In celebration of the 2024 National Women’s Month, with the recurring theme “WE for gender equality and inclusive society,” and subtheme “Lipunang Patas sa Bagong Pilipinas; Kakayahan ng Kababaihan, patutunayan!,” the Senate Electoral Tribunal embarked on an inspiring learning journey in the Province of Ifugao on March 5 to 7, 2024.

Participated in by 57 Tribunal employees, the three-day activity commenced by paying a courtesy visit to the provincial government officials at the Provincial Capitol. Warmly welcoming the group were Executive Assistant James A. Pagada, Jr., representing Governor Jerry U. Dalipog, and Provincial Tourism Officer Roscoe L. Kalaw, along with a mostly female group of provincial employees. Interesting tales and stories about Ifugao history and the breathtaking beauty of the Banaue Rice Terraces captivated everyone and made them excitedly look forward to the succeeding activities. The after-dinner cultural show, presenting through dance and song the rich and colorful culture and heritage of the Ifugao people, capped the night.

The second day started early with a trip to the Municipality of Hungduan. Accompanied by Hungduan Tourism Officer Heidee A. Hermosora, the group headed to the Hapao Rice Terraces, where they walked on a trail and marveled at the amazing sights. Upon reaching the last stretch of the hike, the group came across a female farmer. Notably, she was the only farmworker in the vast fields that day. This brief, yet memorable encounter, cemented women’s significant role in this particular Ifugao industry.

After the exhilarating walk, the group assembled for a short program at the Hungduan Municipal Hall grounds. The group was welcomed by Vice Mayor Romeo L. Haguyayap. Pacita Biniahan of the Mamaddikit Women’s Organization and Isabel Lacbawan of the Bangbang Gode Polod Farmers Association shared their thoughts and experiences in line with the celebration’s objective, i.e, Kakayahan ng Kababaihan, patutunayan! Showcasing the vibrant Ifugao culture and heritage, the Teatro Kabbakab performed to the beats of Ifugao music and graced the program with traditional Ifugao dances. A select group of women employees also rendered a song in their native tongue.

The afternoon of the second day was spent in the Municipality of Banaue. Mayor Joel B. Bugallon proudly shared the challenges and triumphs of the hardworking and dedicated women weavers of the Lab Tie Dye Weavers Association. Organized in 2009 and led by Lily B. Luglug, the group has been making textiles using the traditional ikat weaving technique. Despite the arduous process involved in ikat weaving, the strong resolve of the women weavers to preserve their precious Ifugao culture reverberated throughout this learning activity. This interaction with the weavers was made possible with the assistance of Municipal Social Worker and Development Officer Amites Tondaqui.

Another impressive display of the indefatigable spirit of the Ifugao women is the story of Irene B. Uyagon, also of Banaue. She used to be a garbage collector, but is now engaged in a small business transforming discarded coconut shells into useful items. Her hard work and resilience once again proved that women can rise to any challenge, and surpass societal and gender-based expectations.

A culturally enriching experience while saluting the Ifugao women weavers, farmers, and carvers profoundly deepened the participants’ appreciation of the Banaue Rice Terraces and at the same time, amplified their sense of awareness of the role of women in the growth, development, and preservation of one’s culture and heritage. Indeed, this three-day Women’s Month Celebration inspired every Tribunal employee to continue championing women’s rights and safeguarding our nation’s majestic wonders.