17 December 2007

Home to heroes

MONDAY I found myself in Libmanan on invitation of its youthful Councilor Alexander James Jaucian, chair of the town's sanggunian education committee.

Jaucian wants to bring Synergeia's Reading program -- ongoing in Iriga City and Libon and hopefully soon in Rapu-Rapu, Albay -- to Camarines Sur's biggest town, and I explained before the sangguniang bayan what the foundation is, what we do, and how communities like Libmanan can improve the quality of education if only its local leaders will commit themselves to it.

The journey, my first ever to the town, was nostalgic in some ways. Many years back, I fell in love with a lass from the place but alas it was not meant to be. Then there's the legendary Handiong, the first king of Ibalon who is said to have built his capital in the Libmanan delta, laying the foundation for the first Bikolano civilization, in partnership with former nemesis and lover, the snake goddess Oryol.

It is also the main theatre of the guerilla warfare documented in the World War II book written by historian Jose Barrameda, Jr. on the Tancong Vaca Guerilla Unit (TVGU), which I wrote about in a column last month. Incidentally, it is also a highlight of an ongoing exhibit on the local guerilla movement -- whose title eludes me -- at the Ateneo de Naga university library. JoeBar would later email me a kind note with the following clarification:

"One, my father joined the resistance movement in Baao, Camarines Sur (for which reason I also dedicated the book to him) but he survived the war. Two, there was another big accomplishment that the TVGU chalked up, so that there were three of them in all. This was the second liberation of Naga in April 1944. The TVGU actually headed the liberation force through Major Juan Q. Miranda who was elected the overall commander the force. Moreover, the liberation was done by Bicolano guerrillas alone. The U.S. Army reached Naga some two weeks after it had been wrested by the sons of Handiong from the Japanese."
In that quick visit, I saw a town that seemed to be as ordinary as any other in Bicol, at least the ones I've been to. The streets are narrow and some stretches of the concrete road leading to the poblacion have seen better days, but who would ever imagine that it would bring forth mythical and real heroes that would define the Bikolano at his very best?

As Edwin Aspra, our office driver, and I negotiated the 35-km trip back home along the national highway, I told him during the war, Libmanan's link to Naga was via the snaking Bicol River and the railways, which played a prominent role in JoeBar's opus. The road we are traversing has yet to see the light of day. Unfortunately, both have been sidelined by the emergence of cars, buses and trucks as the primary medium of transport.

More unfortunate is the fact that Libmanan appears to have fallen for the siren song of the politician's empty promises that have driven them to desperation. That in the last elections they have reposed their trust on a stranger, who happens to be a son of the President, to represent them in Congress is a clear indictment of his predecessors.

Will their fortune change this time? I want to be hopeful, but the odds are stacked against it. For one, President Arroyo has just appointed Albay Gov. Jose Clemente "Joey" Salceda as new chair of the Bicol Regional Development Council, replacing Camarines Sur's Luis Raymund "L-Ray" Villafuerte, Jr., notwithstanding the latter's 38-6 advantage in the August 14, 2007 voting. In fact, in last Friday's (Dec. 14) RDC meeting, many governors -- who all voted for L-Ray -- were shocked to see Joey presiding. That renders the promised international airport in Libmanan to nothing less than a snake oil salesman's pitch.

The restoration of Philippine National Railways (PNR) service, a casualty of Supertyphoon Reming a year ago, would have been a more realistic and logical advocacy. But there are indications funding is not being prioritized in the national budget.

In the national convention of the Personnel Officer Association of the Philippines (POAP) I attended a week back, a PNR representative expressed his fears about it, and asked me if the Naga city government will support an effort to secure more funds for the PNR. I said restoring PNR services is always in the best interest of any Bikolano, and we will therefore do our part, but people like Dato Arroyo and Ower Andal are better positioned to make it happen.

I hope Libmanan once again rediscovers its inner strength and pride, and remembers its lineage as home to Bikol heroes. Because at the end of the day, nobody else will help it reclaim its glory but its own.

19 comments:

Brad said...

Hi,
A very interesting posting, thanks for that.
While I think the line back to Bicol will eventually be restored, I think you will find it will be with overseas funding similar to that which is building Northrail.
The linkage project to Calamba is already on the move, while Lucena will be the next phase.
Plans are then to rebuild the lines to Legazpi (plus new extension to Sorsogon) and the long closed line to Batangas.
They have also made mention of future plans to return the rails to Sta Cruz, however I personally think you would more likely get blood from a stone than ever see that one completed. Hope I am wrong though.
We cover the latest news etc on our Philippine Railways SIG regularly.

Best wishes
Brad
Philippine Railways SIG
http://www.geocities.com/steelhaven_ee/LocoShed.html

Anonymous said...

Brad,

Do you think this railway being planned will ever materialize in my lifetime ? no opposition/lobby group coming from various powerful bus company cartel plying the Bicol route ?Please advice, Thanks...
Feliz Navidad!


Porfirio Rubirosa

alcogoodwin said...

Hi Feliz,
I personally believe it could easily happen in your lifetime, but it greatly depends on who replaces Gloria at the end of her term.
With her term ending in 2010 we should already have the rebuilt railways from Manila to Malalos and Calamba (likely Lucena) built, with work on their extensions to Clark and Sorsogon already reasonably advanced.
One is hopeful De Castro is her successor and that the same government gets another term. This is our best hope for seeing it through without the stupidity of scrapping an important project because it was another governments.
The bus cartels have thus far not done anything to try to stop the rebuilding of the nations railways. I am actually quite surprised by this, perhaps there is some decency in them.
One of the huge loosers will be the huge Manila-Lucena bus operators with hundreds of services a day. The railway, by rights, should demolish their passenger base with a frequent and fast rail service.
In this day and age a railway system for the Philippines is a necessity.
The sooner the better.

Best wishes
Brad
Philippine Railways SIG
http://www.geocities.com/steelhaven_ee/LocoShed.html

Anonymous said...

Brad,

Regardless of what will happen when GMA leaves her office it's nice to know, that you have some assurance that it will happen in our lifetime. But you know time is relative, and I'm on my twilight years, and pretty soon, I'll be kicking the bucket. Anyway, maybe my children or grandchildren will see it happen.
Happy Holidays to you !

Porfirio Rubirosa

alcogoodwin said...

Hi again,
It may not take as long as you think, so unless you are in imminent danger of 'kicking the bucket' you may well see it.
Actually I always thought 'kicking the bucket' was an Aussie type term and was surprise to hear you say it. Is it a common term in the Philippines, or do you have Aussies in your family?
Hope you had a great Xmas and an even better 2008.

Regards
Brad
Philippine Railways SIG
http://www.geocities.com/steelhaven_ee/LocoShed.html

Anonymous said...

Hey where in the world is Willy now? This blog has not been updated for like eternity now. Missed your post Will. :)

aleli said...

hello,
habang ako'y naglilibang sa harap ng monitor at mataimtim na ini-eenjoy ang makabagong libangan ng mga kabataan at pusong bata, ako'y biglang nakapasok sa isang espesyal na blog ng mga taga naga. Yeah!! pwede rin bang makitambay rito from time to time? Taga Naga rin kasi ako. Isang opisyal na Tagalog Blogger sa isang maliit na sulok ng Blogosphere.As of now ako'y on blog leave..pero pwede pang ma-access ang blog ko. Salamat. Sana'y ako'y mapabilang sa inyong blogroll..

More Power sa Gabos na Taga Naga!!

Anonymous said...

Glad to be part of this blog. Truly " home to heroes " indeed!! I personally don't have much in depth knowledge about bicol history which is a shame really considering the fact that I'm a thoroughbred bicolano hahahha but I am thankful that there are great historians like Jose V. Barrameda Jr. who incessantly inspire us of his notable works.

Anonymous said...

WillyBoy, Haen ka na ? haluyun mo ng nabayaan ining blogsite mo. Are you out of the country ? are you sick or something ?



Porfirio Rubirosa

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Anonymous said...

Hi Brad,

I was surfing Goggle.Com, just for fun I typed Juan Q. Miranda, the name of my father from Naga City. I did not believe my brother that there is a write-up about him, being the guerilla in WWII, who liberated Naga City.

Thanks for the write-up about my father.

Thelma
Toronto, Canada

Anonymous said...

Hi Thelma,
please e-mail me at rzendro@aol.com I think we are related. my brother & (2)sisters will be happy to hear from you.

Bobby
Montreal, Canada /Chicago USA

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