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.
If there are those who felt that the presidential visit had raised unrealistic expectations not only among the population of Lianga but all over the entire province, then the government had only itself to blame. With so much hype and publicity generated by the visit and the manner by which Malacañang has associated presidential sorties with hand-outs, freebies and gifts, then how can you blame the people here for expecting more of the country's chief executive when she comes visiting.
And as Mrs. Arroyo goes back to Manila and all the excitement dies down, the province and its people she has left behind must accept the harsh fact that the visit must be seen for what it truly was - just a presidential visit and nothing much more. And beyond the pomp and ceremony of the event, the problems of the province and its towns remain.
Time, therefore, to face reality and get back to work on solving them. Too much time has already been wasted as it is.