|Marinduque: Heart of the Philippines
My wife, Rhina, celebrated her birthday yesterday. As a romantic husband, I planned of surprising her by either bringing her back to her hometown in Marinduque or fetching her parents.
But to my dismay, I could not materialize my plan – there have been no airline services in Marinduque since May 2013 while land travel is just next to impossible with her parents too old for long travel and our busy schedule.
The first time I visited Marinduque was in 2006. Since then, I have frequented the province to visit my in-laws in Buenavista. But nothing has changed since then except that there are no more airline services now, of course.
Marinduque is not a popular province. I didn’t know about it until I met my Rhina, who was born and raised in a mountainous barangay in Buenavista, called Bagtingon.
Like me, most of you probably have not heard about the province.
Marinduque, the heart of the Philippine archipelago, is an island province in Region IV-B, the MIMAROPA region. It is a small province with an area of around 95,000 hectares and population of less than 230,000. It has six municipalities – Mogpog, Gasan, Buenavista, Torrijos, Sta. Cruz, and its capital, Boac.
Unknown to many, archeology in the country is said to have started in Marinduque with Antoine-Alfred Marche’s exploration of the province as early as 1881. Marche was said to have uncovered 40 crates and found Chinese urns, vases, gold ornaments, skulls and other ornaments of pre-Spanish origin which he brought back to France. Some of these artifacts, including the wooden image of the Marinduque anito called ‘Pastores’, are now housed at the Musée de l’Homme in France.
Marinduqueños are hospitable and warm people. They welcome guests with putong or tubong, a ritual where guests are honored and crowned with flowers while locals dance and sing for them as other well-wishers throw coins and flower petals for health, wealth and long life.
Besides being warm and welcoming people, Marinduqueños have a lot to be proud of. The province is home to big caves, white sand beaches and untouched wilderness trails. In 2013, the province was ranked number 1 by the Philippine National Police and Philippine Security Forces as the Most Peaceful Province of the country because of its low crime rate statistics. This makes the province a perfect getaway especially during Holy Week, in time for the oldest religious festivals of the country: the unique and colorful Moriones Festival.
Unfortunately, despite its richness in tradition and natural resources, Marinduque remains poor and undeveloped. In fact, it is classified as a 4th class province in terms of income.
The province’s top government posts are controlled by the Reyeses. Damian Reyes was the provincial governor from 1925 to 1929. Luisito was the provincial governor from 1988 to 1995. Carmencita, wife of former Immigration Commissioner Edmundo, Luisito’s sister-in-law, has been transferring from one major post to another since 1978: assemblywoman from 1978 to 1986, representative from 1987 to 1998 and 2007 to 2010, governor from 1998 to 2007 and 2010 to present. Carmencita’s son, Edmundo, Jr., now TRB head, served as the province’s lone representative from 1998 to 2007. He was preceded by his sister Regina.
Mother and son (Carmencita and Edmundo) are now facing graft charges in connection with the fertilizer fund scam. Carmencita is likewise facing another graft complaint for the alleged illegal purchase of agricultural equipment. Another case was also recently filed against her for allegedly delaying the construction of the airport runway in the municipality of Gasan.
But I don’t think these cases will have much effect on the political career of the Reyeses. We can expect lack of development in Marinduque even in the years to come. And unless younger blood flow and replace the dirty old blood in the heart (of the country), the rich potentials of the province in terms of tourism and natural resources will just be like an old man with a weak heart.
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