It took me almost three hours to get there. Three hours from Lianga to traverse 89 kilometers of mostly muddy and potholed dirt tracks made worse by weeks of intermittent rain and ongoing road construction.
The toll on the body and mind by such an arduous journey seemed too high a price to pay for a chance to visit once again this capital of the province of Surigao del Sur. But family and filial obligations are of paramount importance. My mother wanted to visit my younger sister whose husband and family live in Tandag and I was essentially just along for the ride.
It has been, however, many months since I last visited Tandag and my visit a couple of days ago was my first since it recently declared itself a city. Thus I was, in many ways, eager and anxious to see the new changes taking place there after the change in its legal status. So as soon as I had the chance, I started looking the new city over.
That changes have happened and are taking place cannot be denied. There is some new infrastructure going up and there is a certain residual degree of optimism and civic pride that can be sensed in the local people as one goes about the streets and alleyways.
The provincial government is not just renovating but practically building a new, more grandiose capitol building on the site of the old one. And nearer the sea, the new city government is reclaiming part of the coast and building a long concrete dike that would usher in the completion of a "boardwalk" along the seashore where local residents can promenade and enjoy the late afternoon and early evening breeze while leaving enough space for the construction of new commercial buildings and complexes.
But beneath the thin veneer of its new status as a city, I cannot shake off the personal perception that Tandag is really, by and large, still the same town I knew in the past. There is still enough of the old provincialism and the lingering vestiges of its rural and municipal past to give it enough of a patina or look akin to that of a country bumpkin crashing a high society bash and trying out the affectations and dress of an urban sophisticate while not quite succeeding to completely convince the party crowd.
Like many similar towns much to eager to jump the fast and easy way to cityhood essentially by legislative fiat, it seems to be neither here nor there and has actually more in common with the pretender to a royal throne uneasily wearing the crown and the habiliments of majesty while constantly worrying and wondering in the back of his mind if anyone watching him closely can detect the humbug beneath the kingly disguise.
Perhaps the great expectations of cityhood will be enough to mobilize the city government and citizens of Tandag to strive more and do more, a case of the effect providing the impetus for the cause. It has happened elsewhere and it can happen there. All it takes is some form of inspired leadership with great political will, a motivated citizenry, a realistic, achievable and sustainable program of development and, of course, plenty of the right kind of luck.
Whether Tandag will become more than what it is today remains to be seen, however. There is certainly and unquestionably great potential for its future growth and progress. It may not be there yet but it may eventually get there...in time. The change in status to cityhood could be the first step. Making sure that the new city will eventually be deserving of its new status and title is obviously next.
Otherwise it will just be another would be city on the long list of would be cities all over the country who have moved too fast and precipitously too soon only to end up nowhere just as fast.