A luxury trip interconnected with three Ifugao towns

By Anthony A. Araos

“Better things come with a seemingly luxury vacation trip to Alfonso Lista, Banaue and Mayoyao. This has always been spectacular. ”

It is always amazing to see foreign tourists eagerly waiting for their evening trips through Ohayami Trans at Sampaloc, Manila. Their destination: Banaue in Ifugao, of course. I just saw 14 of them that night. Talked at length with some of them at the terminal, notably with two ladies from London and learned a lot from them. These two travelers from Britain asked me for other destinations to visit in the province. I readily told them to see Alfonso Lista and Mayoyao towns. “It is heartwarming to see all the natural wonders of these two towns,” I explained. I would always highly recommend a trip to these towns to those with a penchant for nature and adventure.
And if you have a peculiar taste for photography, all the more should you go for the rice terraces in Mayoyao or the dragon fruit fields in Alfonso Lista. Trips to Alfonso Lista, Banaue and Mayoyao are best remembered with photographs taken by a camera or cellphone.
Consider making a journey to these towns this summer vacation.
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Well and good, I’m seeing foreign tourists in Banaue. They’re obviously shunning China as a destination because of the corona virus outbreak. What happens next if the problem has been contained? Your guess is as good as mine.
So it’s time to map out plans to boost the Ifugao tourism industry. Over the years, it has been in a dismal state. So what can the intelligent men and women in the private sector really do? They should loudly voice out the need to provide incentives for building hotels, restaurants, resorts, tourist sites and other related facilities. Surely, the biggest incentive of them all is constructing an airport. Believe it or not: Incredibly stupid folks out here are saying that they don’t need one because of the Bagabag Airport. However, Ifugao has only 11 towns and it has to annex Bagabag first to add one more town to its roster. Bagagag is a town of Nueva Vizcaya. Besides, the said airport is not even operational! Hehehe!
Construction of visitor centers (like in the United States) and gift shops is a must-thing to do. Availment of group tour packages should be highly considered.
How about providing Internet connectivity in these destinations? In far-flung villages of Vietnam, tourists who are spending a great deal of time viewing panoramic views of rice terraces, are enjoying free Wi-Fi.
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At far-flung barangays of the capital town of Lagawe, there are still mothers who are giving their babies rice water, also known as “am,” as a substitute for breast milk or formula.
Rice water cannot replace breast milk or even formula because it contains only vitamin B. It has no protein, carbohydrates and other vitamins and minerals that infants need for their growth and development.
Sadly, this practice is rampant even in many other towns of Ifugao because of poverty and ignorance of most folks.
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I am once more asserting that the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI)-Ifugao Chapter, under the stewardship of businesswoman Jasmin Deleso, as being on the right track to revive itself and play a key role in resuscitating the province’s economy, and although there are challenges, it sure can weather these with innovative policies and related programs.
Ms. Deleso did need that dynamism, optimism and deep-seated conviction to transform the chapter after years of criticism that the PCCI-Ifugao Chapter is merely a “social club” and the public would not take their activities “seriously.” Today, the PCCI-Ifugao Chapter is expanding its horizons by even putting up a Newsletter.
Yet, Ms. Deleso says that this cherished hard-earned success through the publication of a newsletter and conduct of a business seminar soon is just the tip of the iceberg. She wants to elevate the chapter to greater heights, to one that has a more national impact and no time is better than the present. “We can help micro-to-small-medium enterprises (MSMEs) with our programs, projects and activities,” she said in a recent conversation. I fully agree! After all, the MSMEs are major contributors to the Ifugao economy.
‘She is also doing her bit of educating the public through the newsletter. “We’re also hopeful that the newsletter will make it easier for investors and traders to come to Ifugao,” she added.
Enough of Gotad and Kulpi parades and trade fairs, for of what use is a trade fair in the global order if one is selling “fish ball” or “kikiam” thus, I demand an explanation. No amount of excuses or alibis can change the fact that this is not a good way of showcasing the best produce of a province. The PCCI-Ifugao Chapter should actively pursue a well-planned, forward-looking program with the participation of its members in order to address a number of socio-economic concerns in Ifugao. Working with other well-meaning non-government organizations (NGOs) and people’s organizations (POs) in the private sector instead with a few “rich and famous” figures in the public sector will have a strong impact on undertakings for the people who need it the most, most especially folks who live in abject poverty. How can the PCCI-Ifugao Chapter ignore that call?
For now, the call for Ms. Deleso and her vice president (Therence Batulon who works at Banco Lagawe) is to support small businesses, create jobs and boost incomes. They have shown utmost selflessness in dedication to the province. So you have the right guys at the right time to make it happen.
Through the PCCI-Ifugao Chapter, Ifugao should be able to witness a turnaround of its economic fortunes. Although agriculture is the major industry of the province, it is expanding very slowly. Tourism and services have become increasingly important and have given the province diversified economic base. So it should focus on this matter, not on Gotad parade because it occurs only for a few hours of a single day of the year.
Some officers of the PCCI-Ifugao Chapter feel compelled to accept the poor performance of past officers because they are too busy. Absolutely wrong! These non-performing officers simply don’t know the meaning of time management. If they were too busy, they shouldn’t have accepted their positions in the first place. Far better, however, is a sense of commitment that is based on dedication to duty.
It is time for the current PCCI-Ifugao Chapter officers to find time to speak out and champion the cause of uplifting the lives of the dispossessed, the poor, the disadvantaged and disenfranchised.
It has been said, many times, that the rising poverty incidence problem in Ifugao is too scary. You don’t want this problem encompassing more than half of your population. So to some extent, the provincial government cannot afford having poor, jobless folks who shall create peace and order woes. I would rather choose a lowly-paid Ifugao guy rather than am unemployed one. All the jobless individuals have nothing else to do, except engage in robbery and theft.
By the way, a speaker at the PCCI-Ifugao Chapter induction of officers and board directors program called on the participants to set up a Rotary Club of Ifugao. Looks like Ms. Deleso and company have a lot of house-keeping and clearing chores at hand. They invited top officials of the provincial government. The bigwigs were not in attendance. Same thing with national government line agencies “bosses.” Except for one, it didn’t happen. A letter of invitation forwarded to “Honorable” so-and-so is just a piece of paper. So, yes, it always pays to do your homework! Goal setting has to be grounded in the doable; otherwise, I hate to say it, it’s daydreaming. Setting up another club or organization- no matter how well-motivated it is, is just a horrifying onus. It will have negative effects on the PCCI-Ifugao Chapter. What if Ms. Deleso gets elected as the “other” club’s president? She gets two positions and carries a question of loyalty. What if some chapter officers and members opt to leave and stay with the “other one”? Heed the call of the speaker? Rather, look at the attendance sheet with a few people around and strategize. Strengthen first the PCCI-Ifugao Chapter! That is a big learning lesson!
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For our food delights corner: Make way for Beef Steak Tagalog for dinner time. Best paired with squash with coconut milk and altogether served with steamed rice. One may add salted eggs. It helps that this delicious meal be tasted by the family or loved ones. For appetizer and dessert: mocha cake, bananas and chilled pineapple juice. Don’t forget to pray for all these blessing.
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In my ongoing wish list for Alfonso Lista town and its people: I’m praying for the creation of the Alfonso Lista Dragon Fruit Farmers Association. Dragon fruit is a major cash-crop of the town. The move shall immensely boost the town’s economy. Through its formation and other factors, dragon fruit production is expected to increase significantly. Interventions such as modernizing this field of agriculture and construction of farm-to-market roads are truly needed.
Dragon fruit roadmap development program is also most helpful. On this score, I’m most willing to help the town’s hardworking dragon fruit farmers. They are indeed the “unsung heroes” of not just Alfonso Lista’s economy, but more so of Ifugao.
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Finally, here are some thoughts for our dear readers: “To tread on serpents and scorpions and over all the power on the enemy and nothing shall by any means hurt you,” Luke 10:19
“Humor always puts perspective on all things.” A favorite of mine since grade school days in Metro Manila**

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