Sunday, October 16, 2011

Vantage Point: Bretania Islands

If anyone wants an example of how the slow yet promising growth in local and foreign tourism is helping transform the landscape in the Lianga area, one can be found right beside the national highway some 16 or so kilometers north of Lianga and just before entering Barangay Gata of San Agustin town.  There on the side of a hill, the Department of Public Works and Highways has recently built a rest stop for motorists that offers, as a bonus, a view deck that allows visitors to enjoy a spectacular view of the Bretania Islands and the mangrove forests that line much of the coastal areas in this part of eastern Mindanao.

The islands, of course, have become in recent years a huge attraction for visitors drawn to its white sand beaches and pristine, blue waters.  The Barangay Gata rest stop just happens to be located right by a portion of the national highway that snakes up a hill and curves around a natural cliff the overlooks the islands.The small, compact building near the entrance with toilet facilities for both sexes would obviously be a welcome first destination for the weary traveler but this particular pit stop has an even better and more welcome attraction for tourists and visitors.

Before the rest stop was constructed, motorists zipping along could usually catch, through tangled grass and thick shrubs, tantalizing glimpses of the island group floating like priceless jade pieces on the blue-gray waters below them.  Nowadays they can gaze upon and relish the scenery without any obstruction hampering their view while parked on the view deck and safe from the constant road traffic or (better yet) by getting out to stretch their legs and standing just behind a protective yet decorative wooden barrier.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Mining In Caraga

Last Monday, New People's Army rebels made simultaneous raids on the compounds and facilities of three large mining firms located in Claver, Surigao del Norte. The targeted mining companies, Taganito Mining Corporation (TMC), Taganito HPAL Corporation and Platinum Group Metals Corporation (PGMC), are among the country's largest nickel ore exporters to Japan, China and Australia.

Before retreating, the rebels held some mining employees as hostages (released later in the same day) then burned down valuable mining equipment, dozens of dump trucks and even warehouse and office facilities.  They also carted away a sizable cache of firearms and radio equipment belonging to the three companies and their security forces.

Jorge Madlos also known as Ka Oris, spokesman for the National Democratic Front in Mindanao, has justified the twin attacks as part of the revolutionary movement's goal to penalize "environmentally exploitative and destructive large-scale mining companies in the Caraga region".  The Caraga region, which comprises the provinces of Surigao del Norte, Surigao del Sur, Agusan del Norte and Agusan del Sur, has been seeing in the past few years a dramatic increase in the number of investments in both large-scale and small scale mining activities.

The government in Manila, on the other hand, as well as the military and police forces, have condemned the rebel raids as merely a form of economic sabotage and a ploy by the rebels to extort money from vulnerable mining firms under the guise of "revolutionary taxes".  There is talk of investigating "security and intelligence lapses" that led to the local military and police forces being caught unaware by the attacks and promises of "improving future security" for mining firms operating in the affected area.  Blah blah blah. And so on and so forth.  We have all heard it before.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011


Whenever I travel far away from Lianga these days, it is always a pleasant surprise for me to suddenly catch by ear, even from a distance and in the midst of the babble of languages and dialects that are spoken in the many crowded places all over this country, that peculiar yet familiar cadence of spoken words, that specific pattern and style of vocalization that immediately tells me that someone in the vicinity is speaking Kamayo.

Kamayo, of course, is the the language spoken by the residents of a clearly defined geographical area in eastern Mindanao which includes parts of the provinces of Surigao del Sur, Davao del Norte, Davao Oriental and the Agusan provinces.  Only about one and a half million people are said to use it but even this number is misleading since the language has its variations in the way it is spoken depending on the specific location within this general area.

The Kamayo used in in Lianga, for example, has marked differences in vocabulary, accentuation and intonation from the version used farther south in Lingig and the Davao provinces.  But both clearly belong to the same language classification and share the same linguistic roots.

Language experts usually classify Kamayo as belonging to the Malayan-Polynesian sub-group of languages and the Austronesian language family to which most Malay languages are grouped.  It is closely linked to Surigaonon and Butuanon as well as Cebuano and has been heavily influenced by these other languages as well as Tagalog and even English in more contemporary times.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Mail Call

It has been some time since I posted on this blog and for that lapse I must apologize. I have been having trouble with my internet connection for some time now and trying desperately to remain regularly online while your network connectivity is constantly giving up on you can wreck havoc on one's appetite for blogging.

Smart Bro, the wireless broadband service affiliated with Smart Communications, has been the only ISP in Lianga since it introduced the brand some 5 years ago. As expected, this virtual monopoly and the lack of any competition has led to such a deterioration in the quality of its online service that it has earned it the unflattering moniker of "Smart Broken" among frustrated local customers and subscribers.

It had come to the point when I was practically on the phone talking to their customer service representatives almost on a daily basis complaining about intermittent connectivity, cripplingly slow connections and network disruptions. Yet for all the company CSR's profuse apologies and promises of "network upgrades" and faster service, nothing really changed.

In the end, I had the service disconnected for a while and only recently have I decided to try using it again. Hope does spring eternal in the human breast and I am hoping against hope that, by a miracle of miracles, Smart Bro does finally manage to do justice to my newly restored optimism, misguided and naive though it may be.