Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Parang - enjoying progress amid chaos

Morning is breaking in Parang with the young sun getting its feel of the community. Taken from the porch of Hernandez's family home. - MWBpic by ALFREDO P HERNANDEZ

FROM a sleepy, sprawling coconut hacienda by the bay overwhelmed by bush, the barrio of Parang as it was known those days has morphed into a crowded, noisy, tricycle fume-choked and fast-changing urban-like community.

It is also because of the jungle of rubbish-producing households that overtook the place over the last 60 years that had made the Parang beach nearby filthy and ugly.

These days, it is home to more than 5,000, making it the biggest baranggay and therefore, vote-rich in the municipality of Jose Panganiban, then referred to as Mambulao, its original name that told of rich gold resource in its mountains that overlooked the Mambulao bay.

I can still remember Parang how it was in 1950s: the space between the thousands of coconut trees that covered the entire hacienda was overwhelmed with bush and trees; there was no decent road, except for the two sandy paths that bisected the entire barrio which allowed vehicles to traverse through it on their way to the poblacion a kilometer away.

Nearby, about 700 meters from our house, was the pristine beach slammed by giant waves rolling in from the fish-rich bay in most part of the day.

Houses were sparsely distributed far in between all over the place and there was no electricity yet to light up the homes. The ground was roamed by a big herd of red cows, goats and sheep.

There was also this massive and rich mangrove of bakawan and nipa nearby - a breeding home to various types of marine life that sustained the rich fish catch at Mambulao Bay during those years. Fishing, second to gold mining, was the source of livelihood for the many people in the community.

Our family, originally coming from the neighboring town of Paracale -- a failed gold mining town after being shut down when an underground tunnel accident claimed the lives of 56 miners -- was among the first settlers in this lush rural community.

We had to make do with whatever convenience that could be had during those days; there had neither been piped water nor electricity yet.

The hacienda was owned by Ramon Adea, the good patriarch of the Adea clan in Mambulao, who later became a good friend to my mother.

Mr Adea, who was then building a simple network of piped water originating from a spring somewhere in the hacienda, made our family a water provider. He extended the pipeline to our compound, where the few household in the hacienda - those near our house -- could collect drinking water - for a fee. With the arrangement, our family had been assured of water supply.

Father, a mechanic, found a job at the mines - the Philippine Iron Mines (PIM) in Larap, a community about 5km from Parang, accessible through rough roads battered everyday by big trucks hauling iron ore from some mining camps some 20kms away from Mambulao.
A typical scene at Parang beach ... families living along the beach -- most of them squatters from far-flung baranggays and migrants from other parts of the province -- are dumping rubbish on the beach, including human wastes. Although a clean-up program was initiated in the past, it had not been sustained. This picture was taken in April 2011 by journalist ALFREDO P HERNANDEZ
I attended the elementary school in the poblacion and then in high school in Parang. The campus is just some 500 meters from our house which is located along the middle road that led up to the high school's main gate.

This house - our ancestral house - still stands to these days on the original lot it first occupied some 60 years ago and the high school of my youth has remained where it is until now.

This little house, which is enclosed by steel fences, became our vacation home every summer whenever we wanted to enjoy the breeze that only Parang could give.

And whenever I homed in during summer days, I would be astounded by the confusion of housing structures rising here in there - a clear proof that overseas working has become a profitable proposition for the many in Parang.

For almost 20 years since I settled in Manila after finishing high school in 1965, I had seldom come home.

But one day, when I finally did, I was truly shock by the physical changes that took over all over the Parang of my youth.

The first casualty was the rich mangrove that spanned from the mouth of the bay towards the foot of mountains that bordered on the outskirts of Parang.

This mangrove was my playground; I would be here on weekends with my school buddies sling-shooting birds and trapping crabs and shrimps.

This lush vegetation was wiped out by subdivision housing projects where planning and coordination had been thrown out of the window. The houses, in my opinion, were simply ugly.

Over the years, more and more new structures mushroomed. A number had fortunately been completed as to become decent-looking homes.

But many became stunted - it seemed that the building project came to a halt in the middle of the affair that protruding iron beams and ugly-looking cracks of hollow blocks became the dominant feature in the whole structure.

Many houses around Parang, especially those in the inner part of the community had suffered this disaster.

I was told that the "abroad" in the family came home abruptly from the Middle East where construction boom suddenly slowed down if not halted, displacing thousands of workers, many of whom Filipinos.

Apparently, Parang has become a biggest supplier of overseas workers as far as Jose Panganiban is concerned. We could say Larap could be another.

One thing that could not be overlooked is the progress that Parang has enjoyed over the years. Thanks to the petro-dollars that the Mambulaoans from this community had sent to their families over the years.

The usual sandy roads/paths that crisscrossed this community have all been cemented, including the one that passes right in front of our house.

And the latest news is that there is now piped potable water being supplied by a private entity called the Water Board, giving most of the household access to clean water.

With most of the residents engaged in livelihoods such as gold-panning, operating tricycles and fishing and vending the catch from the bay, or busy in some ways that discouraged them from doing mischief, law and order has not become an immediate problem.

It seemed that there's nothing more that the people of Parang could ask for from the town government in terms of facilities.

The only thing that the community has to deal with is the volume of rubbish its households produce everyday, which is obviously giving the municipal government disposal headaches and at the same time threatening the community's environment.

For all you know, a portion of such spilled into the beach nearby, thus making it a dumping ground for rubbish, and turning it into the filthiest among communities endowed with such a natural resource.

It is something the community has to deal with seriously.

Anyway, as a bustling community, Parang will continue to sustain its economy from jobs that could be found overseas, most particularly in the Middle East and Africa (war-torn Libya for that matter), where massive reconstruction efforts are about to begin.

The LNG projects in Papua New Guinea where I am based are frantic in their search for Pinoys who could man their pipeline projects that would span from the oil fields in the malaria-infested highlands down to the refinery by the bay or Port Moresby some 700kms plus away.

And many Mambulaoans from the community are simply aware of these new opportunities.

- Posted by A P Hernandez /Batch '65

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