Wednesday, January 25, 2012

No Dingy, Little Town

A dingy, little town.  That was exactly, word for word, how a foreigner acquaintance of mine who was on a whirlwind tour of the Caraga region called Lianga when he passed by my town recently.  I stared at the e-mail on the computer screen and had almost made up my mind to reply with a blistering defense of my hometown when I decided to hold off for a moment and reflect for a moment if this visitor's description had any merit at all.

I have always considered Lianga to be quaintly beautiful in its own way, if not exactly picturesque (although many locals will certainly disagree with me on this point).  Like many truly old, coastal towns all over the country, its real charms are not patently or immediately obvious.  Its old houses and narrow streets do not come out well in most photographs.  "Just like another tired, third world, ramshackle town," wrote a reader of this blog from Europe not long ago after looking over some of my pictures of this town.

Lianga has to be experienced in order to be fully appreciated.  One has to walk its streets and alleyways, amble through its marketplace and public places, seek refuge in the blessed coolness of its lovely, old church, loiter in the rickety yet historied corridors of its schools or walk barefoot on its lovely beaches before the real magic sets in.  It is definitely not one of those touristy show towns where one glance is enough to convince a visitor to kick off his shoes, rush into sandals and shorts then start running for the nearest hotel resort.

My foreigner friend probably saw only the wide, muddy, disheveled field of yellowish gravel pitted here and there by clumps of grass that virtually surrounds the town's new market mall and bus terminal while he was passing through.  Maybe he saw only the blackened and abandoned skeletal remains of what used to be display booths and stalls or the small piles of garbage scattered haphazardly in this desolate field instead of focusing, more importantly, on the magnificent vista of the blue green sea beyond and the silhouette of Lianga's famous lighthouse islet clearly defined in the bright blue of the midday sky.

He should have instead marveled at the sight of the Lianga Market Mall, a recent and much admired architectural addition to the center of the town and not be distracted by the aberrant mud puddles and the occasional garbage heap scattered like random afterthoughts here and there.  After all, there much better things to train one's attention on like the new, elongated boxlike commercial building complex being built right across the church and the parish center.

Like all visitors to Lianga, he should not be turned off by the sight of uprooted trees and ravaged vegetation on a couple of street corners and residential lots that were the handiwork of Typhoon Sendong last Christmas or the sacks of garbage (again!) piled somewhat neatly on top of each other on the curb of some streets.  Instead, they all should be seen as part of the unique ambiance and rural attractions of this town, quintessential manifestations of the rustic, carefree, let-tomorrow-come and the devil-may-care attitude of its people.

If visitors nowadays, like my foreigner friend, find Lianga more than a bit untidy or unkempt, they should not be too eager to blame the local people or, even more so, even the municipal government who is supposed to be in-charge of somehow spiriting all the detritus and unsightly grime away from plain sight and hiding or disguising them somewhere else where they can be less noticeable.  In time, I am sure, local officials will surely and finally get around to the mundane task of sprucing up and cleaning of the town, when they will ultimately see the need to do so.

This town, as it is today, of course, will never be the exemplar of a truly "clean and green" town like some other municipalities in the province of Surigao del Sur.  If I heard it right, it came in second to the last under that very category last year and so is certainly, if it is any consolation at all, not the dirtiest or the very least "green".  Thank God for such small blessings!

So, I must vehemently object to Lianga being labelled "dingy".  If we have to be really strict about the meaning of such terms, the town is, if you want my honest, unbiased and impartial opinion, not absolutely or unequivocally there yet.  But then, of course, I must also have to grudgingly admit that with little or no effort on the part of its people and its elected officials, it will easily get there soon enough.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous9:02 AM

    I enjoyed my several pass throughs back in 2009. Besides, what;s the hurry. That is why I liked Lianga.

    Mike Cook
    San Diego, CA