10 braves, a squaw carry Apache’s legacy of service


BAGUIO CITY – It is the tradition that the tomahawk will pass on to the next chief that when Bong Magsino took the same from Ricky Chan during the annual bonfire of the Baguio Apaches last December 30 at the Botanical Garden, a new leadership of the all Baguio boys club has dawned.

Magsino has officially started his one year of service as the Apaches marked its 77th year of existence, incidentally on the day that the country’s national hero celebrated his birthday.

Just like Jose Rizal, the Apaches spawned the idea of love for the community one grew up in, which eventually leads one to love his or her country.

Magsino’s accession to the leadership of the nation was the culmination of a two day annual grand celebration of the boys club founded by sons of pioneers and original settlers of the city.

On the 29th, the first day, it was the annual picnic and mass with their families. It was also the acceptance of peons to the fold of a brotherhood of Baguio boys, their one year of service has come to an end, where they re-learned values that Baguio youth of old practice.  This time, it was held at the Panagbenga Park and (perennially) officiated by Bishop Carlito Cenzon, a Baguio boy and an honorary member of the organization.

On the second day, it was the traditional bonfire where these peons are invested into the organization and  that finally led to transfer of authority from the old to the new chief. The chief is the head of the nation, whose investiture literally will come as a streak of light “from above” to the dap-ay where it explodes into a giant bonfire. That marks the start of festivity of singing and dancing celebrating another year of Apache-hood and a gathering of braves with their squaw (wife) and papooses (children), who all partake of the Apache staple of camote, chili con carne and roasted calf.

The Baguio Apaches has been practically part of the city life. It is now an institution, and first in the Builders of Baguio centennial book, founded by fun-loving young boys whose parents were among the pioneers of a young city.

Locals and migrants alike have been invested into the brotherhood founded by people who were pillars of the city.  In 1939, they formalized the pact which started years back with bonfires and singing classics like Gaudeamos Igitur, Rockadooda, The Big Black Bull, around the fire. These Boy Scouts had simple fare of roasted camote. As they aged, they also formed a basketball team.

The Apache basketball team was one of the more renowned teams of the past, having rivalry with other groups like the Trailblazers, another American Indian inspired group and, like the Apaches, was actually the name of the Boy Scout troop they belong to.

Ernesto Bueno was part of this group and who will distinguish himself as an air force pilot who went to the great war, retire as a general and then mayor of Baguio during the waning days of the Ferdinand Marcos era.

One of these “founding fathers” was Ricardo Paraan, also a war hero, a lawyer and later a councilor of the city. Both played for the Apache basketball team.

They were among those young boys, who by their fraternization will shape the future of the city, which was badly damaged during the second world war. They were merely fun loving, had a penchant for good but simple food and enjoy the fellowship with each other.

Together they fought the great war, survived and raise a family whose members will distinguish themselves as upstanding citizens. Because they grew up together, their wife and children were always part of every Apache gathering and which became an Apache tradition.  The original tenet of three Fs of Fun, Food and Fellowship when the group was founded expanded into including two more Fs:  Faith and Family. The two were included because some of them actually went to war, where their faith was strengthened, and later marry to raise their own family.

They attracted younger Baguio boys into their fold, by then they have already joined the work force either as an educator, engineer, doctor, businessmen or public servant. Some of them became founders of the local chapter of the JayCee, and who built Rizal’s shrine at Burnham Park,  and that the fate of the two organizations were practically intertwined.

From their ranks, three mayors  had managed city affairs. Bueno was the foremost who took over the city’s rein from long time mayor Luis Lardizabal.

Another old member Francisco Paraan, who helped liberate Baguio and Benguet from Japanese invaders,  replaced Bueno after the EDSA Revolution in 1986. It was a transition of government from one brave to another where many saw them talk for nearly an hour while holed in at the then  newly built Baguio sewage treatment plant at the Sanitary Camp that ended with a handshake.

The third was Reinaldo Bautista, Jr., a third generation member of a family, whose efforts helped shape Baguio as a center of education in this part of the country. Barely 30, he won as a councilor in 1998, re-elected in 2001, won as vice mayor in 2004, ascended to the top in 2005 and elected into said office in 2007.

Also in the roster of public governance was Reynaldo Cortes, who served as acting vice mayor in 1986. Apache members who became councilors were: the late Andy Cariño (son of former mayor Dr. Jose Cariño, son of Mateo, the grand old man of Baguio), Bueno’s brother Conrado (one of the oldest Braves), the late Gaudencio Floresca (a journalist) Leonides Bautista (of University of Baguio), Tony Boy Tabora (grandson of  former mayor Alfonso and son of former vice mayor Antonio, Sr.) and Elmo Nevada. Incumbent councilor Richard Carino, who is on the last year of his third term, is also a brave and served as the nation’s chief in 2014.

Public service is one of the legacies the Apache has built in the city and with the national and local elections just a few months away, it is expected that members of the Apache will be seeking public office. In fact, 10 of its members will seek public office, the most in years: one for mayor and nine as councilors.

The Golden Boy Returns

The post EDSA (of course the first), saw the rise of a young lawyer whose father was a former city police officer turned politician and who was also a barangay captain of Modernsite (Aurora Hill).

Edilberto Claravall took the 1995 elections by storm when he came out number one. He ran under the Independent Baguio Alliance, which he founded, one of the foremost oppositors to the Tuntex-led Camp John Hay development. The vigilance and support of locals saw the drafting and approval of the 19 conditionalities which set forth the parameters in the development of the former rest and recreations facility.

Claravall was expected to run for mayor in 1998 after two terms at the city council. However, he was offered a sala by the Supreme Court, which he accepted. Some say because it was the desire of his parents.

There were rumors that he will run for mayor in the 2013 elections but he did not. After 17 years in the judiciary, Claravall retired last year and was soon urged by his supporters to run for public office anew. He filed as an independent in October and is now expected to give incumbent mayor Mauricio Domogan a run for his money.

And Nine to Run for Council

Of those seeking a seat at the city council, nine of them are Apache members. Two of them are returnees, while one held a national position.

Former city prosecutor and three time councilor Erdolfo Balajadia seeks another mandate after a three year hiatus.  He will run under the Domogan – Bernardo Vergara-led Timpuyog ti Baguio with  two other braves.

Former councilor and former Department of Transportation and Communication – Cordillera director Federico Mandapat, Jr., who lost the last election after placing 13th, seeks another mandate. The former cop, former national athlete, “our pride those Mandapat boys when they ruled the tracks of the Private School Athletic Association in the 60s,” said former DZEQ manager Roger Mercado, is more confident to win this time with the absence of some of the bigger names in local politics, who shied away this time or have retired.

Mandapat ran for vice mayor in 1995 and 1998 where he lost by the slimmest margin. In 2001, he  decided to seek a council seat and won and occupied the same post for two more terms until 2010 when he stepped down to become the regional director post at the DOTC – Cordillera.

Also in the ticket is former Youth Rep. Edgar Avila, who was appointed to the 1995-1998 Congress as youth representative.  He ran for mayor after his term but lost to Domogan. In 2010, he ran for congress which was won by Vergara.

The Nicasio Aliping, Jr.-led  Daang Matuwid group of Pres. Benigno Aquino III has three Apache members in its line up, namely, Rudolfo Paraan, Jojo Cabato and Ronaldo Perez.

Paraan is the son of the late mayor, while Cabato comes from a family of lawyers/judges. His father, the late Fernando, an Apache, was a retired regional trial court just like his grandfather Federico. His aunt, Iluminada, is also a retired regional trial court judge. His mother, Dr. Julie Cabato belongs to the Camdas clan, and who is one of the city’s top advocates for environmental protection.

Perez also comes from a family of lawyers.

Two will seek council seats under  the Mark Go – Jose Molintas group, namely John Glen Gaerlan, called the Luciano Pavarotti of the Cordilleras, and Joderek Bautista, a cousin of Reinaldo, Jr.

Jonathan Vergara, the youngest son of the former congressman and mayor, is the ninth Apache member seeking office.

Vergara, who was born, raised and resides here with a family of his own, hopes to gain office, even without the support of his father’s Timpuyog,   in his desire to serve. An engineer like his father, the younger Vergara, when elected into office, wants to implement infrastructure project which will benefit the people but less impact on the environment.  He will run under his father’s National People’s Coalition with former Lourdes Extension barangay chair Benjamin Macadangdang, a long-time Timpuyog supporter like the younger Vergara.

Two of those running for congressman, Vergara and incumbent Aliping, are among the few adopted members of the Apache which also include architect Joseph Alabanza, a former regional director of the National Economic Development Authority, who designed the BLIST (Baguio-La Trinidad-Itogon-Sablan-Tuba) metro concept after the 1990 earthquake. He also served as a presidential assistant to former president Fidel Ramos and a member of the Baguio Centennial Commission along with Cenzon, Virgilio Bautista of the UB clan, Camdas-Cabato and Apache brave Ronald Paraan.

No Stranger

Councilor Betty Lourdes Tabanda is no stranger to this.

For nearly two decades, she has been to almost every Apache functions and the grand bonfire where at one time she was present when the tomahawk was handed to her husband Jun. Chief Jun became head of the nation in 2013 that on Rizal Day, he walked towards outgoing chief Rocky Rinez to get the staff of authority with his squaw Betty Lourdes and their papooses Michael, also a brave, and Michelle.

Tabanda has been in politics since 1992 when she won for the first time and reelected twice to that position until she ran and won as vice mayor in 2001. She lost in 2004 to Bautista, but came back strong in 2007 to reclaim a seat in the city council.

Her term expires on June 30 but she filed her candidacy as vice mayor under the Domogan-Vergara led Timpuyog ti Baguio with three members of the Apaches as councilors.

By Pigeon Lobien