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A woman who ‘squeezed men’s balls’ in defense of her homeland

By Kimberlie Ngabit-Quitasol

BONTOC, MOUNTAIN PROVINCE–Today, May 31, Petra “Ina Tannao” Macliing, a pioneering indigenous woman leader who stood against corporate greed, development agression and martial law was laid to rest in her beloved Mainit village in Bontoc, Mountain Province.

She is far from being “weak and meek”—as President Rodrgio Duterte said women are. She is not just an indigenous woman leader but a fierce warrior.

In the 1970s, women from Mainit village bared their breasts as they confronted engineers of a mining company that intended to operate in their ancestral land. Baring breasts among the Bontoc are believed to hex unwanted strangers in their communities. The engineers left.

The leader of the warrior women was Ina Tannao who passed on last May 25, 90 years old at the time of her passing.

This story about Ina Tannao and the Mainit women is a tale retold in gatherings of women activists to illustrate the lengths Cordillera women will go to protect their homeland from aggressors.

Ina Chamgay Tay-ug was with Ina Tannao when the women drove away the mining engineers. She vividly remembers that day but struggles now to remember the date.

“Tannao gathered us women that day. She told us we will be the ones to stop [the mine] from destroying our mountain,” she related.

Ina Chamgay said the women climbed the mountain where the engineers were drilling, and “stripped naked like Tannao told us.”

“We dared them to harm the womb from where they came,” she said.

After driving the engineers away, the Mainit women raided their camp, took all of their supplies to the town center and left these there to rot. “We did not eat their food. We just wanted them to leave,” Ina Chamgay said.

The Mainit women’s chants are still being shouted in political gatherings today: “Uray maid armas mi/ armas mi nan ima mi / estawes, esta-gawis/ ikmer mi snan fitfitli, fitfitlin na raraki/ estawes, esta-gawis!” (We may not be armed/ but our hands are our weapons/ We use our bare hands to squeeze balls, the balls of men.)

Despite having similar names, Ina Tannao is not related to Cordillera hero Macli-ing Dulag, the Butbut tribe pangat (leader) in Kalinga who was assassinated in 1980 for opposing the Chico River Dam project of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos. But like Dulag, Ina Tannao also actively opposed the World Bank-funded Chico Dam project and fought the entry of mining ventures in her province.

Ina Tannao did not confine herself solely to the concerns of her village. She attended bodong (peace pact) conferences where the pangats from the Bontoc and Kalinga villages discussed the impact of the Chico river projects, Joanna Cariño said, founder of the activist group Cordillera Peoples Alliance. These conferences unified the Cordillera against the dam project, corporate logging in Abra province and Marcos’s Martial Law.

From 1981 to 1983, Ina Tannao helped form the Cordillera Bodong Association and became the only female pangat. Ina Tannao also helped form the Kalinga-Bontoc Peace Pact Holders Association in 1979, a federation of tribal leaders and peace pact holders.

Ina Tannao lost her husband early and was left to raise eight children. Her only son died at a very young age.

She earned a living on the farm or by tending to a sari-sari store in order to put her seven daughters through college.

Lawyer Franscesca Macliing-Claver, her youngest child, said she was three months old when her father died. “She was the only parent I have known,” she said.

Ina Tannao once told her children a story about a couple who offered to adopt their youngest sibling, Claver said. “I was that baby. The couple came with baby clothes and feeding bottles, ready to fetch me. But my mother refused to give me up,” she said. “My sisters used to tease me that I was destined to have a different surname.”

Georgia Velasco of the Cordillera Elders Alliance (CEA) said she met Mother Petra in early 1980s when the older woman encouraged her peers to take adult literacy classes. “She valued education and learning and never stopped learning and sharing what she learned to others,” even though Mother Petra never attended college, Velasco said.

Ina Tannao helped organize her fellow literacy students into a farmers organization. At the age of 70, she helped form the Cordillera Elders Alliance in 2006. She traveled to the Cordillera provinces to speak to fellow elders about their continuing struggle for social justice.

“If she did not suffer from dementia and was still alive today, she would have opposed the misogyny of President Duterte,” Cariño said.

Macliing’s contributions to social transformation is recognized by local and international bodies.

On May 29, Sagada officials headed by Mayor James Pooten personally handed to the Macling family a council resolution honoring Mother Petra. The resolution recognized her leadership in the Cordillera people’s struggle against the Chico River dams, Cellophil logging, entry of mining in her Mainit village and against Marcos’s dictatorship. “Let her noble accomplishments serve as an inspiration to the present and coming generation,” the resolution read.

In 2009, Macliing was honored as among nine awardees for outstanding rural women of the world of the Women’s World Summit Foundation’s Laureate Prize for Rural Women. She was recognized for her pioneering work and invaluable contribution to the Cordillera people’s struggle for indigenous people’s rights to their land and to self determination. The WWSF Laureate Award honors creative and courageous women for their contribution in improving the quality of life in rural communities, for protecting the environment, transmitting knowledge and standing up for human rights and peace.

In 2012, Macliing was one of the six Filipino women awarded by the Asian Rural Women’s Coalition during the 5th International Day of Rural Women for advancing and promoting indigenous peoples rights and civil rights; for combating violence against women and for seeking better treatment of the rural poor, political prisoners, farmers and children.

Current CPA chair Windel Bolinget said that while they mourn Ina Tannao’s passing they celebrate her life, “a life well lived”. He said that she set a shining example for the younger generation to follow.

Bolinget challenged everyone to follow Ina Tannao’s example in defending the Cordillera homeland from development agression and continue her work for social justice and national freedom.

“For there is no greater tribute to Ina Tannao but to continue what she has started in the defense of the Cordillera homeland, advancing the right to self-determination and genuine autonomy,” Bolinget said. #

Kalinga, Bumangon Ka

While singing this song entitled, Kalinga, Bumangon Ka, which was composed during the height of the anti-Chico Dam struggle, members of the Innnabuyog-Kalinga are reminded of their responsibility as umili to defend once again their ancestral lands from the encroachment of so-called “development projects”: proposed dams along the Chico River under Pres. Duterte’s Build, Build, Build, Chevron’s geothermal project in the tri-boundary of Pasil, Lubuagan and Tinglayan, etc. which would mean the destruction of their livelihood and their way of life as Kalinga peoples.

Army units harass Lumad mentors on World Teachers’ Day

Two teachers of Lumad schools in far south Mindanao were harassed by Philippine Army Units last October 5, World Teachers’ Day, an indigenous peoples’ rights group reported.

In a statement, the Center for Lumad Advocacy, Networking and Services Inc. (CLANS) said volunteer teacher Aubrey Masalon was arrested Thursday by the 73rd Infantry Battalion (IB) in Sitio Lamsalo, Brgy. Upper Suyan, Malapatan, Sarangani Province, along with husband Nestor and another community leader.

On the same day, 27th IB soldiers swooped down on Purok Tadluga, Sitio Salaubon, Brgy. Upper Sepaka, Surallah, South Cotabato to look for volunteer teacher Famela Taplan they reportedly accused of being a supporter of the New People’s Army (NPA).

“We vehemently condemn these ongoing harassment by the 73rd and 27th Infantry Battalions against the two volunteer teachers of the CLANS Community Schools on World Teachers Day last October 5 no less,” the group said.

Earlier, on October 4, the 73rd IB allegedly illegally arrested and detained four community leaders  in Sitio Datal Kampong, Malapatan town.

Also last October 2, Taplan was summoned by Brgy. Upper Sepaka chairperson Pudi Ambalgan for a supposed meeting on the CLANS school’s permit.

She failed to attend but was later informed her school was accused of being an NPA front and that she had to “clear her name” at the local police station on October 4.

Taplan chose to proceed to the CLANS headquarters in General Santos City instead after a local official failed to accompany her to the police station as promised.

CLANS said Taplan’s sitio leader Romeo A. Queliste is willing to attest to her work as a volunteer teacher in their community.

“After the forcible closure of 33 CLANS schools, the escalating attacks against Lumad teachers and students are direct results of President Rodrigo Duterte’s martial law in Mindanao,” CLANS said.

“These incidents show that the Armed Forces of the Philippines and Duterte himself are bent on suppressing the Lumads’ struggle to defend their ancestral domain,” the group added.

CLANS called on the Duterte government to lift martial law in Mindanao and resume formal peace talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines “for the Lumad and the Filipino people to achieve just and lasting peace.” # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Kadayawan for whom?

by Krista Melgarejo

Growing up in Davao City, I’ve spent most of my years looking forward to the festivities happening around the city. Floral floats, street dances, the parades and most especially in-season fruits like the durian being sold at rock bottom prices. These things always come to any Dabawenyo’s mind with the Kadayawan – traditionally a festivity of the lumads to celebrate the abundance of their harvest.

But these past years, the Kadayawan has lost its true essence, especially for the lumads.

The history of the lumads is one of struggle, with decades of fighting for their ancestral lands and their right to self determination. With the continued harassment by military and the paramilitary elements, the lumads have become no strangers to walking thousands of miles away from their ancestral lands in order to find sanctuary in the lowlands and the big cities – from the premises of the UCCP Haran in Davao City to the major thoroughfares of Metro Manila.

With Digong’s Martial Law in effect since the Marawi siege, it has only given state forces the license to intensify its harassment against the national minorities of Mindanao.

The Save Our Schools Network reported there are over 7,609 lumad individuals who have been victims of threats, harassments and extrajudicial killings by state forces since the beginning of Duterte’s presidency. Under Duterte’s Martial Law, the numbers have been exponentially increasing.

With the closing down of more lumad schools and more people being driven out of their lands, they have found refuge in places like the University of the Philippines – Diliman which they will call home for the next few months. While the smiles of these energetic and eager lumad kids will never fail to inspire activists like myself, the thought of them being traumatized and becoming accustomed to the bakwit life is painful and enraging at the same time.

With the festivities of the Kadayawan capping off as of this writing, Dabawenyo or not, perhaps we should all stop and think about how do we perceive and deal with the issues of our national minorities. Have they merely become cultural tokens during these festivities or are we also prepared to stand next to them in these trying times?

Let’s call this wishful thinking, but I hope that as a fellow Dabawenyo and the former mayor of the city, Digong does the same. # (Featured image by Kilab Multimedia)

Lumad children vow to continue education despite threat by Duterte to bomb their schools

Hundreds of Lumad including students are in Metro Manila to attend the State of the Nation Address protests this month. While here, President Rodrigo Duterte threatened to bomb their schools, accusing these to be teaching Communism to indigenous children.

Watch the response of the Lumad children. Read more

Rights violations victims ask Duterte, ‘Where is change?’

Human rights violations remain rampant during Duterte’s first year in office, people’s rights alliance Karapatan said in a press briefing last July 14 in Quezon City.

Two mothers of drug war victims–Djastin Lopez, 25, and Emer Soriano, 16–Michelle Campos, daughter of slain lumad leader Dionel Campos, and Rodolofo Tagalog Sr., father of peasant killed in Masbate, gave testimonies in the said forum.

Leon Dulce of the environment network Kalikasan presented the Global Witness Report finding the Philippines as the deadliest in Asia for environment and land defenders.

Read more

Cordillerans unveil Chico River heroes’ marker

BUGNAY folk, church people and other delegations to the ongoing Cordillera Day 2017 opened a shrine in honor of the three leading martyrs of the struggle against Ferdinand Marcos’ Chico River Mega-Dam project in Tinglayan town in Kalinga yesterday, April 23.

Three steel markers representing images of Ama Macliing Dulag, Pedro Dungoc and Lumbaya Gayudan who led the struggle against the World Bank-funded dam project that threatened to submerge Kalinga and Mountain province communities, ricefields and burial grounds  were unveiled along the Bontoc-Tinglayan Road in Bugnay village.

In his message read during the unveiling program, Rev. Brent Harry Alawas, a bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Northern Philippines (EDNP), said it is fitting that the memorial marker is established in Bugnay village, Macliing’s village, the Chico dam struggle’s first martyr.

On April 24, 1980, soldiers led by Lt. Leodegario Adalem raided Bugnay to look for Macliing and Pedro who were then active leaders in the struggle against the projects.

Macliing was killed that night but Pedro survived.

Pedro later decided to take up arms and join the New People’s Army (NPA) in his continuing pursuit to defend his people and his homeland.

Bishop Alawas said that the first team to respond to the murder of Macliing was from the EDNP in Bontoc.

He said then Bishop Richard Abellon sent his staff Benedict Solang and Victor Ananayo, village leader Eduardo Akiate and Elizabeth Dirige of Bontoc on April 26, 1980 to investigate the incident.

The team threaded through several military checkpoints and gathered information on the killing of Macliing they then made public upon returning to Bontoc.

The initial EDNP fact-finding report was followed up with subsequent missions and protest actions by various groups.

Robert Macliing  expressed gratitude for the honor bestowed to Ama Macliing.

“Ama Macliing was not just my father. He was our father, a father of the Cordillerans.  This marker is ours to be proud of,” he said in a written statement.

“The challenge as Macliing’s children is to strive to follow on his footsteps and continue his struggle for the defense of the homeland,” he added.

Dungoc’s son, Fr. Pedro Dungoc Jr. was among the priests from various denominations who concelebrated a Mass at the unveiling ceremony

“In closing, I would like to borrow the words of Bishop Alawas: Let us be inspired by our martyrs to continue the struggle that they started to protect our ancestral land, environment an resources, rights as indigenous peoples, and to promote just and lasting peacr in the Cordillera,” Pedro Jr. said.

Names of other Cordillera heroes—Kathlyn Iyabang-Atumpa, Guzman Gunday, Julio Dulanag, Pingwot Dawing, Yag-ao Ebulwang, Daniel Ijog, Orchag Olyog, Simeon Talis, Dalunag Dawadaw, Gaspar Yag-ao and Elena Edpis—were also etched at the marker. # (Kimberlie Olmaya Quitasol  / Photo by Audrey Beltran)

Army, police harass Cordillera Day delegates

DELEGATES to the Cordillera Day were held and harassed by Philippine National Police and Philippine Army (PA) troopers, April 23, along the road at Barangay Balantoy, Balbalan, Kalinga province.

The troopers led by a 50th Infantry Battallion-PA 1st Lt. Julius Ian Daclag Maestrado flagged down the convoy of about 13 vehicles saying they were just ensuring peace and security.

Jeepneys and a minibus ferrying Cordillera Day delegates from Ifugao were held while Ifugao Peasant Movement’s Brandon Lee’s personal belonging were searched.

Bayan Muna Representative Karlos Ysagani Zarate was among those held in the checkpoint.

Lee said the soldiers also asked him about Kennedy Bangibang, National Democratic Front of the Philippines peace panel consultant for national minority affairs.

Lee said the soldiers asked for his ID when they found out Bangibang was not among the delegates.

Lt. Maestrado then ordered Lee to alight from the bus, who refused by demanding for a search warrant.

Meastrado showed Lee a text message from an unknown sender ordering the troops to hold the minibus and look for “Fernando Alikes,” “Ka Sarah” and Lee.

“The description of me in the text message—from my hair to my beard and my six-pocket pair of pants—were correct. It was only the color of my shoes the text message had wrong,” Lee said.

Lee suspects the harassment is connected to an incident involving a suspected state intelligence agent just as their convoy left Lagawe, Ifugao yesterday morning.

He said he confronted the suspected agent upon noticing he was taking photos of the delegation during a send off prayer.

Lee said the soldier were in full battle gear with assaults rifles that terrorized women and children of the delegation.

The convoy was allowed to pass through the checkpoint after Lee’s bag was searched.

“We were held for nearly an hour and it was already late in the evening so I finally allowed them to see the contents of my bag, but under protest,” Lee said.

Lee said the soldiers even ordered him to empty his bag.

Lee was among the activists who received death threats and harassed from suspected state security forces in 2015.

The Cordillera Human Rights Alliance has condemned the incident yesterday, saying the checkpoint was a violation of human rights and the International Humanitarian Law.

“The state forces did not have any legal basis to conduct the checkpoint and conduct searches of a civilian activity such as the Cordillera Day.  They even claimed to search for armed combatants among the civilian delegation,” CHRA said.

CHRA also commended the delegation for persisting and asserting their rights. # (Kimberlie Olmaya Quitasol / Photo by Katribu Kalipunan ng Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas)

 

UP CSWCD names Bai Bibyaon Ligkayan Bigkay 2017 Gawad Tandang Sora honoree

The College of Social Work and Community Development of UP Diliman named Manobo leader Bai Bibyaon Ligkayan Bigkay as its third Gawad Tandang Sora recipient as part of its 50th anniversary celebrations this year.

Bigkay was cited for her leadership in the Indigenous People’s struggles for human rights and dignity. Read more

Woman warrior of Talaingod is 2017 Gawad Tandang Sora awardee

BAI BIBYAON LIGKAYAN BIGKAY was early for the nine o’clock ceremony at the University of the Philippines-Diliman College of Social Work and Community Development (CSWCD) today. She sat at the front row of the hall, flanked by her two companions and interpreters, a Manobo Datu and a Catholic nun, patiently waiting for the people who are to present her the 2017 Gawad Tandang Sora.

There is little in her calm demeanor that showed she was aware the flurry of preparations in the entire hall was in her behalf, that the huge event was to hail her as the Melchora “Tandang Sora” Aquino of the current and troubled times.  Ligkayan Bigkay is just the third recipient of the award given by the CSWD only during momentous occasions. The first awardee, the brave academic Prof. Flora Lansang who fought against Martial Law, was honored during UP’s centennial celebrations in 2008.  The second awardee, Salve Basyang, tireless advocate of the rights and welfare of women and the elderly, was honored during the bicentenary celebrations of the birth of Tandang Sora in 2012.

There were fears the 92-year old third honoree (earlier reports of her age varied from 70 to more than a hundred) would not make it to the occasion because she had been ill.  Sr. Noemi Degala, SMSM, one of her companions on the trip and interpreter, explained the Bai is complaining of joint pains. “It is most probably brought about by her advanced age,” Sr. Noemi said. But Bai Ligkayan made it, garbed in the traditional red and black Manobo dress and resplendent with the ginibang bead necklace and bead wristband.  Unmarried, she still honors the Manobo tradition of wearing only two bead ornaments on her body, not even the tangkuro, exclusive to datus and chieftains like her. There were the inevitable requests for “selfies” with the guest of honor and she obliged, occasionally raising her clenched fist, like on the posters featuring her around the big venue and on the front cover of the ceremony programme.

When the program finally began, several short videos about the Lumad struggles were shown.  Bai Ligkayan remained quiet, even when the audience laughed and applauded the video of her berating North Cotabato Representative Nancy Catamco at their Haran, Davao City sanctuary.  The confrontation was the only time she was recorded livid, reducing the national government official to momentary and stunned submission as the Bibyaon threw the proffered water bottle at the congresswoman’s feet before stomping off.  But the usually reserved Bai grew animated when a music video was shown of Lumad children running, jumping and playing indigenous percussion instruments.  She slightly swayed her shoulders and nodded her head to the music, before returning to her calm demeanor.  She even declined an invitation to join the dance by invited artists from the College of Human Kinetics, gesturing to her aching right knee in refusal.

A cascade of tributes

When the time came to present the award, epithets echoed around the hall.  Gawad Tandang Sora Committee chairperson and Social Work and Community Development Secretary Judy Taguiwalo said Bai Ligkayan was chosen from among the nominees because she had the vision and courage to fight for her people.  “She is the mother of the Lumad,” Taguiwalo told the audience.  CSWD Dean Jocelyn Caragay said the awardee by her life and struggles enliven the college’s spirit for the underserved. UP Diliman Chancellor Michael Tan for his part explained his administration’s practice to host indigenous peoples in their annual “Lakbayan” to Metro Manila. “The indigenous peoples are the visiting professors of the university whenever they visit us. Bai Bibyaon is the Chancellor,” Tan said to laughter and applause by the audience.

Sr. Noemi’s introduction of the honoree was most accorded rapt attention by the audience. She said Bai Ligkayan is known by many names.

“By the Indigenous Peoples of Mindanao, she is called the ‘Woman Warrior of Talaingod’.  To women’s groups, she is the ‘Gabriela Silang of Mindanao’.  Today, she is to be honored as CSWCD’s ‘Tandang Sora’.  By the Philippine government she has been called a ‘rebel’.  By social workers of the previous (government) administrations, she was ‘a victim of a large-scale kidnapping disguised as internally-displaced’.  And by the paramilitary Alamara, ‘a coveted trophy for war’,” Sr. Noemi said.

The nun asked, “Who is this leader of the perennially-displaced Manobos of the Pantaron (mountain) Range to deserve this tribute? Who is this woman who dwells among the outcasts to come to Manila, the seat of political power and might?  Who is this literacy-challenged leader whose education is at ‘UP’–the University of Pantaron—to be feted by the University of the Philippines?”

Sr. Noemi revealed that Bigkay does not even have a birth certificate to reveal her true age and her parents’ names.  “The nameless is now being called names.  And what an honor indeed that she is named as today’s Tandang Sora, the revolutionary woman who embodied our recent centenary as a nation.  It was perhaps fortuitous that the moment Melchora Aquino died in 1919 was probably about the same decade that Bai Bibyaon was born,” she said.

The nun drew parallelisms why the elderly Manobo woman from the hinterlands of Davao del Norte traveled to the UP campus located just a few kilometers away from where Melchora Aquino succored the Katipunan wounded and within sight of the avenue named after the “grand old lady of the Philippine revolution.”

“Tandang Sora was the revolutionary woman of the national democratic revolution of the past. Bai Bibyaon is the revolutionary woman of today’s ongoing and raging national democratic revolution with a socialist perspective and socialist practice. This distinction given to Bai Bibyaon is only possible because she has stood as the leader for the nameless, the lowly, and the cast out. To students of history the award is an affirmation of the principle that the masses make history,” the Mindanaoan nun said.

Offers back her flower bouquet

The audience was on its feet by the time Sr. Noemi reverently pronounced Bai Bibyaon Ligkayan Bigkay’s name to signify the award was about to be formally bestowed next.  The honoree, who only speaks and understands the Talaingod Manobo language, was the last to stand up, seemingly unsure that the loud applause was for and about her.  When she finally made her way onto the bedecked stage, she was uncertain on where to stand, looking at her companions, Sr. Noemi and fellow Manobo chieftain Datu Aylo Buntolan, as if asking why aren’t they joining her onstage.  They later did. True to character, Bai Ligkayan did not smile even once, most unusual of any honoree in any awarding ceremony.  The Bibyaon only had her iconic determined look, showing the reason why she is being honored–her resistance against all forms of abuse and exploitation against her people–is more a reason for struggle and less of celebration.

The text on the certificate was equally glowing.  It said CSWCD’s 2017 Gawad Tandang Sora was being given Bai Ligkayan for her fight for the Lumad’s rights and dignity.  Indeed, no one carries the Lumad struggle for human rights and self-determination with more dignity that Bigkay, more so when she raised her clenched fist for the assembled academics, students, officials, former CSWCD deans, staff and alumni of UP.  Her iconic salute was borne by her people’s history of struggle at the other UP in the highlands of southern Mindanao.

The awardee only had a short speech as a response to the honor just bestowed her.  Datu Aylo’s translation from Manobo to Visayan and Sr. Noemi’s translation from Visayan to English took more time.  The awardee first remarked on her long name, which refers not only to her person but her people’s culture.  She explained that her first name is “Ligkayan” and her family name is “Bigkay”.  “Bai” is a dignified honorific to Mindanao women of stature while “Bibyaon” is her title by acclamation as her tribe’s chieftain, forced to lead when their Datus have died defending their land and people by government forces in the service of mining and logging interests decades ago. She is the Talaingod Manobo Bai and Bibyaon, who to this day leads her people against the same forces of injustice and death.

Ligkayan Bigkay thanked the CSWCD for the recognition of her contributions to her people’s struggles for self-determination.  In the second part of her speech, the oldest person in the hall addressed herself to the youth and students present.  She called on them to help the indigenous peoples defend the environment and the future as well as to contribute to the poor people’s struggles for social justice and liberation in the countryside.

Sr. Noemi struggled to capture and convey the depth of Bai’s words and admitted failure.  “Let my deep sigh represent the depth of what she said,” the missionary nun said.  She revealed that Bai Ligkayan is in fact being hunted by the military at the Pantaron Range exactly for the reasons that she is feted by the country’s premiere university.

After her speech, Ligkayan Bigkay went on showing the audience what her greatness was all about. When asked to pose for photos with her bouquet of flowers she did not want the moment to be all her own, just as she refused all the accolades given her in the past be about her alone.  She reached out and took the hands of a person who always welcomed them on campus, their ally, the surprised Chancellor Tan, who was seated nearby.

“I was touched by the gesture.  I believe she sees me either as a son or a fellow elderly.  But it also means we are very good friends,” Tan said.

Earlier, when she stepped away from the podium and was being escorted back to her seat, the bouquet of flowers earlier given her was put back on her arms.  She looked at them briefly and then offered it to Secretary Taguiwalo, a gesture that could only mean she is sharing the adulation being showered her with a kindred soul, a comrade, a fellow woman warrior. But Taguiwalo had to decline.

It was Taguiwalo who voiced how the audience felt.  “The truth is, by receiving the award, Bai Bibyaon is bestowing us honor as a college,” Taguiwalo said. # (Report and photos by Raymund B. Villanueva)