Monday, May 21, 2007

Blogging in Lianga

I received by e-mail recently a couple of queries from readers of this blog asking if I indeed do my blogging in Lianga since they doubt if computer users in the town have access to the Internet.

The answer is yes. I really reside in Lianga and although the town does not have telephone lines yet, I do hook up with the Web through the SmartBro wireless broadband internet service. That service has been available since the latter part of last year and aside from many private users, Lianga also has three or four internet cafes also using the same service.

SmartBro's service record, as far as I am concerned, has been satisfactory although there have been periods when internet access has been unreliable and even unavailable due to some unexplained technical difficulties and equipment malfunctions. Such problems often occur in conjunction with problems with the mobile phone cell sites from which the service users obtain the signal for their wireless internet service.

Lianga may be a remote town in a secluded area of Mindanao but it is slowly benefiting from as well as adjusting to the technological advances and marvels of the 21st century. A lot more has to be done, of course, but the town in not in any particular hurry to catch up with the rest of the world.

For as it grudgingly relents a little to the demands of the modern world, it continues to cling desperately its own brand of parochialism and provincialism. That is in many ways a blessing for those who seek refuge from the stultifying effects of modern technology and the culture it has created with it. But for those who embrace it and who crave for it, a prolonged stay in Lianga can be as fun as being in exile in the middle of the remotest jungle settlement.

Yes, the Internet has come to Lianga and, yes, I do my blogging right here in this town. It has been been only a couple of months but I have enjoyed the experience. It has not only been fun but also a richly rewarding activity that has enabled me to reach out to people from far away and quite distant from my own little corner of the world.

I am, therefore, grateful for comments and suggestions sent my way. Please keep them coming.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Eye On Pichay

The residents of the 1st district of Surigao del Sur, at least those who are following closely the on-going political campaign for positions in the Philippine Senate, are understandably eyeing the developments in the present senatorial campaign with considerably more interest than in previous national elections.

The reason is simple. Their present congressman, Prospero "Butch" Pichay, who has served three successive three year terms in the House of Representatives, is one of the "senatoriables" running under the administration ticket of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. This is something unprecedented in Surigao del Sur politics.

This province has always been in the backwaters of Philippine politics, a consequence and a reflection of the relatively poor state of its economic development and consequently its lesser standing and importance in national affairs in comparison with the other more well-off provinces. Thus in the past and even to a large degree at present, its local officials and representatives to Congress have been more or less reticent, low-keyed individuals who are mostly unknown to the national electorate.

Butch Pichay is the exception. From relative obscurity, he rocketed to national prominence in just the nine years he had served in Congress and is now known as a prominent wheeler-dealer, power broker and a key political figure in the Arroyo administration. No mean achievement for one previously known only as a businessman and who never had held any public office prior to his election to Congress. That as a politician he has also been controversial is also true and it has been said that he has as many detractors as well as admirers both from within and outside the government.

That Surigao del Sur is set to gain from having one of its own leaders in the Senate is obviously true and, in truth, the province needs all the help it can get. For one, it has one of the most poorly maintained road networks in the country, most of it unpaved and prone to blockages due to landslides and flooding during bad weather. The poor condition of the existing road system in the province particularly in Pichay's own congressional district is an issue that has been raised against the congressman countless of times and it is one he would have to address and answer again and again as he campaigns for a seat in the Senate.

The province would also benefit from his help in lowering the high levels of poverty and unemployment that is hindering its economic development and in addressing peace and order problems caused by an active communist insurgency that holds sway over many of its remote barangays and whose continued presence has not exactly been helping attract business and infrastructure investments. These and more his fellow province mates expect of their man when and if he can join the elite group of individuals who will earn the right to the title of senator of the republic.

I personally would like to see someone from the less privileged provinces, especially one from our remote part of Mindanao, get into the Senate. That would be a much needed correction of the imbalance in representation in that august body that is in favor of Luzon, the Visayas and the richer provinces.

But the members of the Senate have a national constituency and prospective senators have to appeal to a national vote and deal with national issues. He must be able to project himself as a leader of integrity and competence to the whole country and one who speaks for all Filipinos and not just a tiny minority.

That most of the voters of Surigao del Sur would like to see a Surigaonon, one of their own, be a part of the next Senate is obvious and a matter of self interest if not provincial pride. But Butch Pichay is running for a national position, a position to which only the best of the country are supposed to aspire to. It is an office of great prestige, great honor and great responsibility, one that should be given only to the most worthy and the most deserving.

Butch Pichay will have to set himself by this harsh and unforgiving measuring stick of personal competence and worthiness. And it is the nation, the entire Filipino people and not just the people of Surigao del Sur and Mindanao who will have to judge if he measures up to it.