Friday, June 27, 2008

Floating Cottage

A couple of days ago, while strolling along Lianga's Pugad Beach, I caught sight of a couple of local residents building a floating cottage just a few meters from the sandy shore. I stopped to take one lingering look then came a flood of memories.

During summers in the late 1970's, the logging industry in the heavily forested mountains of Diatagon just a short distance north of Lianga was still going strong. Many of the already cut logs moored in that barangay's coastal waters would often get loose and float all the way to Lianga where local residents would cut them up for firewood or building materials, ever thankful for the free bounty brought by the sea.

My elder brother, who was already a young man at that time, would gather a few of his friends and put some of the floating logs to another use. They would lash a few similar sized logs together with timber and nails and build large rafts that could carry half a dozen people or even more.

They would not stop there. They would lay down rough planking on the top of the raft to create a floor, a timber roof to keep out the blazing heat of the summer sun and wooden benches beneath it. The result was basically a floating hut which you can take out to sea with a long, bamboo pole to push it along the shallows or paddles for moving it in deeper water.

With much fanfare, all would vie for the chance to take a ride on the floating contraption with nary a fear for their safety or concern for its seaworthiness. After all, the rafts were, except for a few exceptions, strong, solid and well-made structures well adapted to the relatively calm coastal waters of the Lianga Bay.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Reality Check

June 19 turned out to be a rainy, darkly overcast and gusty day and, as many Lianga residents feared, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo did not come to Lianga. As it turned out, the town had already been scratched off the presidential itinerary days before the scheduled visit to this province of Surigao del Sur due to security concerns and the rather tight time constraints on the President's schedule.

Although the local folks did not get to meet the Mrs. Arroyo, they were not exactly forgotten in the general scheme of things. A free medical clinic was held at the municipal gymnasium for the town's indigent sick. Free medicines and grocery packs containing rice, noodles and canned goods were distributed in the course of the day long activity.

In Tandag, the town's mayor, Roy Sarmen, together with San Agustin Mayor Manuel Alameda also received from the President, as part of a general development package for the entire province, a quantity of certified rice and vegetable seeds for distribution to qualified beneficiaries in their respective municipalities.

Of greater significance to Lianga was the commitment expressed by Mrs. Arroyo to the completion of the on-going Surigao-Davao Coastal Road program which involves the rehabilitation and modernization of the road network servicing this past of eastern Mindanao. If that massive project will be completed in 2010 as promised then Lianga, with its adjacent municpalities, will finally be able to get rid, at last, of what is to this day undeniably remains one of the most ill-maintained and dilapidated road systems in the country.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Pining For Mama

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is coming to town as part of a provincial sortie to Surigao del Sur and Lianga is getting dressed up for the occasion. After all, it is not everyday that the country's head of government drops by for a visit and if there is more than the usual, palpable excitement in the air here, one cannot blame the local folk for getting a little worked up.

There is no record of the last time a serving Philippine president got his shoes soiled by the dust of this town. My grandfather once told me that one of the post World War II presidents, supposedly Carlos P. Garcia who succeeded the illustrious Ramon Masaysay after the latter died in a plane crash in 1957, made a short stopover in Lianga in the late 1950's but I have never been able to validate that claim.

Be that as it may, if the presidential visit does take place tomorrow, despite persistent rumors that it has been cancelled due to security concerns, it will be a historic event for Lianga. Its local government officials and many of the local residents are hopeful that through it, many of the priority concerns of the town will be brought to the attention of the top government officials of the land and, thereafter discussed, and acted upon.

Of course, it may be more than a bit unrealistic to expect something really significant to come out as a result of what is probably going to be just a brief stopover on a busy presidential itinerary, but, hey, Lianga needs all the help it can get and even a little help from MalacaƱang can go a long way. That is if the President will be disposed to listen and that Lianga's local officials can get the word across.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Putting The Blame

One evening...
(Angrily): "Someone told me that you received bribe money from the mayor today! Five thousand pesos for you to approve a spending bill, if I am not mistaken. You should be ashamed of yourself!"
Town Official (placatingly): "Come on, darling. Not so loud or the neighbors might overhear us."
Wife: "I don't care! How can you you justify what you did? That's corruption!"
Town Official (indignant): "I did not ask for it! The money was simply given to me and everyone got a share. If I had refused it all the others would be embarrassed and put on the spot. Corruption is when you demand or extort money for favors and I did neither. Therefore I did nothing wrong!"

Outside the polling station during the last elections...
Voter 1
(boasting): "I voted for Juan for mayor and was paid P500 for my vote."
Voter 2 (shaking his head): "Fool! Juan is a crook and if he becomes mayor he will loot the town treasury and do nothing for the town. I voted for Pedro. He may not have money to buy votes but he is sincere about serving this town and has the vision to do it. You could have helped him with your vote."
Voter 1 (incredulously): "You're an idiot! I and my family voted for Juan and got P2000 for all our votes. We have money now to buy rice and other things plus our candidate will win. He may be a crook but he will be the mayor and owe us big time for our support. Your candidate will lose and you never got any money, so whose the fool now?"

Friday, June 13, 2008

Running On Empty

A few years ago, when I have nothing to do and suddenly develop a sudden, desperate craving for a decent cheeseburger and a fruit shake (which unfortunately I could not have in Lianga), I would have no qualms or second thoughts about jumping into the family car and making the 36 or so kilometer drive to the town of San Francisco in Agusan del Sur where both the burger and the shake can be had at any of the fastfood joints there. The trip would only take about an hour to make one way and you can be back in Lianga in a jiffy after the little gastronomic treat even if you factor in the rough and potholed, dirt roads that you would have to travel on part of the way.

But then that was before diesel fuel prices have almost doubled and reached almost P46.00 per liter and gasoline prices almost 54 pesos per liter. Nowadays nonsense trips out of Lianga are definitely out and even essential trips out of town have to be planned carefully with maximum fuel efficiency in mind. Its either that or you better start planning to sell your car and start using public transportation when you can.

Not that riding on the bus or jeepneys is exactly cheap either. A one way ticket to San Francisco nowadays would set you back P50 pesos or more depending on the type of public transport you use. That is a hefty sum in a part of the world where the average minimum wage is just about P200 and where the majority of the rural folk live below the poverty line.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Feeling It

The news caught me by surprise. I was just sitting in front of the television set two days ago and watching Hillary Clinton less than graciously congratulating (but not in any way yet conceding defeat to) Barack Obama on CNN on his becoming the Democratic Party's presumptive nominee for the U.S. presidential elections in November. Then suddenly one of the girls in the house came rushing in to tell me that people from the government's National Food Authority are distributing rice at the reclamation area behind Lianga's public market.

That bit of information turned out to be true because NFA people were indeed making NFA rice available to the people of Lianga for the low, low price of P18.20 under the Bigasan Ni Gloria (append Macapagal-Arroyo, if you want) program. The only two downsides to the good news were each buyer could only purchase 2 kilos at a time and that the offer was only good while the meager supplies last.

Ordinarily, local folks would look down with disdain on NFA rice which many consider to be smelly and rather low in quality. The town is, after all, located in the midst of a major rice producing area in the Caraga region and while most of the people may be poor, they are finicky about the quality of the rice they consume. As many old-timers would say, if you cannot afford to serve your family the viands they want to eat, be sure at least to give them the finest rice you can afford to buy and you all can still eat heartily.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Last Straw

I have never been choosy with the way I eat my rice. As long as it is satisfactorily cooked and not underdone and gritty, I'll eat it with little or no complaint whether it is a bit soggy from adding too much water during boiling or a bit dry from too little water or overcooking.

My late father like his own father wanted his rice somewhat dry and the rice grains firm while my mother wanted her's a bit watery and mushy. My paternal grandmother preferred it cooked over firewood and used to say that rice boiled on the gas or electric stove was tasteless and bland. She used to get miffed when I would tell her that I could not distinguish the difference. She then would call me an uncultured know-nothing.

Differing views on how this most basic of food grains should be prepared for eating yet everyone agreed on one thing: that a plate of rice was basic to a good, hearty meal and that a family should prepare for the family table the best quality rice it can afford to get.