Archive for the ‘Naga’ Category

UP Ibalon with Physicians for Peace in Naga City

February 7, 2009

The Physicians for Peace gave out free wheelchairs to pre-screened indigents in Naga City. UP Ibalon Bicol was a partner in this project and may act as conduit for future donations by the Physicians for Peace, an international charity organization headed by a Fil-American, Dr. Juan Montero.

This partnership of the UP Ibalon and the Physicians for Peace came as a result of the efforts of Dr. Josephine (Jenny) Robredo-Bundoc, a UP Ibalon alumna and currently a world consultant of the physicians’ group. Jenny is the younger sister of UP Ibalon Bicol president, Butch Robredo and Naga City Mayor Jesse Robredo.

The wheelchairs were pre-fabricated and the UP Ibalon members had the fun of their life assembling the equipment. The activity was a satisfying spiritual experience for Ibalonians, having been exposed to disabled while having the capability to offer help, however small.

Having grassroot reach in the city’s 27 barangays, the members of the Kapisanan ng Sangguniang Barangay Kagawad (KSBK) Naga City chapter had searched for recipients. Lolit Nantes heads the KSBK as President.

The City Social Welfare Department further screened the recipients.

Watch the video above and share the fun.

Naga City Mayor Jesse M. Robredo: a beacon of hope

January 16, 2009

Many UP Ibalonians know Jesse. The popular Bicolano mayor who is an adopted member of the Ibalons shares the mission of the organization. Gearing for more national leadership, he is at the forefront of of the Kaya Natin movement, a group of hope-driven Filipinos who seeks better governance, transparency and ethical responsibility in public service. Ibalonian Don Salvosa shares an inspiring article about Jesse written by Harvey S. Key of the KN movement which appeared in Manila Bulletin, Sunday, December 28, 2008. The piece is reproduced entirely below.—mesiamd (01/16/09)

Things I learned from Mayor Jesse Robredo
by: Harvey S. Keh

For many of you who don’t probably know him, Mayor Jesse Robredo is the multi-awarded incumbent city mayor of Naga City, which is currently the main commercial area of the Bicol Region. Aside from this, Mayor Robredo was also one of the first Filipino winners of the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Government Service which is equivalent to Asia’s Nobel Prize. He won the award because he was able to transform Naga City from a third class municipality to a first class city and uplift the quality of life of his constituents. Moreover, he was able to develop systems that would enable government processes to be more transparent and accountable to his constituents. As a prime example of this, when one visits the website of Naga City, you would be able to see all the expenses and purchases of the city government. In the more than 16 years of being the mayor of Naga, the city has received accolades from national and international organizations such as the World Bank and the United Nations.

I met Mayor Robredo in 2001 at an event organized by Synergeia Foundation, one of the country’s more effective institutions in improving our public education system. Since then, Mayor Robredo has been one of the people I have looked up to for advice and his effective brand of leadership has been a constant source of inspiration for me. As such, I wanted to share the things that I have learned through these years that I have worked with him.

Firstly, I have learned that there are still people like him who continue to remain ethical despite being in government service for the past 16 years. Many people have dissuaded me from entering government service since they say that no one actually survives the current system of pervasive graft and corruption. Mayor Robredo has shown that one need not compromise his or her values and principles to be able to govern and deliver basic services to the people in an effective manner.

When I asked him what was his secret for being steadfast in his values, he told me that his faith in God and his family are his main foundations, and this is the second lesson that I learned from him. In a society where we hear of politicians having several wives and families, we have someone like Mayor Robredo who continues to put premium on his being a loyal husband and a loving father who devotes time to his three daughters. I remember a time wherein he failed to attend one of our Kaya Natin! Caravan of Good Governance events in the province since his daughter sought his help with regard to her school project. Many politicians would often jump at the chance just to be able to speak before thousands of students but Mayor Robredo chose to be with his daughter who needed him during that time.

Aside from this, Mayor Robredo has also shown that he is a man that can stand up for what he believes in even if he already knows that majority are no longer with him. This can be seen when in the last 2 Presidential elections, wherein he chose to support the late Senator Raul Roco because he believed that he would make a good President for our country even if he already knew that surveys have shown that Senator Roco would have a slim chance of winning and even if he already knew that if Senator Roco loses he may not be able to get the support of the winning candidate. Standing up and holding on to your own principles is something that is clearly lacking in many of our leaders today. Our present day leaders will often support issues or people that will help propagate their own self-interests without necessarily thinking if what they are supporting will be for the common good.

Finally, one of the most important lessons I learned from Mayor Robredo is the simplicity of his way of life. When one thinks of Filipino politicians, large houses and expensive cars always comes to mind but when one visits Naga, you will see that despite being on his 6th term as mayor of a 1st class city, he continues to live in a very simple home. I remember one time wherein we met in my office in Quezon City and I saw him just taking a cab without any bodyguards to reach our office. Back then, I was quite surprised since I was used to seeing politicians with their big cars, blaring sirens and their throngs of bodyguards. Among all of these lessons, I think what Mayor Robredo has shown me is that there is still much to Hope for in our country if we have more principled leaders like him who will continue
to deliver proper services to the people and will always put the interests of our country above his or her own interests.(Photo Credits: x 2; Rolye) =0=


Old Roads Also Shaped The Northern Coastal Bicol Dialect

November 29, 2008

In my previous post [“The Central Bicol Dialect Or The Northern Coastal Bicol”, 11/18/08], I discussed how the old sea connections possibly influenced the evolution of the predominant Bicol dialect. I also tried to show how geographical features of its area possibly shaped its sub-dialectal variations.

I would argue now that it is not only sea connections which cemented the evolution of the predominant Bicol dialect, the Northern Coastal Bicol. This is my preferred term over the internationally more accepted name Central Bicol because it shows the geographical connection more clearly and it is not misleading (Central Bicol might not be able to claim dominance in the central portion of Bicol).

It is an obvious fact in history that Bicol is bi-centric or bi-polar, that is, no single center dominated the entire region. This is not the case of the likes of Central Visayas which is dominated by Cebu City or Eastern Visayas which is dominated by Tacloban. Ours is like the case of the bi-centric Western Visayas which is dominated by two cities, Iloilo City and Bacolod. In Bicol, Naga dominated the western portion, the old Ambos Camarines and Legazpi (or Albay then) dominated the eastern portion, the Partido de Ibalon.

This is maybe so because of the elongated shape of the peninsula and the difficulty of travel in the early times.

I would argue that the old roads connecting Legazpi and Naga through the central portion is not the main road connecting the two cities. But I would also say that it is probably the secondary road connecting it. There is no such thing as a southern coastal road because of the dearth of coastal plains in the area, the need to cross the mountain chain in the southern part of Bicol and the prevalence of Moro raids in the southern coastal areas.

The direct central road is probably not the main road because it passes through mountainous areas and rough terrain. From Daraga to Camalig, the old Busay-Lacag road leading to Cabagnan is just a sampler. And from Camalig it is even a steeper climb to Guinobatan via Palanog. From Mauraro (an old visita) or Guinobatan to Ligao it is no picnic either. And from Ligao the path takes the foothills of Tula-tula and probably rather than taking the Mayao road the travellers might just take the Mabayawas road to Libon. From here taking the route south of Lake Bato and Lake Baao the travellers have to trek the foothills south of Nabua until it reaches Bula and Minalabac (the trail will probably not cross the upper Bicol River here). From Minalabac the trail probably hook north to Milaor and Naga City.

A probable alternate route is the route just below the foothills of Mayon Volcano. From Cabagnan in Camalig there’s a road that passes through Sua to Maninila and Masarawag in Guinobatan. From here the road leads to northern Ligao and Oas barrios. In modern times this is called the Nasisi road and this leads to Napo in Polangui [See my earlier post, “The Old Roads of the Naga-Legazpi Corridor And Dialectal Variations Along The Way”, 11/18/08]. From here a trail through the foothills passes north of Matacon before connecting to the Masoli road which leads to Iriga. From Iriga the road probably hews to the Iriga-Pili road we know now. But from Pili I have argued in the said article that the road probably follows the Pacol road.

It is probable that this road is more used in Spanish times rather than the more southern route which passes through Libon, Bula and Minalabac because it has less climbs and it is farther from Moro raiding parties. As an indirect proof the middle portion of this is more progressive historically than the more southern route. To this I am referring to the Polangui-Iriga-Buhi triangle.

Aside from these routes another route exists. It might be roundabout but it mainly passes through coastal plains. I am referring to the road from Legazpi that passes through the first district of Albay through Tabaco before ending in the Tiwi-Joroan area. There is no major climb here if one takes into consideration that the old road passes through Bacacay.

There are major centers along the way. Joroan is a major pilgrimage area in earlier times (Joroan church in fact is the diocesan shrine and not the Albay cathedral and its Nuestra Senora de Salvacion is the patroness of the Diocese of Legazpi) and even Samar peoples pay homage to its image. Tiwi’s pottery is known far and wide and so is Tabaco’s metalcraft and shipbuilding. The safe and bustling ports of the Bicol peninsula are concentrated on this northern shores which are relatively safer from Moro raids compared to the southern coast.

The climbs only start in Joroan on the way to scenic Patitinan in Sagnay with Mayong serving as the middle point and trading area with the Agtas. From Nato it is all coastal plains up to Goa, a major port and link to Catanduanes in earlier times.

From Goa a major overland route connects it to Naga via Tigaon and Pili. The old road hews close to the current road but it probably uses the Carolina road in going to Naga.

Goa has also an overland route across the shallow mountains to Tinambac which leads to the San Miguel Bay Area. A coastal road then connects the coastal areas up to Indan (Vinzons) via Calabanga, Cabusao, Barceloneta, Pambuhan and Mercedes. But, of course, a sailboat can also be taken across San Miguel Bay.

But, of course, Goa also connects the towns of the Partido area.

It can be seen that Pili is the crucial junction of the two roads as is Minalabac (which is the junction of the westward road to San Fernando, Pamplona, Pasacao, Libmanan and Sipocot which are all Central Bicol-speaking and the southern road which leads back to Bula and the Rinconada areas). This probably explains why historically the two towns are mixed-speaking where both central Bicol and Rinconada co-exist. I argue that the old roads delineated the boundaries of the two dialects.

That old main coastal road, I think, and the sea connections was the major reason why there is a predominant Bicol dialect with a clearly defined contiguous area. That elongated area was the major corridor of commerce and travel in Bicol during the early times.

It was only obscured in the last 90 years when the Americans chose to connect Naga and Legazpi via the central corridor maybe because it is the shorter route and they have already the heavy equipments needed to build roads over soft surface like rice fields.

The San Fernando, Camarines Sur-Oas, Albay Diversion Road

November 23, 2008

The construction of a San Fernando, Camarines Sur to Oas, Albay bypass (diversion) road has recently been approved. It is one of 10 priority projects in Bicol for 2008-2010 along with the construction of the new Legazpi airport. P500M has reportedly been released for the project. The rationale of the project is to decongest the main road running from Naga to Legazpi. A shortening of the travel time between the two cities is expected.

The planned diversion road is 61.90 kilometers long. Only 14 kilometers will be new road as it just intends to use old roads that already exist. Thus, 32.22 kilometers of existing gravel road will be paved and 15.68 kilometers of the existing Maharlika highway will be improved. An old bridge will also be repaired and a new 40-meter bridge will be built. The total project cost is estimated to be P2.25 billion.

This bypass road will connect the old roads connecting Legazpi to Naga (see my previous article, “The Old Roads of the Naga-Legazpi Corridor and Dialectal Variations Along Its Way”, 11/18/08). From the town of Oas it will probably use the old Mayao road that connects the town to Libon, Albay.

From Libon, it will use the gravel road that connects it to the upland barrios of Nabua. This is the Libon-Buga-Tandaay road. This road crosses the Nabua-Balatan road in the big barrio of Tandaay, Nabua. The road runs through the southern shores of Lake Bato.

From Tandaay,Nabua a gravel road runs to Bula, Camarines Sur, running south of the plains irrigated by the Bicol River. This road skirts the southern side of Lake Baao. This is the old Malawag road.

It seems the new road construction mentioned will be used to connect Bula to San Fernando, Camarines Sur. It is probable that the paved road running west of Bula to the barrio of Panoypoyan will used. If not, some other farm-to-market (feeder) roads might be used like the road to Bagoladio. It seems the new bridge will be used in this stretch since the Bicol River will have to be forded here, a connection that hencetoforth does not yet exist. Before reaching San Fernando, the road will pass through portions of Minalabac, if not the town proper. However, Milaor will be bypassed.

This diversion road for the most part will pass through the foot of the long mountain chain on the southern side of Bicol which is always visible from the road when one is traversing the Sipocot to Ligao stretch of the Maharlika highway.

Concerns have been raised about the possible effects on Naga and the towns that will be bypassed by the new highway. There’s fear that the economic downturn suffered by Daet and the Camarines Norte towns when the Quirino Andaya highway was opened will be replicated here.

But to sustain progress sometimes new infrastructure must really be built. There is no question that the Naga-Legazpi road is already a little bit crowded and this won’t get better anymore. Anyway the first users of this highway will probably be the cars, trucks and buses that just passes by the area en route to Sorsogon and Eastern Visayas.

Whatever, it is imperative that a comprehensive study be made of the possible impacts of the new highway should be. This is needed to warn the sectors that will be affected and also anticipate future problems.

It is now being bandied as the “GMA Highway”. The information is from NEDA (National Economic Development Authority) Region V office so it must be official now.

Supreme Court Strikes Down Unqualified Cities

November 18, 2008

Finally, an institution that knows how to count numbers and read statutes put a stop to the indiscriminate conversion of ambitious but unqualified municipalities into ragtag cities. The Philippines’ Supreme Court, with a vote of 7-5, with two abstentions and one on leave, declared that 16 separate laws creating 16 cities that did not pass the requirements are unconstitutional.

The following “cities” are affected by this decision: Batac in Ilocos Norte; Tabuk, the capital of Kalinga; Tayabas in Quezon; Catbalogan, the capital of (Western) Samar; Borongan, the capital of Eastern Samar; Baybay in Leyte; Bogo, Naga and Carcar in Cebu; Guihulngan in Negros Oriental; Tandag, the capital of Surigao del Sur; Cabadbaran in Agusan del Norte; Bayugan in Agusan del Sur; Mati, the capital of Davao Oriental; El Salvador in Misamis Oriental and Lamitan in Basilan.

It was the League of Cities of the Philippines (LCP) which raised the case before the Supreme Court. Cities in the Philippines partake from the same portion of the pie called Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA). Therefore creation of new cities correspondingly reduce the allotment of the old cities and they begrudge it if the former town is unqualified to be a city. The city mayor of Davao even warned Gloria Macapagal Arroyo of political consequences if the said laws are passed since P180 million will be lost by his city with the creation of the new cities.

The 16 cities argued that since they first applied to be cities before the income requirement was changed from P20 million to P100 million then they should be exempted from the said standard. Congress bit into this argument because of political considerations. However, the Supreme Court ruled that nobody, even Congress, is exempt from the Local Government Code which set the said standards.

The Local Government Code sets the following standard for the creation of cities:
1. An income of at least P100 million for the last two years; and,
2. A population of 150,000 OR a contiguous land area of 100 square kilometers.

The 16 cities did not meet the income requirement. And not one of them also met the population requirement. It is probable that the only requirement that they met was the land area. But then a lot of obscure and remote towns will also meet that criteria.

Actually, the critical feature of a city is its urbanization. And this is best reflected in the income and in the population. To submit a town just because it meets the old requirement of P20 million is preposterous since a town earning just that will just be classified a 4th-class town. In the old days, a town must be a first-class town before it applies for cityhood.

This is not to denigrate these towns but just to show the absurdity of the 16 laws. Among Bicol’s 4th-class towns are Malinao, Malilipot and Manito in Albay and Del Gallego, Minalabac and Garchitorena in Camarines Sur. Tinambac and Pio Duran will then be “over-qualified” since both are 3rd class towns.

Some of the “promoted” towns barely had population of 50,000. 50,000 inhabitants is even below the average of towns between Naga and Legazpi. I have been to the majority of the 16 towns and I know that in some of these “cities” the primary motive power are still the legs of a man. That means the pedicab is still the main form of transport around town. In one of these “cities”, and a provincial capital at that, the prevailing monthly salary for a maid is P600 a month

It will be hard on the “cities” affected but as lawyers say “Dura lex, sed lex“.

(The images above are taken from the said “cities”.)

The Central Bicol Dialect Or The Northern Coastal Bicol

November 18, 2008

In the recent past, people often wondered why Bicol Naga is very similar to Bicol Legazpi. It is because passing through the national highway (Maharlika Highway) a lot of different dialects divide Naga and Legazpi. Going east, Rinconada will be the first different dialect encountered (starting in Pili and up to the western part of Polangui) and then Western Miraya (after Matacon, Libon). After that comes Bicol Oasnon (starting Oas, of course) and then Eastern Miraya (starting in Guinobatan until Daraga) before finally reaching Legazpi City.

After a period of wonderment comes the puzzlement. Some even said that the church and its rites and books has something to do with this “standardization”. I give no credence to that. Otherwise we would have learned Latin, the official language of the church.

But I think the path to being misled begins with the assumption that the Naga-Legazpi highway that we know of now has been in existence since time immemorial, when it is not. An old civil engineer explained to me 30 years ago that this highway was only built in the 1920’s. He said that before the arrival of heavy earth-moving equipments it is simply impossible to fill all the ricefields that lay between towns. He also added that the old roads passed through the hills like the old road from Camalig to Guinobatan is the Tagaytay (Camalig) road.

If one analyzes Bicol Tabaco it is readily apparent that it is also very similar to the “standard” Bicol. And going farther northwest it is also apparent that the Bicol of the Partido area and Caramoan Peninsula is also very similar to the “standard” Bicol. And, of course, Bicol Daet is also very similar to the “standard” Bicol. Actually, except for some sub-dialectical variations, it is obvious that all of this belong to just one dialect.

This whole stretch that belongs to just one Bicol dialect (but with sub-dialectical variations) actually starts from the old town of Bacon, Sorsogon and proceeds northwest up to Mambulao [J. Panganiban], Camarines Norte except the Larap area. It is the reason why it is sometimes called the Northern Coastal Bicol. But more recently it is more often called as the Central Bicol dialect. Up to 2/3 of Bicolanos speak this dialect but in international texts it is not called as “Standard” Bicol.

The southwestern town of San Andres [the old Calolbon] which is very near Caramoan Peninsula also speak this dialect and so do a vast inland area west of Naga City and up to portions of the “railroad towns” of Camarines Sur. The old outlet to the sea of Nueva Caceres [Naga] to the south, Pasacao, also speaks this dialect. And so do the whole San Miguel Bay area.

In the olden days, even before the Spaniards came, the way of getting around or trading was by sailing (in fact the word layag or paglayag is the same in many parts of the Philippines). These northern Bicol seas are normally placid during the southwest monsoon (habagat) because it is shielded by the Bicol land mass. In fact the old pilgrimage custom to the visita of Joroan is connected with this. Sailboats as far as Northern Samar used to visit that shrine in the earlier days.

Sub-dialectical variations can be explained by recognizing geographical divisions in the fishing areas. Albay Gulf is a separate fishing area and that is why Bicol Legazpi predominates this area and to the barangay of Sawanga of the old Bacon which has a sea connection to Rapu-rapu.

The narrows of Cagraray island separate the fishing grounds of Tabaco Bay from Albay Gulf. Here Bicol Tabaconon predominates.

The promontory and rough terrain ahead of Joroan divides tha fishing grounds of Lagonoy Gulf from Tabaco Bay area. Here the mountain chain Mt. Iriga-Mt. Masaraga-Mt. Malinao extends up to the sea. Areas like this hold few inhabitants, hence, little fishing. Actually in the olden times Agta tribes dominated this area. Like in Prieto Diaz, Sorsogon, the physical and fishing boundary between sub-dialects are connected to the presence of an indigenous tribe.

In Lagonoy Gulf, the Partido sub-dialect predominates.

The old trade route go round the Caramoan Peninsula. It does not go overland from Goa to Tinambac due to the rough terrain and the control of the mountains by the Cimarrones. If trade and communication is carried overland it passes the southern foot of Mt. Isarog (the Carolina route) and this is usually the case when the northeast monsoon (amihan) is blowing. When amihan is in full swing the northern waters of Bicol are rough.

Inhibitants of the tip of Caramoan Peninsula are related to the inhabitants of the southwest portion of Catanduanes. They make regular sea crossings even in the olden days.

The San Miguel Bay area which is horseshoe-shaped and which extends from Pambujan to Siruma and sealed at the entrance by the Caningo island is another separate fishing ground. Here, the Naga sub-dialect predominates.

The Camarines Norte seas up to the Calagua islands is another separate fishing ground. Bicol Daet dominates the eastern Camarines Norte town.

The area west of Naga City that speaks Bicol Naga is dominated by the lower portion of the Bicol River Basin (the portion nearer the sea). The meandering rivers here that irrigates the vast rice plains is also the old transportion route and this is connected up to the mouth of San Miguel Bay near Cabusao. The landing area near the Naga public market is a remnant of this artery.

This is the historical reason why Bicol Naga and Bicol Legazpi is very similar. As do the other dialects in the northern coast of Bicol.

PNR South Line Is No More

November 8, 2008

The Philippine National Railways (PNR) South Line which services Bicol stopped operations in November 2006 after Typhoon Reming (Durian) damaged many of its infrastructure. It was a sad end to an era of train journey but barely noticed in Bicol since bus travel already completely overshadowed it.

I was lucky enough that I was still able to take a train trip just before it shuttered. It was my first trip in over 20 years and I was raring to find out what changed. Arriving in Naga station I noticed how forlorn-looking and dilapidated the once-vibrant place has become.

The train was much shorter compared to the trains of my college days. We left at past 10am. I was expecting a fast clip over the flatlands and straight tracks of Pamplona and Libmanan. But we were barely making 50kph because the train was buckling like a horse.

I learned that there was no more maintenance work being done for the tracks. They said the PNR was just being given by the national government a subsidy of P10 million a month. Added to the paltry revenues, the amount it handles barely covers the salaries after fuel was paid. Many of the stations and offices of PNR no longer has electricity. Units are being run by just cannibalizing the old units. And retiring personnel are no longer replaced.

Along the way I saw stations no longer in use and many don’t have roofs anymore. Bridges were beginning to corrode and communication lines were no longer working.
In most places we were running at an average of 40-45kph because of the condition of the tracks. In Gumaca I even feared there would be a derailment.

I noticed that at each station a new set of train vendors sporting another set of uniform identifying them will board the train. Since they won’t get off until the Bicol line ends in Hondagua, the midway point, they became too numerous till they outnumbered the passengers (and we were full!). It was getting hot though the skies were generally overcast. My only consolation was our coach was the newer Japan-donated so it was more comfortable than the coaches I rode when I was in college (but not the tracks!)

I was hoping to see much of the line but dusk overtook us in Agdangan, Quezon. But I still saw how small the place was. I was seeing the countryside I knew before from another vista so it was sad that daylight was no longer available.

We chugged along and getting nearer to Manila the warning of our conductor regarding bad elements in the train stations became more strident. Reaching the Espana station at Quezon Avenue at 2am there were admonishions to just walk straight and fast and not to bother to look at the characters inside the station grounds.

I learned that although the trains are no longer running the employees still get their pay. The only hope being bandied about is a “National Railway Authority” will be passed as law so that the line and the stock could be rehabilitated. But with the damage I saw I knew it would take a lot of money.