By RAMON DACAWI/PIO
BAGUIO CITY — When Baguio paid tribute to its eight outstanding women leaders last Tuesday (March 8) morning, Joanna Cariño came in her native “divit”, the traditional dress for Ibaloi women.
It was in keeping with the spirit of the award bestowed on her. The recognition for this scion of the pioneer settlers of Baguio was for indigenous women’s empowerment.
The citation could have been as fitting were it in recognition of her life-long work in defense of human rights. Or specifically, indigenous women’s rights and indigenous peoples’ rights. Or political activism and leadership.
“This should be occasion for a $1,000-blow-out,” someone ribbed her after the ceremony marking Women’s Month at the Baguio Convention Center.
It was a few days after she and sister Joji received that amount each, as victims of human rights violations during the martial law years. Both and all of their other sisters and brothers were either molded in the First Quarter Storm (FQS), that period of the nation-wide unrest in 1970, or, for the younger ones, later, in that mold.
“It’s symbolic,” she said of the settlement. She then wondered if a cousin, who was imprisoned more times than she was, was also in the list of about 7,500 victims due to be compensated through the Commission on Human Rights.
There are thousands not in the list, among them Joanna’s sister Jenifer (Jingjing), who perished in the Cordillera hills.
Years back, at a reunion of the FQS activists who pushed for reform — if not revolution — Joanna noted fellow former detainee Nathan Alcantara: they are all over – up, down, on the sides, in the establishment, still with civil society or served as cabinet secretaries or official spokespersons.
Joanna graciously accepted to have a photo frame with her fellow Igorot, fresh Philippine Military Academy graduate Janice Baniaga Matbagan. Air Force Lt. Matbagan, who graduated 6th in her class and who obtained the highest rating in athletics, received a special award for academic excellence. She also came in a gown fashioned out of native clothe.
The search committee for this year’s outstanding women leaders of Baguio also cited Roselle Bahni, co-founder of Igorota Foundation, for her work in women development and empowerment and Dr. Angelita Padilla of Imelda Marcos Barangay for gender and development.
Dr. Leonarda Aguinalde former vice-president of the Cordilleras and one of the most sought-after resource speakers in management, leadership and marketing training, was recognized in the field of education.
So was Gloria Leal, an educator who surmounted the debilitating effects of scoliosis who served as English teacher for refugees who serves as directress of the STEP Learning Academy and founder of STEP Tutorial Center.
Punong barangay Aurora Gadiano-Abellera received the plum for public service, particularly for steering City Camp Proper as the most child-friendly barangay with the best implemented nutrition program.
Nutrition worker Balbina Ernesto was honored for her innovations in nutrition education, environmental sanitation and protection and livelihood (knitting) program for unemployed mothers.
Annabelle Estepa, district director of Soroptimist International, is into women empowerment through livelihood programs, adoption of villages, vegetable garden and feeding programs.
This year’s outstanding women leaders received their awards from Rep. Juan Edgardo Angara of Aurora, city councilor Betty Lourdes Tabanda and city social welfare and development officer Betty Fangasan.
The board of judges was headed by Marlene de Castro, executive director of the Baguio Center for Young Adults, with members Adoraline Marigza of the Civil Service Commission, Dr. Grace Doromal, Dr.Milandre Rusgal and Feby Lunag . # nordis.net