is a former Baguio journalist, who now teaches Mathematics at Skyline High School, America’s first Magnet School in Dallas, Texas, U.S.A.)