Sunday, April 27, 2008


When I first heard that the present municipal officials of Lianga are planning to move the municipal hall from its present site near the town center to a new location in the northern outskirts of the town and has even alocated government funds for that purpose, I was, like many local residents, more than a bit nonplussed at this rather surprising development. Like them, I have been witness to more than a few harebrained schemes hatched by the municipal government but this plan to for a wholesale transfer of the headquarters of the town government from where it has been since the founding of the municipality to a new site God alone knows where seemed to me more absurd and ill advised than usual.

If Lianga is a progressive town with a booming economy and a rapidly expanding population, it would be perhaps easier to justify the construction of a new seat of the municipal government at a more spacious and convenient location. The considerable expenditures that may be incurred in the building of a new town hall would be more than offset by the expanded range of services a new building would be able to provide and by the prestige and honor that such new infrastructure would command befitting a municipality on the rise.

Sadly, Lianga is neither a progressive town nor is its economy or population booming. So why then is there a need to waste municipal funds, which could be badly needed elsewhere, on such a a rather quixotic project. The present town hall, despite its limitations, remains able to serve the needs of the town government and its constituency. And why spend vast sums constructing a new building when for very much less expenditure the present town hall can be renovated or expanded if there be an urgent need to do so?

The fact is this penchant among local officials for building new if unnecessary infrastructure in towns like Lianga extend to more than the creation of new opportunities and possibilities for graft and corruption although that is more than a reason in itself. Grandiose infrastructure projects, at least those that can be described as such from the perspective of Lianga and other small and remote towns, are more than often engineered specifically for the abuse and misuse of public funds and therefore much sought after by many local town officials.

Aside from that however, there is a seeming need or mania (for the lack of a better term) by many local town executives and officials to initiate infrastructure projects as physical and enduring monuments to their years of public service like the ancient kings of olden times who saw the building of temples, pyramids, palaces and castles in their names as the true measure of greatness and immortality. Sadly, most of these structures that have survived today are remembered largely as monuments to egomania and frivolous decadence, built at great cost using the sweat, blood and, in many cases, the very lives of countless generations of the common folk.

The things to remember here, as always, are necessity, propriety and common sense. Is there really a need for a new town hall in a new location? Would the enormous expense of such an undertaking be justifiable? If the answer is yes then so be it. Let the labor commence. If not, then let Lianga's local officials disabuse themselves of the notion that their constituents will continue to turn a blind eye to their shenanigans. For the people of Lianga may no longer be as forgiving of misconduct by their leaders in office as they have been in the past.

And there is no greater monument to the memory of a life spent in public service than a service record that speaks of honesty, integrity and dedication to the democratic ideal of selfless service to one's community and country. To claim greatness where none is due by any other dishonest means or some form of subterfuge is a hollow and transparent trick that always gets caught in the end.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Kansilad Online

I have been harping to the resort owners about the need for it for sometime now, so I was more than pleased to discover that the Kansilad Beach Resort ( has finally got its website up and running. It has been on the internet for just over a week yet the response from customers and web surfers has been more than enthusiastic.

That the Kansilad is the first business venture in Lianga to go digital in this internet age is significant in the sense that it is proof that a business venture in Lianga, despite the myriad of problems plaguing the town, can prosper and do well if such an enterprise is based on a right idea and was established by individuals with the determination and a willingness to risk everything in order to give reality to what was once merely a dream .

I remembered the time several years ago when the resort was a swampy wilderness by the sea, thoroughly infested by stinging bugs and insects, choked with cut timber, dense grass and vegetation, and appearing totally unpromising as a location for anything much less a beach resort. No wonder a lot of people thought it was a bad investment and the resort idea a pipe dream.

But Engr. Robert Lala, Sr., then DPWH regional director in the Caraga region (Region XIII), saw possibilities where others saw obstacles. A native of Lianga, he knew that ecotourism was the wave of the future and in Kansilad he thought had the chance to prove it.

He saw the new resort as a showcase for the natural beauty that Lianga as a coastal community had in abundance and he wanted it to appear as natural, pristine and unspoiled as possible. The resort facilities and infrastructure would serve to accentuate and emphasize the site's natural scenery rather than supplant or upstage it.

It has taken him and his family several years but the results have been, in more ways than one, spectacular.

Check out the website if you are planning to visit Lianga. If you are not yet planning a trip here then still take a look. You may change your mind.

Saturday, April 19, 2008


The pictures speak for themselves. If these billboards are publicly funded then at least we now know where some of our hard earned tax money go. If they are not then these are prime examples of blatant and tasteless political advertising of the most venal kind.

Look at them and weep.

Friday, April 18, 2008

When The Lights Go Out

Two nights ago, Lianga had to go through most of the evening and the night without electrical power. The timing could not have been more unfortunate.

The town was sweltering amidst the heat and high humidity of early summer and no electricity meant not even the help of an electric fan to help ease the constant sweat and itchy discomfort resulting from what have become typically hot, tropical nights. Even a shower before bedtime was not much help. Whatever cool relief it gave me was temporary and soon I was sweating like a pig again.

What I would have given to be given the chance to turn the air conditioner or even just an electric fan on. Then to be able to switch on the lights and read a book or two. Or boot the computer up and surf the internet or slouch on the chair and watch the world go crazy on CNN.

Yet I remember that as a small boy growing up in Lianga, I did manage to live without all those things and did not really feel inconvenienced at all by their absence. Perhaps I did not require much then. Perhaps things were more simpler and basic in those days.

When electricity first came to Lianga it came in the form of a huge generator operated by the municipal government. It ran from six in the evening until nine at night and for three hours everyday, Lianga bathed in the bright, artificial lights of modern technology. What a glorious sight it was for my young eyes then.

Except for those three hours, life went on without the benefits of electricity and the devices that use it. It was, from hindsight, an inconvenience but we never thought much about it in those days. We did without it and suffered little from the lack of it.

When the lights started blinking at nine o'clock, everyone would rush home to get ready for bed. I used to think as a child then that the generator operator was the most powerful man in town then. More powerful than the mayor, for only he could turn night into day and vice versa. At the flick of a switch he could plunge the town into darkness or cover it with lights. It was magic of a sort.

No television, no computers, no DVD players or game consoles, no air conditioners and not even an electric fan. They would have been essentially useless for most of the day even if we could have afforded to buy them had they been available. Instead one had to make do with what one had. A paper fan to drive away the sultry air was often good enough, or one merely chose to sweat profusely and decide not be bothered by it at all.

Perhaps ignorance is indeed bliss. Because nowadays one has become so used to the comforts provided us by the technological wonders of our times that not being able to use them at all for any reason is enough already to incapacitate and handicap us or make our lives onerous. Too much of their benefits contribute a lot to what we consider an acceptable quality of life. To be happy we have to have them and be able to use them. To have them and not to be able to use them is, by modern standards, torture of the most sadistic extreme.

So two nights ago I cursed the darkness, global warming, climate change and perspired miserably for half the night until the early dawn saw the lights came back on. Pleasantly surprised, I got up energized and enervated by the sight, sounds and sensations of the modern world humming and running.

The computer blinked on, the air conditioner purred like a well fed cat and the bedroom air was already cool and dry. The water from the refrigerator was chilly and cold the way I liked it, and the morning news bulletins from CNN was blaring from the downstairs TV set.

Life was back to being good.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Rice Worries

The past week or so, television viewers in Lianga watching local news programs have seen intense TV coverage of the long lines of Metro Manila residents queuing up for chances to buy low priced rice from the government's National Food Authority (NFA) in the wake of widespread public panic of an imminent rice shortage in the country. With regular commercial rice stocks selling often in excess of P30.00 per kilo, much of the urban population living within and surrounding the nation's capital is consumed by fear that NFA rice stocks may soon ran out and that they may no longer have access to affordable rice in this country where, for the impoverished especially, a plate of rice can mean the difference between survival and starvation.

That a lot of Lianga residents, as a result of these developments, are surreptitiously checking and secretly augmenting their rice stocks cannot be denied. This is inspite of the fact that there has been no perceivable rice shortage locally and a random check of local rice dealers and retailers will show that ample supplies of this most basic of food commodities are available although the prices of many local rice varieties have risen sharply. NFA rice is available in sufficient quantities and there has been no mad rush to stock up on government rice since even the poverty stricken masses here prefer to buy better quality rice if they have the extra cash.

My grandfather once said that most of the people here may be dirt poor but they do always make it a point to have good quality rice stocks st home in the belief that they may not be able to afford to eat as the rich do but a plateful of fragrant and scrumptious boiled rice can make up for the lack of delicious, delectable viands and dishes that is their common lot in life.

It helps, of course, that Lianga is a rice producing town and that it produces more that it consumes. And the fact that it is in the middle of harvest time nowadays means that there should be no basis for the fear or apprehension that a rice shortage is coming or inevitable.

But anyone here who watches the news on TV or reads the newspapers regularly knows that there is a growing concern for what may be an emerging food crises that may soon be threatening if not already adversely affecting the world. Food costs are rising in many countries as the world production of vital food crops (rice included), which has been declining for decades, struggles to keep up with growing and accelerating demand for them. Food riots brought about by rising prices and insufficient supply of many food commodities have been occurring in many parts of Asia and elsewhere.

Even local observers here are taking note of the fact that year after year, the number of hectares of land regularly producing rice is steadily declining as more and more land is set aside for industrial, residential and commercial use. High production costs and lack of government support for rice farmers especially during the planting and post-harvesting phases are major factors that have hugely negative effects on overall rice production locally.

Lianga, despite its rice production, is surprisingly no stranger to rice shortages but so far only in the shared collective memories of its not so distant yet often violent past. My grandparents used to tell me stories of hard times not so long ago when war and prolonged armed conflict would dry up rice and food stocks locally. Merchants would be forced to sell rice from hoarded supplies at gunpoint or through barred windows to prevent looting and robbery. During those times hunger and starvation was the fate of many who neither had the means or the will to fight for survival.

So when the people of Lianga turn on their TV sets and see all those queues and lines of men, women and children in Metro Manila and elsewhere in the country forming in front of the offices and warehouses of the NFA to wait for hours under the hot sun for their precious 5 kilos of grain, they do not breath a sigh of relief and blithely say,"Hey, better them than us." For they know fully well that what is happening in Manila can happen to them too. And it may happen soon.

And when it does happen to an agricultural and rice producing town like Lianga, then that is really when, as the Americans would say it, the sh_t really hits the fan (expletive deleted).

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Unexpected Rewards

When I first started this blog in August of 2006, I did not expect to be still at it almost two years hence. At most it would have been considered at that time an experiment of sorts, a stab in the dark if you will, one person just trying to make sense of what was happening around him by writing about it on the Internet.

There were days when I would fired up will all sorts of ideas of things to write about and I would be trembling with excitement while I boot up the computer, much to eager to start putting ideas into words while hesitant at the same time knowing fully well how inadequate my words often were. Weaving magic out of words and sentences is a skill and art of the first order and I am, sadly, not the artist I want or wish myself to be.

Then there are the slow days when I would be sitting by the computer table staring blankly into the monitor screen willing myself to write something while the void in my mind screams in protest that one cannot make something out of nothing. Where there is no passion, no anger, no fascination, no admiration and no awe, among other things, there is essentially nothing.

But somehow I persevered. The reason for that is that my blogging has rewarded me in so many unexpected ways. Foremost among these rewards are the people I have met through this blog, whose e-mails and comments have touched me and inspired me to go on writing inspite of my inadequacies at this rather arcane and difficult art.

Most of the e-mails and comments I have received are from people from Lianga or who have lived in the town in the past and forced by work, family obligations and other circumstances to live far from it. They tell nostalgic tales of childhood memories of the town and long lost friends, relatives and acquaintances. They ask for tidbits of local news and beg for more pictures of the town. "Continue to blog," they would say. "We miss Lianga so much."

I also get comments and inquiries from foreigners who have lived in Lianga or had visited it in the past. They ask about the beaches and resorts, the places they remember and the people they met. "A beautiful town," one would write, echoing so many others. "I wish I could come back for another visit."

Then there are those who have heard or read about Lianga and this part of Mindanao and who want to come for a visit yet remain apprehensive about the local peace and order situation or the state of visitor accommodations and facilities for tourists. They beg for information, bus schedules and details about what to do, where to go and how to get there.

Answering their comments and e-mails have been both a joy and a challenge for me and I make it a point to do try to answer each and every one I get.

It is heartwarming to know that this blog has it in its small way "connected" with so many people from all over. That is something I never expected or even hoped for. And, in more ways than one, the messages have help me get through those dull, discouraging times when the mind is empty and one is assailed by doubts and uncertainties about the wisdom, practicality and the "worth" of this thing I do and whether this is really blogging or merely just silly affectation.

So keep those comments and e-mails coming please.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Unfulfilled Expectations: Indog Lianga

A couple of years ago, a group of professionals and prominent persons from Lianga or who trace their roots to it came up with what seemed a timely idea. Concerned about the town's lack of progress and development, its economic decline and the failure of successive local governments to come up with a coherent and viable plan to bring it back on its feet, the group began drawing plans to form an organization pattered after the so called "civil society" organizations that played rather prominent roles in the successful EDSA II people power actions against the presidency of Joseph Estrada.

The idea was simple. To harness the influence and political clout of Lianga's finest and illustrious citizens and use to it to push, motivate and inspire the local government and the townspeople into initiating programs and projects designed among other things to jumpstart the local economy, reform the corruption ridden local government bureaucracy and promote civic responsibility. Revolution and change from above became the slogan of the organization that eventually become Indog Lianga (Stand Up Lianga).

In the months and years that followed unabashed idealism crashed head on with cynicism, mutual suspicion, parochialism, vested political interests and the hardened institutional inertia of a local government mired in corruption and apathy. The end result is a weakened and dazed organization in stasis, akin to a boxer who has taken an opponent more than his match and wondering, after many gruelling and battering rounds, whether he still has the wind to finish the fight let alone win it.

That is not to say that Indog Lianga has done little for Lianga. On the contrary, it has had mixed success in its self-appointed role a fiscal watchdog over the municipal government and has intervened in several cases where it felt that town money was being squandered needlessly. It has cooperated with the local government in the formulation and implementation of local ordinances. It's contributions in the areas of tourism promotion for Lianga can also be noted.

But it was as an advocate, lightning rod and spark plug for change that Indog Lianga was formed and envisioned. It was supposed to tap in to the vast reservoir of expectations and dreams of the local people. It was supposed to give them the voice to speak out and the opportunity be heard. It has sadly been unable to do that convincingly or effectively. At least not yet.

Neither has it been able to truly define the role it wants to play in the present and future of Lianga. It has tried to dabble in politics and play political kingmaker as part of its advocacy for change when it is supposed to be apolitical and suffered much damage to its credibility because of such ill advised actions.

One wonders if this organization will go the way of so many other similar organizations in the past which have been launched with much fun fare in Lianga only eventually to disintegrate after a while due to internal squabbling and conflicts of interests among their membership who have always represented the cream of Lianga society. Perhaps one should not put too much faith in the noblesse oblige of the local town aristocracy as a catalyst or impetus for change.

If there must be positive change in Lianga, whether realized through social, economic or political progress or all of them, perhaps that change must come through a popular groundswell and genuine demand for it that cuts through all sectors of society. That means genuine people empowerment that is rooted in widespread political and social awareness. Only then can civic pride and civic responsibility develop and become the engines for progress in Lianga.

This is where I believe Indog Lianga must direct its efforts and where it can be most effective.

There can be no greater advocacy than the planning and implementation of programs and projects designed to raise social consciousness, political awareness and civic responsibility among the people of Lianga. To educate, motivate and inspire them to be better and more responsible citizens, to provide the environment conducive to positive change and to make it possible for the people to fully, freely and meaningfully participate in the democratic process.

That can be its greatest legacy. Otherwise, it will be just one among the many other organizations in Lianga in the past which have tried to be more than what they are.... and failed miserably.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Pondering Lianga's Future

I have received more than a few comments and e-mails airing views on "Clueless Or Lost", a post I recently added to this blog. In that blog post, I lamented the fact that the leadership of the municipal government of Lianga, despite its promise to bring the town back on the road to prosperity and development when it came to power a year ago, seems unable to come up with exactly the vision or blueprint on how to make that promise an achievable reality.

The interest in that post seems to stem from the fact that Lianga's dilemma is a problem shared by many old towns all over the country who have gone through periods of growth and progress in the past yet in recent decades have seen gradual economic stagnation and decline. How to breath new life into these "dying" towns in these times of economic upheaval and uncertainty is a problem that troubles many people, not just municipal officials, who either live in such municipalities or have sentimental or emotional ties to them.

In the case of Lianga, the decades following the end of the Second World War represented its so called "golden years." It was already a pretty important town even before the war but the postwar years saw it really achieve prominence as one of the more important populations centers in then unified province of Surigao. It's economic growth then was based on several factors.

The establishment of a local timber and logging industry in the 1960's through the Lianga Bay Logging Company based in Diatagon, one of its component barangays, was one of the major ones. The company provided thousands of jobs, generated substantial tax revenue and encouraged the emergence of support and service industries and businesses. It also brought about population growth and infrastructure development.

Lianga was also by that time already a town with a thriving fishing industry and its seafood products were well known and sought after in this part of Mindanao. It was also a major trading and marketing center for agricultural products ranging from rice, copra, abaca and all manner of retail goods. Small ships docked at a small wharf near the town center regularly to load and unload these goods for transport to other parts of Mindanao and the Visayas.

The late 1970's saw the start of Lianga's decline. The rise of the local Communist insurgency and the resulting deterioration of the local peace and order situation began to discourage the entry of new business investments. The local logging industry began to falter (then eventually folded up) and that led to economic hardships and dislocation on the part of many local residents, particularly in Diatagon and Lianga itself, whose incomes have become largely dependent and tied to the fortunes and misfortunes of the logging company. Rampant overfishing and the use of environmentally unsound fishing practices began to result in the gradual decrease of the volume and quality of the local fish catch.

As Lianga moved through the 1980's and the 1990's, neighboring towns like Barobo and San Francisco, which were more ideally located along the main highways servicing the rapidly growing cities of Davao, Butuan and Cagayan de Oro, began to outpace then eventually surpass Lianga in terms of progress and development. Now the town is a shadow of what it used to be and everywhere there are telltale signs of economic decay and arrested progress.

Its people, however, continue to dream of the town's glorious years and in response, every town government that has come to power since then have made making Lianga "great" again a slogan and a political campaign promise. It is a promise and a commitment that has been made over and over again but remains exactly just that to this very day.

Attempts to revitalize the logging industry in Diatagon have been made over the years and have been met with varying success but there is little optimism that reliance on such an environmentally destructive industry in these more environmentally conscious times would hold the key to future economic prosperity for Lianga as it has done so in the past. Neither is there much hope for the revival of the largely moribund fishing industry which even today faces stiff competition from fishermen from neighboring coastal towns and communities.

Finding a new direction and blazing a new path for the future survival and economic rebirth of Lianga has become the Holy Grail of many concerned souls who happen to call Lianga home and whose families and clans are deeply rooted in its sandy soil. But even as a viable, workable plan or idea, it has proven to be elusive and difficult to crystallize and conceive. And when there is no valid plan or idea, what is there to implement?

There are those who say that investments in ecotourism and agriculture remain Lianga's best hope for the future because they play on two strengths that the town possesses. They conceive of Lianga as a favorite destination for local and foreign tourists eager to get a taste of its sandy beaches and natural scenic attractions. They also propose of an ambitious plan to revitalize the town's agricultural base and strengthen the local fishing industry to support such a plan.

But the voices that are speaking out are not the voices that matter. Nor are these voices being heard. The local government now, in fact, has been singularly and resoundingly mute on this matter and seems to prefer, as previous local government administrations have, to tout slogans promising future progress for the town while remaining largely unsure of what to do or worse not really caring at all. Perhaps they prefer the status quo because it promotes the very atmosphere of mediocrity and apathy that they feed on and encourages the petty political games they all play at under the guise and mantle of public service.

The people of Lianga may be confused and unsure of what the future holds for them. But when their political leaders are just as confused and bewildered then something must be deadly wrong here. Or perhaps they are not merely being obtuse, confused, bewildered or uncaring. Perhaps they are merely being what they have always been.

Being incompetent.