Workmen smoothing a new-poured concrete on a road lane near Malapayungan, just outside Baranggay Parang, while a tricycle from Larap passes through. - MWBuzzpic by ALFREDO P HERNANDEZ
ON July 1, 2010, his first day in office as mayor of Jose Panganiban, Ricarte Padilla hopped into his car and reset the kilometer-counter to zero.
In a few minutes, he was traveling along his municipality's pot-holed roads, roads that were ready to disappear, those that badly needed a facelift as well as those that needed to be built for the first time, or those that required cementing.
In short, he was making an inventory of all types of roads that crisscrossed the 27 baranggays of his municipality of more than 50,000.
At the end of the day, the new mayor of a coastal and second-class town came up with an intriguing figure: 81 - this was the road network in the entire municipality in terms of kilometers.
What dismayed him, and maybe those who love to travel, was that of the 81km, only 2.6km were paved. Sporadically, they were found away from the town proper.
Just to think that there have been several mayors who ruled his municipality over the last 60 years - including his own father Roy Padilla Sr who was mayor in the early 60s -- and yet there were no good roads to show!
Padilla never knew about it until he personally drove off along this potholed thoroughfare.
That's why during the election campaign in 2010, he promised the voters that he would build one kilometer of cemented road every year of his three-year term, so he could make 3kms at the end of his office.
It was a quota he intended to achieve each year during his stint as mayor.
He committed himself to this on the assumption that most parts of the network were in good condition. This was not the case.
And making such an election promise was simply a big mistake, because it was just physically impossible to do so.
Even if he stays as mayor for 40 years, he won't be able to finish rehabilitating the 81km baranggay roads.
With a small income generated from the business and industry sectors in the municipality, the Padilla administration would be hard put to even reduce the number of kilometers of bad roads.
But some creativity had to surface to deal with the problem. If lobbying is creativity, so be it. But it works somehow.
Mayor Dong has become a sort of a permanent fixture in the halls of Congress and Senate, lobbying with sympathetic lawmakers - senators and congressmen - for road funding assistance.
With ardent prayers to high heavens, his efforts began to pay off, as assistance came - although in trickles, but nevertheless, assistance - in terms of funding.
Chasing the funds where they could be sourced, Mayor Dong landed a catch of P5 million for Baranggay Pag-Asa, another P5 million for Sta Cruz and P1 million for San Pedro.
A substantial assistance of P20 million from the Office of the President is now being hammered out.
Aware that politics played greatly in the flow of funding for community projects, the mayor expressed dismay that "if you are not an LP (Liberal Party), the chances of missing out on the moola are great".
And while chasing some pork barrels that he hope would one day roll into his road projects, Padilla trained his sight on a rich source of road building materials - his constituents, most especially the overseas and locally-based professionals who graduated from the Jose Panganiban (National) High School, his Alma Mater.
The recent grand alumni homecoming has become a rich exploration ground for Ricarte.
Himself belonging to Batch '81, he appealed to more than 1,000 attending alumni for the much-needed cement that would help speed up the concreting of a number of road portions, particularly those that lead up to Baranggays Calero, Sta Milagrosa, Pag-Asa and Larap.
And when he spoke to them on April 28, 2012 as the homecoming guest speaker and pitched an appeal for donations of bags of cement, almost half of those who heard him were presumed ready to extend assistance.
These are the former graduates in their 40s, 50s and 60s who are financially able to deliver. These are the people, who, for the first time in their lives as Mambulaoans, are seeing "concrete" developments unfolding right before their eyes.
To be exact, they are seeing ribbons and stripes of concrete roads across the municipality, something never seen during the last 60 years - something that only began popping here and there in the last 10 months, and the man who made this happen was a first-time mayor named Dong Padilla, who assumed office on June 30, 2010.
In short, they are Mambulaoans dying for real developments in their beloved community, and they wanted them pursued to completion. So they will help.
This fledgling cyber news tunnel - the MWBuzz - has openly trumpeted the initial progress achieved in cementing a long network of baranggay roads, which could finally touch base with the Larap bridge at Spurline just before election time next year.
Padilla told MWBuzz: "Kung bibigyan po ako ng pangalawang pagkakataon sa darating na 2013 election, masesemento po ang Larap road mula sa Spurline bridge hanggang Larap proper bago magpasko."
It is one achievement that MWBuzz could not ignore, for this road has made itself obvious in places where it is needed most.
In a lengthy interview with MWBuzz, Ricarte described his road project as "a dream ... backed by hard work and perseverance".
True, this dream has been founded on donated concrete, so to speak, which Mambulaoans - poor and rich, educated and otherwise - could one day share with each other in pure glory and with pride.
-- Alfredo P Hernandez