The staging of the 17th Cesar V. Sarmiento’s Oratorical Cup last January 26 at the Catanduanes State University (CSU) Auditorium at this point in time is truly imperative, providential, and timely due to some compelling reasons.

Written in an interrogative form, the topic was challenging and thought-provoking: “ Change to Federal Form of Government: Will Catanduanes Benefit From It?” Locally-centered, it generated a lot of interests from both the new and old voters alike. Will it lead to equal playing field and opportunities?

For instance, may I hasten to ask with conviction, would federalism as form of government fully address, with dispatch, the release of goods, financial assistance etc. in times of calamities or disasters? This question is very pressing and relevant.

Still a “Land of the Howling Winds” due to Nina’s short but highly devastating winds last December 25, 2016, the populace especially those in the southern portion likes San Andres, Virac and the Renconada area—San Miguel, Bato, Baras and Gigmoto—have yet to fully recover from that tempest of a woman due to long overdue releases of relief goods especially the Php 25,000 rehabilitation assistance.

Worse, reports have it that the beneficiaries of said big financial assistance have allegedly diverted their priorities —defeating in the process the very purpose of that substantial financial assistance. OMG! That should not be treated as mere dole outs. That dependency theory-coined word is no longer within the lingo and practice of social work and development today. It has been discarded several decades ago, if memory serves me correctly.

The dole out mentality is anathema to human development and dignity. It breeds indolence, Rizal addressed and justified more than a century hence. Unfortunately, majority of our unschooled, unwashed, scum-of- the-earth species still succumb to that mentality, unwittingly or otherwise. With this kind of mentality, the 4Ps program continued by the PD30 administration should be closely monitored and periodically reviewed. The K-12 school program and free tertiary education now being implemented nationwide should be a great equalizer, right?

The substantial amount is intended for reconstruction and/or repair, isn’t it? If the allegations are true, let’s wait and see how they will justify it when the DSWD requires them to submit evidences of compliance.

Surely, those who did not comply with the duly signed agreement should be disqualified and removed from the list of bonafide beneficiaries. Compliance and discipline are the keywords. Those personalities who don’t subscribe to these keywords are underserving of the government’s concerned for their welfare.

Sa ikauunlad ng bayan, disiplina and kailangan. That’s should be one of our battlecry or mantra now. Bawal ang matitigas ang ulo, merong laman o wala. Bawal ang mga adik-adik, tamad at terorista sa ating lupang sinilangan. Yan ang dapat nating tandaan, mga katoto, mga Ka-Peryodiko.

Be that as it may, one thing is sure: Malilintikan ang mga benepisyaryo na hindi sumunod sa iniaatas tungkol dito. Tiyak yan, hindi kayo makakalusot sa masusing monitoring at ebalwasyong gagawin ng DSWD.
What caused the delay is beyond our belief and assessment. The local DSWD offices in Catanduanes are only following and/or waiting the go signal from the DSWD Region 5.

Pardon me, readers, of somewhat going off the track. Now, may I go back to the main topic. The question could be raised to the national level, thus: “Would it be appropriate, effective, and good for the entire archipelago? Is it really our last card, to borrow the words of PDU30?”

Firstly, it showed how supportive CVS is as far as education is concerned in the province. He surely knows that education is, indeed, a great equalizer. Aside from initiating this oratorical competition way back in 2001, he regularly holds it right at the university of which he was the principal author with the support of then congressman Sonny Angara, now a senator.

The “Marker of Recognition” engraved in the lobby of the CSU, is Exhibit A. This sort of chronicle succinctly states: “The Catanduanes State University was established on October 19, 2012 by virtue of Republic Act No. 102229 signed by the President of the Republic of the Philippines, His Excellency Benigno S. Aquino III during the Third Regular Session of the Fifteenth Congress.”

With that legislative measure he was able to equalize, if not surpassed, the legacy made by the late Jose M. Alberto who converted the Virac National Agriculture and Trades School (VNATS) into Catanduanes State Colleges (CSC). The graduating solon , through diplomacy and sheer political will, realized his primordial mission of promoting the CSC into a university, as soon as he was sworn into office on his first term as the representative of the loan district of Catanduanes.

And not only that. Aside from the congressional scholars he sponsored before and today, he allocated substantial budget for the construction of more than 100 school-based multipurpose buildings province wide.

Recently, a local ranking DepEd official, said in Filipino: “Napakaswerte ng Catanduanes dahil meron tayo ng napakasipag na Congressman, tumutulong para matugunan ng gobyerno ang ating problema sa classroom shortage. Tapos nandyan din ang kanyang kapatid na si Atty. Jorge V. Sarmiento na dating PAGCOR President and COO.

Dahil sa kanila , napakarami natin ngayon ng PAGCOR School Buildings ditto sa Catanduanes. Kaya DepEd is really very thankful” (Source: Catanduanes Serbihan, Official publication of the Congressional District Office, Ibong Sapa, Virac, Catanduanes, Vol. 11, No. 2, December 2017).

Secondly, as representative of the lone district of Catanduanes and member of the supermajority party in the Lower House, he is duty bound to campaign for charter change—from presidential to federalism.

Sayang! The half-day “Forum on Federalism” supposed to be held on the same day prior to the 17th Cesar V. Sarmiento’s Oratorical Cup at the CSU Auditorium was postponed due to the Mt. Mayon’s wrath which was raised to level 4 by Phivolcs.

However, in an on-the- air interview conducted by SM Ferdz Brizo, along with Mr. Sabawski, in their Radyo Peryodiko Bareta On-line segment the other week, the three-term solon assured the holding of said forum sometime in February. So let’s wait with bated breath for that event to be realized in just a matter of one month, okey?
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Dr. Aida A. Dianela, chairperson, Organizing Committee, delivered a very historically-inspired welcome message followed by the solon’s message as founding chair of the CS Oratorical Cup started way back in 2001.

Historically calling it just an accident, he stated “kung gaano kahalaga ng oratorical contest kaya’t nanghihinayang diumano siya sa mga mag-aaral na may oratorical talent but could not be honed due to lack of opportunities. Hence, his decision to stage initially the first oratorical cup originally dubbed as “Vice Governor Cesar V. Sarmiento Oratorical Cup” sometime in 2001. The rests is history, by now.

However, when he was elected representative of lone district of Catanduanes he dropped the VG tag and called it originally “Cesar V. Sarmiento’s Oratorical Cup.” Brimming with utmost concern and conviction, he exhorted successful Catandunganons to engage in similar activities to help the needy and the poor especially. He assured that this ‘cup’ will be continued in his lifetime.

In rejoinder to his brother- solon call for well-meaning Catandunganons, Atty. Jorge V. Sarmiento, in his impression as chairman of the Board of Judges said “sana, some successful Catandunganons would do some related activities like this in response to the academic needs and opportunities of the young generation as future leaders.

In short, the 17th Cesar V. Sarmiento Oratorical Cup held this early in the Year of the Earth Dog in the Chinese calendar was a resounding success. The sponsors and organizers were indeed correct in saying that the 16 contestants coming from public and private province wide –performance and talents-wise—have improved several notches higher. May I doff my hat then to all of them—mentor-coaches, school administrators, parents, and student-contestants. It was a good start for the New Year. Keep up the good work. See you on the next edition of this apparently longest running oratorical competition in the world soon. I can hardly wait.

I likewise doff my hat to the energetic, smart-aleck master of ceremony, Juriza DR. Alpapara, radio broadcaster of the government-operated Radyo Pilipinas. Cong. Sarmiento was candidly correct: Likethe highly commendable, impressive performances of the 16 contestants, the emcee showmanship of Ms. Alpapara had apparently levelled up several notches.