Everywhere you go in Lianga it seems to be the trend nowadays. Street corners and side streets blocked off by nearby residents at certain times of the day and instantly converted to basketball and badminton courts. All it takes is a makeshift basketball hoop and backboard on a hastily erected wooden stand or crudely painted lines on the concrete pavement outlining the basic outlines of a badminton court and a droopy net hung like a clothesline across the street.
If you happen to be a motorist in a hurry, turning into a street and suddenly encountering one of these impromptu improvisations blocking your way can be an annoying if not frustrating experience. It usually means you have to back up for quite a distance and go around the next block to get to where you want to go.
Sometimes some of the more good-natured street athletes would obligingly let you get through by halting their game momentarily, lifting or dragging obstacles out of your way then blithely getting on with their games after the brief interruption but who would want to spoil things when it is crystal clear even to the casual observer that these amateur street sporting events are being played with the same intensity and dedication one sees in national badminton competitions or the storied courts of the Philippine Basketball Association.
And, of course, you in your killjoy of a vehicle will also have to contend with the usually raucous crowd of bystanders and sporting fans on the sidewalks eagerly watching the game and cheering for their favorites and who would not take too kindly to those who even inadvertently does anything to rudely interrupt the proceedings. I, for one, would rather meekly back off and go around the long way.
The proliferation of these impromptu sports facilities in Lianga has forced me to make certain elementary conclusions.
One, the love for sports and athletics is obviously alive and well in the people of Lianga and that, in itself, is something good. Nothing more effectively keeps the physically and mentally idle, especially the youth, from the seductive and deadly attraction of illegal drugs and crime than a healthy dose of competitive sports and active living. Sports promotes not only a healthy lifestyle for people of all ages but, as a collective activity, also promotes solidarity and community unity.
Two, there is obviously (and I mean OBVIOUSLY) a lack or dearth of usable sports infrastructure in the town. Municipal and barangay officials, despite their repeated promises to give priority to sports development in Lianga have actually done little in the way of fulfilling those commitments.
The municipal gymnasium which had supposedly been constructed precisely to provide a venue for sports activities is almost a kilometer away from the town center and, in the mindset of the local townfolk, if a destination is not some place near enough so you can easily walk to it then it is no place to go at all. Thus, the gym on the northern outskirts of the town is often a lonely, deserted shell of a building while the young people in town make do with playing sports on the streets.
On a similar note, there is no place in Lianga, at present, that can really be described, even generously, as a community playground for kids. The Lianga Women's Club in association with other civic groups put up several years ago a small playground just across the town park but despite their good intentions, it remains a small, seldom visited, dingy and ill-maintained facility nestled like an afterthought and located rather alarmingly near the public market and bus terminal.
The need, therefore, for an area withing the town proper equipped with a playground and sporting facilities where youngsters and adults can safely and conveniently go to have fun and sweat it out is something that the municipal government should be thinking about. That necessity happens to be a basic fact in town infrastructure planning.
Three, there is a need for the municipal government of Lianga to formulate a coherent policy regarding the use of streets and similar infrastructure as temporary venues for sports activities. There are, of course, the basic traffic and safety concerns and the last time I checked roads and streets are supposed to be for vehicles and the sidewalks for pedestrian traffic, aren't they?
At present, of course, a lot of the local folks see the use of some of their town streets as improvised badminton and basketball courts as a basically harmless and rather quaint use by town residents of what are essentially public property. This is, after all, Lianga and not Cebu City or Metro Manila. The locals have their way of looking at things and besides that, the markedly sedate vehicle traffic within the town proper cannot be compared to the frenetic madness that is normal in the cities.
But if such native ingenuity in the parallel uses of street corners and access roads remains unchecked and abused, the potential for future problems is clearly there. The need to prevent traffic accidents and to insure the proper and efficient use of the town access routes still remains an important duty for town authorities.
The time, therefore to put striving and would-be athletes off the streets and into the proper sport venues where they can really excel and shine safely and with the minimum of fuss and hassle to the community is here and now.