Tourism as an election issue
By Anthony A. Araos
Even it is near set point in a volleyball game, I’m withholding the answer to the previous query: What is the second top destination in Ifugao? I’d simply like to arrive at the right answer at the right time. Possibly, in the next commentary I will give you the answer. Anyhow, a friend of mine even added to the list Tinoc town. She said it is because of Lobong Horse Trail. My esteemed friend, Board Member Robert Humiwat said there is indeed a trail but, the horses are nowhere to be seen. So I told him to sponsor an ordinance at the Sangguniang Panlalawigan for the purpose of appropriating funds for the purchase of horses to be brought there. I’ve got some horses in Pangasinan.
Tourism is a significant source of revenue in Kiangan, Ifugao and the municipal government should exert its utmost to expand and improve the town’s tourist facilities. By doing so, local and foreign tourists shall generate a sizeable amount of earnings for the Kiangan economy. Among the town’s attractions are its rice terraces and an open museum.
Bactracking a few years back, a slide in the number of tourists was most pronounced in the town. Among the 11 towns of Ifugao, the downward trend in Kiangan was strongest.
Today, Kiangan’s tourism industry (just like Ifugao’s ten other towns) continue to lag behind its counterparts in the Cordillera Administrative Region and the entire country, as its development is being hampered largely by the lack of infrastructure, inadequate access for foreign tourists to reach the town and the relatively high cost of getting there. Believe it or not: there is no connection of bus trips to Kiangan from Baguio City. Ohayami Trans trips to Banaue are just passing by the capital town of Lagawe. A foreign visitor has to take a tricycle or a jeepney in Lagawe.
It’s a great challenge for incoming officials by June of this year to resolve the town’s tourism industry woes.
Janni Albano is an admirably straightforward, energetic, articulate and forward-looking individual who hails from Pindungan, Kiangan. She is an independent candidate for councilor of this predominantly farming town in the May 13, 2019 midterm elections. It is Ms. Albano’s first foray into politics in Kiangan.
A holder of a degree in anthropology from the University of the Philippines, Albano takes pride in being part of the young and dynamic team of the municipal government under the leadership of Mayor Joselito Guyguyon, himself a youthful politician. But Albano’s satisfaction also comes from contributing in the development of the far-flung, underserved villages which can be traced back to both her compassion and caring ways to folks in distant communities and experience in countryside development.
Albano’s previous government stint propelled her to imbibe the heart for service. Her expertise on tourism therefore was tapped by Mayor Guyguyon, who appointed her as head of the municipal tourism office not too long ago. At the said office, she coordinated with other local and national agencies and more importantly, and other stakeholders in the private sector. During her tenure, she quickly addressed the problems of the tourism industry. She buckled down to work because she was aware of the industry’s ups and downs. When she left the office, it was mostly a sordid story of downs, downs and downs.
Kiangan enjoyed a period of relative growth in the tourism industry when she took over at the helm of the said office, albeit for a short span of time. Her role secured for Kiangan a good degree of creativity and innovation and a large measure of prosperity.
Albano vowed to lead a more aggressive campaign to draw tourists to Kiangan and provide a wide range of services to town residents, most especially the poor, once she succeeds in her bid to gain a seat in the Sangguniang Bayan (municipal council). There are eight seats at stake.
Albano made the assurances at meetings with youth and women leaders in the villages of Tuplac and Duit. Also present were farmers and barangay council officials. They lauded Ms. Albano for her invaluable contributions to the town in various capacities. On the private sector, she worked in the development of a museum in Kiangan.
“I’m so proud to have helped a lot of people and seen the town’s development. I thank Kiangan folks- young and old alike, for recognizing my contributions to the town’s growth,” she told the villagers.
She was hailed mainly due to her exemplary track record and splendid and promising career. Her role in promoting culture and arts and propagating sports program to counter the effects of drug abuse in the grassroots level is undisputed.
Kiangan is a fourth-class municipality. It has 14 villages. There are about 11, 000 voters. It has 75 established precincts and 36 clustered precincts. This is also the hometown of outgoing Ifugao representative Teodoro Baguilat Jr., who is serving his third and last term. In the forthcoming polls, he is running for governor under the opposition Liberal Party (LP).
It is important to determine whether or not tourism is an issue in a town like Kiangan. It is vital to ascertain whether or not interventions are addressing key relevant issues and producing the desired results. The answers will depend on various factors but would generally involve the depth of knowledge of the electorate on the issues on tourism. Therefore, the bottom line query remains: Will the tourism issue drive voter preference in this part of Ifugao in the coming polls? Or will the clowns and crooks continue to prevail on election day?
“On my end, I remain committed in promoting the tourism industry in Kiangan,” she asserted in an exclusive interview with the ZigZag Weekly. Well, she is in a position to bring much-needed changes in the town’s tourism industry. That being said, other towns should simply follow suit.
For the past 36 months or so, Ms. Albano has been working to make the lives of Kiangan folks better. “During my stint at the municipal tourism office, I learned a lot about the situation of the people and I acquired a better understanding about the tourism industry,” she pointed out.
Albano, also a nurse, knows only too well the difficulties of overcoming the odds of promoting new destinations in remote upland villages with no access to any means of transport.
Ms. Albano, daughter of the former Grace Bulayungan- a hardworking businesswoman, is a very good and kind person. She has more than enough administrative experience and untarnished reputation. To my mind, she would be an effective legislator.
If she wins and possibly assumes the chairmanship of the all-important Committee on Tourism (presently held by Councilor Gemma Demog who is not running for any position this time around), it is hoped that Ms. Albano pays attention to some recommendations. For starters, the committee should tap the service of someone from the private sector to serve as a consultant for special concerns. She should also seek a courtesy call with Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat during her first 45 days in office. Take time to talk to her and there’s everything to gain. Rationalize the tourism sector by reconstructing the municipal tourism office by delineating functions through a Municipal Tourism Office Reorganization Act. Public spending on tourism-related facilities should be prioritized to provide a stimulus to economic activity. Grand colorful street dance and parade during a town fiesta should be able to attract thousands of foreign tourists, not just ten or twenty visitors from a European country. Hehehe!
A victory in the May 13, 2019 polls should be enough reason for Kiangan folks to make a turnaround for its economy. An informed vote will surely help make this happen. Certainly, the end result is to drive economic growth for there is generation of revenues and jobs thus, making economic and social impact in Kiangan. I believe that this is an important step to be taken Kiangan voters if they truly want to improve the lives of the people in marginalized communities.
To collaborate for a better future, the Ifugao Electric Cooperative (IFELCO) and seve3ral electric cooperatives in the country supported the bid of the Philippine Rural Electric Cooperatives Association (Philreca) for seats at the House of Representatives.
“Our goal is to have a voice in Congress and contribute to the growth and development in the Philippines.” said Engineer Marcial Nahiwan, general manager of the Lagawe-based IFELCO.
“The energy sector needs to be protected for future generations and we’re doing our part by spreading the message that Philreca shall advance the best interest of the people hence the need to support it in the May 13, 2019 elections,” he added.
Officers and employees of IFELCO are now in the forefront of urging voters to support Philreca’s congressional bid in the party-list sphere.
The campaign period for party-list groups and senatorial candidates is scheduled from February 12 to May 11, 2019.
Philreca has set a high standard in terms of planned legislated action to improve services in the countryside.
The first nominee of Philreca is reportedly from Santiago City in Isabela. There are other nominees.
For his part, Nahiwan said a well-defined energy blueprint is essential to ensure progress.
“Through the Philreca, we can achieve total electrification program targets,” stressed Nahiwan, who keeps himself busy with office work on one hand and campaign chores for the Philreca on the other.
Enough of screwed-up priorities at the Sangguniang Panlalawigan for the repercussions of ending up with ridiculous choices by May are no longer a joke. Ifugao voters should finally realize that the stakes are so high when they go to the polls and elect their board members.
Romeo Sixto, a top official of the Lamut-based Crimzone Training and Review Center, is running for board member in the first district of Ifugao.
Mr. Sixto is a man of integrity and a distinguished professional. He is resident of Lagawe and is seeking the said position as an independent candidate.
Mr. Sixto is a man of principle and would certainly complement the government’s efforts in fighting corruption, drug abuse and poverty.
There is no doubt in my mind that his wealth of experience on peace and order and livelihood will serve him well in his quest to serve the people as a lawmaker. Mr. Sixto at one time worked at the offices of Board Members James Frederick Dulnuan of Banaue and Max Luglug of Hingyon.
Blooper in Ifugao: An Ifugao guy who got a first good glimpse recently of the float festival of the popular Panagbenga in Baguio City asserted to his friend that the “flower festival” in the nation’s summer capital has been the best he ever attended. His friend asked him: “How about the others?” He replied: “I have no answer.” Then his friend raised the next question: “Why?” He answered: “It’s the only one I attended.”
Finally, a thought for our readers: “Draw near to Me and I will cleanse you from an evil conscience.” Heb 22:5**