Bibak Dorm Vignettes
July 4, 2015
BAGUIO CITY – Ignorance of what it was originally for – as home-away-from-home of – Igorot students from the then five sub-provinces of the Cordillera stepping into the city for the first time to obtain an education for their communities – must have led to its occupation by 58 illegal structures.
Some., if not all of the buildings occupying the choice 5,000 square-meter lot, have been turned into commercial structures or sleeping quarters, far from what it was originally intended for. as a home for students coming from the BIBAK provinces of Benguet, Ifugao, Bontoc (now Mt. Provinces), Apayao and Kalinga.
At the risk of opposition by those now occupying and profiting from these spaces, the city is bent on restoring the area to what it was for, as a home-away-from home for many a newcomer from the hinterlands of the Cordillera who come to study to become nurses, teachers, engineers, doctors, policemen, accountants or journalists,
The revival plan has stirred nostalgia, mostly from those who stayed in the two-building dormitory for boys and girls. Having lived there, current and former community leaders, retirees from professions learned while under its wings, can’t help but join the clamor for its restoration, as a symbol of transformation and pathway to a better, useful life when its occupants have returned to serve their communities.
For those who had lived in it during their transformative years, the BIBAK Dorm was an Ellis Island. Like the island, it is a symbol of the education of a large percentage of Igorots, in the same token that it was estimated that close to 40 percent of all current U.S. ciizens can trace at least one of their ancestors to Ellis Island.
If only for this, the BIBAK Dorm must be restored. This is the sentiment of those who had lived there, in the same token that every chair and table, even the sleeping quarters of those who were detained at Ellis Island had to be preserved for these are part of American history.
One of those who helped trigger the construction of the BIBAK Students’ Dormitory was retired school superintendent Cyril Bacala Sr.. A graduate of the Mountain State Agricultural College, he was then the school’s BIBAK President.
There was no Centralized BIBAK Association then, so links among leaders was done through a league of presidents who, one day, came up with a joint resolution calling on then Pressident Ramon Magsaysay to build a dormitory for students coming from the then five provinces of the Cordillera.
Last week, Bacala wrote from memory:
“The Centralized BIBAK officers prepared a resolution to His Exellency, President Ramon Magsaysay containing the following points:
“A good site in downtown Baguiop City spacious for two builldings; erection of two buildings for boys and girls dormitories; and provision for funding for the construction of the same.”
The council of presidents had taken the cue from Gov. Bado Dangwa , then the council adviser, to wait for then President Magsaysay was coming to Baguio as guest speaker in the opening ceremony of the Northern Luzon Athletic Association Meet (NLAA).
Bacala recalled: “When the President was speaking, we lined ourselves led by the adviser on the right side of the gate inside. The car where the President rode came near the gate, the adviser presented the resolution. The president read the title and turned to Mayor (Alfsono) Tabora (of Baguio at the backseat and said, “Mayor, look for a good site for the construction of BIBAK student buildingsas dormitory for boys and girls. “Yes sir,” the mayor replied. The President then turned to Congressman (Ramon) Mitra at the backseat and said, “Allo0t from your pork barrel theneeded funds for the construction of buildings for BIBAK students, boys and girlls dormitory,” “Tes sir, no problem,”Congressman Mitrac Answerd.
Bacala ssaid he is one of the living officers of the Centraized BIBAK Organizaion.
While I did not stay even for a night at the BIBAK Dorm, I have my own memories of the place, like fetching glassmate Carlos Abellon and guided by a toss-the -coin formula hatched by another’s Episcopal Church prie’s son, Norman Rulite, on where to go:
“If it’s tails, we go and drink; if it’s heads we go to the bar,” Norman would explain the mechanics.
I tried to court a girl dormitorian once ,going as far as talking to her in her room with nothing but a short T-shirt against the cold. She handed me her sweatshirt, the hands of which I wrapped around my neck. I was careful not to soil it and returned it in our masteral subject without ever wearing it.You may have your own vignettes and memories of this place which you would like to share with us and the present occupants. This space is open for them. Do email them tomondax bench@ yahoo.com or mail them to me, c/o public information division, mayor’s office, baguio city./Ramon Dacawi