THE last time I visited the village of Lanipao in Barangay Sapangdaku in Cebu City, I was elated. The place has changed much since I roamed there in the ‘80s. And the change is for the better. At least there has been an attempt to use its geographical advantage. Lanipao is on the lower part of the slope of the mountain range overlooking the city proper.
Cebu City, while a major urban center, is rural in no small part. I often describe it as a place of two worlds. One world is the very urban plains and the other world the very rural mountain areas. To illustrate, one just has to go to, say, Guadalupe, and proceed to Napo in Sapangdaku. You’ll be amazed at the contrast. Guadalupe and Sapangdaku are neighbors, but one is urban and the other rural.
Sapangdaku is agricultural. It is dotted with tens of old mango trees and is one of the major sources of what the world mistakenly labels as “Guadalupe mangoes.” People there, when they are not tending to the mangoes, engage in slash-and-burn farming. Beyond that, there is no other source of livelihood to speak of, except perhaps buying and selling farm produce in the lowlands, like in Carbon market.
But it is at the hemline of one of the city’s mountain ranges, meaning that it is so near the urban center but has remained rural--so near yet seemingly so far. Or at least that was the setup in the ‘80s. The culprit then was the lack of a road network. From Guadalupe, one rough road goes as far as a village called Napo; another branches out to the village of Baksan and up to Barangay Pamutan. But it was and still is only in Napo where rickety public utility jeepneys ply.
The setup was like there was a wall that prevented urban growth from going up the city’s mountain barangays. Serviceable road networks that the government simply calls farm-to-market roads would have done magic. One example was when then governor Emilio Osmeña initiated the construction of the Transcentral Highway. That opened up the potentials of the mountain barangays not only in agriculture but also in other aspects like tourism.
Apparently the Cebu City Government took time to invest in mountain infra. The one time it did was during the administration of Michael Rama. To be fair, Mayor Tomas Osmeña had road projects in the mountain barangays, but these were not extensive and the scope was narrow. Frankly, I don’t know who of them opened a road from Napo to Lanipao, which has been cemented in some segments. It is steep in some segments but serviceable.
There is now in Lanipao two, okay, call them almost-resorts with swimming pools. When SunStar’s Sarasay group did a trek months ago, we passed by one of those pools to take a dip. I was even surprised when a taxicab reached one of those “resorts.” It must have been driven by a daring driver familiar to steep routes. A taxicab in Lanipao? That was unthinkable in the mid-’80s.
So why aren’t bets in the May elections promising to make the mountain barangays a focus for economic growth?