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Sunday, February 8, 2009

The Baguio Centennial Conference

75 academic papers, 27 parallel panels, 2 frenetic days.  All these at the University of the Philippines Baguio (UPB), host to the 6-7 March 2009 Baguio Centennial Conference.

The theme for this historic event is "Patterns of Change: From Colonial Hill Station to Modern Metropolis." Here's the overview and backgrounder  of the affair (lifted from the CSC website):

Established as a chartered city on 1 September 1909, the city of Baguio was developed primarily as a rest and recreation for members of the American colonial bureaucracy in the Philippines. Like the colonial hill stations built in other parts of Asia during the age of Empire, Baguio served as a haven  offering  refuge from tropical heat while also serving as a reminder of the homeland to the Westerners who retreated to this highland resort.  Baguio remained as vacation capital of the Philippines long after the end of the American Regime. Today, it is a metropolis bursting at the seams.

Calling attention to the unhappy state to which the colonial hill stations of Asia had fallen, Robert Reed wrote that without the intervention of tourists and political benefactors, "their future prospects for controlled growth, appropriate and sustainable development, and effective environmental management appeared bleak." The year of the centennial is the most appropriate time to cast another look at Baguio's past, to examine its present state, and to envision its future.

Given its great significance, this gathering is something that all Baguio lovers  (those who love Baguio and those who have found love in Baguio) should not miss! :)

Schedule, Registration Fee, and Travel advisory? Go to the CSC website.

Burnham and McDonald's: Another Semiotical Sketch

In Skyland of the Philippines, Lawrence Wilson informs us that before the famous city planner and architect Daniel H. Burnham started landscaping in 1904 what was to become "Burnham Park," the area "was a grassy swamp where the natives caught eels and carabaos wallowed."¹

Today, that swamp has become an artificial lake where wooden swans and serpents swim and around which humans  with laptops can wallow in the cyber-ocean of free wi-fi access (though I still have to see one actually doing so  by the lake). As such, it has developed a charm of its own for the new generation. It is a charm  so irresistible that even McDonald's desires to have it rubbed on its already crowd-drawing reputation, as this photo shows which I took in one of this fastfood chain's outlets along Session Road.


It doesn't take deep thinking to see what this sign signifies:  McDonald's as a purveyor of its version of the good life in which food preparation, family bonding and ready relaxation are all at the same time readily available to  the Filipino family.

Now let's take a second look at the photo and note not only the parallels of an attempted analogy but also the incongruencies between the signifier and the signified.

Burnham Park and McDonald's do have some things in common. For one, they are symbols of the juggernaut of American econopolitics and culture, the former being a vestige of U.S.A.'s colonial project in the Philippines and the latter a ubiquitous feature of U.S.-bred capitalism. Two, both represent a sizable aspect of Baguio City's economy, the former being a tourist attraction and the latter a commercial establishment that  offers not only job opportunities to Baguio people but also  additional income to the city.  Third,  they  are places of play and relaxation, the former being a hub of health buffs  and a place for family get-togethers, and the latter a place where people could munch and chat the hours away and where children get to scream inside and slide down "play places." And fourth,  the existence of both is characterized by an "improvement" over nature, the former being a make over of what used to be a pristine pre-colonial environment and the latter a provider of processed foods that give us a sensation of  satisfaction while  making us gloss over the dire consequences of regularly horking down cholesterol, acid and sweets.

But the similarities break down when one considers that the park being a place for the health-conscious, fastfood stuff on one of its benches is an oddity.  (Of course, one can always argue here that not all who frequent Burnham have the same idea on what the park is for: some, for instance, think it is an open space for ceaseless cigarette smoking; or a big toilet bowl where you can crap and piss all you want; or  a picnic ground where you get to eat all the junk you can cram down your throat and be the litterbug you could ever be after each feast  :)  )  . Further, we must note that as cleanliness is part of a park's attraction, McDo's nice plastic wrappers and styros are eyesores, these being part of the city's garbage nightmare.

McDo's version of the good life as presented in the photo under examination is thus not as desirable as it wants us to believe.

¹Laurence Lee Wilson, The Skyland of the Philippines (Baguio City: Bookman, Inc.), 27.


Here are some of my most recent snapshots of the park:

Burnham 1dscf1877

Burnham 3, Feb 2009Burnham 4, Feb09

burnham 5 feb09

burnham 6 feb09

Living in "Kairos"

We are living in what the Greeks called the kairos -- the right moment -- for a 'metamorphosis of the gods,' of the fundamental principles and symbols.  This peculiarity of our time, which is certainly not of our conscious choosing, is the expression of the unconscious man within us who is changing.'

- Carl Jung, quoted in Daniel Pinchbeck, 2012: The Return of Quetzalcoatl (New York: Jeremy P. Tarcher/Penguin, 2007), 42.

Igorots and McDonald's: A Semiotical Sketch

Igorots and McDonald's

Igorot & McDonald's 2

More than being "cute" advertisements, these framed drawings posted in one of the McDonald's outlets in Baguio City can be texts for an extended semiological reading (i.e., signs to be studied or interpreted). For now, however, I shall content myself with a brief analysis of their possible signification.

The first photo clearly tells us that McDonald's is a place for everyone -- women and men, young and old, students and professionals, blue-collar and white-collar workers, cowboys and cagers, highlanders and lowlanders. All customers are depicted as having their backs turned to the viewer, aptly dramatizing the drawing power of easily prepared, nicely packaged, quickly served,  and delightfully devoured repast. McDonald's is simply irresistible, and makes our world look absolutely delightful and spankingly neat.

The Igorot couple are shown in their native or primitive attire perhaps to impress upon us the absorption or mainstreaming of traditional culture into McWorld. The second photo says as much (note especially the thumbs up sign).

On a more critical note, one can parse the fastfood ads this way:

1. That of the nine customers in the first photo only two are in native attire is a fitting portrayal of the fact that not too many full-blooded Igorots  find fastfood stuff attractive for long (see pt. # 4). Or of the  continuing minoritization of Indigenous Peoples at the advent of globalization. That the Igorot couple are in traditional garb in the midst of "regularly dressed" people in a modern facility perfectly encapsulates the alienation of the Igorot in modernity -- they are simply out of place in an artificial world created by the McDonaldization of their environment.  And there seems to be no way out of this predicament.

3. Photo # 2 can remind us of the camera-loving Igorots serving as come-ons to local and foreign tourists at some heritage sites in the Cordillera (read: commodification of culture).

4. The lone Igorot doesn't look healthy; he seems  emaciated. He looks a bit excited, but not totally happy.  To an Igorot who grew up with a daily fare of carbo, protein and fiber-rich diet, a marshmallow-soft hamburger and a handful of thinly sliced fried potatoes could not be much of a meal.  That is why most of the time, a lot of Igorots still prefer GoodTaste, Jack's, or Marosan's over McDonald's, Jollibee or Chowking.  No, you simply cannot make natives who have been feasting on rice, meat,  and vegetables robust with processed food.

So there goes the signification of two signs (of the times).

Panagbenga 2009 in Pix: Day 1

Got these last 01 February on my way home from BGH where I spent the night watching over my sister Faith who gave birth to a girl the day before.  BGHMC 01Feb09

The three-hour "car holiday" on the main thoroughfares at the central business district before the start of the opening parade was something that could make you hanker for the time when kilometric traffic snarls and suffocating car fumes were unheard of in this so-called "Simla of the Philippines."

Session Rd b 01Feb09Session, Magsaysay, Harrison, AbanaoSession Rd a 01Feb09Magsaysay 01Feb09Magsaysay b 01 Feb09

Some highlights of the opening parade...

[caption id="attachment_2260" align="aligncenter" width="278" caption="Unsung Heroes. Lourdes Fangki: "No awan basurero, awan ti serbi ti Baguio.""]Panagbenga 01Feb09[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_2255" align="aligncenter" width="246" caption="Baguio's youngest biker?"]Baguio's youngest biker?[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_2257" align="aligncenter" width="271" caption="PNP vs FBI. These bikers have "FBI" (Full Blooded Igorot?) printed on the front their shirts."]PNP vs FBI. These bikers have "FBI" (Full Blooded Igorot?) printed on the front their shirts.[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_2258" align="aligncenter" width="253" caption="Police Officer vs Army Ranger (wannabe?). Mr. Camouflage is one of the several members of an Airsoft group (see next photo)."]Police Officer vs Army Ranger (wannabe?). Mr. Camouflage is one of the several members of an Airsoft group.[/caption]

Panagbenga 01Feb09

Friday, February 6, 2009

Useful English Terms/Phrases- Pinoy Style!

Got this tickler from manang Helen Stoke's forwarded email :

♦ Use ADIEU in a sentence:  If you are ADIEU, the Arabs will kill you.

♦ Use SCHOOLING in a sentence: (Phone rings)... Hello? Who SCHOOLING?

♦ Use AFFECT in a sentence: Maria is wearing AFFECT diamond ring.

♦ Use DELETION in a sentence: The balat of DELETION is crispy.

♦ Use TENACIOUS in a sentence: I went to the shoe store to buy a pair of TENACIOUS.

♦ Use IRAQ, EGYPT and IRAN in a sentence: I threw IRAQ at EGYPT and then I RAN.

♦ Use DEFLATE in a sentence: Can you please wash DEFLATE for me?

♦ Use PERSUADING in a sentence: Pepe and Pilar got married on Nov. 1, 2008. So on Nov. 1, 2009, they are going to celebrate their PERSUADING anniversary.

♦ Use DEDUCT, DEFENSE, DEFEAT, and DETAIL in a sentence: DEDUCT jumped over DEFENSE; first DEFEAT, and then DETAIL!

LGU Balbalan in History

[Note: What follows is a final draft of my research on the history of LGU Balbalan in time for the municipality's centennial. Corrections are welcome. - sms]

Balbalan is one of the eight municipalities of the Province of Kalinga.  It is subdivided into 14 barangays, namely: Ababa-an, Balantoy, Balbalan Proper, Balbalasang, Buaya, Dao-angan, Gawa-an, Mabaca, Maling, Pantikian, Poblacion (Salegseg), Poswoy, Talalang, and Tawang.

This municipal district draws its name from an ancient practice.  It is said that war parties coming from certain areas in northern Kalinga (probably, the ancient region of Banao)  used to meet by a creek when mapping out their plan of attack against or when regrouping after attacking a certain village. Since they would always wash (balbal, in the local language) their blood-stained bodies and weapons in the creek, the place and its adjacent areas came to be known as "Balbalan." (DILG-CAR 1999, 307).

Though it continues to wear the name, Balbalan has clearly left its bloody days as dramatized by the selection of Banao, one of its ethnic sub-groups,  as "the most peaceful tribe in Kalinga." (Dannang 1994, 5).

Spanish Era: At the Edge of the World

The Spaniards made at least 10 incursions [1] into the land of the Kalingas from the early 1600s to the late 1800s, four of which were made from the west (Abra) primarily targeting the regions of Banao and Guinaang (Scott 1974, 2; Bacdayan 1967, 17; Lawless 1975, 43-45). Although they succeeded around the mid-1800s in establishing a telegraph station in Balbalasang (where, incidentally, they appointed the noted Banao leader Juan Puyao as a gobernadorcillo or councilor) and subsequently hacking out an Ilocos-Abra-Kalinga-Cagayan trail, they failed to establish a total politico-military foothold in Kalingaland (cf. Scott 1974, 249; Sugguiyao 1990, 15; Bacdayan, 17-18; Dozier 1966, 29-32).

It is safe to say, then, that prior to the establishment of American rule in Kalinga, the ethnic sub-groups covered by the present geopolitical configuration of Balbalan were, like other Kalinga communities at that time, organized according to an indigenous system or concept of local governance operating within a "bilateral kinship group" circumscribed by semi-permanent territorial boundary. [2] (Barton 1949, 32; cf. Dozier 1967, 12 f; Sugguiyao, 48)

This period saw the rise of several community leaders often mentioned in Balbalan orature: Sagaoc, Balutoc, Masadao, Gaddawan, Dawegoy, Lang-ayan, Bayudang, Gammong, et al.

American Era: Toward the Mainstream

When the Americans imposed their system of government over the archipelago, the land of the Kalingas became one of the highlights of their so-called "pacification campaign." On 18 August 1907, Kalinga, then a sub-province of Lepanto-Bontoc, came under the control of Lt. Gov. Walter Franklin Hale who established his seat of government in Lubuagan where he organized the sub-province into four districts: Tinglayan-Tanudan; Balbalan-Pasil; Pinukpuk-Tobo (Tabuk), and Liwan (Rizal). (Sugguiyao, 16)

Exactly a year later, Act 1876 of the Philippine Commission carved the old Mountain Province out of northern Luzon with Kalinga as one of its five sub-provinces.  Kalinga was immediately reorganized into five municipal districts -- Lubuagan (including Tanudan and Pasil), Balbalan (including Balinciagao), Tabuk (with Liwan or Rizal), Tinglayan, and Pinukpuk -- each lead by "presidents." Among these municipal chiefs was Puyao [3] who served in that capacity for close to 24 years under five subprovincial chief executives: Walter F. Hale (1907-1915), Alex F. Gilfilan (1915), Samuel E. Kane (1915-1919), Tomas Blanco (1918-1923), and  Nicasio Balinag (1923-1936). Puyao did not run for office during the first local elections  in the area in 1934, and was succeeded by Awingan. Three years later, municipal chief executives became known as "Municipal District Mayors." (De Los Reyes 1986, 28; Sugguiyao, 22; Jenista, 70,259).

Little is known of the political organization of the municipality during the Japanese interlude, except that in 1942 a Japanese garrison was established in Balbalan, as well as in Lubuagan and Tabuk.

Post-War Era: Charting a Course

The old Mountain Province was regularized as a "first class province" in 1959 and new local elections were  held. In Balbalan, Pedro Sagalon was elected mayor (Sugguiyao, 23).

From the birth of the new Mountain Province on 18 June 1966 to 1988, there is a dearth of records on the succession of leadership in Balbalan. From 1988 to the present, however, government records list the following as mayors: Leonardo Banganan (1988-1992), Edward Calumnag (1992-1995), Rosendo Dakiwag (1995-2001), and Allen J.C. Mangaoang (2001 to present).4

The present leadership of Balbalan has special significance to those who feared that the death of Juan Puyao in  1948 meant the end of his political bloodline. In the words of Kalinga historian Miguel Sugguiyao (1990, 39):

The late Juan Puyao was not only recognized as a prominent leader in his own Balbalan corner but also in the whole Kalinga as well as the whole undivided Mountain Province. Since his demise in 1948 to the presnt (1982) no one among the descendants of the late Ex-President Juan Puyao has gained the limelight in Kalinga leadership.

Today, the spotlight is once again trained on Puyao whose spirit lives on in one of his great grandsons who, it is hoped, will continue to build on the achievements of his illustrious ascendant as he leads the charting of a new course for Balbalan -- and perhaps for Kalinga in the near future -- in a new era of governance.


[1] In The Kalinga Hilltribe of the Philippines (1990, 13-15), Sugguiyao lists three, but a comparative study of available documents as cited reveals more than that number.

[2] Barton referred to these territories as "regions," which is perhaps roughly equivalent to what the German traveler Alexander Schadenberg (1886) called "province," as in "Banao province" (Scott 1975, 131). Note, however, that, according to Scott in another work (1974, 313), there was no such village as Banao, although "people from Inalangan down the Saltan River to Salegseg referred to themselves as Banao people." Schadenberg also mentioned a "Chief Liagao" in the rancheria of Balbalasang (Scott 1975, 133).

[3] Along with Lubuagan Presidente Antonio Canao, Puyao's peerless leadership and his contribution to the success of American rule in Kalinga prompted former congressman of the old Mountain Province Alfredo Lam-en to file a bill seeking to rename Balbalan and Lubuagan "Puyao" and "Canao," respectively (Finin 2005, 194).

Works Cited:


Bacdayan, Albert. The Peace Pact System of the Kalingas in the Modern World. Ann Arbor, MI: University Microfilms, Inc., 1967.

Barton, Roy F. The Kalingas: Their Institutions and Custom Law. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1949.

De Los Reyes, Angelo J. & Aloma M. De Los Reyes, eds. Igorot: A People Who Daily Touch the Earth and Sky. Vol. II. Baguio City: Cordillera Schools Group, 1986.

DILG-CAR. Cordillera Almanac Vol. 1 : Local Government Units. Baguio City: DILG-CAR, 1999.

Dozier, Edward P. Mountain Arbiters: The Changing Life of a Philippine Hill People. Tucson, AZ: The University of Arizona Press, 1966.

________________. The Kalinga of Northern Luzon, Philippines. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1967.

Finin Gerard A. The Making of the Igorot: Contours of Cordillera Consciousness. Manila: Ateneo de Manila University Press, 2005.

Jenista, Frank Lawrence. The White Apos: American Governors on the Cordillera Central. Quezon City: New Day Publishers, 1987.

Lawless, Robert. The Social Ecology of the Kalingas of Northern Luzon. Ann Arbor, MI: Xerox University Microfilms, 1975.

_________________, ed. German Travelers on the Cordillera (1860-1890). Manila: Filipiniana Book Guild, 1975.

_________________. The Discovery of the Igorots: Contacts with the Pagans of Northern Luzon. Quezon City: New Day Publishers, 1974.

Sugguiyao, Miguel. The Kalinga Hilltribe of the Philippines. Manila: ONCC, 1990.


Dannang, Noe. “The Rotary Way of Curbing Vindictive Killings.” The Highland Leader. October 1994, 5.

Scott, William Henry. “Notes on the History of the Mountain Provinces – IV.” University of Baguio Journal, IX-1 (1974): 1-4.