FINDING AN ANCIENT ART, IS IT REALLY “LOST”? : The “BAHAD ZU’BU”

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static1.squarespace.com (4)FINDING AN ANCIENT ART, IS IT REALLY “LOST” ? : A STORY OF REDISCOVERING MY ROOTS

Stories. We are all fascinated by stories, especially those which are untold.

This one, is a story developed from “secrets”. It won’t begin unless it is discovered.


One rare occasion led me to discover a not so often told story of tradition and art persisting in the locale of Baguio city.

Unraveling this story had sparked a sense of urge to tell it. Especially, this is one of those stories which narrate Filipino’s authentic history and culture. These are threads that weave our perception of who we are as people. A strand of identity Filipinos lost from years of consuming imported mentality. Like a treasure whenPicture1 discovered we refuse to lose it again.

In search of knowledge, practices, art and traditions reflecting indigenous ways of pinoys, here I found a not so hidden treasure that would be traced way back from the time even before we got baptized as Philippines. This preserved traditional art, comes in a form of a “fighting art”.

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Bahad Zu’Bu, considered by its proponents as a “dying ancient fighting art” of the Filipinos, entails a story of our “ninuno” (forefathers) on how they had fought to protect their families, communities, and their lives during the pre-colonial era.

This was buried in secrets, gasping for revival and now has to resurface among the Filipino consciousness; whether you are into sports or not._DSC9578 (2)

However, Bahad Zu’Bu goes beyond sports. It is an art. Tradition. It demonstrates a way of defending the loved ones of its fore bearers. They developed and employed a way of fighting against the threats loomed during the invasions happened in our _DSC9575country. Their knowledge of fighting was devised from instinct and adaptability of early Filipinos from different regions out of the needs of their time.

BaHad Zu’Bu embodies a vanishing knowledge of Filipinos’ way of _DSC9573fighting. A diminishing heirloom, if not passed down to the next generation would face the threats of extinction.

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Authentic Filipino Fighting

 

Bahad Zu’Bu’s authenticity as a pure Filipino fighting art is credited to its founder and developer, the Master Epifanio ‘Yuli’ Romo, a native of Pilar, Camotes Islands in Cebu.

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Master Yuli Romo. August 2017.

On August 2017, during a privileged encounter with Master Yuli, he revealed that he learned the art by “observing”.

In this short excerpt from a brief encounter with him, he told of his knowledge and experience of discovering the art and discovering his own art. He spent his time to pass on some of the knowledge he received from his fellow locals back in Camotes Islands, which deserves another account to narrate his personal tales of traditional knowledge and culture.

In this account we would focus on his fighting art, BaHad Zu’Bu. How did Master Yuli found his own journey in Bahad Zu’Bu?

I’ll let him tell you his story.

Starting with, the nature and origin of Bahad Zu’bu:

“Saan nangaling ang kaalaman ko? Where did my knowledge [of fighting] come from?” Master Yuli started when asked of the origin of his art, Bahad Zu’Bu. “You need to go to the place where I come from. From our bloodline, back in our village in Camotes Islands, but it wasn’t called Camotes before.”

The master would not give you the typical answer of how Bahad Zu’bu got its name. The western or conventional way of learning taught individuals to give direct translations and meanings of a “name” or “title”. This is not the case for Master Yuli’s art.

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He goes on, “originally we are from a tribe called “Panubiran” (life in the seas or waters), in a village used to be known as, “Kagasangan”/Pu Kagasangan – Island of Corals (Gasang means corals); we are from the “lahi” (language-citizenship/heritage/bloodline) of “Buranon/Boranon”. Our people is called the “Tausug”. Tau means “people” and Sug means “of the current.”

Through oral telling of traditions and knowledge from his family bloodline and the community, the stories of the past warriors were passed on to him.

“As told by tradition, the man who is popularly known today as Lapu-Lapu together with the stories the present generation came to know has been taken out of its origins,” Master Yuli goes. “Traditionally, you were taught in your education that he killed Magellan, but it is not the whole story.”

Hari Hari Ko Laot Pu. Lapu-lapu or Kulafu is, a man who was originally called as “Bagai-ak” (Bagayhak/Bagaihak). He was a mangbabangka (rower/boatman) and together with other rowers, he devised an attack then they fought and defended against the colonizers of that time.”

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Sulu Pearl Luggers. This photo tells that people of Sulu were traditionally skilled even in the waters. Photo by morolandhistory.com

The legacy of the warriors during the pre-colonial Philippines who fought against Magellan and his troops, is carried-on within the baHad Zu’Bu and the knowledge immersed in it.

The young Yuli Romo has a natural way of learning from his environment. He may not be able to attend a formal school when he was young but he spent static1.squarespace.com (8)time learning from people, conversing with his neighbors and elders from his community.

He was able to receive knowledge by spoken traditions. This is a one of the most authentic way of educating the young in the Filipino culture. Locals would tell stories as a means to pass their knowledge and the others would interact, listening and remembering what was told to them.

In return they would also pass it to the younger generation in their community; and this is how Master Yuli did when he learned the Filipino fighting arts.

 

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Yuli Romo : Bahad Zu’Bu-Ilustrisimo and other Secrets

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FEATURED PHOTO : Master Yuli Romo. (Photo owned by Bahad Zu’Bu Global & Master Yuli Romo. All rights reserved to its creator/s.) -w/permission

One of Master Yuli’s greatest influence is the late Grand Master Antonio ‘Tatang’ Ilustrisimo of the Kalis Ilustrisimo. “I learned from Tatang but, I did not became his student,” he said.

Monetary constraints hindered Master Yuli to be trained by Tatang. “I watched Tatang in his trainings,” Master Yuli revisited his days learning from the grand master. He was allowed to watch Tatang’s training in their community. By watching the demonstrations with Tatang’s students, Master Yuli learned.

Even though he was not able to afford being Tatang’s official student, he pays all respect and tribute to Tatang as one of the major sources of his knowledge, dedicating his Art in its early days as Bahad Zu’Bu:Ilustrisimo

The man is a genius,” described Guro Norman Adefuin, one of Master Yuli’s students and instructor of Bahad Zu’Bu. Master Yuli has gained his reputation of mastering the art by “learning through dissecting”. He has the innate ability to understand the flow of the movements and the principles behind the fighting art.

 

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On Mandirigma.org’s one-on-one interview, the master revealed that Bahad Zu’bu is a product of his efforts to revive the “traditional Fighting Art” of the Filipinos. He is also recognized for being the sole inheritor of the known traditional fighting system, the Repikada-Pigada passed down to him by his family.

He spent time and effort understanding the way Filipinos had fought. He pursued learning and acquired experience and knowledge of other forms of fighting by other proponents from various sources and background of traditional fighting.

Master Yuli emanates great respect to the Filipino Fighting art and the people and proponents carrying it. While Tatang’s official students carried on with the known Kalis Ilustrisimo, Master Yuli on the other hand, crafted his own.

 

(Photo owned by Bahad Zu’Bu Global / Master Yuli ROmo. All rights reserved to its creator/s.) -w/permission

 

Here, he continues his story of his art.

“When you say BaHad Zu’Bu, it is a samahan (a group of people coming together as family, a brotherhood). It is not a style,” Master Yuli would prefer to be careful with particular terms when referring to his art. “What I consider my style is called “Bali-Alhu”.

“The word “bali” in our traditional language means reverse.”

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The wooden pestle comes in different appearance from various cultures. The alhu from Master Yuli’s culture would appear longer.

“Alhu/alho is a wooden pestle used by Filipinos for grinding rice and other grains. It was also the weapon that killed Magellan,” Master Yuli narrates.

“Now, how did the alhu (pestle) killed Magellan you must ask? This is the vanished parts of the story…There was another man. An ordinary rower and one of Bagai-ak’s men in his troop. Using the alhu, he aimed for Magellan’s head, hitting the head with the alhu in a reversing movement. The head was presented to Bagai-ak, the one who devised the overthrowing of colonizers. That was how you came to know Bagai-ak’s or Lapu-Lapu’s story today. Now, what is the other man’s name? He was called “Bali-Alhu.”

The master is careful in sharing his story. He acknowledged the conventions taught among the present learners. However his accounts backup local studies that explained early documents about the country had been lost and destroyed through the years.

“His story is not one of those told to you in schools or universities.” Master Yuli further clarified. “There are a lot of arguments about the truth of the stories, and I myself do not like speculations. But if you go to my community and ask reliable people you will find the same story.”

 

BaHad Zu’bu would be secretive in nature. In learning the basic “strokes” of this art one would have to figure out and understand the principles from Master Yuli’s lenses. For now, here are some fundamentals which he carried from the masterworks of Tatang:   Serrada-Abierta- the basic drill, Redonda, Buklis, and then Reverse-redonda.

“Reverse. In Bahad Zu’bu we use “reversal”, Master Yuli said, shedding a part of his “karunungang lihim”, secret knowledge. My teaching is: last is the beginning, past is future.”

Master Yuli’s original works include Ground Zero then Saylo. The basic drills are practiced with increasing understanding; allowing his students realize the concept of “basic is the most advance.”

The ancient Filipino warriors and the tales of their victory, Yuli Romo’s roots, plus his training and own understanding of the natural way or flow of fighting, baHad Zu’Bu emerged.

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 Passing the Art & Culture: Is this the Last or Beginning?

 

At first I thought I was only talking to a known Filipino artist whose works are prevalent designs and logos among famous establishments around Baguio. Then he started telling in a passionate tone about BaHad Zu’Bu.

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It was the first time I heard the word and realized that Filipinos had more to be proud of aside from championships won in boxing and beauty pageants.

Guro* Norman Adefuin (though he did not ask to be called “Guro”, I decided I would, since he is), the head of Bahad Zubu in the North region, had shared this another form of art.

He trained under Master Yuli Romo, that aside from traveling and studying graphic arts abroad, the Guro began telling me of his travels around the southern part of the country to meet and get one-on-one training with the master.

 

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“When I trained under Master Yuli, at first it was really hard to understand the art. Your mind will turn upside down,” Guro Norman explained that Bahad Zu’Bu would break any perceptions you had about fighting because people got used to the more popular martial arts like taekwondo or karate.

Learning Bahad Zu’Bu requires the learner to embrace the art more than the techniques. “You need to understand the logic behind the movements and “attacks” before you could say that you have learned or mastered Bahad Zu’Bu.”

 

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Now there is the challenge to pass down the art in its most authentic form and preserve its principles for the next generation. Another is that there are only few instructors in the country. “If not passed, there’s a threat for this art would be lost.”

 

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How Art is Taught: Dissecting the Blades

 

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The general image you could paint when it comes to the FMA’s like arnis, eskrima and kali is, it is practiced to improvise responses to certain situations in a fight.

Furthermore the traditional Filipino fighting arts illustrate fluidity, which the BaHad Zu’Bu and the many forms of combat arts by Filipino origins do.

 

 Photos by morolandhistory.com

Considering there are many “forms” of Philippine combat arts, BaHad Zu’Bu is just one among many that was developed from the traditions of its proponents. Master Yuli as the founder of BaHad Zu’Bu represents his art and the knowledge passed on to him. In essence, BaHad Zu’Bu affirms the wide range of combat art groups developed from various traditions all over the country.

 

Today’s combat art learners and practitioners would recognize that there is no “One Mother Art” for FMA’s. The country’s geographic representation of dispersed and fragmented islands would describe why such diffusion of knowledge existed. Each fragments spread out on the Philippine map explains the dissected or disconnected development of cultural knowledge; but on the bright side they all represent one land, one people – the Filipinos.

The variety of combat arts represented in the country would give one many opportunities to learn the way of Filipino fighting.

Meanwhile, Guro Norman explained that, Bahad Zu’Bu differs from the disciplines applied to the western influenced martial arts with fixed terms and system of practicing drills. In his class, he improvised terms and languages which his students would understand and get the logic behind a movement. Learning is also fluid.

Although like in many other combat arts or self-defense, teaching them would require the use of methods and strategies building up innate skills like speed or strength, Bahad Zu’Bu emphasizes “body mechanics”. “We also encourage to use logic not just skills when you fight,” said Guro Norman candidly.

The principles behind baHad Zu’Bu reveal the innovative character of pinoys. “Like art, static1.squarespace.com (9)you have to be creative. Find the right mix of all the principles and be able to express it,” said Guro Norman.

Though we are influenced by different colonies, like the fighting art, we can keep advancing our own culture and improvise with our original nature.

The Bahad Zu’Bu teaches that, when faced with life and death situation we should learn to get hold on what is available around. For example, early Filipinos used farm knives and/or “bolos”, and rice grinders as weapons.

“It is important to realize that learning Bahad Zu’Bu should teach you embrace the art and your culture, and make you find your identity as a Filipino,” Guro Norman edifies.

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Traditional fighting blades carved and hand-smith by Master Yuli.

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Great stories are characterized by what have been completed even before someone could create them.

For the instructors and learners of BaHad Zu’Bu, the art has been practiced, and is being tried and tested. Understanding the baHad Zu’Bu identity, would take ones acceptance of its long-lived science and treasured principles; discovering through authentic knowledge and first-hand learning of the art.

 

 

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ASEAN INTEGRATION:The inevitable is here

ARCHIVED: 2014. First Published in AGSHAN Community Newspaper. November 2014

This Editorial was written for the Agshan  (2014) a locally and academically produced community newspaper in La Trinidad, Benguet.

The ASEAN Integration was expected to happen by the year 2015 among the 10 member countries of the Association of the Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). With this, how are the grassroots being considered as stakeholders of the integration. How it will bridge development?

One of the key issues ASEAN is dealing with is the development divide within and across member countries. Several critiques say that this is clearly manifested by the huge disparity in per capita GDP (income) and other dimensions of human development such as life expectancy, literacy rate, and poverty incidence. How are the grassroots able to see themselves within these dimensions? As stakeholders, what can we do to narrow the gap so that we can participate in the integration?

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The ASEAN Integration targets an ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) by the end of year 2015 which follows the timeline on ASEAN Vision 2020 aiming: “to transform ASEAN into a stable,prosperous, and highly competitive region with equitable economic development, and reduced poverty and socio-economic disparities.”

Certainly, ASEAN 2015 was just the beginning of a lenghty effort integrating not only members of a single nation to end the vicious cycle of poverty and other issues around it. This time the whole region of Southeast Asian nations are involved. With that we have to be more equipped and empowered. The integration is inevitable. It requires the Philippines to be competitive in several aspects.

We are an agricultural country. Competitiveness will be triggered from the agricultural sector. With the removal of tariff and other protection to domestic products, there is a high possibility of losing the completion if low quality of production and packaging persist. Who will suffer then?

Now that the AEC considers food,agriculture and forestry as key components in the integration, our country, through the Department of Agriculture, is preparing the Filipino farmers to become more competitive…

Farm mechanization, irrigation, and financing are now included in the farming sector’s road map of the government.

Good as it seems we have to consider concerns raised by other groups who oppose the planned participation. The integration raises fear that land-grabbing, hunger, and poverty would worsen due to tariff issues that may flood the local market with highly subsidized agricultural products of other ASEAN nations like Thailand and Vietnam. How should the government address this then?

It all boils down to the readiness of both people and the government in terms of support to the local production processes, and marketing among others.

Whenever the state carries out  development efforts such as improving infrastructures, investing in both business and foreign trade, making new policies, every stakeholders should ensure that every Filipinos reap the benefits.

Each one has then the responsibility to check how these efforts are carried out in the communities. The answers to the question lies in everyone as responsible citizens. We have to be observant gaining awareness and being informed properly. In this way we are empowering ourselves. Being vigilant if how policies are implemented and how it will affect in the future.

In terms of support, continuous patronizing local products will help local producers improve their products through communicating suggestions and giving inputs, helping them create networks and market links.

Different sectors should focus now on building partnerships to strengthen local production practices and principles of local farmers and producers.

 

Picking The Crimson Crop: “Plotting the Future for the Benguet, Strawberry Farms”

ARCHIVED: June 17, 2015. First Published @ Eternal Student; 2017. Grassroots’ Advocate @ Blogger

Eternal Student- Plotting the Future for BSU Strawberry Farms (June 17, 2015)

The Strawberry Farm’s crimson crop could lose its cream if potentials will not be given the attention it deserve.

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Crimson Crop. Celebrated in La Trinidad, on the month of March is the Strawberry Festival. The strawberry is one of the primary crops produced in the town of La Trinidad, Benguet in the Philippines.

The strawberry farm remains to be one of the main destination for tourists in La Trinidad Benguet where its farmers found an avenue to sell their crop. Local producers and farmers who uses the land provided by the Benguet State University (BSU) gained the opportunity to bring their harvests and other goods to the national market where tourists comprise the large portion as their consumers.

/this article is written for Development Communication Internship Program, by G.Mansilla & J. Caranay DEVC students/

 “I came all the way from Cavite just to see the strawberries”, says Nica Torres one of the many tourists who visited the Strawberry Farm to see and buy fresh strawberries and experience first-hand picking from the strawberry patches. This crimson crop of the valley attracts people from different places and have introduce them to Benguet Province’s other attractions as an agri-destination.

The fact that the people themselves are the ones who get to pick the berries straight from their patches keeps people coming from different regions of the country to the Cordillera region. The Strawberry Farm reminds the locals and visitors that Baguio City is not the only source of vacation hotspots in the North. La Trinidad is just among other municipalities in Benguet that offers out of town experience to many travelers and visitors.

Grassroots’ Advocate

There are about 42 farmers who lease farms at the BSU Strawberry Farm.  According to Prof. Danilo P. Padua, former director of the BSU Business Affairs Office and Strawberry farming and production research expert, BSU’s priority is to lend the land to the farmers and allow them to develop their own area in the way they want.

BSU rents out the land to farmers at 15 pesos per square meters in a year. “We rent the land but we put up the stalls, and the farmers are in charge of maintaining and improving the land they rent (Nirerent lang namin yung lupa tapos kami na ang gagawa ng stall at yung sa mga farmer yung lupa nila na nirent ay bahala na sila mag ayus o gawin ang gusto nila.), according to Myrna Akilit, a stall owner at the Strawberry Farm for more than ten years now.

According to Dr. Jones Feliciano, Vice President for Business Affairs of Benguet State University in an interview, the main purpose of the Strawberry Farm is to serve as an income generating project (IGP) of BSU.

As cited on the official website of BSU the Strawberry Farm is included in one of the 21 income generating projects of the University that supplement the subsidy it receives from the General Appropriations Acts (GAA). The IGPS include Bakery, Food Processing Center, Souvenir and Gift Shop, Marketing Center, Multi-Vegetable Production, BSU Garments, RSDC Canteen, Strawberry Restaurant, the Gladiola Center, Agricultural Land Use, Commercial Space Use, Sariling Sikap Program, Strawberry Production Project, Guestels (HMEG), and SLS Canteen, among others.

One of the farmers located at the BSU ATIB-IC shared that the area where they are farming is under development. Farmers in located at the front entrance of the Strawberry farm undergoes training and research for improvement. “Kaming mga farmers ang mag-dedevelop ng farm namin. (We are farmers are the ones who would develop our farm.)”, he said.

Top Tourism Spot in La Trinidad

The Strawberry Farm also brings tourism opportunities for the municipality of La Trinidad. Among other strawberry farms in the municipality, the BSU Strawberry Farm has the widest land area and production of strawberries.

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Strawberry Taho. A local Filipino food enjoyed traditional as a morning snack. Many small-scale grassroots entrepreneurs makes profit from taho. The Cordillera region has its own version with the strawberry flavor.

“Tourists can see our products, like strawberry taho, from social media. With this they are magnetized to visit Benguet. (Yung mga tinitinda namin nakikita ng mga tao sa social media. Nahahatak nila mga turista dito sa Benguet.)”, says manong Bruce Castillo a taho vendor at the farm for more than ten years.

The Department of Tourism Cordillera Region have been listing the Strawberry Farms as one of the top most visited site in Benguet for many years. Further , it has been included as part of the Baguio City tour itinerary since the city’s tourism boom.

To visit or not to visit again?

Despite the benefits of being a tourist destination, there are few concerns from the vendors around the farm and the visitors.

“The Number one problem here is the lack of parking lots, but because this is the property of BSU their approval should be sought first”, explains manong Bruce. “Lack of trash bins is also a problem…”, he added, “…the trash of the tourists were scattered because they do not know where to throw so it affects the beauty of the place.”

A farmer suggested to pave the pathways along the strawberry farm. He added that tourists complains about the muddy passageways. “This has been, apparently, a plan way, way back but it’s not yet implemented”, he shared.

Lack in advertising is also a problem as observed by the residents. People from different places thought that the farm is located in Baguio City. Also, during strawberry festival, tourists were not as many as during Panagbenga or other famous festivals in the country.

Aside from strawberries, the farm also produces lettuce, broccoli, sweet peas, beans, some varieties of flowers that grows in Benguet. These are the products the tourists see and buy especially during the rainy season when strawberries are not available.

La Trinidad Strawberry Farm overtaken?

Strawberries require a specific climatic condition to grow. However, other provinces like Davao and Bicol have strawberry farms now. Photos of these farms posted in the internet would show that they have wide strawberry farms with green houses. Davao plant the berries in a bamboo stalk to prevent the strawberries lay on the ground also to provide a walkway conducive for visitors exploring the farm. Bicol on the other hand, focused on the aesthetic aspects of their strawberry farm. They have photo booths and good signage and designs in their view deck and entrance.

Dr. Feliciano also believes that BSU’s strawberry farm needs a lot of improvement but the University still needs to seek assistance for funds. “We requested to the accounting office for enough fund for the improvement of the farm. We need to improve it because it is the main tourist attraction of the province of Benguet particularly La Trinidad so by all means we need to develop it.”

“I do not believe that other places can surpass our strawberry farm. If they’ll produce strawberries in the low land, it will be for temporary production since we can only provide the needed climatic condition by nature to grow strawberries. They cannot come up with the kind of quality we produce here in Benguet”, Feliciano added.

Plotting the plans of the farm

For the past few years the Benguet State University and its co-stakeholders are looking out on improving the state of the farm.

Dr. Padua, had headed a group from BSU who wants to improve the farm for tourism purposes. According to him, they passed a draft to the BSU administration for the development plan with the help of a Canadian expert.

The development plan includes producing new varieties of strawberries, installing more trash bins inside the farm for cleaner environment, and having a good source of water.  The farm is also in need of green-houses too to produce strawberries even in rainy seasons. CRs, information desk, uniform stalls, good view deck, wider parking lots and establishing a restaurant to improve the tourism is also part of the plan.

“We had the draft but they didn’t give us a go signal to push the development plan”, Dr. Padua said.

Dr. Feliciano also enumerated the things UBA wants to improve for the improvement of the farm. These are: sourcing out a good portable irrigation system, very good view deck, road system, drainage canals, comfortable comfort rooms, restaurant that will cater the needs of the tourist going to the farm, very good parking area, and green houses.

“The plans will be implemented at soonest possible time. We are trying to source out financers because that requires a multi-million cost of project to develop”, Dr. Feliciano answered.

Season of Implementation

UBA and Padua’s team has the same views on what to improve in the farm. The plans were broadcasted during the BSU Kapihan 2013. But as observed, the farm now, two years since the plans were constructed, the aesthetic aspect of the place only got worst.

The La Trinidad Tourism Plan has already been approved since the first quarter of this year, although we understand that BSU have their own plans for the site. “Implementation lang ang hinihintay. (We are only waiting for implementation), says Valred Olsim, Municipal Tourism Officer.

There are four main projects which are included in the Tourism Plan in which BSU’s approval and intervention are paramount. These are, beautification of CR, building of view decks, good parking lots and landscaping of the farm/parking area.

The plan was created through the efforts of several stakeholders which compose the Tourism council of La Trinidad. The council includes representatives from Benguet State University, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the Local Government Unit, Barangay councils, Non-Government Organizations and private sectors.

//J. Caranay & G.Mansilla@Grassroots’Advocate (BSU-DEVCOMM). (Copyright2015)

 

THE STREET RUNNER: She is running for her life….

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This is a story of  a woman who has to face the battle against authorities on the streets in the locality of Baguio city, Philippines. This is her story kept from the past, and her story still represents those who are like her today, who have to keep running to save themselves and their families’ living.

“I can. I will run as long as I still can. I will endure running for my family, so that they will have something to eat, for them to live“, said 61 years old Mary Angfosen, a native of Mt. Province, Philippines.

From her hometown Manang Mary came to live in Baguio city as a sidewalk vendor. She had to sell her vegetables where many people would pass by her and see her basket of vegetables. There will be a greater chance that the goods she was selling would be sold if she would roam around the streets.

The vegetables looked good. It was in the late afternoon and the crops displayed on her tray were still fresh. She sells pechay (green chard),  still vivid-green and leafy bundled together and have no signs of being withered. The beans and the peas were looking crisp and spotless on their surface that was obvious on the beaming late afternoon sunlight.

Pechay, beans… sangapulo lang, tumbok ading (Pechay, beans, only for ten pesos per bundle)”, invited Manang Mary to the people passing her at one corner of the side-walk in Mabini street. This has been her spot every afternoon. “ We will run if there are the POSD’s. We need to transfer from one place to another everyday”, she shared.

With her basket of oranges, “Manang” has to master the skill of running while carrying kilos of fruits each day. As she tries to escape the “P-O-S-Ds” (Public Order and Safety Division officials) roaming in the city streets, it is the only way for her to make sure she sells all her goods to sustain her family.

The POSD stands for Public Order and Safety Division officers of Baguio city who were in-charge of keeping the streets free from sidewalk vendors; For they were believed to cause the garbage issue in the city. Manang Mary and the vendors like her are affected by the policy of the city government, which started several years ago to clear all sidewalks from vendors.

 “We rented a stall at Hilltop Block 4, but there were only few people who go there so only few buy our goods. That is why we have to go here where the crowd is located to sell everything we had”, according to manang Mary. From Hangar market she will get 10 kilos of pechay, 5 kilos of beans, and 3 kilos of peas. According to her they have to sell all the vegetables joining a group of vendors who helps out each other in selling.

From the main stall where they get the vegetables from the businessman who will give them 1000 pesos as a credit, they have to return it with 10 percent interest. To do this, manang Mary said that there is someone who will collect 100 pesos from them every day. Aside from the vegetables she was also selling fruits if it is in season.

She had been selling vegetables as a living since she came to Baguio. “This is what I have been used to doing for living” she said. At 61, manang Mary cannot tell exactly when she started selling.

She had been in Baguio for forty years where she had joined her relatives at Pinsao. She came from Barrio Maligkong in Mt. Province and then migrated to Baguio after she got married. She and her husband chose to live here because they find it difficult to get a good source of income in the province.

Manang Mary finished schooling until the third grade level. Both of her parents are native of Bontoc and ever since she was young, her parents were already working as farm laborers or tenants. They had no personal piece of land owned in their province. After she left school, she already engaged in work by helping her parents farm and sometimes took care of pigs.

“We are the poorest of the poor”, she  exclaimed remembering how life was at the province.

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Photo by GrassrootsAdvocate

For manang Mary at the early age she has to help her parents work. If they would not find an opportunity to labor at a farm they would not have food to eat. Manang Mary said that as long as you have something to plant and harvest you will not go hungry. Their family had to work really hard.

Manang Mary married a man from Bontoc. Her husband, 57 y/old has been working as a laborer while selling has been her form of livelihood. She has seven children, five male and two female. Now, she already has five grandchildren. Manang Mary has been old enough for her not to remember some details like the birthdays of her children. According to her, the eldest of her children was born on 1975, her youngest was born on 1992. Two of her children were already married and raising a family of their own. They still join her at their home in Pinsao. Her youngest was able to study college and took up Education.

Her son, the second of her children, took Agriculture in a State University. According to manang Mary, that is what her son wanted to do. Farming has been what her son ever known to do. Unfortunately, her son was not able to continue his studies. She had admitted that they do not have enough finances to support his studying. Instead, her son went to La Union where there was an opportunity to work as a farmer.

There was a time that her other son applied for a job that is provided by the government. Her son took the exam but he was not employed.  “There was politicking” she inferred. She wished that the government would provide jobs for the people who are in line with their skills.

“Unfair,” manang Mary shared her sentiments. She said that when people apply for job they would not get employed.

At 61 she still dreams but not for herself. She dreams for her family. “I only wanted all my children to finish their studies and earn a degree, after that, I can die.” She is happy and satisfied with her selling vegetables. There is no other job that she would want to do. She have also no regrets about being a vendor.

She only wanted to make sure that her family would always have food to eat. “I am happy. I would sell so that I am sure my family would have always something to eat. That is my happiness.”

Everyday that manang Mary would work on the streets, she would not mind the POSD patrolling. “I only need to run,” she said. She has not yet experienced being caught and the hardest challenge in her work is being old.

When the POSD caught someone, the vendors will try to protect their products. “Some of them would try to confiscate using force even if the vendor is an elderly. Our backs as old people would always ache and we can feel getting weaker each time passes by”, she explained.

At 61 Manang Mary is still running. She can and she will. She is running for her family. She runs for her living, so she can still provide for her family.

*This Feature Story is originally a written output for DevC110 course. (copyright 2013)

Shahi Qila Restaurant at the City of Pines: where you can find authentic kabab and biryani

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Shahi Qila Restaurant. A must see and go to food house that brings you closer to an AUTHENTIC international cooking! Continue reading

What’s in Session:Grassroots Features-Day 1

A woodcrafters’ advocate: Michael’s Concept

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Michael’s Concept makes  pro-environment, pro-people, pro-fair trade products. Local wood-crafters from Cebu personally hand-carved these novelty items out from rosewood and other locally grown and sustained wood trees.

These cute, chic, and trendy wooden bookmarks are hand-carved out from Philippine Rosewood. Unlike other wood crafts sold in the mainstream commerce, Philippine Rosewood are indigenous species of wood trees grown and managed in the country.

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This bookmark can be purchased at 25php. You can also ask for personalized designs of these items. The items are designed with animals and shades of colors that would imbibe the context of Filipino culture.

Michael’s Concept wood crafts and furniture project is a livelihood initiative of a local entrepreneurs based in San Fernando, Cebu. They use scraps of wood found in their local community and do not need to cut trees for lumber to be used in their products.

“Our products are environment friendly, because we do not use trees which need to be cut down from forests, rosewood are found abundantly in Cebu,” said miss “Etchel”, the lady in-charge of the booth set-up at the “Sessions in Bloom” in Baguio city.

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Michael’s Concept started in 1988 as a small livelihood of a family based in San Fernando Cebu. Today they had grown into branches around the country.

Producers of Michael’s Concept supports pro-environment products. They produce novelty items like bookmarks, key chains and letter openers ( an originally designed craft of Michael’s Concept and a unique item found in today’s Session in bloom). The designs they use are original creations by their employees.

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Rosewood is an indigenous specie of trees in the Philippines which are self-sustaining, growing in the Philippine forests. They are one of the major type of tees excellent for making word class woodcraft and furniture.

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Michael’s Concept’s  project is supported by PREDA Foundation who helps them in marketing and innovating their wood crafts by training their people on how to create unique designs and introducing them to a healthy work environment. This is owned and managed by a family who practices the principles of “Fair Trade” by giving fair and honest labor to their employees.

This make them a pro-people company. To give a fair and honest wage to their people, they have to keep confidentiality of the designs and concepts of their products to avoid imitating the practices of big companies who seal designs of products and make use of machines for production.

Locate and contact Michael’s Concept @ https://www.google.com.ph/maps/place/Michael’s+Concept/@10.161527,123.706897,15z/data=!4m5!3m4!1s0x0:0x94748fbb6d7df5c6!8m2!3d10.161527!4d123.706897

Surviving Panagbenga : Parade Stories

 

The Panagbenga (Flower Festival) is annually celebrated by the Baguio people and guests from near and far away places. The Street Dance Parade and the Flower Float Parade are the highlights of the Festival where people, local and tourists alike, crowded the streets of the town.

si-look-prettyVisitors who come to Baguio during the Panagbenga season do not only want to feel and experience the cold weather, they also came to experience the culture. Watching the performances of the street dancers and the floats made of home-grown Benguet flowers during the parade, revealed them the skilled and artistic nature of the Cordillerans.

For the natives of Cordillera, watching the parades has been their chance to bring their family to town and watch the outputs of their fellow “Ka-iliyan” ( local term to refer a person or people from the same place of origin) showcasing their gift of artistic talent and creativity. This is a show of support and to share ones celebration of achievement.

Every year, a thousand of watchers spend time to see the parades. On this day, when bystanders fill the sidewalks of Session Road to witness the parade from beginning to end you have to secure a spot as early as 4am or earlier to have a better view of the parades. Coming to celebrate with the whole town would let you experience bad times before the fun.

The good news is that there are people from the grassroots in our community who saw the advantage of what seemed to be disadvantage for most of us wanting to enjoy the good times.

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When flowers are in bloom, it’s also a time for money in bloom. Flower vendors, producers and farmers sustain the local flower production market with them working day ’til night. Doing this would help them survive. Their survival is key to sustaining the city’s culture and economic treasure.

The Flower Festival provides local small-scale entrepreneurs from nearby provinces a great avenue to showcase their livelihood.  The vendors of “latag”, sweetcorn, fish crackers, and other “manglalako” used the event to offer their goods and products. This is a chance for them to grab an opportunity. Through the past years, accounts of these people had been kept and collected, and here is their story.

Latag: Your basic companion during parades in Session latag

“Dumarami ang mga tao ngayon sa Baguio. Kapag Panagbenga umaakyat kami para magbenta (The population of people now in Baguio increases. During Pangbenga we go up here to sell)”, says a vendor named Manag Cecilia who sells silver mats, or also known as latag, for the past three years already.

“Latag” vendors offer their product for those who need to join other watchers who spend the night on the streets. These people would stay until the morning of the parade. There are people who brought with them their own “sapin” (cover sheets) to sit on the floor. But the latag vendors are ready for those who do not bring with them any.

“Bumili na kami…[ng latag] naiwan kasi namin yung pang-latag naming. Buti nga may nagbebenta dito, (We had bought latag now because we left our own mat at home. Good thing there are some who sell here),” said Elmer Dittan a father and native of Benguet. He is with his family who bought latag to use during the parade.

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Latag is made of a sheet of silver foil. According to Manang Cecilia they get the material from Manila. They are unused material from factories for making billboard posters. Latag vendors sell them for 20 pesos where two to three persons can fit in one sheet.

Manang Cecilia shared that they were able to make 400php to 500php from selling latag. She came here with a group of other vendors from “baba” ( term used for places in the lowland) there are those who came from La Union, Pampanga and Tarlac. Their group would travel everyday for the week starting on the day of the Street Dance Parade until the closing on the first week of March. According to her, they also need to go back to their places to be at home. They will also get more stocks of the latag when they sell all of them during the parade. The following day, which would be the Flower Float Parade, is another day for them to increase their income.

How to crack boredom while waiting for the parade

Last year, Manong Rogelio Cerafico a Baguio resident, tried for the first time his business skills during Panagbenga. He was a laborer from Dominican Hill, Baguio City. He tried to see if there were opportunities for him to gain income by selling fish crackers to the crowd who were watching the parade. img_4103-2

The watchers, most of them who were probably at Session hours earlier before the time of the parade, might be hungry from skipping breakfast just to watch over for their reserved spot. And because they have to be early the snacks they brought with them might not be enough. To avoid going out from their spot, vendors had scattered to sell pica-pica snacks, and one of them is Manong Rogelio.

Just like Manang Cecilia, he would sell from the date of the Street Dance Parade. He would stroll along the streets of Baguio to sell fish crackers until the closing of the Festival.

He gets the one kilo pack of the fish cracker. He would repack them into a smaller packages and would sell them at 10 php. After the first hour of the parade, which started at 8:00am, he was already selling his second pack. “Kapag Panagbenga nauubos naman lahat ng paninda (During Panagbenga all my goods were sold out), he said. He has a friend who were already selling every year during Panagbenga. According to him they gain a profit of five hundred pesos to a maximum of one thousand pesos a day. “Sayang kasi yung dami ng tao ngayon, may mga turista, kaya marami bumibili ( The opportunity will get wasted, since there are tourists and there are many people now, many of them will buy).”

Some of his co-vendor sells candies, sweets, peanuts and other types of crackers. Their group purchase their goods from the Baguio City public market. Where they could get the goodies not lower than 500 per bulk packages. They would sell until all their goods were sold.

Sit Still, Look Pretty

As a first time vendor Manong Rogelio was very challenged to sell.  He would need to transfer from one place to another to sell all his fish crackers. He said, they could sell more if they were not watching out for the POSD’s (Public Order and Safety Division officers) of Baguio City. To both our advantage, while people kept still to reserved their spots to watch the parade, street vendors were running around to keep their source of livelihood. In this way watchers can buy food without leaving their position.

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Street Vendors are prohibited in Baguio City. But the only way for them to sell their goods is when they sell on the streets.

The past years the city became strict with street vendors. “Bawal kami maglako. Pag nag stay kami sa isang lugar mahuhuli kami. Kaya kailangan nagiikot-ikot kami ( Vendors are not allowed in streets. If we stay in one place we would get caught. We need to move around all the time),” says Manong Rogelio.

This also concerned Manong Alvin, a sweetcorn vendor. He was from Pangasinan and he had been selling corn in his hometown for living. “Dati kapag Panagbenga at may parade kumikita ako ng hanggang 4000. Pero ngayon mahirap makabenta kasi nanghuhuli na sila( POSD) (Many years ago, during Panagbenga and the parade I can gain up to 4000 pesos. But now it is difficult to sell because the POSD is after us).”

He also came with a group of corn vendors from Pangasinan. They can gain a total of 3000. One thousand of it would go for buying their materials. Manong Alvin gains more than his normal profit when selling in his hometown compared when selling during Panagbenga.

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Since 1977, when the Festival received a full pledge of support from the country’s Department of Tourism, Panagbenga also helped the city to gain economic advantages. One way to promote Baguio’s culture is through economic activities which has been established with the Session Road in Bloom, and the most recent development of the Market Encounter in Burnham Park which begins at the opening of the festival on the first week of February.

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These folks stayed at the end of the parade. No trace of mess and trash were left on the streets after everyone has gone.
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“Session Road/Walk of Lives” . With or without the major occasions, while commercial stands pop up during Panagbenga and advertising streamers come and go at Session Road, the “begging business” continues.
   (article  reference: Panagbenga Baguio City Official Website)