Monday, September 28, 2009

In With The New

They tore down the old public market building several weeks ago. Local town officials have said that the old building was already too dilapidated and had become structurally unsafe. Not only was it an eyesore already, it had become a public hazard and a veritable firetrap. In truth, it had been all of that for years and it is only now that the town government had finally the means and the will to tear what used to be one of Lianga's iconic landmarks.

In its place will soon rise a modern, multimillion peso, two story concrete building complex that will house not only the new public market and a bus and jeepney terminal but also spaces for commercial and business establishments. Funded by a local government loan, it will be the first major public building project this municipality will have undertaken in almost a decade.

The old public market was constructed in the 1960's. Wood which was plentiful and cheap during the heyday of the local logging industry was chiefly used for most of the structure. The architecture was simple, intuitive and nondescript as was common in the public buildings and even the private homes of that time. More like wooden boxes with corrugated metal sheets for roofing stacked and stringed together in a single line. This was, after all, before ergonomics and modern practical building design had became the norm.

The long, rectangular building with the market in the middle and two adjacent wings on each side used to house a helter-skelter collection of sea food restaurants, general merchandise stores and shops selling fishing and agricultural supplies. It had already, even during its early days, a weathered and ancient look, as if the relentless tropical sun and the constant lashing of the salty sea breezes had scraped and stripped off quickly the original protective paint layers and had prematurely aged then darkened and wrinkled its exposed, delicate wooden skin.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Where Credit Is Due

I was more than a bit bemused by the lively exchange of comments this blog got from readers to the blog post titled "Tangible Progress" wherein I described the positive impact the on-going road modernization program being implemented by the national government in the Lianga area is having on the daily lives of the residents of that town.

What struck me as significant is that much of the discussion (or contention, if you will) in the comments section has focused not on the real or "tangible" effects the massive road infrastructure program will have on the communities that will benefit from it but on the question of who should get the credit for getting the program funded and started in the first place. One should be thinking that if the person (or persons) who are indeed responsible for convincing the national government to bankroll and implement this much needed and anticipated project really deserves recognition for his (or their) efforts, then he (or they) would have no need to crow about it or advertise the fact. The facts (and such facts are always difficult to hide nowadays) would always speak for themselves.

Does Congressman Philip Pichay deserve all the credit for the concrete roads and bridges that will soon connect many of the municipalities of Surigao del Sur, Lianga most of all, whose infamous dirt roads and rickety, wooden bridges used to bedevil and haunt would be travelers in the Caraga region until recently? It happened, after all, during his watch, didn't it?

By the way, the rehabilitation and concreting of the roads particularly around Lianga is part of a larger package of road and highway modernization projects covering much of what is referred to as the Surigao-Davao coastal road system. As such, it would have been impossible not to include Lianga in the program since the national highway does go through the town and, thus, to exclude Lianga for any reason would have essentially emasculated a vital transportation artery that services the entire province of Surigao del Sur and the Caraga region.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Lianga's Port To Nowhere

Some four kilometers southwest of Lianga and right smack in the middle of a long stretch of desolate yet scenic coastline lies a wide expanse of flat and compacted dirt totally enclosed by a perimeter concrete fence. From what was once a rocky seashore, a long, massive, L-shaped concrete pier reaches into deep water like a beckoning finger at the far horizon.

The whole thing, more than P30 million pesos worth of construction (if my figures are right), is what is supposed to be the much anticipated port of Lianga and one of the major infrastructure projects on which the town is hoping to anchor its bid to become one of the more economically progressive municipalities in eastern Mindanao. That is, if someone can figure out what to do with it now that its has been supposedly completed and ready for use.

Until almost the last quarter of the last century, Lianga had always been a major transportation and trading hub in this part of the country. It was a coastal town with excellent harbor facilities for the small, wooden ships of that time and in the absence of an existing road network (which only came into existence in the 1960's), the brisk trade in copra, abacca fiber and rice was done by sea. The intrepid ships and boats of that bygone era carried people and cargo all over eastern Mindanao to as far as the Visayas.

Despite the boom in the local logging industry during the 1950's and 60's, the inter-island shipping industry shifted their attention to the emerging seaport of Nasipit in Agusan del Norte, and the more modern harbors of the cities of Cagayan de Oro in the west, Surigao in the north and Panabo and Davao City in the south. The ships finally stopped coming to Lianga and its small port languished then fell apart from disrepair. By the time I was a small boy in the 1970's, the old pier on the north of the town where the ships used to dock was already a ghostly ruin, a mass of broken and rotting timber noted only for the good fishing that can be had there.