Issue of February 15, 2015
     
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OPINION
 

64th Courier Anniversary Issue
 
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Virginia O. De Guia, pioneering civic leader and entrepreneur, 98
by Hanna C. Lacsamana / photo by Art Tibaldo

Gene De Guia

Virginia Oteyza de Guia, who served as Baguio’s first elected lady councilor and vice mayor and appointed mayor, remembered by this city for her trailblazing efforts in varied fields that demonstrated her passion for Baguio’s upkeep, died in her sleep on Feb. 9. She was 98 years old.

She is survived by children, Eric or Kidlat Tahimik, an internationally acclaimed indie filmmaker and writer; Virginia and Patricia; eight grandchildren; and great grandchildren.

Leaving a mourning city behind, de Guia’s passing as well left the final void on the spots filled in by Baguio’s “Three Witches,” who were in the forefront of actions fighting for the city’s causes, along with the country’s first female chemical engineer Leonora San Agustin and Baguio Midland Courier editor Cecile Afable, who went ahead of her in 2011 and 2012, respectively.

Until her death, de Guia holds the distinction as the city’s first woman to be elected as councilor and vice mayor, and appointed mayor, the latter position on 1946, 1947, 1949, 1950, and 1952.

She has been described as a “diamond of varied brilliant facets” for her efforts in heritage, environment, public administration and governance, civic consciousness and women suffrage.

She is credited for removing the first squatters of Burnham Park in 1947, helping them settle in permanent homes and lots.

She was a Baguio tourism booster during her term and was responsible for the creation of the Baguio Visitors and Vacation Bureau, holding various programs and cultural affairs.

De Guia put up a collection of Cordillera artifacts in the Baguio Museum of Igorot Culture first housed at the city council. It was later moved to the University of the Philippines until a permanent home was built, now called the Baguio Museum. She was also responsible for the construction of authentic tribal homes of the Cordillera at the Museum of Igorot Architecture, at present known as the Baguio Botanical Garden.

She directed the biggest, most colorful Baguio International Carnival and Exposition in 1949. Under her leadership, Baguio won the Cleanest City Award in 1950.

With a real Huk threat in 1951, she made it difficult for them to enter Baguio. Through a tight organization and high morale build-up the Huks eventually gave up.

As a renowned social worker and educator, she helped start the Unesco National Committee of the Philippines, and visited other countries to promote Baguio and its programs, serving as its ambassador.

She worked hard with the Federation of Women’s Clubs in the Plebiscite campaign in 1935, particularly Baguio and Benguet, to help the Filipino woman win the right to vote.

She went by her belief that “Baguio is worth saving because of its uniqueness, as a one-of-a-kind city for all Filipinos to enjoy.” Baguio to her, holds a lot of goodwill for Filipinos.

She was charter president and founder of many organizations in Baguio such as Soroptimist International Baguio,  Young Women’s Christian Association, and Alay sa Kalinisan.

She was a member of the Camp John Hay Advisory Board, City Charter Revision, Regreening Movement, Baguio Chamber of Commerce, Realty Boards, and was a columnist of the Baguio Midland Courier.

She championed the cause of the Girl Scouts of the Philippines and Boy Scouts of the Philippines with her unfailing emphasis on values and attitudes.

On July 28, 1963, de Guia and husband Victor lost a son, Victor Jr., who perished along with 23 other boy scouts and scouting officials in an airplane crash in Bombay, India. They were delegates of the country to the 11th Boy Scout World Jamboree in Marathon, Greece.

De Guia, San Agustin, and Afable opposed controversial projects such as the BGH rotunda flyover project and called on the attention of city officials on certain policies that threatened the environs of the city and for implementing projects without public consultation.

De Guia had a distinguished life as a student, receiving honors and distinction in various academic and extracurricular endeavors. She was also known for having won over former president Ferdinand Marcos and Arturo Reyes in an open debate.

Among the awards she received are the “First Filipina Awardee” by the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Baguio Booster Par Excellence in 1986, Marian Maya Award in 1996, Malacañang National Tourism Award in 1983, Centennial Woman Award, and Woman Helping Other Women Award from Soroptimist International.

In an interview for a coffee table book, de Guia said the achievement she is most proud of is “serving the city of Baguio as first woman councilor, vice mayor, and acting mayor. It has given me the chance to accomplish many projects in spite of partisan politics.”

In her 80s that time, she said she was still committed to bringing back the old glory of Baguio as a unique city for all Filipinos to enjoy.


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