Cagayan de Oro ranks 7th as PH Most Competitive Highly Urbanized City

The City of Cagayan de Oro retained its ranking this year as the 7th Overall Most Competitive Highly Urbanized City (HUC) in the 2020 Cities and Municipalities Competitiveness Index.

 The DTI Competitiveness Bureau conducted the 8th Regional Competitiveness Summit  on16 December 2020, via Facebook Live.

“We had consistently been among the Top Ten Highly Urbanized Cities since the competition started 8 years ago. In spite of the many limiting conditions that we have had to bear, we managed to remain well afloat and emerge among the Top Ten Highly Urbanized Cities in the country. Another proud moment for Cagayan de Oro and for all of us!” exclaimed Mayor Oscar S. Moreno in a statement released for the occasion.

PCCI’s Special Citation for Most Business Friendly LGU 2020 to Cagayan de Oro LGU reflects its gov’t. efficiency

Manila was again ranked the Most Competitive Highly Urbanized City for 2020, leading seven other cities in Metro Manila in the Top Ten, including Pasay (3), Makati (4), Muntinlupa (5), Pasig (6), Valenzuela ( 8), Caloocan (9) and Parañaque (10).

Cagayan de Oro City was one of only two (2) cities outside the National Capital Region (NCR) that made it into the top 10, with Davao City ranking 2nd to Metro Manila.

“2021 may be a game changer considering each LGU’s experience in the pandemic. As you can see, in the top 10, all are NCR cities, except Cagayan de Oro and Davao,” said Eileen E. San Juan, Cagayan de Oro Local Economy and Investment Promotion Officer (LEIPO).

“We have to see how the lockdowns in these cities impact on the different pillars of competitiveness. For government efficiency, many LGUs may have significant improvements due to the streamlining of business processes and implementation of the EODB (Ease of Doing Business) Law.

The Cities and Municipalities Competitiveness Index is an annual ranking of Philippine cities and municipalities developed by the National Competitiveness Council through the Regional Competitiveness Committees (RCCs) with the assistance of the United States Agency for International Development.

The ranking is based on overall competitiveness scores, the sum of scores on four (4) main pillars: economic dynamism, government efficiency, infrastructure, and resiliency.

Cagayan de Oro ranked fifth in Infrastructure among HUCs in 2020.

Cagayan de Oro ranked 5th among HUCs in Infrastructure, 6th in Resiliency, 9th in Government Efficiency, 12th in Economic Dynamism.

“I’d like to thank God Almighty for all His countless blessings. I’d also like to thank all the men and women of the City Government for your continued support and dedication. Also, I’d like to thank all our partners in serving the people of Cagayan de Oro, be they from the public sector or from the academe, business community, interfaith organizations, youth sector and aid organizations. May this new prestigious award continue to inspire us all in our quest for excellence. Congratulations, and God Bless!” Moreno’s statement concluded.

CDO Ginama OTOP-Hub is a showcase of the city’s economic dynamism.

The Awarding Ceremony for the Most Competitive Cities and Municipalities in the Philippines for 2020 capped a full program that included the presentation of the 2020 CMCI Academic Symposium 1st Place Best Research Paper by Ms. Rina Abner of Partido State University; Launching of the CMCI Data Analytics Platform by Usec. Rafaelita Aldaba; MOU signing between Liveable Cities Challenge PH, and DTI Philippines; and the Joint Memorandum Circular signing on the Mandatory Submission of the List of Businesses Establishments Registered in the City and Municipality between DILG Philippines and DTI Philippines.  (ORO-TIPC)


Mensahe sa Pasko sa Pagkatawo ni Kristo

Ni Most Rev. Jose Cabantan, D.D.

Malipayong Pasko kaninyong tanan mga igsoon!

Archbishop Jose Cabantan, D.D. Archdiocese of Cagayan de Oro

Ania pa kita karon ning panahon sa Adbiento, usa ka panahon sa pagpangandam alang sa pagsaulog sa pagkatawo sa atong Manunubos ug alang usab sa pagpaabot sa iyang ikaduhang pagbalik.

Samtang kita nagpaabot kaniya, atong huptan ang lawom nga paglaom diha sa Dios kay Siya lamang ang atong dangpan ug saligan ilabi na taliwala niining pandemiya nga atong nasinati ug nahiagoman karon.

Tin-aw kaayo nga ang atong kahimtang  karon usa gayod ka Adbiento. Nagpaabot kita nga malingkawas na kita niining maong pandemiya ug atong dangpan ug saligan ang atong makagagahom nga Dios.  

Sa atong kasaulogan sa Pagkatawo sa atong Manunubos atong ibutang ang atong kinabuhi diha kaniya, ang kahayag sa atong kinabuhi. Taliwala sa atong pagduhaduha, taliwala sa atong mga kalibog, taliwala sa atong mga kabugnaw karon, atong pangayoon ang grasya gikan sa atong mahigugmaon nga Dios nga nagpakatawo nga unta giyahan kita niya, dasigon kita Niya, lamdagan kita Niya, pinaagi sa iyang kahayag. 

This creche appeared in a Christmas exhibit at the Monastery of the Holy Spirit in Conyers, Ga., in 2018 and is from a collection owned by Marcy Borkowski-Glass of St. Pius X Church in Covington. The exhibit showcased some 500 Nativity scenes from Glass’ personal collection and a select few from the monastery.
(CNS photo/Michael Alexander, Georgia Bulletin)

Siya ang maghatag kanato ug katin-awan diha sa atong pagpanaw sa atong kinabuhi nga mawagtang na kining mga kahadlok batok sa virus nga atong giatubang karon ug Siya  gayod ang maghatag kanato sa tin-aw nga dalan nga atong pagadulngan sa atong kinabuhi, taliwala pa man sa mga pagsulay nga atong nahiaguman sa atong kinabuhi.

Siya gayud ang atong kahayag, Siya gayod ang Dios sa gugma ug Siya gayod ang atong paglaom. Mao man sa umabot nga Bag-ong Tuig, tuig 2021, atong ibutang gayod ang bug-os nga pagsalig Kaniya nga niining Bag-ong Tuig makabaton kita ug bag-ong kahayag, bag-ong kadasig, bag-ong kinabuhi. 

Busa mga igsoon manghinaut ako  nga magasaulog kita sa usa ka Malipayong Pasko sa Pagkatawo sa atong Manunubos ug Bulahang Bag-ong tuig kanatong tanan.


Early History of the Oro Chamber

Through the years, Oro Chamber has remained one of the leading local chambers of commerce in the Philippines.

It is the first “Hall of Fame Awardee” of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Inc. (PCCI) and was the first to host the 1st Mindanao Business Conference (MINBIZCON) in 1992, and again hosted it in 1994, 2003, 2010 and 2017.

The first iteration of the Oro Chamber was organized in December 1982 by a group of 25 firms convened by the late Dante P. Sarraga, then the Regional Governor of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI), as an affiliate chamber of the PCCI.

This Group of 25 believed it was high time that Cagayan de Oro City and Misamis Oriental Province have an organization that could properly represent and articulate the problems and issues affecting business and businessmen in the area.

Elected as charter president was the late Dr. Virgilio Neri, Sr.

The following year, the Oro Chamber exhibited its pioneering spirit as it organized and hosted the 1st Conference on Cottage, Small and Medium Industries at the VIP Hotel.

However, the untimely demise of Dr. Neri later that year left a void in the leadership of this fledgling organization. But the dream refused to die and, on October 1984, a new Board of Directors was installed and elected Aldrico T. Manus as president.

The Oro Chamber as it is known today was formally later established on 29 March 1985 when it was registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission under the Registry Certificate No. 12944, as the Cagayan De Oro Chamber Of Commerce And Industry Foundation, Inc.

In its first notable accomplishment, the Oro Chamber signed a partnership with Handwerskskammer, Kassel (Kassel Chamber of Small Crafts and Trades) and the Cebu Chamber of Commerce and Industry  for its inclusion to the Philippine-German Chamber Cooperation Program (PGCCP) on February 18, 1986.

Through the aegis of the Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit, GmbH (GTZ, or German Agency for Technical Assistance) and the Philippines Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), the PGCCP  provided training, advisory, equipment and financial subsidies to both chambers.

Now known as the GIZ (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit GmbH) the GTZ is the German development agency that provides services in the field of international development cooperation.

On September of 1987, the first Secretary General of the Oro Chamber was hired in the person of Mr. Nestor J. Abanil.

What was originally designed to be a 3-year Assistance Program was extended to seven years with the Oro Chamber that we know today as its crowning achievement in Cagayan de Oro.

The first two presidents of Oro Chamber Al Manus and Guido Delgado (photo courtesy of GAAD)

Guido Alfredo A. Delgado was elected president in 1988, with Ramid P. Gualberto succeeding Abanil as Secretary General for two years. Pres. Delgado kept the chamber at the forefront of lobbying on the issues that affected the business community.

In May 1991, Marriz Manuel B. Agbon succeeded Gualberto as Secretary General and paved the way for further professionalizing the services of the chamber. Among its key accomplishments under Agbon’s tenure was the completion of the Master Plan for the Cagayan de Oro-Iligan Corridor (CIC) Special Development Project.

On August 1992, President Arsenio L. Sebastian III led the Oro Chamber in hosting the 1st Mindanao Business Conference (MINBIZCON) in Cagayan de Oro. Close to 400 delegates attended with His Excellency President Fidel V. Ramos as the Keynote Speaker.

PCCI Region X Governor Guido Delgado addresses the 1st Mindanao Business Conference held August 14-15, 1992 at Pryce Plaza
(photo courtesy of GAAD)

The succeeding years marked the unprecedented growth of the Oro Chamber as it improved its services to include the organization of business conferences, trade missions, management seminars and the conduct of market research studies. Prominent among these was the Agribusiness Systems Assistance Program (ASAP) which Oro Chamber implemented in 1992-1995 with the US Agency for International Development (USAID)

In 1993 and 1994, the Oro Chamber under the stewardship of Pres. Jesus Emmanuel M. Paras was recognized as the Most Outstanding Chamber In The Philippines by the PCCI.

During the incumbency of the next president Eduardo Pelaez in 1995, the Oro Chamber partnered with key government and multilateral aid agencies for the development of the agriculture sector in Northern Mindanao with key sectoral studies for the cattle and rice industries.

Oro Chamber Officials join Xavier Ateneo Pres Bobby Yap and city officials in inaugurating Xavier Ecoville Phase 1 on 25 Jan 2012 at Bgy Lumbia. (photo courtesy of Ghaye Alegrio)

It was also during Pelaez incumbency that the Oro Chamber was elevated to the PCCI Hall of Fame for Outstanding Chambers with its third consecutive recognition.

In 1996, President Roberto J. Togle, revived the chamber’s partnership with Handwerskskammer Kassel with the implementation of the Regional Chamber Development Program (RCDP) which sought to develop chambers in Iligan, Butuan, Ozamiz and Bukidnon.

Oro Chamber Officers and Members of the Board at a Planning Session at Dahilayan Adventure Park during the incumbency of Pres Dodong Donggay. (photo courtesy of Ghaye Alegrio)

By 1997, the late Pres. Arturo Mercader with Acting Secretary General Marilou Flores, continued its outreach program through the PEARL-CIDA dubbed as the Regional Chamber Strengthening Development Program. The chamber also acted as the secretariate for the Agro-Industry Sector of the  Brunei Darussalam-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East ASEAN Growth Area (BIMP-Eaga) on 1997-1998.

When the late Pres. Jose M. Belen was elected president in 1999, the Oro Chamber revived the Oro Business Center in tandem with Secretary General Ma. Teresa A. Alegrio through the aegis of SWISSCONTACT. Through this project, over one thousand (1,000) SMEs underwent retooling and capability building programs.

During the same year, the Oro Chamber was selected as a public registration authority under the World Internet Secure Electronic Key (Wisekey) of Switzerland. Under this project, the Oro Chamber became the first Chamber of Commerce in the Philippines to issue digital signatures and certificates through eCommerce.


Marawi Veteran APC becomes a “Bridal Tank”

BALOI, LANAO DEL NORTE —– An armored vehicle of the Armed Forces of the Philippines which was a veteran of the Marawi Siege of 2017 was back in action for a very special mission:  to carry six white-dressed brides to their wedding with soldiers who fought during the Marawi siege.

The 4Mech APC that fought in the 2017 Marawi Siege becomes a “bridal tank” for six brides of soldiers from the unit.
(Photo courtesy of Algina Gilapay.)

The ‘bridal/wedding tank’ was a P39-million  M113A2 Armored Personnel Carrier (APC) which played a significant role in the liberation of Marawi from the Dawlah Islamiya (DI).

Donated by the United States (US) government, it comes equipped with a remote-controlled weapon system that killed Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon and Maute leaders Omar Maute in October 16, 2017.

On Saturday, December 12, the tank became the center of attraction as it was decorated with white flowers and ferns and brought six ladies in white bridal gowns to the hall inside the Army camp where their respective partners were waiting to get married.

The groom

Six Army soldiers of the 4th Mechanized Infantry Battalion decided to marry their respective partners in a Catholic wedding ceremony, dubbed “masked wedding”, after years of cohabitation as common law partners.

LtCol. Domingo Dulay, Jr., 4Mech commander, said the unit decided to conduct the wedding for the couples who have been living together with their partners and already had children without the benefit of marriage.

Six Army soldiers married their  partners on December 12 inside the camp of the 4th Mechanize Infantry Battalion in Barangay Nangka, Baloi, Lanao del Norte in a  ‘masked mass wedding’ because everyone wore face masks in compliance with minimum health protocols set by the IATF. (Divina M. Suson)

The weddings were deemed imperative to avoid problems between the unit and their families over the settlement of the soldiers’ benefits should they become casualties of war.

“Marami na kasing beses na namatay ang tropa or na-aksidente ang tropa dahil sa trabaho. May anak pero hindi kasal sa ina ng bata. Nag-aaway away na sila nung pamilya ng ina ng bata at pamilya ng tropa kasi nag-aagawan kung sino ang tatanggap ng mga benepisyo at kung sino ang mas may malaking share,” Dulay explained.

From siege to wedding

In his message to the couples, Dulay wished them a strong marriage that endures all kinds of temptations and challenges like the APC which successfully went through trying times during the Marawi siege.

“Naway ang pag-iibigan n’yo at pagsasamahan ay kasing tibay ng tangke de giyera na inyong sinakyan na galing sa Marawi siege. Nalampasan niya ang Marawi crisis. Sana malampasan n’yo rin ang lahat ng krisis at pagsubok na darating sa buhay n’yo bilang mag-asawa,” Dulay said.

Couple Private First Class (PFC) Monte Carlo Bueno and Geneveve Veloso are both from Luzon.

Newly-married couple, Private First Class (PFC) Monte Carlo Bueno and Geneveve Veloso, take off their face masks and face shields for a quick first kiss as a married couple (Divina M. Suson)

They met in 2010 through a common friend when both of them were still students and became a couple months later.

Seven months into their relationship, they broke up because “we did not have enough time for us together” according to them.

“But I kept on thinking of her and I was looking for her. In 2012, while I was working in our LGU (local government unit) I unexpectedly saw her in a mall. I did not waste my time, I asked for her contact number and we were back together,” Bueno said.

In 2012, Veloso got pregnant with their first child. They were planning their wedding when Bueno’s two siblings derailed their plans by also getting married.

“There is superstitious belief that it is not good to have two siblings get married in the same year. They call it “sukob”, Veloso said.

The wedding was shelved but Veloso got pregnant with  their second child in 2014.

Bueno was accepted into the Philippine Army in 2016 and was assigned to the operations section of the 4th Mechanized Battalion in Camp Pintoy in Barangay Suarez, Iligan City.

During the Marawi siege, he was assigned to receive reports from the battle area.When they were short of manpower, Bueno  joined a  team that brought supplies to troops inside the main battle area.

“Sobrang alala at halos hindi makatulog sa gabi dahil sa pangamba na baka may hindi magandang mangyari. Isa rin yung malaking pagsubok sa amin,” Veloso said.

In October, when Bueno learned of the free wedding to be organized by the unit inside the headquarters, he went home in Tarlac to process the documents needed.

He also had to bring Veloso to Mindanao for the wedding ceremony.

Their respective parents and their children were not present during the wedding due to travel restrictions.

“It was a very difficult journey. That time it was enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in our province. There was no transportation from Tarlac to Manila. We survived it just to be here for our wedding,” Bueno said.

“We do not let this chance to pass us by. Even if this is a‘mass wedding’, we still treasure it because this is what I want: to marry her (Veloso),” Bueno added.

With the sealing of their marriage on Saturday, Bueno and Veloso have only one promise: to trust each other always despite the distance.

“I will always pray you are safe especially during your operations,” Veloso told Bueno.

The M113A2 armored personnel carrier of the 4th Mechanized Infantry Battalion as a “Bridal Tank” for the brides of six soldiers who were married in the unit’s camp at Bgy. Nangka, Balo-i, Lanao del Norte. (Photo by Divina M. Suson) 

Aside from giving the couples hassle and expenses-free wedding, they were also gifted with a three-night accommodation at a hotel in Iligan City “courtesy of 4Mech friends” according to Dulay.


Philippines to Gain in Tech Power Shift from West to Asia

World Fintech Festival Philippines Day 4

Two powerhouse panels on the fourth and penultimate day of the World Fintech Festival (WFF) – Philippines focused on two global trends that the Philippines needs to adopt on the road to post-COVID economic recovery. 

These are the tectonic shift of digital transformation from the West to Asia, and the swift integration of machine-learning tech into our industries, especially traditional or legacy companies.

Philippines to Gain in Tech Power Shift from West to Asia

The highly competitive world of tech has been pushed by the events of 2020 to more aggressively build bridges and push innovation as we see an increase in SMEs opting for digitalization.

Now, more than ever, securing funding for SMEs is a cornerstone in fortifying the Philippine economy, as investors turn their attention from the West to the major tech growth in Asia.

“There are three reactions that happen at the entry of changes: frustration, indifference, and innovation. Initially, you can expect a divide. It’s true for any industry. But eventually, if you are doing the right thing, everyone else will follow. Banks collaborating with fintech and embracing tech will be ahead of the game five to ten years from now,” said CEO Ron Hose.

Following the 722% transaction increase for InstaPay in the pandemic’s aftermath, finding a happy equilibrium between fintechs and banks is key to ensuring the longevity of this sector, which relies on interconnectivity and interoperability.

Christiaan Kaptein, Partner of Integra Partners, and Matthew Kolling, Chief Investment Officer of UBX, have been working together to create an open ecosystem that enables various industries to better transition into a tech-based economy.

Kaptein noted how the tech power shift has mostly been brought on by COVID-19 “pushing the agenda of digitization.” He showed how hardware, models, new data, and proxies dictate how tech shifts from the West to Asia. The biggest sector to look forward to is SAAS in the coming years.

Meanwhile, Kolling and TagCash Owner and Founder Mark Vernon noted another growth area that moved investors in North America and Europe to cast their eye on the Philippines: our young, tech-savvy population compared to the more mature and aging markets in their own regions.

Supporting this sentiment, Joan Yao, Kickstart Ventures Vice President of Investments, shared how its platform has been the Philippines’ largest corporate venture fund backed by major local players Ayala and Globe. As part of their optimistic approach to startups becoming more buildable over time, they’ve allocated US$180M into this fund.

WFF Philippines convener Amor Maclang notes that 30.7 million small businesses were recorded in the previous year, and of these, half will only survive for five years.

“To hurdle this challenge, ideators and entrepreneurs must ensure that, apart from being profitable, they should establish their story, impactability, and portfolio relevance,” she stressed.

Micropayments and consumption have been at the core of mass adoption, bearing the weight of investment considerations like each company’s ability to adapt to hypergrowth in tech, due to both new challenges and groundbreaking changes.

As digital reigns, Filipinos can skew more into digitizing their startups to run business smoothly and get past the setbacks that once might have plagued remote work, digital health, e-commerce, education, and entertainment.

Energy Legacy Biz Adopt Automation as 57% of Global Companies Increase AI-Tech Head Count

Legacy businesses, specifically those in enertech, telemedicine, and insurtech, are continuing their long-held tradition of being at the forefront of change by leading the charge into the adoption of automation using Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Robotic Process Automation (RPA) technologies.

About 57% of global companies have increased their AI-tech workforce to respond to the needs of their customers, while simultaneously streamlining internal processes that can ultimately reduce up to at least six months’ worth of overtime work.

“The most important thing is to understand customers and know the pain points needed to be solved. For instance, FinTech is growing and blockchain is happening now,” said Vince Yamat, Managing Partner of 917Ventures. “917Ventures operates several companies like GCash. We used AI in GCash through GCredit by credit scoring. At Globe, we utilize AI by understanding how consumers use data. We are creating a lot of capabilities and platforms for different ventures. For KonsultaMD, which is telehealth, we use AI in triaging concerns.”

“Every industry will be touched by AI. Energy industry itself will be powered by AI. Using robotics resulted in so much savings in people’s time,” noted KPMG Philippines Vice-Chairman and COO Emmanuel Bonoan.

“I was very happy with the results so I mandated our tax division to use RPA. I will give you an example. Before we implemented RPA, each tax return per client would do around four hours. But after we implemented RPA, each tax return is now about 30 seconds. Within two months from the time we implemented RPA, we saved 6 months’ worth of man hours. That is such a huge savings in overtime. Morale of our people also increased because they are now put to tasks which allow them to use their critical thinking.”

Energy Development Corporation (EDC) Chief Transformation Officer Joy Santamarina detailed the company’s efforts in working on a digital twin of EDC’s power plants which enables them to analyze the data and provide customers valuable information that can help them be wise with their electricity consumption.

“What we’ve done so far is to look at the value chain of the whole ecosystem of our generation and put in necessary platforms in order to analyze data and predict certain outages and address them before they even occur.”

“Digitization plays a big part. From a seismic perspective, it is the analysis of waves. It allows us to clearly see what happens on the ground. To really understand the probability of your success. Exploration is low when it comes to business success – around 8% of success,” said Don Paulino, General Manager of Shell Philippines Exploration B.V. (SPEX).

“Digitization allows us to know where to do the seismic and how to do it. Sometimes it takes about 6 months, but with digitization, you can develop the field much quicker.”

“But in order to make digitalization more palatable even for the most old-fashioned of stakeholders, Meralco Vice President and Strategy and Business Development Office Head Raymond Ravelo advises to “leverage tech and innovation for good. We, in Meralco, are beginning this journey, and we are committed to do more to sustain energy, and sustain the future of our country, and a big factor in that is AI and digitalization.”

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Business Urged: Prioritize Data Security as Cyber Threats Skyrocket

World Fintech Festival Philippines Day 3

The many ways by which tech can revolutionize industries, revive and strengthen ailing ones, and even protect businesses from dangerous threats were highlighted during the third day of the World Fintech Festival Philippines on Dec. 9.

Rural banks, coops, and startups can maximize financing relief to the critically-impacted sectors. Businesses were advised to use a customer-centric approach for their most agile solutions.  Fintechs are confronted by the realization that they have to embrace data privacy and security by design—or fall prey to cyber criminals.

Fintech Extends Lifeline to Struggling MSMEs

To jumpstarting the economy from the paralysis caused by multiple lockdowns, fintech-based companies established ways to help grassroot members of society by providing them access to loans, livelihood opportunities, and insurance that helped support their livelihood in the midst of the pandemic.

“We share the same sentiment towards providing for the SME sector’s needs through crowdfunding. By connecting businesses, we are able to address their needs. The group has funded over $200M for SMEs in Taiwan, Indonesia, Cambodia, among others. The segment that needs most help is SMEs. We are all here to help this segment which comprises more than 40% of employment,” said Edison Tsai, Executive Director of SeedIn Technology.

Esquire Financing Chairman and CEO Rajan Uttamchandani recommends viewing 2020 as a year of sacrifice, where provisions and risks are higher but provides stimulus for the SME segment.

“Our 5 Cs of credit have changed. We added a 6th C: New kind of business transformation is. We worked with Go Negosyo and DTI because demand for funding is very high for the SME sector. 49% unemployment rate really affects this sector and they don’t have the liquidity buffer large firms have. This is a sacrificial year to help the economy bounce back. It’s not about profitability but providing a helping hand to the segment that needs it most: SMEs and micros.”

Speaking of COOPs, Roy Miclat, 1 Cooperative Insurance President and CEO, said, “In this pandemic, we hastened the launching of digitization of COOPs. They are one of the most conservative organizations in the country as they are risk averse. But because of the pandemic, the appreciation of tech grew among COOPs. The COOPs thrive in crisis. It’s in their DNA. One of the initiatives next year is we’ll introduce climate risk disaster insurance.”

Another vulnerable sector that can help reinvigorate the economy are the currently underbanked motorcycle borrowers. “We had never released as many motorcycle loans as in this 3rd or 4th quarter of 2020,” noted Larry Ocampo, CitySavings Bank President and CEO. “We wanted to be part of the solution in jumpstarting the economy by providing Filipino workers a means to go back to work. The more people go back to work, the faster the economy grows.”

With mobility efforts shining the spotlight on motorcycles as both private and public transport, Ocampo is confident that 2021 will see an acceleration in the motorcycle business. “Motorcycles as part of business transport are more and more relevant. I think in relation to other SEAsian countries, capital is much lower in the Philippines. We are bullish about 2021, and expect a triple digit growth next year.”

“We have to take the risk of helping next year. It’s about the 2020 swing and you have to start somewhere,” said Uttamchandani.

Business Urged to Prioritize Data Security as Cyber Threats Soar 41% in Stay-at-Home Economy

As businesses continue to migrate to online platforms with a 1,000% growth in the last 8 months, organizations are pivoting to prioritize cloud, AI, data regulations, and cybersecurity as cyberthreats increased by 41%.

There is significant acceleration to the cloud among organizations. Fintechs are all about digital business, flexible working arrangements. Cyber resources are scarce resources so we have to point out the most important things.

“For Globe, security and data privacy for Globe is centered on customer care. We have invested about $90 million in the past years. Cybersecurity is placed on top 5 of top-level priorities,” said Anton Bonifacio, Chief Information Security Officer at Globe. “We do proactive and reactive collabs to protect our customers. We don’t charge banks for this protection.”

 “We might start to see government agencies considering an overarching regulation on data sovereignty,” said Atty. JJ Disini, Managing Partner of Disini Law Office. “The conversation is starting and fintech is a large part of that because data is essential to growth. This data needs to be able to flow in terms of fintech and financial institutions because the Philippines has one of the strictest regulations in terms of this.”

Underscoring the importance of a data stream that’s heavily fortified, National Privacy Commission (NPC) Commissioner Raymund Liboro shared that their work with Fintech Alliance to create a Code of Practice that ensures the data rights of consumers is not overridden by data processing.

“NPC believes the critical point is having that balance of ensuring data protection for consumers is primordial and enabling companies. While progress and development are assured, it likewise presents risks to individuals availing such services. Last year, complaints claimed that there are companies practicing harassment, high interest in loans, and public shaming. NPC took down 20 lending companies which violated regulations,” said Liboro.

“Privacy is an enabler of trust. Fortunately, unlike typhoons, earthquakes, privacy risks are man- made and can be mitigated. Governments and businesses will be judged not only by their products and services, but also by how they protect data of consumers,” he added.

DX from Disaster: Crisis, COVID-19 Birthed Innovative Apps in 2020

The year 2020 was a turning-point in the campaign to digitalize the nation, as it finally convinced even the skeptics that tech could spell the difference between survival and success.  The COVID-19 pandemic paralyzed business and economic activity and highlighted the need for a more agile business landscape.

“For us, we are optimistic that what we went through in 2020 made people understand the benefits of going digital,” said Yves Gonzalez, Google Philippines Head of Government Affairs and Public Policy. “In 2021, all stakeholders will pivot their strategy. You need to be digital. One of the sharings I wanna do this year is, for the first time, even in legislation, everything is digital now. Previously those were all face to face meetings. Some of the old ways were shifted. We as a country will really embrace digitization further.”

As stated by moderator Good Tech Holdings President and CEO Jove Tapiador, “So when enterprises think of investments in ICT, they need to consider how tech capabilities can empower them and enable strong recovery,” he said.

 “Having a people-first mindset is important to be a resilient organization,” said KPMG CIO Jallain Manrique. “So I think it revolves around that area. Technology will just follow. Necessity is a mother of innovation. If there is a need then the tech will provide that.”

Having worked with the government since March, Yves Gonzalez has seen how tech that is created to answer a necessity is inarguably more sustainable and relevant. From edutech for 22 million students to plotting testing centers on GoogleMaps and Waze, tech initiatives that would normally take years to roll out were completed in months.

“The private sector can work with the government to do machine learning. We’re hoping that this experience teaches us the value of cloud. As we move forward, we can get things done quickly if we collaborate and if we are geared by a common mission,” he added.

While Google PH has focused on education and accessibility of testing sites, Globe has concentrated on fintech through GCash and telemedicine through KonsultaMD. The former of these recently recorded 1 trillion pesos worth of transactions. Globe Chief Information Officer Carlo Malana said, “It’s not just about the next 6 months. We always take care of our customers. At the end of the day, tech must be used by the people for the people. There’s always a mission behind tech.”

Multisys Founder and CEO David Almirol advises that we should be enablers of our partners. “It’s a learning process. It is everyone’s duty now to support each other. We all know no company, no big conglomerate is perfect. We should combine the skill sets and strengths we have.”

While working with the government to develop the Stay Safe App, Almirol said he too realized the need to always focus on relevance. “Last month, we were able to launch 3 new platforms for MSMEs that can’t afford expensive platforms. We were able to combine 15 courier groups in the Philippines, and we also launched a shopping platform which MSMEs can use where they can sell and operate with cashless payments.”

“We want to meet the customers where customers want to be met. We try to make it easy and convenient for customers to repay loans as possible. In PH, it is very popular to use Viber, so we integrate channels where they want to be met. COVID has pushed us to do this a lot faster,” said Collectius Founder and CEO Gustav Eriksson.

“Everybody is focusing on maintaining customer relationships. Winners out of this will be the guys with systems and processes that can maintain customer relationships in this difficult time,” Eriksson said. “When the economy starts growing again, you have customers that still want to deal with you.”

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Data Driven Infra and New Cloud Economy to Spur Economic Growth

World Fintech Festival Philippines Day 2

Following the introduction of the efforts being made to create smart cities, to strengthen e-banking, and to usher in a more inclusive board of tech leaders in Day 1 of the World Fintech Festival (WFF), Day 2 of the virtual event on Dec. 8 saw panelists do a deep dive into the more technical but crucially important regulatory actions that serve as both the backbone and the lifeline for a sustainable fintech future in the Philippines.

Data-Driven Infrastructure and A New Cloud Economy To Spur Economic Growth

Adoption of a data-driven infrastructure and integration into a new cloud economy can hasten the country’s post-COVID economic recovery.

Alibaba Cloud Intelligence Country Head Allen Guo recognizes the fast growth of the PH economy (its GDP rising higher than others in SEA the past five years), and is committed to investing 200B CNY to build new-generation data centers.

Department of Information Communications Technology (DICT) Asec. Manny Caintic affirmed that the national line agencies are more comfortable about its adoption now, compared to its apprehensions about security years ago, and said it is more efficient currently to implement the cloud-first policy.

The digitalization of our internal systems as a future fintech leader in Asia has seen the need for infrastructures that support such initiatives on a nationwide scale.

As Anna Lamentillo, the Chairman of the Department of Public Works and Highways’ (DPWH) Build Build Build Committee says, “We use roads not just to bridge people together but also to support high-speed internet. The master plan is for Facebook to utilize the infrastructure and, in turn, they will provide P2 million for the government’s initiative.”

The talk also highlighted that by 2021, 83 major cities can expect free wi-fi connectivity and cloud-first access. The cloud-first policy hopes to encourage government agencies to adopt cloud-based systems to heighten their efficiency and foster real-time collaboration via data sharing.

National ICT Confederation of the Philippines (NICP) CEO Michael Lim shared the organization’s deep collaboration with the DICT in order to push forward the implementation of these initiatives, especially with the continuously growing BPO sector that can attribute a third of its jobs from the NICP councils.

Monchito Ibrahim, incoming head of the Philippine Association for Digital Commerce and Decentralized Industries (PADCDI), shared that the beginning stages of this effort can be traced back to the implementation of the Dep-Ed Internet Connectivity Project a decade ago, stamping e-commerce as the next frontier and initiating the ideals in security and transparency that lead the new initiatives today. With all of these combined efforts, each collaborator aims to create accessibility to thousands of Filipinos and successfully digitize the Philippine countryside.

Central Bank to Shift 50% of Retail Payment to Digital

According to Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) Director Mel Plabasan, its Digital Transformation Roadmap, which was recently introduced, ushers in a whole-of-society approach to democratize financial services, initially targeting to shift 50% of retail payment to a digital form, and 70% of Filipino adults to have access to their own transaction accounts.

This was the highlight of the second panel on the second day entitled “The Legal and Regulatory Framework: Fintech’s Lifeline to Global Competitiveness,” moderated by Ida Tiongson, CEO – President, OPAL Portfolio Investments (SPV-AMC).

 “Securing financial and data security is our mission, there must be a tight grip on how development is made,” said tech attorney Mark Gorriceta, Managing Partner of Gorriceta Africa Cauton & Saavedra.

“We also have some of the highest internet penetration, and when we combine these with the changes happening we can see the Philippines is at par with some of the most prominent fintech markets. We’re at the forefront of these emerging technologies.”

Securities and Exchange (SEC) Commissioner Ephyro Amatong reminded that, “Regulation is necessary to promote sustainable growth when dealing with innovation. One of the primary lessons we learned in past economic crises is that regulations help to keep things in order and will help keep distribution of wealth and financial opportunities.”

Addressing the interest in a deeper collaboration between public and private sectors, JustPayto CEO Gemma Guerrero, said, “Hopefully, the government can help to put mandates in place that will allow tech, like cashless transactions, to really help the population to pivot with the necessary changes due to COVID-19. From 200 fintech companies we can see how the regulation can evolve from there.”

Pandemic compressed 6 years of Organic E-Commerce Development to just 6 Months

According to DragonPay CEO Robertson “Dick” Chiang, studies have shown that about 80-90% of people have already adapted to online living.  The country currently has 159% mobile penetration and only in the last month, 76% of adult internet users did at least one online purchase, and 66% bought items using a mobile device.

New business models have adapted to take advantage of these new technologies. What remains now is for the government to put the right policies in place to ensure sustained growth. These industry-changing trends were tackled in the last panel for the day, “Setting Up the Infrastructure for the Day – The Rise of E-commerce.” PADCDI Founding Director Jayjay Viray moderated the panel.

“It’s a sunrise industry and if you join it now with this new digital economy, you can be part of this new value chain with a career for the next several decades,” explained Great Deals Co-founder and CEO Steve Sy.

“For all retailers in general, if you had a storefront you had an advantage, because you had a following,” said Victor Paterno, President of 7-Eleven Philippines, in regards to established businesses adapting to the online platforms. “But now that’s why online grocery makes sense to us as an e-commerce product because it’s the most logistically challenging.”

“Investors will still go to our neighbors in Asia before us, like Thailand or Malaysia. But with our population we are soon going to be in the running,” continued Sy. “We can look at these other countries and see it as a crystal ball into what we can look forward to.”

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Recuerdos del Pascuas de ayer en Zamboanga

Here We Come A-Caroling

These memoirs consists of two parts: the first covers the period 1963-1968 and the latter the early 1970s.

That’s because our family moved from our apartment at the corner of Barcelona and Pura Brillantes Streets in the pueblo (poblacion) to our own house at Moret Field, Baliwasan in 1968.

The Apartment along P. Brillantes and Barcelona St. where we lived from 1957-1968

The recuerdos for the  first period that are top of mind are the aguinaldo and cumbancheros, traditions that are alas mostly forgotten nowadays.

The aguinaldo or caroling by kids would usually start on December 16, at the same time as the Misa de 9-day Misa de Aguinaldo (Simbang Gabi)  starts.  During those days, the pastores (carolers) would mostly be kids and more often than not they would go through their rounds of the neighborhood carrying a farol (parol) lighted with a candle or by a battery powered bulb.

The Filipino caroling tradition is known as Aguinaldo in Zamboanga (Painting by Ryan Carreon Aragon @ all rights reserved)

The thing I miss most about the aguinaldo during those times were the villancicos or Christmas Carols sung in Spanish that was a tradition unique to Zamboanga City, and perhaps also to our compoblanos in Cavite City where the Chabacano language is still spoken.

“There was a time when the Yuletide celebration in the Philippines was not complete without the villancico,” wrote columnist Baby A. Gil in her column Sounds Familiar some years ago. “This is a form of music native to Spain, which was usually performed during important feast days of the Catholic Church. As time passed, the villancico came to be associated largely with Christmas festivities, like Christmas carols.” 

Among the favorite villancicos sung by the kids during our younger days were Alegria, Alegria (Esta Noche Nacel Niño); Niño Jesus, Niño BonitoNacio, Nacio Pastores (Villancico de Navidad) Venid Si Quereis GozarPastores A Belen, and Las Zagalas Y Pastores.

Listen to Nacio, Nacio Pastores (Villancico de Navidad) sung by the Bayanihan Philippine Dance Company from their album Christmas in the Philippines here.

Of course, kids being full of fun and mischief at their age, would somehow replace some of the lyrics with their choice pendejadas, much to the chagrin of the padres.

One of those I recall till now at their version of Pastores A Belen with goes Pastores a Belen, Dale Cincuenta Cen! (Please give us fifty centavos!)

I am forever indebted to my former colleague at the Ateneo de Zamboanga Christian Life Community, Lulung delos Reyes-Vasquez for gifting me with a CD of their Canciones de Pascua by their group The Stages where they sang all these favorite Villancicos.

Canciones de Pascua by The Stages (image courtesy of Totoy Vasquez)

It also introduced me to others which I am not so familiar with, such as Caminanse A Belen, Esta Noche Es Noche Buena, O Noche Feliz, Noche Sagraoand Yo Bajo del Monte.

The Cumbancheros, a local Filipino musical band, performed on DZAS. (FEBC International). The cumbancheros we saw were rather a  bit older than the boys in the picture.

Later in the evening towards midnight, our parents would wake us up to listen to those whom we called the cumbancheros. These were older folks, usually young men who did not sing, but played the familiar Christmas carols with their ensemble of instruments which often featured drums made up of big tin cans covered with stretched fabrics held in place by rubber  bands which passed for bongos, bamboo sticks struck together, and with the ubiquitous harmonica carrying the melody.

One time, we were even serenaded by entire brass band (not sure if it was the Ateneo de Zamboanga band) with brass, woodwinds, percussion and drums. Our little sala revibrated to the sound of villancicos that must  have carried to the whole neighborhood.

Zamboanga Remembered by Cesar Lee

These traditions even extended as far back as the 1930s and 1940s (and perhaps even earlier) as vividly described in the late Cesar Lee’s memoirs of his time in Zamboanga Remembered:

“The pastores, or carolers were out in the streets every night just a little after sundown, going from house to house and singing the joys of Christmas to make money. They didn’t go caroling for free or out of goodwill. They expected to be paid, and they were paid, anywhere from a few centavos for children to perhaps fifty centavos or a peso for grownups. The money collected was strictly theirs to keep, and at the end of the evening they divided the take amongst themselves.”

“Carolers ranged from as few as two small but enterprising children to a dozen or more adults. Some, from the outlying barrios, were very good. Others were just so-so, and many were downright terrible. Regardless of the quality of their singing, the only way to get rid of them was to pay them.”

“To go into business, the children only needed a lantern and jingles made from flattened bottle caps nailed to a piece of board. Each group sang virtually the same carols in Spanish or English over and over again, to the distress of the listeners. Adult carolers were well organized and sang beautifully, mostly in Spanish, to the accompaniment of a small band. But they also expected to be rewarded amply. If the payment was deemed inadequate, they would demand more, and usually an argument would ensue, because the house owners, already fed up with an overabundance of pastores, refused to pay more. Our parents, especially Father, absolutely forbade us to go caroling. He said the practice was nothing more than begging.”

During the second chapter of my Recuerdos de Pascua, we had already moved to our house in Moret Field, Baliwasan where the aguinaldo by roving kids was much more frequent. We lived in the second floor of our apartment in the pueblo so the carolers often played downstairs or in the staircase, but now here we could see them better from the picture window in our sala through the fence nearby.

At this time most of us kids were already in our teens but the mischief level rather than fade away was ramped up to new heights. I have no idea where they came from, but we used to have a lot of the old one centavo coins known in Bisaya as the dako because of its relatively big size.

Though already demonetized at that time, their relatively bigger diameter compared to contemporary coins of higher value of the late 60s and early  70s made it hard for carolers to check them out in the dark or by the light of their farol.

My younger brother Edgar and I were the usual perpetrators of this mischief and we were in stiches as we  listened to the carolers comment with glee they had been given fifty centavos and would usually top this with an enthusiastic rendition of the Thank You song at our generosity to our utmost amusement and laughter.

During my college days at the Ateneo de Zamboanga during the middle to late 1970s, I learned some more villancicos such as  Chiquiriquitin, Campanas de Belen, Somos Pastores, and one of which I recall more vividly because of its title, Zapatos Rotos.

Ateneo de Zamboanga Brebeuf Gymnasium circa 1950 (Victory Studio)

This catchy tune was a perennial favorite among the competing academic fraternities during the traditional annual Christmas Carol Contest which was usually held at the old Brebeuf Ateneo gym.

Its fast paced tempo, snappy lyrics and shepherds’ theme made it not only a musical but also kinetic favorite which easily lent itself to frenetic (read: award winning) choreography by the singers.

However, when these villancicos started being posted in YouTube, I found out there were many regional variations of the favorite ditties I grew up with among the various Spanish communities worldwide such as Mexico, Spain, Argentina and others.

Listen to Los Pastores a Belen by David Archuleta with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir on YouTube here.

What we were familiar with as Zapatos Rotos for instance, was called Los Pastores a Belen in other countries. Not only that, it also had different lyrics and in other versions, different melodies as well!

For a totally different version of Los Pastores a Belen click here and go to 39.45 of the link. It’s the 18th song in this collection Villancicos De Navidad Clásicos – Canciones De Navidad Populares Música Navideña En Español

But let not those differences detract from our enjoyment of this Christmas tradition. Hopefully, in time, our younger generations would once again enjoy singing and listening to our favorite villancicos, especially considering these are dedicated to the One whose Birth we celebrate each Yuletide season.

¡Vamos! Pastores ¡vamos!


Fintech Growth: Powering Up Cities, Communities, and The Entire Country

World Fintech Festival Philippines Day 1

One of the most renowned and highly attended fintech events in the world, the Singapore Fintech Festival (SFF) pivots to become the largest tech event, encompassing a global audience with the Philippines being one of the key participating countries in a 5-day virtual event from December 7-11.

Having transformed into the World Fintech Festival (WFF), local thought-leaders in digitizing cities, e-banking, and the rise of Filipinas in tech were featured in the panels of the first day on  Dec. 7.

Fintech Leadership Moves to Asia 

Fintech leadership is moving to Asia, and the Philippines has strong potential to emerge among its central players.

This was one major analysis that came out during the first panel of the day entitled “Fintech Growth: Powering Up Cities, Communities, and The Entire Country.” 

Industry leaders who spoke in the panel were Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) Director Melchor Plabasan, Ayala Corporation CFO TG Limcaoco, Finnovation Co-founder and Chairman Malik Kotadia, senior digital financial advisor John Owens, and WFF-Philippines convener Amor Maclang. The panel was moderated by British Chamber of Commerce Chairman Chris Nelson.

Mr. Kotadia described the turning tide of change, “There was a time that when fintech was mentioned, London was the hub of that world or people thought of Silicon Valley. But now the pivot is shifting to Asia, which is the next group engine for fintech.” 

Mr. Owens described how he had seen this shift come to the Philippines, with its fintech sector’s stride into e-money, data sharing, and data privacy showing why it is the inarguable champion for innovation in Asia: “The Philippines as a leader, is the chair of ASEAN working group. The Philippines has one of the best central banks—the BSP–to join the region, and they continuously foster collaboration among regulators.”  

The success and strategies of Philippine institutions like BSP and GCash were studied and adopted by M-PESA, the African-based mobile phone-based money transfer service.

Mr. Kotadia added that the Philippine customer base—which is one of the largest internet and social media users in the world—” is more than ready than ever before for fintech to rise in Asia.”

Mobile Wallet is New King, as GCash Hits P1-T Annual Transactions

The Philippines’ transition to a truly cashless society is well underway, as leading mobile wallet GCash hit P1 trillion transaction value this year. This was even more than the cumulative gross value it had accomplished from 2017 to 2019.

Martha Sazon, President and CEO of Mynt (GCash), said safety protocols and limited mobility during the pandemic have changed the conventions of financial transactions, paving the way for a frictionless, cashless future.

“We are used at least twice a day, every day. But now, we registered 1000% transaction growth in relevant use cases. We even hit a P1 trillion transaction value – which goes to show how much we’ve helped Filipinos. This was our vision for 2023, yet this was brought to life this year,” Sazon announced in the Panel: “Banks and FinTech: The Advantages that Mass Adoption Brings to the Public.”

Joining her in the panel were UnionBank Fintech Business Group Head Arvie De Vera, UNO Bank Co-Founder and CEO Manish Bhai, Tonik Chief Technology Officer Arivuvel Ramu, Binance Director Colin Goltra, and Pera Hub President and CEO Ian Ocampo.

Ocampo said the digital economy is changing the way people do business and live their everyday lives. “What we will see is a radical shift to neo-banking. More startups will be able to bring in fintech advancements, which will benefit the nation as a whole. What will boost this further is the collaboration with the government.”

Debunking Disadvantages with Women in Tech

The tech world isn’t a boy’s club anymore. With many Filipinas establishing their names and taking up space in the tech scene, women in senior positions prove that gender stereotyping is now a thing of the past.

Mynt’s Chief Technology & Operations Officer Pebble Sy-Manalang identified one possible root cause of gender stereotyping in the Philippine tech space: the gap in the labor force starts in education with the misconception that STEM is only fit for men.”

Manalang debunked the misconception that men are more productive than women citing that the latter’s childbearing hinders career productivity.

Manalang was joined by Impact Hub’s Asia Pacific Regional Lead Ces Rondario, Apptitude’s Chief Investment Officer Josephine Romero, and AHEAD Education Technologies Founder Rosanna Llenado. All of them agree that the key to nourishing more women in higher positions is by providing a mentorship program that is anchored on sincere willingness to listen to the needs of women leaders; provide sincere career advice, and allocate time for consultations on friendly ground.

“If you want to see more women in the leadership position, it is important to have support among them,” Manalang emphasized.

For Romero, the glass ceiling in the tech industry has long been broken as a group in the ‘90s tagged as “WIT” or Women in Tech who introduced ATMs and set up computers in school. “I remember how the misconception that tech is just for men wasn’t even discussed. This was the kind of mentorship I try to pass on to people I work with. We brought this mentorship in ASEAN as an example to our fellow entrepreneurs in ASEAN and to show that we are using tech to evolve, step ahead, and make it efficient resources-wise.”

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When World War II broke out in Cagayan, Misamis

Remembering the Day that will live in Infamy

Today, December 8, 2020 marks the 79th Anniversary of the start of World War II in the Philippines.

Actually, as reckoned from the international date line, it was just a few hours after the infamous attack of the Japanese Navy on the US Naval Base in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

Filomeno Avancena Bautista Jr., one of the remaining eyewitnesses of that day, recalls it was a Monday when they were informed by their principal, Federico Ablan, after their usual morning flag ceremony at the Misamis Oriental Provincial High School that war had broken out with Japan.

Filomeno A. Bautista, Jr.

“We were all sent home to join our families. But Boy Scouts were asked to don their uniforms and help direct traffic. Armed forces were in high state of mobilization.”

“Us Boy Scouts were asked to stay as long as we can help it,” said Bautista, who was then a second year high school student and a Boy Scout at the MOHS. “Our parents were already busy planning to evacuate elsewhere.”

Dodong Bautista’s Boy Scout Troop sometime in 1941. Dodong is the rightmost scout in the first row. Fernando Ablaza is the flag bearer in the front center. Reuben Canoy is to his right. Misamis Oriental High School Principal Federico Ablan is at the center of the 3rd row and to his right is Scout Master Segundo Salas. (Kagay-an Kaniadto)

“People became disoriented and confused, many did not know what to do next,” said Dodong, as he is known to his friends and relatives.

“People were considering moving to places such as Tibasak thinking the Japanese would not bother to go into such places. The Tibasak area that was flooded by Tropical Storm Sendong became the de fact evacuation place of people from Cagayan,” he recalls. “However, our family was never interested in that since we already had our farm in Balingasag.”

During this time, the poblacion was moved to Pagatpat. Town officials moved their offices to the Canitoan-Pagatpat area, which was already considered a distant location during that time.

The Cagayan de Oro Wharf at Macabalan  circa 1935.

Kagay-anon residents had good reason to be disturbed by news of the outbreak of the war with Japan. Besides having the Macabalan wharf which was the major seaport of entry to Mindanao from the Visayas, Cagayan also had a pursuit airfield at Patag (present day Patag Golf course and Camp Evangelista).

The Sayre Highway was the only highway which linked Northern Mindanao to Davao during the early 1940s. (NARA)

It was also the terminus of the Sayre Highway (also known then as Highway No. 3) which was the sole link between Northern Mindanao and the Davao area. These three key facilities and strategic location made Cagayan a prime target for the Japanese invaders.

During this time, the Bautista residence was at the corner of F. Abellanosa, Apolinar Velez and Tiano Brothers streets just across the Mission Hospital (present day UCCP Cagayan de Oro) in what is now commonly known as “Agfa” next to Sabal Hospital.

Living nearby were their neighbors  Dr. Gerardo Sabal, Aquilino Pimentel Sr., and the Frias and Pacalioga families.

At this time, J. Pacana street was the only road connecting the Cagayan seaport to the center of the town so the Bautista family and their neighbors had reason to fear they could be in the line of fire of Japanese aircraft and warships which would target this key facility for bombing, shelling or shelling.

Pre-war photo of Macabalan Wharf  (Kagay-an Kaniadto)

The family moved to Balingasag aboard a truck of the Department of Public Works and Communications (now the Dept of Public Works and Highways).

The DPWC was composed of Bureau of Public Works, Ports, Aeronautics, Coast and Geodetic Survey, Metropolitan Water District Division of Marine, Railway and Repair Shop, National Radio Broadcasting, Irrigation Council and Board of Examiners for Civil, Mechanical, Chemical and Mining Engineers.

In 1941, outbreak of World War II, the DPWC and other government offices were practically abolished due to dislocation of manpower, lack of funds, materials and equipment, installation of enemy administration and the setting up of the resistance movement.

When they moved to Balingasag, the Bautista family only brought with them a modicum of their daily needs.

“We only brought some clothes and daily essentials,” Mr. Bautista recalls. “During wartime, you don’t bring along with you your furniture, only your bare essentials.”

Staying with the Bautista family in Balingasag were their former neighbors in Licoan, the families of the late Dr. Jacinto Frias and Pacalioga families.  

However, even when the Bautista family already moved to Balingasag, they did not completely abandon their residence in Puntod and would come down to check on it from time to time.

A Civic & Military Parade in Divisoria, Circa 1940 (shared by Ermin Pimentel)

“In fact, the sisters of my mother who had a restaurant, was still running the business though now most of their customers were military personnel since most of the civilians had already evacuated out of Cagayan at that time,” he noted.

In the following week, local authorities imposed a mandatory blackout on the city and vehicular traffic was tightly regulated, with Boy Scouts helping the Filipino and American soldiers enforce the two measures.

In the following week, local authorities imposed a mandatory blackout on the city and vehicular traffic was tightly regulated, with Boy Scouts helping the Filipino and American soldiers enforce the two measures.

For a more detailed story on Dodong Bautista’s wartime adventures at Balingasag and Lagonglong, click here.

Living nearby at the Ilogon Compound was Dodong’s neighbor and schoolmate, 16 year old Jesus “Jake” Bongato Ilogon, the eldest son of Pastor Ilogon. Like Dodong,  he was also a student at the Misamis Oriental Provincial High School where he was a fourth year high school student when the war broke out.

The families of Escolastico Ato and Pastor Ilogon taken at their ancestral house in Licoan which was destroyed by the American bombing during the Liberation in 1945. Mrs. Leonisa Bongato Ato (2nd row left) and Pilar Bongato Ilogon (2nd row right) were sisters. Jake Ilogon is rightmost in the first row. (Ilogon Family Collection)

His parents immediate concern was sending his mother in law, Maria Dumanon Bongato back home to Butuan. “Popo Deya” wanted to be present in Cagayan whenever her daughter gave birth. Fortunately, the elder Ilogon managed to get her aboard the last trip of the Mindanao Bus Company to Odiongan, Gingoog, Misamis Oriental, since the military had already commandeered all public transportation for its mobilization. From there she hitched a ride to Butuan aboard an Army truck courtesy of Lt. Francisco Conde of Butuan.

“By the second and third week of December, 1941, all our neighbors and relatives in Licoan had already evacuated out of town. Papa’s family was still in  Licoan because Mama was due to deliver anytime in January 1942,” the younger Ilogon wrote in Memoirs of the Guerrillas: The Barefoot Army, his memoirs of his time as a guerrilla during the second world war.

Unfortunately, the baby was still born and failed to survive the stress and rigors of running to a cottage in Balacanas where the family sought shelter whenever the Japanese bombed the Patag airfield.

Unscathed by Japanese bombers in 1942, the Ilogon house in Licoan was destroyed by bombs from American B-25 Mitchell medium bombers on 10 March 1945.

“It was terrifying sometimes,” Ilogon wrote. “We were trembling with fear upon hearing the drone of the bombers and the earth shaking explosion of bombs. With Patag so near, Licoan could be the next target. It was not a Merry Christmas nor a Happy New Year, being the only people left in Licoan, with Mama in labor, and constantly in terror of the bombings.”

In the second week of January, the family finally evacuated to Laguindingan, Alubijid in a truck owned by Vicente Mendoza driven by Roman Escobido.

Carabao sleds locally known as balsa are capable of carrying heavy loads. (Photo: The Road to San Isidro)

“We were the last to leave Licoan,” Ilogon recalls. “The belongings were loaded in sleds pulled by carabaos from Laguindingan to Lapad. The piano was the heaviest item. German Andugo, a migrant from Bohol and one of Mendoza’s stevedores,  was requested to stay behind and watch the house during the Japanese occupation.”

Already in Lapad, were their friends and relatives from Cagayan – the families of Tiano, Bacarrisas, Abellanosa, Dael, Bautista, Dy, Llanderal, Salcedo and Boquiren.

Pastor Ilogon’s Sugar Mill at Lapad, Laguindingan. served as a command post for Maj. Angeles Limena
(Ilogon Family Collection)

By this time, Davao was already occupied by the Japanese and there was heavy fighting in the Bataan peninsula. In May 3, 1942 the Kawamura Detachment, an elite unit of the Imperial Japanese Army’s 5th Koi (Carp) (鯉兵団, Koihei-dan) Division, landed on Cagayan and barely a week later, the Visayas-Mindanao Force of the United States Army Forces in the Far East (USAFFE) under Maj. Gen. William Sharp surrendered.

Barely a year later, Jake Ilogon was inducted into the guerrilla resistance and served until the war ended in 1945.

For more stories of Jesus Ilogon’s adventures as a guerrilla see Defending Dipolog April 1945 : A young guerrilla’s eyewitness accountWe Must Tell Their StoryLife During Wartime.