Biodata Yvonne Belen

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10th Igorot Cordillera BIMAAK Europe (ICBE) Consultation 

Amsterdam, The Netherlands

July 26-29, 2019


Yvonne Belen

With hindsight, Yvonne is grateful to her parents for having moved from Manila to Bontoc, Mountain Province in 1952. Her Igorot mother had (and still has) relatives in Bontoc Ili, Samoki  and Alab, a village south of Bontoc. When her mother visited her relatives, she would bring along her daughters. Their relatives would return the visit and bring sweet potatoes, bananas and glutinous rice. Most of Yvonne’s classmates at the then Mountain Provincial High School (now Mountain Province General Comprehensive High School) in Bontoc Poblacion are Igorots. It is from her stay in Bontoc and Baguio City from 1952 through 1960 that she realized she is an Igorot.    

Yvonne, the eldest of Honesto Cariño Belen and Ana Lumbaya Kay-an’s three daughters, was born in Alab, Bontoc, Mountain Province in 1945. Her mother is from Alab and Bontoc Ili; her father, born in Bontoc Poblacion, is of Ilocano and Tagalog ancestry. She spent her childhood in Manila and Bontoc. Most of the time, their family lived in Bontoc Poblacion. During school vacation, she and her sisters would visit with their maternal grandparents in Baguio City. 

She attended Kindergarten at Ellinwood (now Ellinwood Christian School, Inc.), and Grades 1 through middle of Grade 3 at Union Elementary School both in Malate, Manila. When their family moved to Bontoc, Yvonne continued her Grade 3 until Grade 6 studies at Bontoc Central School. In 1956, she enrolled at the Mountain Provincial High School and graduated in 1960.   

Like her mother, Yvonne wanted to be a nurse. Her mother disagreed and wanted her to become a medical doctor. To fulfill her mother’s dream, she took up the Bachelor of Science (BS) in Preparatory Medicine at the University of the Philippines (UP) in Diliman, Quezon City. During her pre-medical years, her sisters were also enrolled in college, so she decided to take up another course---a shorter one. She finished her Pre-Medicine course and pursued the Bachelor of Secondary Education (major in General Science and minor in Chemistry) also at UP Diliman.   

After graduation, she taught General Science at Baguio Tech (now University of Baguio) High School and Chemistry at the Baguio Tech Science High School. After one year, she resigned and transferred to Baguio City High School (BCHS). Two years of teaching at BCHS was enough. She wanted to become a physician after all. In the meantime, she got married to Cesar T. Taguba in 1968. After passing the Medical College Admission Test, Yvonne enrolled at the University of the East Ramon Magsaysay Memorial Medical Center (UERMMMC) in Quezon City, where she graduated with a degree of Doctor of Medicine in 1976.  

She worked as Medical Officer of the Ministry of Education, Culture and Sports (MECS), Division Office, La Trinidad, Benguet from 1978-79. During her stint, she visited 11 out of the 13 municipalities of Benguet. Yvonne resigned from the government service and worked as Assistant Program Director of the National Ecumenical Health Concerns Committee (NEHCC), National  Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP), Quezon City from 1980-81. She contributed to the book, “Our Health, Our Lives” by Jaime Galvez Tan, M.D. and June Lopez-Pagaduan, M.D., which was published by the NEHCC. 

From her work at the the NCCP, Yvonne wanted to serve her fellow Igorots. She founded the Baguio City-based non-government health program, CHESTCORE (Community Health Education, Services, and Training in the Cordillera Region) in August 1981. She was the first Program Director, a position she held until their family moved to the Netherlands in 1985. At CHESTCORE, she was a committee member of Leonardo Co’s book, “Common Medicinal Plants of the Cordillera Region” published in 1989. 

In the Netherlands, Yvonne was unable to practice her profession as a physician. She had to go through another four years of studies in a medical school with Dutch as the medium of instruction. With language as her handicap, she decided against studying. She worked as an assistant to the physician and nurse at some “Under Fives Clinic” (UFC). After three years, she resigned from the UFC. Later on, she worked as an office worker at an insurance company for three years.  

With her interest in nutrition, she finished an “Integral Course on Orthomolecular Medicine” in The Hague, The Netherlands from 1996-97. 

Meanwhile, Yvonne focused on NGO work, namely:  

  • Coordinating the “Conference of Philippine Women in Europe” held in Barcelona, Spain in September 1992.

  • Being Board Chairperson of the Netherlands-based foundation, “Babaylan-Philippine Women’s Network in Europe” from 1992-95. 

  • Being Board Chairperson of the Amsterdam-based Stichting Decennium Inheemse Volken  (Foundation Decennium Indigenous Peoples) from 1994-97.  

Yvonne presently devotes her time to Igorot Cordillera BIMAAK-Europe (ICBE), an informal network of Igorot Cordillera organizations (foundations or groups) and individuals in Europe. She helps to: organize the biennial consultations, edit the Consultation’s Proceedings, and monitor postings for the website (www.icbe.eu). As a member of the Igorot Global Organization (IGO), she serves on the Board of the Igorot Scholarship Program (ISP), the organization’s flagship project. She is presently a member of the Board of MABIKAs Foundation-The Netherlands and serves as the secretary.  

Aside from being involved in NGO activities, Yvonne honed her writing skills in English and accomplished the following:  

  • Edited the Proceedings of the “Conference of Philippine  Women in Europe” in September 1992.

  • Contributed an essay, Flavors from My Bontoc Igorot Roots,for the book, “A Taste of Home: Pinoy Expats and Food Memories” edited by Edgardo Maranan and Len Maranan-Goldstein and published in 2008. 

  • Edited the magazine, “Cordillera Rituals as a Way of Life,” published for the 5th Igorot Cordillera BIMAAK-Europe (ICBE) Consultation held in Vallendar, Germany in May 2009. 

  • Edited the coffee table book, “Igorot Value Systems and Cultural Protocols” by Caridad B. Fiar-od. This book is a pictorial  Proceedings of the 6th ICBE Consultation held in London, UK in April 2011. 

  • Was one of the editors of the book, “Igorot by Heart,” published by the IGO in 2011.  

  • Self-published her memoir, “Prose, Poetry & Miscellany” in 2016 from the collection of her writings since the early 1990s.

  • Was one of the editors of the Souvenir Book, “ICBE Through the Years,” published by ICBE in 2019. This book celebrates 17 years of ICBE’s existence and 10th series of ICBE consultations.    

Yvonne is the proud mother of three: Luti, a special care dentist; Chuntug, a secondary school math teacher and Chico, a mental health nurse. She has four grandchildren, who have attended some ICBE consultations together with their parents. YKB2020.