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Paluan – The Sleeping Town

Paluan Occidental Mindoro April 2009. My random ramblings on local politics and progress. The Trip from Abra de Ilog to Paluan I caught a glimpse of the beautiful silhouette of coconut trees created by the early morning summer sun, lazily peeping at the back of the uneven Mindoro mountains. Random childhood memories are suddenly flashing in the recesses of my head like an old movie, as the scent of dried rice stalks and fresh cogon grass, carried by the evaporating morning dew filled the air. The landscape didn’t change at all. Concrete roads are still blanketed by golden palay grains fresh from the summer harvest. Trees are still taller than houses and other commercial buildings. This is Occidental Mindoro – still sleeping despite the rapid and noticeable changes outside, not wanting to leave its protective cocoon. Its progress is always at the mercy of selfish politicians. I just gave an automatic sigh while thinking what to expect in our hometown. Backward Progress I left our town to finish my college education in Manila - which was almost ten years ago. In my privilege speech, during our high-school graduation at PNHS, I really wanted to talk about my observations on how our town’s stinking political system is affecting progress and how it is corrupting the youth, but my teachers insisted on reviewing my speech and forced me to talk about success instead. I felt tired and gave in to their wishes. Free speech and activism was not encouraged in our town. If you do, you or your family will get threats or you will be treated like a leper. Ten years ago, electricity was available for four hours a day only, starting at 6:00 in the afternoon until 10:00 in the evening. Teenagers are usually required to be in their respective homes before 10:00 pm. Most of the time, we have to do our homework under the pale light of “lampara” or “simbo” because electricity isn’t always reliable. “Hoy bilisan nyo na mamamatay na ang ilaw!” was the common comment you will hear before 10:00 pm kicks in. In the evening, you can say this phrase instead of saying “Hurry up!” This remark turned into a regular joke during re-unions and get together. “O bahit di pa namamatay ang kuryente ay alas onse na?” this is the common question when electricity was extended overnight. “E siyempre may bisita si Mayor,” is the common reply you will get. This fact and other overt corruption is an accepted thing in Paluan. Nobody ever dare ask or questions the very obvious irregularities. Residents are getting their daily water supply through their neighbor’s manual water pump, which is locally called “bomba.” There are no pipelines for potable water and the whole town is relying on a natural well in Brgy. IV, which is fortunately located in the middle of the town. Residents have to go to this barangay for their drinking water. There is no decent library facilities and books in Paluan National High School, but despite that we still get top rankings during Quiz Bee and Science Camps. Make do of what you have - that is our motto. We, Palueños are always like that. We are not molded to grumble, complain and whine, instead we are raised to accept things as they are. The fight to excel is always a personal choice and not a collective effort. Health services are also the last priority. During emergencies, patients have to be transferred in Mamburao for lack of medical facilities, medicines and personnel. Mamburao is nearest town which is a one to two hours ride from Paluan. The patient is considered lucky if the emergency ambulance is available – the ambulance always being used by those in power for their personal use. This was the sad state of Paluan in terms of progress ten years ago. Today, it is still on this sad state, maybe worst. Still a third class municipality. The town badly needs convenient and concrete roads, 24 hours power supply, better health services, water supply, ecotourism developments and others, but it seems like this are the last priorities. Most politicians treat their public positions as their family’s source of income and employment. Public service is their last priority. The Evils of the Democratic Process Election Day is more fun, more exciting and more festive than our town Fiesta. It even got nationwide attention when the election-the-Palueño-style was featured in Mike Enriquez’s IMBESTIGADOR in GMA-7 for allegedly harassing the Mangyan tribe during the last mayoral election. Both mayoral candidates are guilty of this even in the past election. It is just a matter of how overt and how extreme you do it. Sometime in 2004 during the local election, I decided to volunteer as poll watcher in one of the polling precinct. Unusual commotion is expected as always. For unknown reason, the poll clerk didn’t show up that day. The voting process has to start immediately so they decided to replace the assigned poll clerk. My high school teacher, acting as precinct chairwoman, saw me and asked me if I can be the poll clerk. I hesitated but, what the heck, I am already involving myself on that crazy electoral process, so why not. Despite my worries about my safety, I stood and became the official poll clerk. I later heard that the original poll clerk was abducted and threatened and forced not to show up. That experience, as poll clerk, showed me the ugly and rotten reality of the process of electing our town leaders. Here are some evil strategies on how to win an election in our town: You don’t need large streamers & posters to win an election in our town, and goddamn it, you don’t even need a plataporma de govierno to win.
  • Mang-rehistro: It all starts in the registration process. This works for the members of the mangyan tribes. Nobody knows exactly what is the total population of the Mangyans in Paluan. They don’t have birth certificates and their tribes are scattered in the remote areas of Cape Calavite. Traditional evil politicians exploit this fact. They gather as many tribesmen and women who looked like 18 years old & above and forced them to go to the Munisipyo to register. They are always accompanied by the candidate’s schemer or goons, who answers all the questions asked by the registration personnel and even filled up their registration forms on the premise that they are illiterate. The schemer has to invent and register as many names as he can. After the registration, they will send the poor mangyans to their tribes without any clue what happened. The common term for this is: “Paramihan ng mangyan”
  • Mangkulong ng Mangyan: This is the most evil part. Major candidates have their own campamiento or political camp. A week before the election day, they will start gathering as many mangyan as possible. They will then be gathered in a camp with coconut leaves as roof, which is locally called “pala-pala.” The camp has assigned look-outs to avoid the poor mangyans from leaving the camp. Before the Election Day they will be given cheap foods and a set television for entertainment. During the election, you will see them lined up in their respective precinct with name tags hanging on their necks. I never thought Palueños can do this to them. Our poor mangyan brothers lined up like criminals with name tags herded by the schemers of the mayoral candidates. How can Palueños tolerate this kind of inhuman scheme?
“Ano po ang pangalan nyo?” I asked the poor mangyan. As poll clerk I have to ask every voters to check their name in the official voter’s list. “Ayan na nga, nakasabit na sa leeg nya tinatanong mo pa!” angrily said by the mayor’s cheater-alalay. The “cheater-alalay” is usually a known aggressive or “mataray” resident of the town and is tasked to accompany every mangyan inside the polling precinct. They also act as the “taga-sulat” or ballot writer for the mangyan. The “cheater-alalay” or “taga-sulat” will not, in any case, let the poor mangyan say a word. “Di yan marunong sumulat at bumasa, ako na lang ang tanungin nyo!” that is their usual defense. “Tingnan ko lang po yung kuko nya.” I politely inquired to check his index fingernails if it has already stained by indelible ink, which to my surprise, already has some faint ink stain. It is a standard procedure for me to check. Therefore I asked, “Nakaboto na po ata siya, parang may ink na po yung kuko nya?” “Hindi yan ink! Nag pukpok kasi yan ng kasoy kaya madumi ang kuko!” said the cheater-alalay. “Tingnan mo nga dyan sa listahan nakaboto na ga yang taong yan, wala pa di ga akin na yang balota at ako na magsusulat para sa kanya!” And so my poor mangyan brother just sits there, while the “cheater-alalay” votes for him, usually a straight-vote: meaning all the candidates of a single party will be written on that single ballot, from Governor down to the Sangguniang Bayan or SB. This process is really evil, all in the name of money & power. See related story here:
  • Manggapang: This happens the night before the election. The candidates knows who will you gonna vote for – or at least they already has an idea. So, if they suspect you badly need money, or you are already known to accept money, the candidate-for-mayor’s personnel will approach you in the middle of the night and will discreetly offer a certain amount just to make sure you will change your vote.
  • Mangako at Mambola: This is a classic strategy. Just promise everything during campaign period, if you win the election, you got power, and they cannot force you to fulfill your promises.
  • Manghakot: It is a must for the candidates to have a copy of the official voter’s list. They will then check the names of the voters who are in Manila or elsewhere. They will going to contact them and offer them free transportation going to Paluan, if the candidate wins, they also get a free ride back to Manila. This is called “hakot strategy,” an indirect way of vote buying.
Unity of the Dreamers The Paluan political system now is characterized as fragmented with leaning on political dynasty. One question that I ask on this is what are the factors that caused this thing to happen? Why are many Palueños opting for rather a familiar person or family and not looking for another one or for a change? It is a sad fact that the youth, the educated and the dreamers are leaving the town to find better opportunities somewhere. Many youth leaders are hesitant to stay because most of the time, if you stay too long and got involve, the Paluan system will eventually corrupt all your ideology and becomes part of the rotten schemes. This is due to the very strong “pakikisama system,” and the powerful influence of the elders, relatives and even your very own family. You must have a very strong character and solid ideology to fight this age-old system. The hope of Paluan is not only its youth but all its dreamers: the elders, youth leaders the Mangyans and all those who are dreaming of a better Paluan. ALL WE NEED IS TO FIGHT AND UNITE! __________________________________________ Related Stories: Paniniil ng Karapatan : May 14 2007 Election


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  1. hayy,kaloka talaga sa Paluan.kelan kaya nman matutupad ung mga promises nila na 24 hrs na ung kuryente,tas ung daan maaayos na rin daw..eleksyon na ulit,4 sure ganun na nman...hay,letseng mga pangakong yan!!!

  2. Grabe! No wonder your mayor would want you to delete this entry. I admire you now not just for being a good writer, but for being a brave one as well.

    Great post you've got here. Those parts on "Mangrehistro" and "Mang-kulong ng Mangyan" made me frown!

    I know how late this comment might seem. Yet I can't help but react.

  3. ikaw lang at ikaw lang ang nakita kong nagbigay ng kaukulang pansin sa kalagayan ng bayang ito,at hindi lang sa inyo nangyayari iyan, maging sa mamburao at lahat ng bayan sa ating probinsiya, sigurado ko ikaw pa ang masama sa lahat nang tao diyan.wala kang maibibigay na paliwanag sa kahi't sinong tao dyan, kahi't baluktot ang kinaugalian,pero sa isang banda, mayroon nang nagising at, marami pa ang susunod sa iyo, isama mo na ako. salamat po

  4. ehemmm!!!!
    may point k nga jan!!!
    dun s nagsv tungkol s 24 hours n kuryente!!!!
    nung ang municipyo pa ntin ang may ari ng power plant: ndi nila pwedeng gawing 24 hours ang kuryente kc pag ginawa un ehhh palugi ang ating bayan!!!!
    mag- isip k nga qng bkit ndi ginagawang 24 hours ang kuryente!!!!!
    hello!!!!! wala po tayong mga investor s ating bayan!!!!
    nagun medyo humaba n ang oras ng kuryente dahil ang ating munisipalidad ay nakipag ugnayan s napocor pero ndi tlaga nila pwedeng gawing 24 hours kc malulugi nga!!!!
    sa mga taong walang magawa kundi ang mampuna ng mga negative ehhh subukan nyo nmang punahin dn ang mga improvement s ating bayan!!!!!
    maging open minded nman tayo!!!

  5. @ anonymous: ehemmm, may point ka nga dyan.
    eh bakit nga walang investor???
    eh bakit wala man lang linya ng tubig?
    eh bakit worth a million pesos daw yung private resort ni Mayor?
    eh bakit and dami pang hindi sementadong kalsada?
    Sabagay tama ka, may improvement naman, sing bagal nga lang ng kuhol!
    Tingnan mo nga yung mga katabi mong bayan.
    Nasa political will lang yan at leadership, at nasa mga nagpapabola na rin tuwing eleksiyon.
    Tsaka tama yung nagsulat nito, kapuna puna naman talaga yung mga negative...
    yung mga positive, pa sample nga, asan yun?

  6. aba'y hawag na kayong mag-away, maganda nga yang hindi naunlad, para pag nag bakasyon ay probinsyang probinsya pa rin...hi hi hi
    Haysus, magaling pa'y maglublob sa Calawagan, ay hindi sa resort na laang ni Mayor
    Pwede gang lakarin yun? Magkano entrance? Pwede gang mag-inuman ng gin-pomelo doon? Maka paryan nga pag uwi ko sa Pasko

  7. ano ga naman kayo, hayre ang mga positive improvement:
    1. may Gym na sa Munisipyo!
    hindi ka na gagawa ng pala pala pag gusto mong magpakasal
    2. may bago ng resort
    3. mahaba ng ang oras ng kuryente (after 10 years)
    4. may pahago festival na!

    at ang pinaka matindi...
    5. may internet shop na kina Chaka!!!! ha ha ha ha (dami ng may Facebook)

  8. Hoy Taga Aros sa Maynila, pay punga ka
    hindi na uso Gin Pomelo, The Bar na, kulang kulang ka!

    Hoy balikadong i add mo naman ako sa facebook abno ka, ha ha ha.
    ang ikinakasal laang sa gym yung mga sosyal tsaka pag malaki bahay.

    Hoy mga Anonymous - magpakilala kayo, para kayong mga mangyan. Maghingutuhan na laang kayo sa tarangkahan ng ma Tsa-Kuring haysus, lalalim nyong mag isip.

    Hoy Yodz na pasimuno nito, galing mo, kanino ka gang anak? paynge kayang bahaw tsaka may salay ga dyan at ako'y mag pupuspas..


  10. wala tlaga kwenta mga officials s paluan,,grabe nman ilang dekada n ngdaan nung lumipat aq dito walang ngbago,,ung kuryente n tuwing eleksyon ay pinapangako n mgging 24 hrs,,hanggang ngayon wala p din..kung mganda man lang sana supply ng kuryente dito sana ok ang negosyo,,at isa pa yang kalsada pangako din yan tuwing election,hanggang ngayon putol putol p nga ng mga tao n kontra partido mabubuo din yan pagkatapos p ng ilang election,,n s tingin q ay totoo nga, bkit?e pano nman mppnsin mo gngwa lng kpag mlpit n election,,at kpag ntapos n ung kapirasong kalsada e ung dting gnwa nman ang msisira,,hay!,,kkatuwa lmang..

    at ung Calawagan n dating pinagmamalaki dahil s malinis n tubig nito,,anong meron?,aun, sirang hanging bridge,,swimming pool n walang tubig..kung dti ay pde mong i-rate sa 10 ang Calawagan ngayon nsa 1 n lng,,ang resort ni mayor ang pdeng 10 ang rating..paano nman, unti-unti n iniwawala s paluan ang Calawagan at ang ipinopromote s mga turista ay ung resort ni Mayor..

  11. kung meron lang sana mglalakas loob n lumaban para s ikabubuti ng Paluan e di sana asensado n tau..pero pano nga b mangyayri un?..

    ung suhulan tuwing election, d mo din msisisi mga tao,dhil kpag di mo tinanggap o tinanggihan mo sila ay wag k nng umasa n mgkktrabaho k dito kahit p bsurero..haha..

    hay naku! kung iisa-isahin ko ang ang mga anomalya s Paluan bka mas mahaba pa kesa s kasaysayan ng byang ito,,tsk tsk..sna nga lang matauhan pa ang mga namumuno dito..lalo n ang ama ng bayang ito,,

  12. Of all these Paluan's misfortune.. Its my fellow Mangyans aggravate and feel it the most. That is why up to the time I was born and opened up on the circling situation thinking of it as inescapable. And I cant help but cry seeing them in everyday's hardships. Thanks Lord that now I have good education through willpower and understand broader things such one like this.. As one of Mangyan groups my dream is to give them better education.. Sa ngaun kung walang mga NGO na nagsusumikap umahon sa kabundukan ndi matututo bumasa at sumulat ang ilang Mangyan. And I dont see any any concrete plan of present leader to educate Mangyans and possible simple reason: when they(mangyans) learn then they will fight for the true and good.. In short hindi na maloloko especially during election.. Hope one day I wont see my fellow Mangyans being harassed..detained..forced labor..fooled... Nakakaawang kalagayan parang Spanish era lang ang setting..


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