Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Mark's Travails

One of the unfortunate consequences of my being temporarily thrown out of touch with cyberspace almost the whole of the last month was my inability to keep in touch with what has been happening with the few other fellow cyber-warriors who have been doing their best to write about and bring the world's attention to communities like Lianga and its part of the world.

One of these is Mark Borders who has been writing about his life and community work in the small village or barangay of St. Christine just less than 9 kilometers north of Lianga.

Mark, an American who is married to a local girl, has been trying his best to contribute his share in improving the economic conditions and, thus, the quality of life in his locality. To this end, he has been in the process of setting up several business ventures aimed to stimulate the local economy and provide much needed employment for local residents. This include a gas station and mini-sawmill which are both in various stages of completion and and several others which are in the planning stages.

In his blog (http://stchristine.blogspot.com), Mark tells of the many problems and obstacles he had to overcome in order to get his projects from the drawing board to actual reality. But far more than the usual financial and logistical hurdles, he found fighting local prejudice and the avarice and narrow mindedness of some local political and community leaders an even more daunting challenge.

I also learned that last month he had also been unfortunate enough to be involved in a vehicular accident while on his way to San Francisco in Agusan del Sur. He came out of that one battered and injured but thankfully still defiant and focused on the realization of his dreams for St. Christine and his adopted community.

In the past, I have seen cases of outsiders, foreigners in particular, trying to do business in Lianga. In most cases, most of them have no other motives than to make a living and help bring outside investments in to the local economy. But all of them inevitably come in contact with the same problems Mark has encountered.

This is one of the sadder aspects of being a Good Samaritan in this part of the world. One has to butt his head through endless miles of bureaucratic red tape, soothe the ruffled feelings of local politicians who feel that they have political fiefdoms to protect and, of course, overcome the jealousy and envy of some locals who always seem to feel that any change in the community, even those definitely for its betterment, is personally threatening to them in one way or the other.

To Mark's credit, he has managed to take all these problems in stride and has not wavered in his mission to help St. Christine recover and prosper after the economic collapse that hit that community in the 1990's with the fall of the local logging industry. Truly, his use of the symbolism of the phoenix in his blog, that mythical bird that is supposed to resurrect itself from the flames of its own funeral pyre, is more than strikingly and suitably apt.

St. Christine, like Lianga, can indeed recover and prosper, the global recession not withstanding and even without the logging industry, if it can, as a community and a people, manage to get their act together, build and capitalize on their strengths and set aside petty disputes and differences in pursuit of the greater goal of community building. It is people like Mark who are showing the way and it is no credit to us as a people that we, who will be the ultimate beneficiaries of his efforts, are often the very ones dragging our feet and resisting change because it comes from outside.

I wish Mark and his family in St. Christine well and wish to assure him that there are many here in Lianga who view his efforts with approval and gratitude. They too wish to see the day that St. Christine will rise once again like the phoenix and even more so if with its rise the rest of Lianga can all come along for the ride.


  1. Benjie,
    Thanks so much for mentioning us in your blog. Your words moved me and lifted me on a day when things were looking down. I thank you for all your blogs that lift my spirits when I read them.
    One thing that the folks here can count on is that I'm not a quitter. No matter what it takes I will succeed eventually. It might take longer than I would like, but things will take shape.
    I feel strongly about my adopted community, which for me is the whole Municipality. I have many plans that I'm hoping will help our community and will announce them as the time is right. Much of my time is spent right now teaching my family how to run the businesses that we are starting.

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