That there is poverty in the Philippines is more than true. That there is poverty in Lianga is glaringly obvious.
I am reminded of the true story of an elderly European woman who, on her first trip to this country and this part of Mindanao, was passing by car through the rural countryside. After many minutes of watching the local scenery through the car windows she turns to her companions and said, "I don't know why we were all told that this is a poor country. Look at those nice country houses and cottages. People who can afford to have those weekend houses can't be that poor!"
Apparently she had thought that the rude huts and cottages on the side of the road and on the mountain sides were merely vacation houses for the people in the cities. Or maybe she needed a new pair of glasses.
The fact is that being poor in Lianga, like in so many other unfortunate places all over the world, is more of the rule rather than the exception. The lack of economic opportunities, a moribund local economy and an unresponsive and corrupt local government have merely served to worsen what is already an alarming situation.
Decades ago in the past, Lianga used to be a model town. Local business was booming, the logging industry in its northern barangay of Diatagon was at its peak, local fishing was bringing in bounties from the sea, and the people benefited hugely from the aura of prosperity that the seemed to envelop the area.
But time has passed the town by and only the memories and echoes of its golden years remain. Most of the other towns that surrounded it have surpassed it now in terms of progress and economic activity. And Lianga is back to where it started; a quaint, sleepy, little coastal town in one other secluded part of the world.
Perhaps then we here are not really poor, we are, in reality, merely rural. The rundown houses are not dilapidated, they are merely rustic. And life in the slums is not actually depressing and degrading but merely challenging and exotic.
In that case then, being poor or being excitingly rural or exotic can be just a matter of perspective.