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 Malacañang 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.
Filipinos, as a rule, have a paternalistic view of their government. The president of the country is seen, therefore, as the father (in this case the mother) of the nation and is expected to take charge not only of the leadership of the government but also to look after the general welfare of the people just like a head of the family provides for and takes care of the members of his or her family.
Thus after being able to see and meet the President, the people here expect not just pomp and ceremony, although they would expect that as a matter of course. They expect to be wooed with gifts, goodies and presents. They expect to be treated generously and with affection like the residents of the multitude of places all over the country that she has visited and showered with so many blessings.
If the President is the mother of the nation then she has not yet come to visit her children in this far and remote corner of the country. And if she does come tomorrow then she better come bearing gifts.
After all, she has been, at least for the people here, an absentee mother and she has plenty to make up for.