Ifugao solon on g-string: ‘I fight windmills’
BAGUIO CITY—Cordillerans still tell stories about how their first lawmakers were mocked for traveling to Manila wearing “Americana” suit paired with g-string in the early 1900s.
Wearing the g-string soon became a badge of courage for Igorots fighting ridicule and discrimination.
Act of bravery
The g-string worn by Ifugao Rep. Teodoro Baguilat Jr., during President Duterte’s first State of the Nation Address (Sona) on July 25, was also an act of bravery.
Baguilat had thrown his hat in the race to lead the minority block in the House of Representatives and had actually won until the rules were changed.
Baguilat turned 50 on July 30. A journalism undergraduate of the University of the Philippines Diliman and an avowed environmentalist, he championed the restoration and preservation of his province’s rice terraces as president of the Save the Ifugao Rice Terraces Movement (SITMo), while he rose through the political ranks.
He was 28 when he served as mayor of his native Kiangan town in Ifugao from 1995 to 2001, before becoming gover nor and representative of the province’s lone district.
But Baguilat said he never expected the spotlight to be thrown his way on the day he wore his g-string during the Sona.
Earlier, Baguilat had resolved to encourage members of the Liberal Party (LP) to “fight for a credible minority” by supporting Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, after former Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. decided to join a so-called “supermajority” in the House.
“But when I arrived in the meeting they told me that they had decided that [I] should run for Speaker. Why me?” Baguilat said.
“Then [Lagman] said we should not have illusions that we would win even the minority floor leadership … But he said it was important [to] expose the plot [to rig the composition of a minority in this Congress].”
“I was late so the moral lesson was I should not be late,” Baguilat said in jest. “But as I was going home that Sunday night (July 24), I realized my life had changed. I was [also] thinking that I may have become the sacrificial lamb, but I told myself we were fighting for democracy in Congress,” he said.
Baguilat placed second when votes were cast for the House Speaker on June 25. Tradition states that the second ranking member to vie for the House leadership automatically becomes the head of the minority.
But majority leaders intervened, allowing Quezon Rep. Danilo Suarez to take control of the minority.
“I didn’t aspire to become the Speaker or the minority floor leader … not because I didn’t think it was my duty but because I felt unprepared … I don’t have the eloquence, the gift of gab, the stature,” Baguilat said.
When the first votes showed he had become the minority leader, Baguilat said he felt scared.
“I have a mortal fear of speaking in public before the plenary or debating with the luminaries,” he said.
The Ifugao leader said loyalty was a virtue. “When I was governor, I had already been a LP member,” he said, so ensuring that the LP become the minority with the defeat of its standard bearer became paramount.
Baguilat is now allied with eight legislators who, he said, intend to keep a critical eye on the “supermajority.”
“I mean, sure, super coalitions are bound to happen. I was part of [one under the Aquino administration] for six years. But that did not mean there should be no opposition [represented at the time by Lagman and Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares],” he said.
Before the leadership controversy, Baguilat had been associated with the fight for a reproductive health law, drawing the ire of the Catholic Church, and the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), which became unpopular after the massacre of 44 policemen in Mamasapano, Maguindanao province, in 2015.
Baguilat also said he would push for an investigation into the growing list of drug suspects killed in police operations or murdered by apparent vigilantes.
“I fight windmills,” Baguilat said. “That was why I wore the g-string. I started the day with courage. I thought I’d be as brave when the day ended.”