TRAVELING around Mindanao, one sees the road development projects everywhere. What used to be two-lane highways since I was a kid are now becoming four to six lanes. Then there are bridges replacing near-century old bridges. There is indeed something happening here, and it's sad because it took a Mindanaoan president to bring in these changes.

Sad because... Philippine presidents should have taken care of the whole country, but they didn't and they left Mindanao festering.

Except for the never-ending road rehabilitation of Davao del Sur and Bukidnon provinces, road projects in the immediate environs have been left untouched for decades. Like our Bukidnon-Davao Highway. It was cemented at the time of President Fidel V. Ramos and only had patches of repairs after that. Whenever there's a landslide, that portion was repaired. In that time when the road rose up like a giant hump from the middle of nowhere in what was said to be a result of some earth movement, that portion was flattened, the concrete removed, and left for years until patches of repair were made.

No wonder those people in Manila can never understand the massive support the President is enjoying here. They've been getting all those major infrastructure projects. They've have had expressways while all we have to show for it is that Davao-Agusan Highway and Bukidnon-Davao Highway that has been repaired over and over again but never really expanded. Yes, maybe an additional lane here and there, but never as one long highway to benefit every village along the way.

No wonder that the wealth has been concentrated among the rulers -- they've had their fingers in it, all this time and left us with nothing but unrest and rebellion.

One thing good this systemic neglect has brought to Mindanao is how Mindanaoans have learned the art of making do, such that except for the left who are preconditioned to complain, whenever there are problems the first action is to offer to help or give help. It has spawned a different kind of philanthropy. A philanthropy that is not for show, but to make a difference; an occasional mention in the news is appreciated but is it not standard fare.

During lunch with a guest from the Visayas and some colleagues a few months back, the visitor was impressed by the special diet that one person is the group has developed and has made into a profitable business.

"Maybe you can bring this to my city," the visitor said.

"Sure," the person in the group said, "just take care of my fare and accommodations and we can hold sessions for me to teach your people how."

The visitor takes a few seconds to comprehend before blurting out, "No, I mean as a business. You bring your business there!"

The person replies, "No. I will just teach you how."

This may be minor to some, but when you observe this outlook as a common thread in many other discussions, you will realize that that is what differentiates us Southerners, and it's a good thing.

Indeed, the sense of community is still strong among us, and we should appreciate that. There is nothing like having people whose first instinct is to help or to propagate rather than profit. We know that with the vast developments and major migrations going on, all these will change. But it only will if we allow the migrants and then outsiders to change our ways.

Let the migrants adapt to our ways, and let them learn the concepts of community and compassion, never let them bring their greed-driven ways and make us become like them.