Malilong: I remember you, Masbate

Malilong: I remember you, Masbate
SunStar Malilong

I left Masbate when I was 15 and have stayed in Cebu ever since except for semestral and Christmas vacations during my first two years in college. Travel was by wooden boat (the Jacoba and later, the San Vicente) to Hagnaya in San Remigio and by bus to the city.

The sea travel was unevenful except on occasions when it was low tide in Hagnaya and we had to be fetched by small boats because the bigger vessel could not dock at the pier. This manner of disembarkation had me soaked and clinging to the outrigger for dear life (I do not know how to swim) at least once because the small boat capsized.

It was the bus ride that always amazed me. Air conditioning in public utility vehicles was unheard of then but the temperature was kinder and besides, who needs an air-conditioned bus with the wind from the open windows always at your face?

We had very few buses in Masbate. My only bus ride there was with my father from the capital town to Pio V. Corpus in the southern part of the island. To say that the roads were in terrible condition is an understatement. A few minutes from Cataingan in a place called Crossing, the bus, already aged, finally gave up and my father and I had to travel by foot, along with the other passengers, because there was no other means of transportation.

I remember it was dark when we got home. As usual, the whole town was wrapped in darkness, the only illumination coming from faint streaks of light peeping through tiny wall openings from kerosene lamps. You guessed it. My town had no electricity. Neither did the other municipalities.

There are more successful Masbateños outside of Masbate than in it, Gen. Roger Deinla, then the Central Visayas police regional commander, said to me sadly when we met some 30 years after I left town. He knew whereof he spoke. We had the same origins.

Our story was not unique. It was just sadder. Years of government neglect had doomed us to the dubious reputation of being among the poorest provinces in the country. We also were among the most prone to violence. A friend whom I met only yesterday aptly described our election cycle as “killing before, during and after the elections.”

The friend is Antonio Kho. He is the incumbent governor of Masbate and he happily told me at breakfast that not only is the cycle of violence already a thing of the past, the economy is finally moving at a pace that could only warm a Masbateño’s heart.

Almost all the political forces in the province have united and are fully supportive of his administration, he said. The intense political rivalry has given way to full cooperation. And investors are giving Masbate a second look.

Masbate is now a major transshipment hub. Buses, trucks and other vehicles roll on well-paved roads and modern vessels, mostly owned by the governor, sail regularly from the island to many ports all over the country. An entertainment complex is being developed and soon, a 300-hectare special economic zone will rise in the governor’s hometown.

Things are looking up in my home province at last. Soon, Masbateños will be going home more frequently to become part or even just witness our transformation journey. Make it happen, Guv.

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