Mark is an American national who happens to be married to Merejen, a local girl from Barangay St. Christine just 9 kilometers north of Lianga. For regular readers of this blog, he is a familiar name because of the well-written, thought provoking and often impassioned comments he has managed to append to many of its published posts.
In the 15 or so years I have lived in Lianga, I have had the opportunity to meet more than a few foreigners who have made the choice to live in, or at least visit for an extended period, this rather remote and secluded part of the world. Some of them have become friends and acquaintances over the years.
But few of them are of Mark's breed and share his outlook lin life. Most foreigners with Filipino wives have been content to settle in the Lianga area for the simple reason that it makes sound economic sense to live in a part of the world where a depressed local economy can enable a foreign visitor or retiree living on a pension of dollars or euros to live a life of comfort and moderate luxury in what amounts to a tropical paradise. Exactly the kind of life they probably could not afford or even dream of back home.
But Mark, and a few others like him, have made it a point or even a fetish, if you will, of making positive changes in the communities they have become a part of by undertaking programs and projects (often at their own expense) designed to uplift the living conditions and economic welfare of local residents. It is this desire and unselfish commitment to help the local people help themselves that distinguishes these special Joes from the rest who often belong to the scum and flotsam of foreign cultures and who have managed to our great misfortune, make their way to these shores.
I wish Mark and those like him who have become so much a valued part of our local community the best of luck in their endeavors here. I wish there are many more like him who continue to remain working for a better future for Lianga inspite of the onerous task of having had to overcome and surmount local prejudices and cultural differences by doing so.
For those interested on what this guy is up to nowadays, you can visit his blog at http://stchristine.blogspot.com. Or you can ask the people in Barangay St. Christine and Diatagon. They should know better.