Benguet is for Everyone

Opinion

The tagline “Benguet is for Benguet,” offends me in so many ways. It is short of saying those who have no bloodlines, and those who are not from the area have no business the in the province. For people who love Benguet, it leaves a bad taste in the mouth.

A friend told me, one time, the tagline was designed solely for the election, confined in the fight for the lone congressional seat between, Itogon Mayor Victorio Palangdan, who is a true blue Benguet, and Eric Go Yap, an outsider, assigned to be the caretaker of the Province since the demise of the beloved Nestor Fongwan Sr. How can a tagline be confined only to this arena? Did the person who thought of this think about its effect on people?

With the landslide win of Yap over Palangdan, I guess not. I do not want to ruffle the feathers of close friends who have gallantly campaigned for both sides over the past months and will not delve into the politics of both candidates.

I am not a Benguet voter in the first place, I only love the province may be as much as those who have been born into it.
Treat me as an outsider looking in.

Another friend told me, that the attitude was quite tribalistic, defined as “the behavior and attitudes that stem from strong loyalty to one’s tribe or social group.

I agreed, why do we have to confine leadership to a closed group? Does that spur development? Or is it again confined to the case of Yap and Palangdan?

Well, the world does not revolve around these two people, does it? The dust of the election has settled somewhat, and in the Cordilleras, whose soul and tone are far different from all regions, a sense of peace and acceptance has been made.

It is the first time in the history of the Benguet that a tagline has successfully alienated people from each other, separating people by geography and ethnicity. They say it is also the first time in history that an “outsider” has triumphed over a local. Is that bad?

The Human Development Index reveals that Benguet has an HDI of 0.0883, the highest in the region. This means that people who live here enjoy a better quality of life. I know this is true, as the province has been good to me, a lowly reporter who was assigned to the area years ago without any real background on what the place was about.

I learned the culture by interacting with people, I learned to love the innate shyness of locals and the deep respect they have to love and life.

The province welcomed me with open arms and allowed me to do my work which I am immensely proud of. Benguet is for everyone, I was taught.