TheyÂ calledÂ him the â€œBlack Beautyâ€, because of hisÂ dark complexion.Â Will that tickleÂ Vice-President-elect JejomarÂ Binay?Â He too isÂ “permanentlyÂ sunburned”. And heÂ dreams ofÂ becoming Numero Uno, as Garcia ofÂ Talibon did.
In this province, countlessÂ streets, buildings, even basketball courts, are named after Garcia.Â â€œCPGâ€Â was the hometown kid who made it to the big leagues.Â But his National HistoricalÂ Commission statute, in front ofÂ the town hall, could do with a fresh coat of paint.
Bohol has always beenÂ deeply religious. YouÂ catch glimpses of that in magnificentÂ ancientÂ churchesÂ built by JesuitsÂ and other missionaries during the colonial period. (The theft ofÂ icons andÂ shabbyÂ maintenance of these historical treasures are another story.)
The wife andÂ I came to attend the ordination to the priesthood of two family friends. AÂ â€œguestâ€ at the rites was the PapalÂ Nuncio to Haiti.Â The archbishop, it turns out,Â is a native of Talibon. Our “OFWs”Â includeÂ diplomat-priests. The nuncio was visiting to mark the silver anniversary of his sacerdotal ordination.
The road network in Bohol is excellent.Â And Talibon has progressed since the last time we visited. The wife and I find aÂ brand new building has replaced the ramshackle the hotelÂ we lodged in last time. Now, the staff can iron your barongÂ within the day.Â Last time around, it took two days.
No panhandlers descend on you, then and now. Thereâ€™s none ofÂ scrawny children that swarm the streets of Cebu, Davao or Manila,Â descend on the town during fiestas, it was explained to us. Desperate grinding city poverty, however, does not visibly mar this town.
But how deep have the changes really run?
Now as in the last trip, we watchedÂ students board pumpboats in the twilight. The outriggers ferry them to them to homes on islets, off this placid won on Boholâ€™s eastern coastline.
Poverty, though, is all too real. ItÂ affects about 40 percent of the population. Life expectancy of Boholanos is 69 years, two years shorter than that of Cebuanosâ€™ 72. But it is 12 years longer than those in Lanao del Sur. And Life is the threshold at which all other hopes begin
PhilippineÂ HumanÂ Development ReportÂ ranked Bohol 25th out of 77 provinces. Rizal tops the list. Sulu limps in at the tail-end. From an international perspective, Bohol is wedged somewhereÂ between that of Vietnam and Indonesia,
Inequality here resembles that of other places, say Bukidnon or Sorsogon. The richest 10 percent consume 30 centavos out of every peso. The poorest 10 percent make do with three centavos.
Out of every 100 students in Bohol, 33 graduates from high school, the UN has noted. Thatâ€™s on par with Marinduque â€“but far behind Lagunaâ€™s 60.)
UPÂ economistÂ ErnestoÂ Pernia ( a Boholano)Â and Â ArsenioÂ Balisacan Â say many Â factorsâ€”from population growth, corruption, quality of governance to ecological decay â€“ can embed penury.
On Talibonâ€™s pier oneÂ notes the still primitiveÂ fishing boats and obsolete gear. Here as in many parts of the Philippines, such boatsÂ sloshÂ their way through once pristine seas.
Today, their bowsÂ cut through all kinds, of non-degradable garbage: shopping bags, juice containers, bottles; broken plates, etc. Untreated sewage sludge, oil, chemicals and other garbage contaminate the waters turning it turgid.
â€œFishers are the first to encounter limits of the seaâ€ All 17 of the worldâ€™s major fishing areas reached â€“ or exceeded â€“ sustainable thresholds, UNâ€™s Food and Agriculture Organization warns. Catches of valuables commercial fish have declined.
On Talibonâ€™s wharf, as in other piers of this country, fishers unload their catches from battered styro foamÂ boxes packed with ice. Theyâ€™re small stunted â€œtrash fishâ€. Fishing grounds have been depleted. The small catches cut into â€“ protein supplies for the poor who canâ€™t afford meat.
History tells us that â€œ90 percent of the history of life on earth has taken place in the seasâ€ And the coasts are natural crossroads between man and the sea. Now plastic and dirt are sealing of the pathway.Â (By JuanÂ LÂ Mercado – Email: firstname.lastname@example.org)