Kabag-uhan sa Yutang Gidak-an

Ubay-ubay ang kabag-uhan akong nakit-an ug nasinati sa yutang akong gidak-an. Ang uban nagdala’g kalipay samtang ang uban makasubo, ug usahay, makapungot. Maingong galangkob kini tanan sa giingong pag-uswag sa yutang gidak-an. Apan, nanghinaut ako nga unta ang tanang mga kabag-uhan sa yutang akong gidak-an alang sa kaayuhan sa katauhan ug dili magdala ug kadaut ug kagubot

I have seen and experienced several new things in the land of my birth. Some bring happiness while others fill me with sadness and sometimes frustration. One can say that all these are part of the development of one’s hometown. But, I do hopt that all the changes in my hometown would be for the better of the people and not one which shall bring destruction and chaos.

I spent the past few days back in the city of my birth – Cagayan de Oro. I was supposed to attend a gathering of indigenous communities who are planning to have their conservation areas recognized and proclaimed. Incidentally though, it is not the only gathering for indigenous people in the city, I was informed that there were also a couple of other gatherings being held in the city.

Much have changed in the city over the past few years, if not these past few months. Already I hear a lot of Tagalog-speaking people in local coffee shops, fast food outlets and malls. I also see a lot of new clothing and other shops as well as banks. New commerical buildings are also on the rise. These on top of the infrastructure projects which the local government has embarked into.

But while there is infrasructure development and an apparent inflow of financial capital, my observation was marred by the news reports of an old colleague who was shot by unknown persons. Bombo Radyo Cagayan de Oro reporter Michael James Licuanan (more popularly known as James Dacoycoy) was attacked after finishing his program in a local radio station. I have been told that he is now in the Intensive Care Unit of one of the city’s hospitals. I sure hope he recovers soon.

And the contrast between the visible development and the attack on Dacoycoy mirrors the challenges posed by the growth of cities in a city supposedly in a democratic republic and the protection of civil liberties which are threatened with the rise of development-related undergound interests.

Back then when I was still doing reports for a TV station from Northern Mindanao, some colleagues of mine would joke that crimes and undergound activities are signs of progress in a particular place. And while some variations of the statement sounded funny, in essence it was sad and very much true.

The growth of cities and towns always carry with it not only the attraction of formal business entities and investors but also dubious and secretive groups and individuals who want to partake of the development in the area. Developing towns and cities always encounter an increase in criminality and problems in social services. And these problems are of course directly related to the influx of different kinds of people from diverse backgrounds with various purposes in migrating to the town or city.

While most of those who migrate to the cities from the surrounding areas do transfer out of the need for better employment opportunities, the problem starts when these migrants do not possess or have qualifications as competent as those possessed by town or city locals. They end up unemployed.

Devoid of employment opportunities, some, out of desperation resulting from hunger, envy and even indolence, resort to various methods by which they can sustain their own needs, chosen lifestyle or the wants of their family. Others end up as the object of nefarious plans of idle minds in the neighborhood of their temporary stay in the city.Thus, is criminality increased.

It goes without saying that the increase in criminality and problems in social services can be addressed and prevented. And if the local government would only desire to have these problems arrested while they are still growing, they can institute policies and programs by which the potential dangers resulting from rural to urban migration.

The problem with developing towns and cities in the country, in this case, Cagayan de Oro, is that while the local business groups, academe and social movements have been active in identifying potential problems from growth, the local government unit is usually resistant to change.

And the local government unit’s resistance to change is not without reason. In the average city, town or province in the country, the dominant political clan is able to preserve its hold to power by capitalizing on the displaced migrants from the rural areas who have floked to their place. And to keep them always in need of the political leader’s good graces, would always give them the feeling that they owe everything to that supposedly elected official. Such is how politicians exploit the Filipino characteristic of utang na loob (roughly translated to debt of honor) or utang kabubut-on in Cebuano.

It should apparent to every Filipino that the reason why our cities, towns and provinces remain backward and underdeveloped is due to several political considerations which the elected officials consider more than the genuine progress of their locality. It is political ambition which takes precedence over genuine public service. It is self-gain which is more important than the growth of the city, town or province.

The attack upon journalist Dacoycoy, which is the first in the city for more than several decades, is indicative of the disrepair of the democratic values and governmental processes in the city. It is an indication of impunity taking root in a city known to have free journalists. And while I did hope that the local government would do what it can to run after the suspects, some old colleagues have informed me that the political leadership have shown disinterest in the case.

I do hope that as the land of my birth continues to develop in terms of infrastructure and economic advancement, the local government would also complement that with the effective provision of social services, the promotion of responsible citizenship and protection of civil rights.

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