The mechanic at the auto repair shop in Butuan City was brusque yet sympathetic. Another cracked ball joint in the front suspension of the car and a multitude of angry pesos signs started dancing in my head. It's cursing time again for me.
I have come to love Lianga and living in it but there are certain times when I have the sudden urge to curse the day fate or destiny brought me to stay permanently in this coastal town by the sea. And ninety-nine percent of the time when I do that it is always when I am in the car and creeping, crawling and lurching along the rocky, potholed, and absolutely disgusting roads that crisscross this part of my province.
The question that often comes to my mind as the car rattles along is what manner of unfortunate bad luck or perennial misfortune is my town so cursed with that it has to be, for decades now, the luckless location of what may amount to be the most neglected road system in the country today. I have pondered long and hard yet have not been able to come up with a satisfying answer to this day.
There are many who say that this part of the country is so far off the beaten track that the government simply has no real or sufficient justification to improve the road infrastructure. No major industries nor any major business investments exist in the area hence the absence of the concrete paved highways that almost all of the other parts of the country have come to take for granted.
But that is just like putting the cart before the horse, isn't it? For an underdeveloped province to truly grow, the government must provide the needed requirements. Foremost among them is a modern transportation system and, at its most basic, that means a modern highway or road network linking the population and production centers to the transportation hubs and centers of the country.
To say that politics is the primary reason for the poor condition of Lianga's roads and bridges is to hit closer to the truth of the whole matter. For what is clear and unequivocal is the fact that despite their avowed and professed concern for the people of Lianga and the economic development of the municipality, the present crop of provincial government officials including those representing the province in the national government do not give a damn about the town except for a fact that it is a pawn to be played in the political chessboard of the province.
Lianga is no longer a major town and its voting population is relatively insignificant in comparison to such major population centers as Bislig City or Tandag. But it happens to be an old town and political control over the town whether real or imagined has great sentimental if little strategic or tactical significance for the politicians of the province.
Thus the town has become a mere chess piece in the political games politicians play and it is this unstable mix of feuding political interests and the often unpredictable changes in the political alliances and loyalties that determine who has political control and influence over it that is the primary reason for the lack of a coherent development program for the area and the lack of sufficient political will to implement one if such a program happened to really exist.
Thus it is a town in perpetual political flux and nothing regarding economic, social, cultural or infrastructure development gets done. Essential and necessary programs and projects get stuck in the limbo of unfulfilled promises and proposals.
The end result is the emergence in the local people of what one can call a kind of "political fatalism", a morose view of both local and national politics as a power game rich and powerful politicians play while the local electorate and the common masses end up always the losers in the never ending battle for political and economic control of political fiefdoms.
Thus it is easier and more practical to sell your vote or political allegiance to the highest bidder since your vote, by itself, does not count much at all in the present scheme of things. "Democracy," one voter in the recent barangay elections told me, "is a scam and all politicians cheat anyway."
Yet, for the nth time, I still cry out to Governor BB Pimentel and Congressman Philip Pichay. Please do something about the roads in our part of the province. Get your heads and your acts together and just do something!
The people of Lianga and its neighboring municipalities have, so far, been extraordinarily patient and forbearing with their local government officials. But the same officials cannot and must not remain complacent. There is a lot of anger and disappointment out here and those who think they can still continue to sell false promises and hot air and continue to get away with it may have to rethink what they have been doing for so long.
Otherwise if they will not, they may end up instead sowing wind and harvesting in return the bitter whirlwind of discontent and ultimately the bitter fruits of their own destruction.