By LOUIE MALIZA
PaDayon Pilipino .
ALTHOUGH barefoot, she would walk with gait, unmindful of the protruding sharp rocks, in an isolated mountain village in Misamis Oriental. She would carry a bunch of bananas on her head while looking straight at an uncharted trail covered with bushes and dried leaves.
Nahawna Masilawan (not her true name), a child belonging to a Higa-onon tribe, in the borders of Misamis Oriental and Lanao del Norte, would constantly head to the nearest coastal town, 14 kilometers from home, to sell bananas as her family’s means of securing basic necessities.
At a tender age of 12, Masilawan was already deprived of opportunities every child deserves to enjoy. Every day she would walk about a 5-kilometer distance on a muddy and bushy path to attend classes in a public school. But Masilawan’s life is destined to change.
A few months ago, the construction of the 14-kilometer provincial road, connecting the nearest town of Manticao to her mountain village of Mahayahay started. Mahayahay village is about 6 kilometers to the borders of Lanao del Norte where a community of indigenous tribe has settled. The majority of the members of the tribal community preferred Manticao, a coastal town east of Misamis Oriental, as the place where they can sell their farm products. The said construction, costing about P238 million is part of Gov. Bambi Emano’s road development agenda for Misamis Oriental.
Emano believes that the opening of new roads and the construction of new bridges will bring the isolated mountain villages and towns of Misamis Oriental closer to oppotunities and privileges.
Mountain villagers heave a sigh of relief where construction of roads and bridges heading to their areas are completed. “For the past 50 years, we were inaccessible and disconnected from the rest of the world. Now, the roads have unshackled us from neglect and seclusion,” a resident in his 70s quipped.
Florante Hipos, head of the Planning Division of the Provincial Engineer’s Office (PEO), said that the 14-kilometer Manticao-Mahayahay road is expected to be completed in March 2019.
Also included in the road development plan for the province is the 62-kilometer project that connects the border of San Simon in Cagayan de Oro City to Lugait. He said that the road project can start next year.
Stanley Oriarte of the Provincial Planning and Development Office, said the 62-kilometer road project will traverse a number of mountain villages in the Second District of Misamis Oriental.
Oriarte said that about 170,000 residents in far flung areas of Misamis Oriental will benefit economically once the 62-kilometer road is completed.
To provide constituents living in far flung areas with access to the markets and development is one of the ultimate goals of Gov. Bambi Emano’s incumbency.
Since he took on the provincial government leadership role in 2013, he has already initiated the implementation of about 734 kilometers of road and bridge projects in the province. Out of the 424 barangays, these newly implemented projects have so far covered 396 barangays of the province’s 23 towns and two component cities.
For the Second District, a total of more than 400-kilometer roads and bridges have been constructed, spreading over its 15 towns and 220 barangays. Another 330 kilometers, covering 10 towns and 176 barangays, were also constructed for the First District.
“The newly opened roads and bridges will certainly help emancipate the mountain folks from isolation, and from being deprived of the basic services they are entitled to receive,” Emano said.
He believes that accessibility through the road development projects he has implemented is now bringing social and economic opportunities to the people who, before he bacame Governor of Misamis Oriental, lived in an economically disadvantaged neighborhood.
(Louie Maliza used to edit the business section of a local paper. He is now with the provincial press office.)