Issue of December 2, 2018
     
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2018
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70th Fil-Indian Friendship Day fosters stronger ties in Baguio
by Ofelia C. Empian

INCREDIBLE INDIA -- The friendship between the Philippines and India was celebrated in Baguio through the organizers from the Filipino-Indian community and the Baguio Museum Inc. (BMI) Board of Trustees and staff held at the Baguio Museum last Nov. 24. In photo (from left, 1st row): Neelam Modgil, Stella de Guia, BMI president Fred Bagbagen, Divina Bautista, BMI treasurer Kristine Sameon, Beena Budhrani and BMI vice president Edilberto Tenefrancia. Second row: Museum assistant curator Gemma Estolas; Anthony Modgil, Vashi Pursnani, Ajmer Singh Sangar, Manju Sharma, Priest Pandit Damodar and Rep. Mark Go representative John Bagalawis. Third row: overall coordinator Ram Sharma, Manoj Tank, and trustees Peter Ng and Ryan Mangusan. Back row: Swami Shreedham and Chandru Budhrani. Not in photo are trustee Nicolas Tabora, Parveen Budhrani and Parveen Kumar. -- Ofelia Empian

Baguio City’s history will not be complete without the mention of the colorful businesses that lined up Session Road way back the 1900’s. And of those businesses, old timers would have nostalgia over stores built by the Filipino-Indian community, which is still much active at present.

Ambassador of India to the Philippines Jaideep Mazumdar, in his speech delivered by Ramlabhaya “Ram” Sharma during the “Colors of Incredible India Festival 2018” launch on Nov. 24, said the Fil-Indian friendship celebration in the city will strengthen the relationship of two countries.

“The City of Baguio has been home for Indians of several generations who have found the people of Baguio to be warm and hospitable. The Indian origin community has also contributed to the city’s trade and commerce and is active in philanthropic activities,” Mazumdar said.

“As we enter the 70th year of friendly diplomatic relations between India and the Philippines, such activities will help foster strong ties between our two countries and peoples,” he said.

The ambassador congratulated the Baguio Museum Inc. and Filipino-Indian community of Baguio for the initiative in celebrating the friendship of the two colorful countries during the event.

The Philippines-India Month in November was designated through Presidential Proclamation 1924 by then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. The friendship month was celebrated in the city in 2009 and was only followed through this year.

“It is the dream and hope of the organizers to institutionalize this event every November, opening doors for more Filipino-Indian exchanges, encouraging the visitation of more Indians, promoting camaraderie and getting the Indian embassy in Manila involved,” said Estella de Guia of the Baguio Museum. 

To date, there are about 500 members of the Fil-Indian community in Baguio.

“The second and third generations are continuing the legacy of their fathers and mothers,” de Guia said.

Pioneering Fil-Indian stores at the foot Session Road were Assandras Department Store (1931), Bheroomull’s Department Store (1947), Indian Bazaar, Pohumulls Department Store, Valirams Department Store, Bombay Bazaar and Fil-Indian Store.

De Guia said the Filipino-Indian community dominated the pre-war dry goods businesses which continued after the war. Daluram who used to own Pines Lumber along Rimando Road was one of the first sawmills in town.

Generations of Fil-Indian descendants would then continue what their predecessors started including Ram Sharma who took over from his father Tulsiram Sharma (owner of Bheroomull’s Department Store – then sole distributor of Boy Scout and Girl Scout uniforms); Deepak from his father Shankerdas Punjabi (business partner of Tulsiram); Chandru Budhrani (first entrepreneur who ventured into the blanket business in Baguio) from his father Tolaram Budhrani (owner of People’s Bazaar at the Hilltop) and Paul Lalwani, who used to work with Bulchand Jagwani, has taken over the latter’s business.

Sharma’s father Tulsiram, became known as a civic leader, who is a member of about 14 civic organizations in Baguio and promoted gift giving activities and “even donating a percentage of his earnings to the indigent people of Baguio” said de Guia.

This tradition of helping was continued by Ram Sharma, who is a member of the Baguio General Hospital and Medical Center Advisory Board that conducts regular charitable activities to the community.

“This is the way to bring awareness to the local and foreign community in Baguio about the historical contribution of the Filipino-Indian community to its historical development at the same time promote the beauty and grandeur of incredible India,” she said.

The month-long friendship celebration includes photo exhibit of the colorful India and historical photographs of the old Baguio featuring the Fil-Indian community until first week of December as well as yoga lessons, ayurvedic medicine workshops, and film viewing, among others at the Baguio Museum.

COLORS OF INDIA -- The Filipino-Indian community gave a glimpse of their colorful culture during the launching of the Philippines-India Friendship Month celebration in Baguio City. The event aims to foster and strengthen the friendship of both countries, whose ties date years back. -- Ofelia Empian


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