Saturday, December 19, 2009


The office of the local election officer in Lianga recently released the list of candidates who filed their certificates of candidacy for local positions in the May 2010 general elections. All of them had managed to file their COC's before the deadline which expired at midnight last December 1 and will, unless disqualified by the Commission on Elections, be eligible to run in the coming local polls.

Except for one or two minor surprises, the public response to the names on the list was decidedly lukewarm and matter-0f-fact at best. The list was just as the local folks had expected it to be, nothing more and nothing less. Ho-hum.

Incumbent municipal mayor, Roy Hegino Sarmen will be slugging it out, one on one, with Felino Pantaleon Jr who is a veteran of Lianga politics. Pantaleon has been a fixture in local politics for decades and has served several terms as mayor of Lianga himself in the past. Sarmen, while considerably younger than his opponent, is no political neophyte either. He has been a barangay captain, a municipal councilor and has served one term as a provincial board member representing the federation of barangay captains all over the province.

Sarmen actually won election as vice-mayor in 2007 and only took over as the town's chief executive when Mayor Vicente "Belos" Predrozo passed away after a sudden illness last year. He will be heading the Lakas-Kampi-CMD municipal ticket while Pantaleon will be carrying the banner (or torch, if you will) of the Liberal Party.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


Mention the name Xanthostemon verdugonianus Naves to avid collectors of fine wood decorative pieces and top quality wooden furniture and you are certainly going to get more than your fair share of interest. The latter, of course, is simply the scientific name for the Magkono tree and the source of the extremely dense, heavy, dark-hued and now very rare species of Philippine hardwood that only a few places in the Philippines, Lianga included, is known to produce.

Wood from the Magkono tree is often called "ironwood" for its reputation as the hardest of the Philippine hardwoods. It is so hard that cutting down a mature tree of the species can take two or three days when a similar sized tree of another type can take just two to three hours. Most modern loggers use diamond-point saws to slice through Magkono trunks to speed up the process but copious amounts of water are often needed to aid lubrication and prevent excessive heat generation during the cutting.

In the past, this hardwood species was highly valued for its extreme durability and density. Old steamships used Magkono wood bushings for their propeller shafts. It was made into tool handles, rollers, shears, poles and piles for wharfs and bridges, and,not surprisngly, for bowling balls before the advent of modern plastics and resins.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009


As midnight of last December 1 drew to a close together with the deadline for the filing of certificates of candidacy for next year's local and national elections, the person almost everybody who is anybody in Surigao del Sur politics was either anxiously dreading or eagerly anticipating would file his COC (depending on which side of the political divide one was) was most assuredly nowhere to be seen. As in the last two previous local polls, Dr. Primo Murillo was again a disappointing no-show.

Yet until the very last minute, there were those at the provincial offices of the Commission on Elections in Tandag who waited in trepidation for the man to suddenly and magically appear and then formally join the list of hopefuls eager to mix it up in the May 2010 race for provincial positions. This, of course, brings up the big question in my mind.

For someone who has been out of the political limelight for the past nine years or so, why is Primo Murillo still such a big issue especially for the current political powers in the province? Why are rumors of the possibility that he may again be re-entering politics capable of sending shivers of apprehension and causing sleepless nights among those who supposedly have already sewn up total control of the provincial government after almost a decade of being in power?

Primo Murillo's nine years as provincial governor of Surigao del Sur from the early 1990's to 2001 were both remarkable and yet undistinguished depending on how one looks at his political career. Capitalizing on the the popularity of his father, Gregorio Sr., another doctor who was assassinated in 1983 while also a serving provincial governor, he quickly built a personal following that saw him win the governorship and hold on to it for three consecutive terms with landslide victories every time.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Nothing New

With all the media hype and attention currently focused on the so called Maguindanao massacre, it is easy to forget that despite the fact that at least fifty-seven persons lost their lives in that one, single and tragic incident, the merciless slaughter was ordered and carried out not by madmen and deranged individuals who did it merely for the love of killing or for some unexplained or insane blood lust. It was, based on what has been uncovered so far, a political assassination that lead to the mass killing of innocent individuals (all possible and potential witnesses to the original crime) and clearly a rational, planned and calculated act done for the sole purpose of stopping and crushing with one stroke the Mangudadatu's challenge to the political dominance of the Ampatuan clan in that province.

In the dog-eat-dog world of warlord politics in most provinces in Mindanao, dominant political clans enforce their rule over their political fiefdoms by intimidation and force. They will try, of course, to threaten and intimidate would-be opponents but actual and real challenges to their supremacy are inevitably met with violence since that is the most expedient and effective response in a local culture that worships the power of the gun and where private armies maintain and project a political clan's control and dominance over a province or geographical area.

Thus the Manguindanao massacre is singularly significant only in the sense that more than fifty people lost their lives in it. In all other respects, where it not for the number of individuals killed, it would have been merely another bloody footnote in the turbulent political history of this southern part of the country.