Interview with Constantine Agustin of Biag Ken Siak

What makes me proud of our country more than what the eyes see (we have a beautiful country!) is the Pinoy’s creativity and resiliency – these are evident in every place I’ve been to and it always fascinates me how we live, work hard and be happy!

– Constantine Agustin

Constantine at Surallah, South Cotabato
Constantine at Surallah, South Cotabato

[TRIP]: Good day Atty! We gleaned from your blog (biagkensiak) how passionate you are about Ilocos. You are a proud Ilocano (and Filipino). Can you tell us more about this?

I was born and raised in Ilocos and there is nothing that does not amaze me about Ilocos even now. Aside from its heritage and culture, it’s the distinct charm of Ilocos that makes me proud of my province. Most of my friends whom I brought to Ilocos the first time went back for vacation on their own. Surprisingly, some of them have gone to places I am not even familiar with or gone to. I can never be prouder than that.

You describe yourself in flickr as a photographer, writer, professor and lawyer. We’re quite curious. Can you share with us who Constantine Agustin is?

I am a simple guy who does not want a complicated status 🙂


I work for a living and I do things I want to do to strike the balance. I was first interested in taking photos without my own camera until I was 25, given to me by my sister and have not purchased my own until 2010. Being a professor is probably an influence of my Mom who was a public school elementary teacher. I always thought that it’s very noble to teach and be part of someone’s life during school. I have stopped 3-years ago, however, and gone full-time in my main job. The writer-photographer thing is to even things out. Every time I go out-of-town for work especially when it’s a new place, I always have my camera with me. I take photos of anything and everything that interests me, write something about it and share it with few friends through FB, Flickr and WordPress.

Often, I want to go roads less traveled and most of the time I always bring home with me a photograph worth keeping and remembering.

Is your sister the one who introduced you to photography?

Yes. Our eldest sister Amy. She’s also my first fan :).

I like that you try to strike a balance between your work and life. What do you like most about your job and what do you like most about writing/photography and traveling?

I like to practice where the action is and with my area of work, I get to see other places charged to official business. I like working outside the office every now and then. I am also given the opportunity to manage people and I owe it to the officers and staff of my division for not making it difficult.

Travel-photography-writing is my other half. I really do not have any idea of what I may be doing without it – it never crossed my mind. Travel usually comes with my work and photography and writing is my way of expressing myself for whatever its worth. It is the only way I get to be the boss of myself. I do it in any manner I want and present it in any way it pleases me. For me, there is no better expression of freedom than through images and words and I think that’s what I am doing. Appreciation is secondary but definitely gives me added inspiration to continue doing it.

Playa del Norte by Constantine Agustin
Playa del Norte by Constantine Agustin

Where in Ilocos is your hometown?

Piddig. Ilocos Norte. Small, quaint and laidback town where the Basi Revolt is said to have started.

Piddig is known to have the best basi in the country. For those who don’t know, what is a basi and why is the basi from Piddig the best?

Basi is a beverage from sugarcane juice, cooked, fermented in earthen jars, dug underground, until it aged for about 6-months to about a year. If it takes longer, it becomes the Ilocos vinegar. I always describe Basi as the rough version of the red wine as to color, taste and aroma. It’s the counterpart of Tuba in coconut growing provinces.

Piddig “used to be known” as the best basi maker in Ilocos. I still remember my Dad making Basi in our backyard. Today, there are already other towns in Ilocos and other neighboring provinces making “better” Basi. With this said, Piddig may now only be remembered as a place where the Basi Revolt started and no longer the best producing town for Basi.

What would you advise a person who wants to go on a trip to Ilocandia? Give us your top ten spots that one shouldn’t miss.

I would advise someone who intends to visit Ilocos to be ready with a reliable camera and if possible pre-arrange a transpo to go around Ilocos. It’s quite difficult to commute from one place to another except when you intend to stay in only one location like the Vigan, Laoag or Pagudpud. I advise that not be contented with only the place you intend to stay. Go around. Visit other places and eat Bagnet, Pinakbet, Longanisa and Empanada!

I’ll do the top-10 by place instead.

For Ilocos Sur, you must visit:

Vigan City – Crisologo Street/Burnayan [Pottery]/Eat royal bibingka and Vigan empanada

Go to nearby towns and visit old churches.

For Ilocos Norte you must not miss:

Paoay – Paoay Church/Malacanang of the North/Eat Ilocos Chicacorn

Batac – Marcos mauseleum/Eat Batac Empanada

Laoag City – Ilocos Museum/Sinking Belltower/Ride a Kalesa around the city/Eat Laoag Empanada

Pasuquin – Eat soft biscocho as Pasuquin Bakery

Bangui – Windmill

Burgos – Lighthouse[Cape Bojeador]/Kapurpurawan[White Rock]

Pagudpud – Pagudpud Beach/Maira-Ira Cove/Viaduct

Adams – Do eco-adventure

Ilocos Empanada by Constantine Agustin
Ilocos Empanada by Constantine Agustin

We understand that you are currently based in Mindanao? Is this still true? If yes, can you share with us how you got based there?

Yes, I am still based in Mindanao, Davao City in particular.

I came to Davao maybe because I was already tired of Manila 🙂 There was an opportunity to head Legal Division for Visayas and Mindanao. I initially negotiated for 3-months to test the waters but it’s been 3-years and I don’t think I am considering going back to Manila anytime soon.

Aside from the geographical scope of work which also includes Visayas and the nature of work which is litigation coupled with admin work, trying a new place far South and away the North which I am used to was challenging and I took it. Aside from the work, I was equally excited about the culture in Mindanao. There is no other place in the country where there is more mixture of culture than in Mindanao. It’s the different culture in Mindanao that makes the place vibrant and in fact it is in so many ways. Surprisingly, there are a lot of Ilocanos in Mindanao.

It was probably the Ilocano in you that made you take the opportunity. Ilocanos are well-known for being adventurous. You can actually find an Ilocano anywhere in the world. 🙂

Ilocanos are industrious and hardworking. Wherever there is work, Ilocanos are there, whether in the country or abroad. If this can be attributed to being adventurous, yes, I agree! In fact, Every Ilocano, I think has a relative working or living abroad. 🙂

Tell us more about the vibrancy and how much you like this mixture of culture you see in Mindanao. And, where and how can a visitor experience it as well.

If you think of Mindanao, you think of colors, definitely. Mindanao is the vintas, batik, malong, beads, accessories, mosques, fruits, etc! Almost anything and everything associated with Mindanao is colourful. The colors of Mindanao show how vibrant and diverse its culture is which makes it different from Luzon and Visayas.

There are countless ways to experience Mindanao but the Kadayawan Festival the best way to feel the beat and heat of Mindanao. Compared to the other festivals, the Kadayawan is by far the most colorful I’ve seen. The Kadayawan Festival is not only street-dancing, you also get to taste different fruits grown in Mindanao at shockingly low prices, no kidding! Kadayawan is by the way celebrated in the whole month of August and the highlight is on the second week with the street dancing and float parade on the weekend.

I always compare Mindanao to the Durian fruit – it’s either you love it or hate it! I love it.

Can you tell us some of the places in Mindanao you’ve been to and those that you really had fun the most?

In Mindanao, I have been to different places in Davao being my base city, I have also gone to Gensan, Sarangani, Koronadal,Cagayan de Oro and Cotabato. There are a lot more I want to visit, if only my work will take me to those places soon or have all the time.

As to places I had fun most at, I would say Isla Reta in Talicud Island, in Samal – I love the simplicity of the place and have brought people special to me to this place. New Israel, Makilala, North Cotabato – where there are monkeys in the streets than dogs and being at the foot of Mt. Apo, aside from the home on the “Moncadistas”, the place is regarded as “mystical.” Lake Sebu, North Cotabato – being the ancestral land of our T’boli brothers.

New Israel, Makilala, North Cotabato
New Israel, Makilala, North Cotabato

Hailing from the North and now living in the South, you’ve got a better perspective of our country as a whole than most. Seeing the different places you’ve been to, what is it about our country that you really like and proud of?

I have not gone to a lot. But, in the places I’ve been to, what makes me proud of our country more than what the eyes see (we have a beautiful country!) is the Pinoy’s creativity and resiliency – these are evident in every place I’ve been to and it always fascinates me how we live, work hard and be happy! There is nothing more creative than a Pinoy sitting on his heel when there is no chair and nothing more resilient that a Pinoy smiling after a disaster. Hinde tamad ang Pinoy, kahit saan. Alam lang natin pano Magsaya!

Thanks a lot Constantine for the interview. It’s a pleasure to chat with you. 🙂

Folks, Constantine blogs at biagkensiak, visit him there. I am particularly curious about the places in Mindanao that he visits as I’ve never been there. So, if you are as curious as I am, visit his site and learn from what he shares. Get inspired by his travel and start your own journey! The Philippines is there for you to enjoy and explore!

 Kadayawan Festival 2012 by Constantine Agustin

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2 thoughts on “Interview with Constantine Agustin of Biag Ken Siak”

  1. Thanks Trip the Islands for the interview. My privilege, indeed. More Power and let’s all keep on trippin’ !!! 🙂


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