One comment from a reader to one of the posts of the photoblog version of A Lianga Diary simply could not be ignored but had to merit a response from me. The reader, who did not wished to be identified, wrote, "Are all these pictures from the Philippines? It looks like a poor country. I'm just saying none intending to insult the country, all right?"
That reader can be reassured on at least two points. First, all of the pictures published in this blog and its photoblog version are all from Lianga except in a few instances when it is clearly indicated in a specific blog post that the pictures contained therein are from somewhere else. Second, I, for one, am not in any way insulted by people, especially foreigners, who venture the opinion that there seems to be widespread poverty in this country.
In fact, in this blog in particular, I have discussed countless of times how the lack of economic opportunities in the Philippine countryside has shaped and continues to shape life not only in Lianga but in the many small and impoverished communities that surround it. And that reality is not true only to the Lianga area but to the majority of small, rural towns like it all over the country.
But the pictures in my blogs were not meant to showcase such poverty for the purpose of inviting pity or commiseration from others. Rather the purpose is the opposite, that is to emphasize how the people here have, through their own native resiliency and perseverance, managed to build living, thriving communities and how they have managed to do that under less than ideal economic and political conditions and despite an often passive, indifferent and corrupt government.
If there is any message that the pictures in the blog posts here convey, it is the fact that life in Lianga and its part of the world remains rich, varied and flourishing despite the many problems that continue to beset it and that poverty in all its forms is merely one of the challenges faced by the many who have chosen to live their lives here. Yet these are the same people who consider themselves blessed and privileged to be part of the local community and who see living in this coastal town as the best of what small town living can offer in this country.
In essence, my blogs are not just about the poverty and the poor economic conditions in Lianga. They are about the people who live there, who seek what is best for themselves and their town and who are striving, in their own way, to find their place in the world. They are about persistent and stubborn optimism in the face of constant adversity and, despite and inspite of such adversity, about the often unappreciated and overlooked joys and rewards of living in what many consider to be one of the most beautiful places on earth.
Many foreigners who have visited Lianga or have lived in it for a time have commented how lucky all of us, who call it home, are. "You live in a tropical paradise," they always say. Well, every paradise has its serpent and Lianga may have one or two or even several of them.
Yet, Lianga's people have learned, by force of circumstance, to dance with serpents and have lived to tell about it. In that sense, they may not be as poor as they seem to be.