Fond memories of Abra

By August 6, 2022Random Thoughts

By Leonardo Micua


A CALL for donation for the earth-quake victims of Abra was posted on Facebook by Mrs. Maan Tuazon-Guico, first lady of Pangasinan. “ABRA NEEDS OUR HELP” she wrote.

Indeed, the province of Abra needs everybody’s help. No less than Governor Mon-Mon Guico sent two provincial buses of Pangasinan to Abra, with some provincial government staff on board, to offer assistance to rescue and evacuate Pangasinenses stranded by the quake in that province.

No doubt, Abra was the most devastated province being at the epicenter of the Magnitude 7 earthquake that occurred at 8:43 a.m. on July 27, in Northern Luzon. That beautiful province, with its wide farm lands undulating with greens and yellow is rich in agriculture.

But many of these are gone now in just seconds of the quake with its hardy people left without food. Roads to various interior towns from Bangued were closed and buried by landslides, stranding hundreds of people in their villages sans any access at all to the capital.

Many of its public schools were not spared by the quake, leaving a big question mark if the opening of classes will proceed on August 22 as scheduled.

It was good for Abra to be visited by President Bongbong Marcos because it gave him a personal assessment of the swath of destruction. From there, he mobilized all agencies of the government to prioritize the rehabilitation of the province from the rubble of the quake and restore normalcy in the lives of its people.

At its present state, Abra deserves more help from the government.

Like Dagupan during its darkest hour after the July 16, 1990 earthquake, Abra should rise like a phoenix from the ashes. And may be, like Dagupan, as things will soon develop, Abra will view the earthquake that reduced some of its infrastructures into rubble, a blessing in disguise.

With Bongbong personally directing the rehab of Abra, bigger and sturdier structures worth billions of pesos will likely be forthcoming and change the landscape of the whole province. With these new infrastructure, it can end its isolation from the rest of the Cordilleras.

Pardon me if I have some biases for Abra over the other devastated provinces. It is because I had fond memories of Abra during my youth as a young journalist who covered that province as then bureau chief of the state-run Philippines News Agency based in Baguio City, while my family stayed behind in Dagupan.

As Baguio is the nerve center of the Cordilleras, whatever convulsion is felt in Abra is heard by the newsmen’s listening post at the Dainty’s Cafe along Session Road in Baguio. I first visited Abra when the Barberos were still in control of the province, that was way, way back.

I remember the time when that province hit the headline because one Fr. Conrado Balweg abandoned his vows and took arms against the government in protest over land grabbing of Tingguian ancestral lands by the big conglomerate Cellophil Resources Corporation that planned to manufacture paper from pine trees then teeming in Abra’s mountain lands.

When I was already transferred to San Fernando, La Union, I and a correspondent of the Philippine Star received an invitation from Gov. VicSyd Valera to cover the town fiesta of Bangued, where Tingguian culture would be focused.

I did not know then that then Pangasinan Gov. Rafael Colet was a cousin of Valera till Gov, Colet made a side trip to Abra, after coming from Laoag where he presided the meeting of the Regional Development Council that I was covering. Abra that time was already separated from Region 1 and together with Baguio, Benguet, Mt, Province and Kalinga formed the Cordillera Administrative Region.

On one occasion, during special elections in Ilocos Sur and Abra which I and four other national and foreign journalists had covered, we had to ask the bishop of Abra to accommodate us in their convent in Bangued because we were advised that the hotels in the capital town were not safe for us journalists during those times.

With my friendship developed over the years with some people in Abra, I must support the government initiative to bring that province back to life and see it develop to propel its moribund economy to become one of the more progressive provinces in that part of Luzon.

The Abrenos are Ilocanos, like those of their cousins in La Union, Ilocos Sur, Ilocos Norte and even Pangasinan.

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