The view from Gingoog City
FROM THE STANDS - Domini M. Torrevillas (The Philippine Star) - July 26, 2018 - 12:00am

GINGOOG CITY – This columnist  spent the latter part of  July 23 watching TV, for the President’s third SONA,  and  was shocked, pleasantly, by  the surprise of the day – the election of Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to the House Speakership. Her election overshadowed the SONA, to be sure.  Hers is an unbelievable story – from senator to president of the Philippines, to imprisonment for four years on graft and corruption charges until the Supreme Court set her free, to congressman  (not congresswoman?) representing the  2nd district of Pampanga, and now, House Speaker.  

After the President’s SONA, Senate President Tito Sotto said it didn’t matter if the Speaker would be a man or a woman; what’s important is that they work together for the good of the country. But the House Speaker may not be able to give President Duterte what he wants so easily. Senator Sotto’s colleagues will not give them the thumbs up sign for  charter change and no election (No-el) hook line and sinker.

Speaker Arroyo said she was going to support the legislative agenda of the president. How far would her support go? For instance, she did not support the president’s call for the return of the death penalty. Remember it was during her term that the death penalty was abolished. Will she now change her stance?

We wait with bated breath what comes next.

Will there be  more surprises?

*  *  *

While many concerned citizens across the land were glued to the boob tube to listen to the president’s third SONA, here in Gingoog, the place of my birth,  hundreds of people were at the city oval/people’s grandstand to attend the most awaited celebration of two events in the city.

Gingoog became a chartered city by virtue of RA No. 2668, signed by President Carlos P. Garcia. The late Congressman Fausto Dugenio authored the bill asking for the city’s charter status.

Gingoog  is a first  class city in the province of Misamis Oriental, bound by Cagayan de Oro and Butuan City. According to the 2015 census, it has a population of 124,648 people.  Its chief executives are Mayor Marie de Lara Guingona, and Vice-Mayor  Ruth de Lara Guingona (who had previously served as mayor for three terms).

Last Monday’s celebration was two-fold: marking the 58th year of the Chartered City status, and the 39th Grand Kaliga Festival, an annual colorful affair honoring the  existence and cultural practices of the Manobo tribe in Gingoog.

Thirty nine years ago, then Mayor Mike Paderanga started the Kaliga festival, which brought to the Gingoognons’ attention the history of their city. First, that Gingoog is a Manobo word for good fortune. The thriving  settlement of the Manobo tribe, is now  where Barangay Daan-Lungsod. The tribe moved to another settlement, the Gahuab-Mangiskis area.

 The earliest natives worshipped the anitos and had reverence for the deity Diwata. Then came the Jesuit missionary Padre Felix Garcia, who converted some of the tribesmen to Christianity.

In 1868, Gingoog became a Spanish pueblo, and became a regular municipality under the American regime in 1903. In time the pueblo became a chartered city.

The word “kaliga” means thanksgiving; the Manobos performed kaliga rituals and dances in thanksgiving for events in the tribe’s and individual members’ lives – the birth of a child, a good harvest, striking a good fortune. 

The July 23 festival was a cornucopia of high school students’ interpretations of thanksgiving. Eight of the city’s public and private high schools showed off giant papier mache icons of  a frog, a shrimp (whose head was accidently torn off), a carabao, a datu, and a monster of sorts. Then they performed street dancing, garbed in colorful attires, dancing to the beat of drums interspersed with the twittering of birds.

The 2018 Kaliga festival actually started July 13, featuring  activities held in honor of Mayor Marie Guingona – a frisbee, a Miss Gingoog Tourism 2018 beauty pageant, a medical and dental mission, a volleyball tournament, a badminton competition, city motor traders show, a  kids fun race, a Zumba competition – and officially ends on July 27 with a job fairs, with NSO, Philippine Red Cross and Philippine Army recruitment services.

The kaliga festival winners:  Champion contestant was the Kalipay National High School; second placer was the Anakan National High School, and third placer was Gingoog Christian Colleges. Consolation prizes were  earned by  San Luis National High School, Mimbunga National High School, Mt. Sioan Academy, Gingoog City Colleges, and the Gingoog City Comprehensive National High School. Awarded best costume and most lively was the Kalipay National High School.

The comely Mayor Marie Guingona, wearing a flaming red suit, took the opportunity to present her city’s accomplishments, evidences of which are a good number of infrastructure.  She asked the participants and observers to work together for the city’s further progress and unity.   

Credit for the successful festival was announced: to  Datu Francisco Siaman, Higaonon Tribuhanong Konseho sa Syudad; Dir. Marie Elaine S. Unchuan of the Department of Tourism R-10, and Olga Alonsabe, school superintendent. 

*  *  *

Of the criticisms against the president’s 2018 SONA, a most strident comes from lawyer Clara Rita “Claire” A. Padilla, executive director of EnGenderRights, Inc. In her release to media, she notes the absence in the President’s speech mention of the  rights of women to safe and legal  abortion, divorce, marriage equality and women’s affirmative action.

First of all, she points to the President’s not appointing a woman to sit in the  Consultative Committee which submitted a draft for the proposed constitution change. Thus,  “it is no surprise that the draft itself does not contain affirmative action ensuring women’s representation in Congress and the proposed Constitutional  Courts, among others.” 

She notes that in the 2017 SONA, President Duterte mentioned that he was against abortion, however, she says, he said there are many cases where therapeutic abortion can  be allowed to save the life of a woman or to prevent disability.

Padilla writes that there are women who become suicidal because of their pregnancy. These include rape victim-survivors who suffer depression, become suicidal, and resort to suicidal clandestine and unsafe abortion, risking their health and lives.  About one in every nine Filipino  women who induce abortion are rape-victim survivors, says Padilla. Without access to safe and legal abortion, they end up part of the statistics of women who die from unsafe abortion complications. 

Padilla writes that since Philippine jurisprudence recognizes that therapeutic abortion is allowed to save the life of the woman  as held in the 1961 Supreme Court case of Geluz v. CA, it is high time that Congress repeal the restrictive provisions in the Revised Penal Code to expressly allow safe and legal abortion on demand or at the very least on various grounds such as risk to the health  and life of the woman, rape, fetal impairment,  and socio-economic reasons, among others.


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