“What will a tourist do here in Batac? There’s nothing to do here!”
Joseph and I arrived yesterday after conducting a two-day Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation – Human Resource Development Seminar Program for the Adoption of Information Technology (or the APEC-IT Seminar) in Batac City, Ilocos Norte. The APEC-IT Seminar aims to build the capacity of relevant personnel in using information technology (IT), specifically, the Internet.
Joseph is my guest instructor. I mostly handle all the technical stuff: IT terminologies, Training Planning, and trends in IT applications in business. Joseph, being a corporate purchasing manager, handled the use of IT in buying and selling, and other online transactions.
We had our share of first experiences in Ilocos Norte:
- It was our first time to ride a propeller plane. We usually ride the jet powered ones.
- It was my first time to stay more than a day in Ilocos Norte.
- My first time to eat authentic Bagnet and Ilocos Empanada.
- My first time to go to the famous Bangui Wind Field.
- My first time to go to the beaches of Pagudpud.
- My first time to commute by public bus from Batac, Ilocos Norte to Vigan, Ilocos Sur.
(Please view my album in Batac, Ilocos Norte)
The APEC-IT Seminar is a team effort.
- The Association for Overseas Training and Scholarships (AOTS) handles the government-to-government funding;
- The Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industries in the Philippines, Inc. (JCCIPI) manages the execution of each run;
- Marketing of this event is handled by the North-Luzon Growth Quadrangle Area (NorthQuad) and the regional Department of Trade and Industry (DTI); while,
- Our company handles the Training Content Development and Onsite Instruction.
How About the Academicians?
The food was good, the venue was nice, our accommodation was huge, we have no reason to complain… but there seemed to be a problem with the audience.
Our motto for this program (reworded), as given by former Under Secretary of Education Hermie Dumlao, has always been: “Helping Filipino Micro-Small-and-Medium Enterprise (MSME) owners become millionaires”. Different from other APEC-IT Seminar is that this was the first time we heard someone from the Academic sector the question: “How about us?” This question made us scratch our heads. Really!
Facts about Filipino entrepreneurs:
- Entrepreneurs are usually creative and have high self-confidence.
- In getting rich, these people choose to remain in the country rather than go abroad.
- The businesses these people create usually employs Filipino workers. (I would really love to see the time when majority of Filipinos are business owners and our country is in need to import other nationalities as our workers. I think it’s cool, right?)
- The businesses rich Filipino entrepreneurs usually invests in other Filipino businesses.
Benefits of having a lot of Filipino multi-millionaire entrepreneurs:
- These people will pay higher taxes for their business and big lifestyle.
- Challenge: Some may argue that some rich people go around the law to pay lower taxes. Well, this is the challenge for the Bureau of Internal Revenue of course.
- More people will be capable of paying for imported goods. This will generate government revenues through the Bureau of Customs.
- More employees will be able to pay taxes.
- By generating more revenues for taxes, the government will have more capabilities in supporting our country’s education sector. This means that all state owned schools, colleges, and universities will have better capabilities in paying their instructors with higher salaries.
- These people will send their children to Filipino schools.
- Challenge: How will these schools attract and convince these Filipino entrepreneurs to send their children to their institution.
- More people will be capable of donating to schools and sponsor teachers for advanced studies.
- Challenge: How to encourage people to donate to schools.
- Challenge: How to encourage people to sponsor teachers for advanced studies.
According to the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB) in 2006 the Philippines has around 17 million families. Out of this number only about 20 thousand families or 0.1% are considered rich or high income earners (please see Dr. Romulo A. Virola’s article entitled: “How Rich is Rich?” in nscb.gov.ph). No wonder a lot of Filipinos are struggling to pay for their schooling.
I am a teacher by blood. Most of my family and family’s friends are teachers, so I believe I know the mindset of teachers. I believe that the reason for teaching is to alleviate a person’s condition of living, not just share information or increase intelligence. I believe that we should increase a persons wisdom, the ability to use knowledge and information for moral and economic improvement. I am really disheartened to hear about towns, with schools boasting of academic achievements, but with high unemployment rate. It is like having builders who only know how to lay bricks rather than build beautiful cathedrals (I hope you’ve heard of the story about the three kinds of builders).
There’s Nothing To Do in Batac City, Ilocos Norte
Another comment from the audience that made us scratch our heads is that Batac has nothing to offer to tourists. Yeah, that really shocked us. Why?
1. We visited the Marcos Mansion and Marcos’ glass coffin in Batac. The town is known as the “Home of Great Leaders”, as it is the hometown of many significant figures in the history of the Philippines. Among them is the former Philippine president Ferdinand Marcos. It is also the birthplace of Gregorio Aglipay, the founder of the Philippine Independent Church, better known as the Aglipayan Church, and Gen. Artemio Ricarte, the “Father of the Philippine Army”.
2. The main campus of Mariano Marcos State University is in Batac. I think the school needs some facelift. Although the university has a lot to show, it was not geared to accept tourists. Unlike, for example, the University of the Philippines in Los Baños Laguna where tourists may seek accommodation in the Pook ni Maria Makiling resort, view Museum of Natural History, and visit the historical buildings like the Main Library and the Bell Tower.
3. We enjoyed eating the famous Ilocos Empanada with vinegar. It’s a specialty stuffed with egg and Ilocos Longganisa.
4. Batac is bounded by municipalities of Banna, Currimao, Paoay, Pinili and San Nicolas. Paoay Church situated in the town of Paoay, is part of the UNESCO World Heritage List. The Church is a unique combination of Gothic, Baroque and Oriental designs. Its facade reveals Gothic affinity, its gables show Chinese elements, while the niches topping the walls suggest Javanese influence (reminiscent of the famous Boroboudur Temple). Currimao is home to many beach resorts.
4. It is easy to travel to and from Laoag City and access the airport, Fort Ilocandia, and the Sand Dunes. It only takes around to hours to travel to the famous light house in Burgos, the Wind Field in Bangui, and the Beaches of Pagudpud.
The town really has a lot to offer. Although, maybe, there is a substance to what the training participant said. There are a lot of things they can improve on.
These are the problems we encountered during our Seminar preparations:
- It was hard for us to find a suitable accommodation. We found suggested places to stay complete with address, price and contact information but no pictures and no street maps telling us how to go to them.
- Limited access to information. Some sites intended for tourists are inaccessible.
- No available detailed map of the town indicating important sites for tourists, like: places to stay, places to eat, places to shop, places to go, places to ask information, and places to find transportation.
A lot of the towns potential are lost due to these minor concerns.
Batac is a great place to go. Although, some things should be improved. The people should think bigger, change their mindsets. There are a lot of opportunities in earning big business income in both trade and tourism, but it seems that people are no keen on taking advantage of these opportunities.
I hope to return to Batac, not as a trainer, but an investor investing in businesses build by Ilocanos. Then, I will heed their call: “Intayon Ilocos.”