Feel to belong: Ushering a more participative Lang-ay 2009 Festival

>> 2/11/2009

(An interview with Mountain Province Gov. Maximo Dalog by Gina Dizon
and Cesar Boguen.)

Q> How ready is the province in the staging of the 2009 Lang-ay Festival.
Governor Dalog> We have already launched the Lang-ay 2009 festival as early as October 2008. Committees are in place including the preliminaries to be undertaken. One of the activities was to consult some people including Prof. Dave Baradas of the University of the Philippines and other knowledgeable people. We invited Prof. Baradas to give his inputs and insights regarding the staging of the Lang-ay festival considering that he has witnessed the Lang-ay festival twice.

Youth and audience participation
Q> What is new in Lang-ay 2009 considering these suggestions?
Gov. Dalog>Basically, the Lang-ay festival is a cultural festival because we cannot depart from our culture, otherwise the Lang-ay festival will lose its meaning. It will showcase just the same our culture as a people.

The innovation is the participation of children. We hope the school children and all younger generation will have more intense participation during the festival in the street dancing, cultural program, games and other activities.

The suggestion of Prof Baradas is to make the audience and our visitors feel they are part of the festival by inviting them to join in the street dancing. They should also wear our woven materials and feel they belong. This was not much pronounced in the previous Lang-ay Festivals. How it will be done? There are designated places where participants invite the audience to participate.

Q> How many people are we expecting to join the festival?
Gov. Dalog> For participants on street dancing, the least is 6o for adults per municipality and 60 for the children’s category. So, for 10 towns in the community category, there are 600 adults and 600 children participants plus some from the 11th municipality, there are a thousand plus participants.

The audience last year was estimated to be about 30,000. We hope to increase that with the help of the media. We hope that people will be made more aware of the existence of the Lang-ay festival.

Q> How big is Bontoc to accommodate more than 30,000 people?
Gov. Dalog> We can accommodate. Some participants went to Sagada in the previous Lang-ay festivals. In Bontoc, we should encourage the homestay program at reasonable lodging fees.

Q> We are expecting 30,000 plus from the audience for this year’s festival. How do we manage to do that aside from the help of the press?
Gov Dalog> We hope to make it more through advocacy. We will do our traditional way of inviting guests and our people outside of the province especially those from Tabuk, Manila, Baguio and neighboring provinces. For this special sector of Mountain Province society living in the Philippines, it seems we have not given a serious effort to invite them to join the festivity.

Now, we are specially inviting their presence for this year’s Lang-ay festival. We feel our people should come back and be made more aware of their roots. In the past Lang-ay festivals, we noticed that those living abroad are more pronounced in their attendance than those living in different parts of the country.

The 11th municipality
Q>What is the participation of the 11th municipality during the festival?
Gov Dalog> We reserved a special slot for them. They occupy the number one slot after the drum and bugle corps in the line of the parade hoping that we will be able to let them join us as one group. In the previous Lang-ay festival, the 11th municipality had a special night.

Q>What is the significance of the 11th municipality in the festival?
Gov. Dalog> We want to make our people who are living outside of the province feel they still belong to Mountain Province. If there are people who went outside of their provinces, they are the people of Mountain Province. We are in Baguio City, Abra, Apayao, Isabela and other places.

There is no other province in the Cordillera where a certain barangay is named as one barangay in a certain city or province. In Ifugao, we have Tadian community. In Baguio, we have Maligcong Village, Mainit village. Especially in Baguio, it is estimated that people in Baguio make up 30% of the voting population that is why we can mount a campaign to bring about a mayor or a congressman.

It is to make our people come back and see for themselves what is happening in their own province where their roots are. And when they go back to the place where they are actually residing it is our hope that they look more kindly on us. They will not forget that they are from Mountain Province.

Q> Where they look more kindly on us, what do we expect from them?
Gov. Dalog> We expect them to be proud of their own culture and tradition. And the fact that even if they are living outside of the province, they are still part of the province. There is a great difference between the person who goes out and forgets his roots from a person who belongs to his roots. I think that fellow who belongs to a certain place, identify to a certain people and feel proud about it is happier than a wandering one. It is actually more of making our people feel that they belong to our province. We have existing traditions which we are proud of.

A person from Mountain Province who is living out outside of the province might want to come back, but what occasion is for him to come back? We are providing an opportunity for them to come back. Suppose there is no Lang-ay festival and we invite them, what for? They come during weddings, but only in a limited scale in their family circles only. What we are doing is an occasion for all our “kababayans” to renew family and community ties, make warmer our relationships and make them feel that they have culture that is still alive and vibrant which can be taught to their own children. It is an opportunity for our people even if only once a year and see for themselves the majestic mountains that we have.

Economic Benefits
Q>What economic benefits will the Lang-ay festival bring for the people of Mountain Province?
Gov. Dalog> The products of Mountain Province have been advertized and made known to the outside world like the woven products and Lang-ay wine. In fact, the Lang-ay wine alone is an industry that is helping our people make a little more income. Even the DTI recognize the impact of Lang-ay wine. They are happy that we did not only conceptualize, but even named Lang-ay wine from our own festival.

We promoted Sagada Arabica coffee last year and had free flowing coffee just to make people see the difference of our coffee Arabica. We are also promoting our handicrafts.

And so, the 30,000 who came and witnessed the Lang-ay festival last year let us say, might have spent 100 pesos in Bontoc. That is P3 million in one day. Would you think they spent 100 only? They might have spent one thousand pesos which is an added income to our people. Other establishments were saying we should have Lang-ay festival every month.

And what is inspiring is that even those people who already witnessed the Lang-ay festival make a point to come back. My daughter invited some of her friends from Manila to witness the Lang ay festival last year. She came back during the Christmas vacation saying that her friends who came over are telling her that they want to come back and even asked some of their friends to join. Those who witnessed the Lang-ay festival want to come back again not only for the Lang-ay festival, but also for the natural beauty of our province and want to see out tourists spots in Sagada and other places.

Q? What product do we specially promote for this year’s festival?
Gov. Dalog> We will continue to promote the Lang-ay wine and Arabica coffee, woven products, other handicrafts. We will ask the different departments what products to be promoted. We are hoping there will be more handicraft items to be produced to be sold as souvenir items.

Q>How ready are our entrepreneurs of Mountain Province to sell their products?
Gov. Dalog> It depends on our people to cash on the staging of the Lang-ay festival. Yet, there is a need for government to intervene. Like for instance, the people don’t readily accept the packaging of the patopat and feel it will just increase the rice. Government has to explain the need for packaging to attract more buyers. We asked DTI to contact a group of patopat producers in Bontoc Ili that government will give a small amount for packaging materials.

Another intervention is in the use of woven products as ethnic accents. I asked the Lang-ay Development Council to order materials that could be used as bedbed or lei, so that when people come, we can ask them to buy these. This is to extend to them a feeling of belonging by wearing the woven material which will be reasonably priced. We have already contacted Can-eo and Guinzadan weavers. We chose materials to be woven and hope the Committee will come up with a sample.

Another is the packaging of our Sagada coffee. Our Sagada Arabica coffee is only marketed in the Mountain Province Trade Center. The packaging is an intervention from the provincial government as requested from northern Sagada women where the provincial government gave support fund of P25, 000. After that, what I only am seeing in fact are only those packed coffee Arabica in the Trade center. Although I am happy that some of it is being sold but more packed coffee should be made.

What we need is a critical mass in our products, for one, our Sagada Arabica Coffee. A critical mass is needed wherein if one orders coffee, we can give many bags or packs, like how Lang-ay wine is being produced.

Government intervention
Q> Coffee farmers are expecting government intervention from your office. How about other offices?
Gov Dalog> It is in the fruit wine industry that government actually intervened. We provided initially P106, 000.00 for the purchase of bottles from Asia Brewery. The uniform bottles made Lang-ay wine more presentable and drinkable.

The situation now is that our producers actually don’t ask us to intervene. After that initial intervention, we are happy to see that they are working on their own. It seems they are independent. That is what is nice here. DOLE followed suit and provided support and so with DTI.

In coffee production, our farmers prefer to do it on their own. If they want, we can buy a roasting machine and grinding machine in one place but they prefer to roast coffee on their own. Each one wants to have his own distinctive brand. The way I look at it, the role of government’s intervention is to properly package coffee and pack this in aluminum foil so as not to lose its aroma.

Coffee Center
For Sagada Arabica coffee, the idea is to produce coffee powder in a roasting and packaging Center. We can promote just the same individual initiatives by making the producer bring to the Center the coffee beans for roasting and packing as Sagada Arabica coffee because Sagada is already advertized. The quality control here is that the beans are coffee Arabica. What we want is to keep the coffee here, process it in Mountain Province to enhance its value and get maximum advantage.

We can allot P50, 000 initial capital to come up with a packaging material. The producers will buy the materials. The money generated from these packs held will be held in trust by the group which they use in turn to buy more packing materials to have a continuous supply. Even in patopat producers, we buy cartoons.

Like Lang-ay wine, there are a lot of fruit wines but the Lang-ay wine is a signature product of the province so we have a special bottle for it. The wine is brought to the Center and tested for its alcohol content, poured in a Lang-ay bottle and sealed with the Lang-ay seal.

Some wine consumers prefer the Damascene wine. Some prefer the Gawani wine. We are encouraging individual initiatives. In Bila alone, we have no less than 20 fruit wine producers. What is beautiful here in the wine industry is that we can store the product. The longer it is stored, the better. It’s the same with coffee. It does not spoil. The longer it is stored, the more aromatic. Besides, coffee does not destroy the environment. It is environment friendly.

We have provided P150, 000 to Sagada Coffee Council for a greenhouse nursery. But I have not yet received any feedback as to the progress of the nursery if the Council already distributed coffee seedlings to farmers of Sagada. Their concept was to produce Typica coffee seedlings and give to households to plant in their backyards so I was very supportive because Arabica coffee grows in backyards. If that will be done in Sagada and10,000 Arabica coffee are planted, then it will be enough to sustain the coffee processing and packaging Center that we are thinking about.

I urge everyone to plant coffee Arabica. There are free seedlings given by the provincial government through its agriculture office. There are also seminars and trainings for the production of Arabica coffee. What is beautiful here is our province can grow coffee Arabica. Coffee plants do not need so much care like oranges. What it needs is only a little care. The moment it is already a matured tree, it can grow a hundred years that is why it is a century plant.

Q> In the up coming Lang-ay Festival, what do you tell our visitors?
Gov. Dalog> Here in Mountain Province, there is always a room for you. We will do our best to accommodate you.
We would like you to come and see how we live, be able to understand our people, be able to understand why we are still having this culture and was able to preserve it and realize that for 300 years, we have not been colonized by any outside foreign power.

Q> And the sponsors?
Gov. Dalog> We ask you to give more to the success of our Lang-ay festival and be more generous. And to those who would like to buy tickets, proceeds will go to the improvement of the SPED center for our special children who need it most.

Q>And specially, what would you like to tell our kakailian from the Mountain Province.
Gov. Dalog> It is our hope that Lang-ay 2009 will be the best. And we can make it the best if only our people are cooperative and take advantage of the event by producing their products and innovative souvenir items. It is our hope that our people will give their minds and hearts to it so that presentations will be very impressive and project their culture and traditions so that those who come will come back again. In celebrating Lang-ay festival , we renew our relationships, make warmer our friendship and feel more intensely the feeling to belong as one culture and one people. Gawis ay Mountain Province!

Source: Lang-ay Magazine February 2009


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