Minalabac, Impoverished Town?
Minalabac is a town with a rich cultural and historical significance and yet recently we received a very displeasing survey. Minalabac, a town of Camarines Sur, the Bikol’s premier province, tops the list of the most impoverished towns in the country.
A nearby town of the bustling city of Naga, this suburb remains to be an important agricultural land until now. But the irony hits us when most of its people escape one meal to sustain their living on the following day. Their tables are barren. The children of these farmers who toil the land are mostly malnourished. Farmers are left at the mercies of the loan sharks who give them compounded interests every time they fail to pay in due time. Pesticides’ prices are soaring high. Local government officials are incapable of sustaining a community development program that will resolve this immediate problem. Instead of solving the problem, they pass the burden to previous administrations. These poor people will surely go to heaven if fasting is the only requirement to attain the celestial bliss while these politicians will certainly be doomed forever for they will all be guilty of gluttony and other obvious reasons.
Historically, the town is one of the oldest pueblos in Camarines. It is blessed with the presence of Bikol River that has served as an important transport system for people and their farm products. Latest archaeological findings reveal that Minalabac is one of the early settlements where trade and commerce flourished during the pre-Hispanic period.
Then there is the annual Tumatarok Festival, a colorful event held every May. This festival is a celebration of bountiful harvest the land has given to its people through the intercession of their Catholic patron saints, Apostles James and Philip. This aggravates the painful truth that we have to face. The presence of a harvest festival in a town where people have nothing to eat is simply irreconcilable. Our tradition has become another way to escape the reality of our living. Why can we afford to dance on the streets, decorate our houses, and yet our children’s stomach are empty?
Every now and then, I go to Minalabac, it’s a place that I always want to go back. The fields are still green; the wide horizon that dominates the landscape with Mount Isarog in the background and the Bikol River silently flowing through the years is truly a visual delight. It is a moving presence. And yet behind these scenarios, I have to remember also the many faces of children in this town. Their eyes that bare their starving souls and listen to their heartbeats that have been overpowered by their stomachs that roar. And of course, their parents who go to the farm and toil the land, so rich and so fertile and yet unable to feed their children, because it is for these people that I have vowed the cause of my writing.
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