How education was in Mtn. Prov. (First of three parts)

By Atty. Antonio P. Pekas

“The changes are fast-paced in the province. MPSPC will even hasten these as any educational institution is always a potent catalyst for change and progress.”

In the mid-60s, I was in mid-elementary. There was no toiler paper then there. The crumpled pages of a Tagalog komiks or Bannawag to serve as such was even a luxury. Primitive? Think again
A cousin of mine who was a teacher then and married to a nurse were assigned in a-far flung eastern Mountain Province town. As related by another relative who went with them, when they reached the town, people appeared to be in the midst of a celebration beating the gongs and dancing around. There was an indigenous party. In the middle of the dancing was an almost live human head. The ultimate trophy for the ultimate success in a head-hunting foray.
Back then, there was no college In the province. The definition of a school were the public elementary schools in some barangays, and the pre-schools or high schools being run by Christian missionaries or churches.
To get a higher education meant getting it from the private schools in Baguio City. Getting there from any part of Mountain Province meant eating or ingesting a bowl of dust. The roads were more like narrow dried river beds. A slight mistake on the steering wheel meant plunging into a deep ravine.
During that time many of the heads of offices in the capital town Bontoc were from our town or barangay, Besao Proper, or from the next town, Sagada. Not because we were more intelligent, but because in Besao, failure to send one’s kids to college was like committing a crime.
What was our parents’ source of income? Raising a bunch of chickens, two or three pigs, cultivating teeny weeny rice paddies and camote patches that were too far in between, walking half a day uphill or downhill was required to reach each one.
The educational goals of parents then in the province were impossible ones. Yet they achieved.
Now there is the Mountain Province Polytechnic College (MPSPC) offering all sorts of undergrad and post graduate courses. You name a popular course, it is offering it. And how is it performing? A few years back, its graduate topped the national criminology board exam.
So parents there now need not go through unmentionable difficulties to send their kids to college.
Every Cordilleran can now realize what is often said that education is the great equalizer. Sky is the limit. There can now be a Cordilleran dream. Not just an American dream.
With free education from SUCs, the only reason a kid could cite if asked why he does not have a college diploma would be, “sadot ak gamin”, which is better not said, or has to be couched in many evasive words.
Financial difficulty has already gone the way of the dinosaur when it comes to acceptable reasons. Any Cordilleran family can eke out what is financially needed to send the kids to a state college,, especially if it is right there in the backyard.
So educational-opportunities-wise, Mtn. Prov. has leapfrogged from the situation when we were kids in the mid-60s. For the general conditions in the province have improved a lot. Main roads are already paved and widened. Water sealed comfort rooms are now standard everywhere.
Of course there are also the usual unintended consequences of progress—lack of parking spaces, traffic, pollution, etc. And now even close relatives are quarreling over boundaries and land ownership.
The changes are fast-paced in the province. MPSPC will even hasten these as any educational institution is always a potent catalyst for change and progress. How will things play out? We’ll pick it from here next issue. **

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