Issue of January 14, 2018

Panagbenga Flower Festival
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We may never pass this way again

I am borrowing today’s title from popular folk singing duo Seals and Croft and recalling John F. Kennedy’s, “Ask not of what your country can do for you, rather think or what you can do for your country” as this column is written.

One fine evening last June 7, 2017, Chi Jian Li or David arrived in the city for a little family gathering. He barely stayed for 20 minutes yet left a huge gift not for me but for the city’s growing number of pupils in the public schools – 10 classrooms at Irisan, Middle Quezon Hill, Gibraltar, Sto. Tomas, and Military Cut-Off.

He coursed the gift through the Federation of Chinese Chamber of Commerce Inc. Construction immediately commenced and before 2017 ended, the projects were completed.

Last Jan. 9, the schools were formally turned over to the beneficiaries to wit: Elpidio Quirino Elementary School and Middle Quezon Hill ES donated by Mr. and Mrs. Chi Jian Li and Citic Real Estate Corporation; Gibraltar ES and Sto. Tomas High School donated by Ambassador Carlos Chan, Oishi and Liwayway Marketing Corporation; and Quezon ES donated by Mr. and Mrs. Paul and Rowena Lalwani and Lafayette Hotel.

David, originally from Xiamen, China, came into the country via Bugiuas in the early ‘80s where he tilled the farm owned by his uncle who lived along Kayang Street here in Baguio City. He only had the clothes he wore and neither had a jacket nor a blanket to fight the cold, content with the bonfire lit on the ground where he slept. He was as poor as a church mouse. Once, he got sick and requested for medicines from his uncle’s wife, but was refused help. The experience was forever etched in his mind and he vowed to rise from poverty. He literally ran off to the city and took on odd jobs until he was able to save like a true Chinaman, contended with a five-centavo profit. He used the money to establish the Kian Construction Supply along Lourdes Road near the Bombo Radyo station. He had a few friends, and among them were then motorcycle cops Ray Soria, now a chief inspector and chief of police of Balaoan, La Union; and Jun Leyva, recently retired inspector and chief of Irisan Substation 9.

They used to hang out at the old Imson-Dizon stronghold, Bodega or Club A, now the new Supreme Hotel of hotelier Peter Ng. I was not a year into law practice in 1986 when Jun called me requesting to assist David, who was being hassled by Immigration agents from Manila. Nothing new there, so off I went and that’s how the kinship started. He has gone a long way then but he has never forgotten the city that nurtured him during the brief moments of his life when he was so impoverished and could barely complete three meals for the day. I am glad to be an instrument to his repayment scheme to his city and ours. We continue to dream and before he left, we talked about possibilities – a hospital for Baguio, more classrooms, a bus-train system, housing, and a four-lane Kennon Road, no cost to government. Libre naman mangarap.

Special thanks and mention to Mayor Mauricio G. Domogan for his support to our initiative. Also to Engr. William “Jun” Tan and Great Zone Construction for the impressive classrooms. Mention is also made for Dr. Lily Lim who donated two classrooms at Pacday Quinio ES also in Irisan through the initiative of Mrs. Soledad Go.

Also the barangay officials and the PTA officers of the beneficiaries. We join the entire city in thanking the donors for the blessing bestowed on our children.

Despite the cynics and pessimists who hover around and even scoffed at the project – apal nga dakes – we may never pass this way again but a promise has been fulfilled! Sigh.

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