Quezon Province, no doubt, is one big stretch of a country. A former governor once mused that Pres. Quezon, being a semi-dictator in his time, personally delineated the metes and bounds of his province, Tayabas, using a pencil in the presence of the chiefs of the Bureau of Lands and the present day National Mapping Authority. He made it a point that Tayabas had a taste of the Pacific, the belly of China Sea, the cheeks of Sierra Madre, the heels of Mts. Cadig and Labo, and the sharp elbow of Ragay Gulf.
LAND IS A MAJOR ASSET OF QUEZON
Quezon is indeed geographically unique. It pre-empted Laguna and Rizal from the sea. Thus, present day development plans integrate the geography of Quezon allowing the landlocked provinces access to the waterlines. This might also be the reason why our neighboring provinces look at our tie lines with envy. Almost everywhere, we are beset with boundary disputes and not one of them is satisfactorily resolved. In 1998, we had a rare opportunity to fine comb the vastness of Quezon.
Not an unchartered frontier, Quezon province’s enormity, breadth and length, is awesome. While along the northern fringes of Gen. Nakar, you feel as though you are in Nueva Ecija or Vizcaya and the spoken word thereabouts has a hint of “apay ti didyay”; while in Infanta or Real, you’re in the ribs Laguna and Rizal mouthing the Siniloanins famous “ay naku, nakakita ako ng tren sa Tutuban, habang-haba, sunor-sunor!”; if you are in San Antonio, you hear the twang in words “aba’y asan ka na ga? Lugar ng barako na ire”; or somewhere in the peripheries of Calauag or Tagkawayan “oragon, sain ka maduman?” Moving southern phallus-deep into San Andres, goodness you’ll be talking Greek, Waray and Bisaya “Ano an iyo kinahanglan, mga manunulay?” Wait a minute, have you been to Patnanungan and Jomalig? Why, you are practically a stone’s throw away from Waikiki dancing the hula near the navel of the Pacific. Thus, once you have roamed Quezon you would have duplicated the feat of Vasco da Gama.
QUEZON: THE IDEAL INDUSTRIAL HUB?
Our soil consists of sandy loam. Pres. Quezon knew that only the coconut could successfully thrive in our land. He was right, in the short haul. Soon christened Tayabas, after discarding the archaic Kalilayan, the province became coconut country. While not a single nook of its terrain is planted to coconut, the character of the tree became the character of its people.
Whenever we see bulldozers cutting the nourishing lands of Laguna, nakakapanghinayang as Laguna’s lands are for agriculture. The same is true with Batangas. Bakit ang mga industrial estate ay nasa Rizal, Laguna at Batangas samantalang napakaganda ng kanilang kalupaan at patubigan? Quezon, given the access right to infrastructure should be the site for industrial zones.
There are good locations for export processing zones: the Pagbilao reclamations, Plaridel or Hondagua with its cantilevered natural coastlines, Unisan with its rolling California-like landscape, and the expanse of the Quirino Highway in the 4 th district – all 30 kilometers of it from Tabugon to the boundary of Del Gallego. Mabato at mabuhangin ang kalupaan natin, not fully suited for an agricultural economy, except the Bondoc Peninsula.
We are superior locations for container ports, expressways, airports, refrigeration installations, manufacturing hubs and the like. By opening up these areas to export processing zones, we are giving our people access to employment. We cease to be a migratory people. With their multiplier effect, foreign investments ripple towards alternative livelihood better than the 45-day waiting period of the now dwindling niogan. Awash with economic opportunities, the extra freebie cures the perennial insurgency problem besetting the province. A full stomach is an antidote against false ideologies.
WE LACK ENLIGHTENED LEADERS
Before, a 10-hectare niogan could send the entire brood to college producing MDs, lawyers, and engineers. How about now? Need I say more? Some crackpots look at legislated division as the panacea of the ills plaguing the province. Korea was sliced into two, just like Germany after the Second World War. History tells us that dividing one contiguous land and people does not generally spell prosperity. North Korea is now on the verge of famine and obscurity. Its people are suffering from ignorance and abject mindless communist dictatorship as reported by Time (June 26, 2000) during the recent historic visit of President Kim Dae Jung to the North:
“The two societies are light-years apart as well. In the north, an entire generation of children has been stunted by years of malnutrition. Hundreds of thousands, perhaps more than 1 million North Koreans have died of hunger in recent years amid a nationwide agricultural collapse. A massive outpouring of international food aid kept the numbers from climbing much higher. Foreign visitors come back with tales of doctors carrying out operations without anesthetics, of hospitals washing and reusing cotton swabs. In Pyongyang, the rhythms of life hark back to a previous century: the city goes dark at night. And the most common way of getting around town is by foot across the border in Seoul, where cars clog the streets and cell phones are ubiquitous, the 21st century is well under way.”
East Germany failed to measure up to the technological advances of its relations in the west. Masyadong malayo na yata tayo. Closer, let’s come home to the familiar.
THE CASE OF AURORA
Quezon province was geographically decapitated when Aurora was declared an independent province and Baler, its capital. The raison d’etre for divorcing Baler from Lucena was its alleged obvious physical isolation from the rest of Tayabas. They said that one has to travel all the way to Cabanatuan to reach the birthplace of Manuel L. Quezon and to transact business in Lucena City, a good 250 kms.
The southern politicians from Santayana-to Constantino- to Robles-to Alcala-to Caliwara were complaining about the difficulty of campaigning in that godforsaken place, and in the wet month of November at that! They were talking about waves as big as super tankers, and travel by land, veritable lunar landscape, was a death-defying adventure. “Kasya ang 6×6 truck kapag nabuslo ka,” Adiong Caliwara, in one amusing anecdote, told us. “Mangangampanya ka doon, napakahirap pumunta katapus-tapusan isang pamilya lang naman ang pupuntahan mo, ayos na.” One may ask, ano na ang nangyari sa Aurora? Aba , ikaw na ang sumagot diyan.
In one issue of the Inquirer, a Baler correspondent interviewed a jeepney driver who plied the Baler- Cabanatuan route. His view was a revelation. To date, the roads from Nueva Ecija to Baler and its neighboring towns of Maria Aurora, Dipaculao all the way to Casiguran and Disalag up north, are in state of disrepair. As if we were caught in a time warp, the same road condition as what Robles, et al. encountered during their time, exists today. And you are talking of 60 years ago or some four generations past, yet Aurora now is ruled by the Angaras, a dyed-in-the-wool Quezon family.
THE OLD TANADA OPPOSED DIVISION
Atty. Jorge Vargas volunteered the information that during the legislative hearings on the bill recommending the separation of Aurora from Quezon, the venerable Senador Enchong Tanada sent an urgent wire to Lucena pleading to the local leadership, “please object to the bill proposing the autonomy of Aurora as a distinct local unit”. He said that weaning Aurora from Quezon was not the solution to charting its future or the prospects of progress for the whole province as it would only create homegrown principalia interested only in personal economic advancement. He was proved correct by what we witness today. Let us not talk about pinagpalang kahirapan. Whose kahirapan? For the people or for Kongresman Poncio Pilato? The Bishop of Lucena is keen on the division. That was when he reigned supreme in the Gumaca diocese. He thinks that the 4th District is historically ignored. Somebody is humoring the good bishop.
Truth to tell, no one is serious in pushing the bill dividing Quezon, except those with scandalous political agenda. Kami na ika ang hari sa distrito namin. As Benjamin Franklin said during the signing of the Declaration of Independence creating what is now known as the indivisible United States, “we must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately”. Right now, we have not heard from the good bishop if he is still a kindred soul of the proponent of the segregation.
Besides, there is a well-known, existing in-depth study by the DILG published in the Inquirer that says in a nutshell – it is more expensive for the central government to finance a new local government unit whether it be a city, province, town, or barangay than to maintain the original unit. Rightly, because the new creation entails a new bureaucracy foist to inflict to its new constituencies the red tape that comes with it.
As the economist, Merton Miller said while explaining his M and M theorem that won him the economics Nobel prize in 1990, “if you take money out of your left pocket and put it in your right pocket you are no richer. The shape and number of pieces do not affect the size of the pizza”. The creation of a new pocket entails expenses, then why create a separate pocket in the first place? Since we are no richer, we become poorer. If the trend is to make big – Bigger, why persist in transforming small – Smaller?
The new province as proposed is ready to be devoured by home grown chiefs interested only in pelf and privileges. The family of the frustrated governor from the Bondoc Peninsula shall smother us poor Silanganins with their brand of skewed politics. Gagawin lang kaming hanapbuhay ng pamilyang ito.
Remember that the power behemoths are all in 1st District. Quezon del Norte takes the 1st and the 2nd. QPL and First Energy, formerly Mirant, a total investment of US$2B, are both in the 1st District. The 2nd district boasts of commercial and industrial lands meteoric in value than those of the 3rd and the 4th. Income from real property tax alone in Metro-Lucena, the crown jewel of Quezon, ? i.e., the City of Lucena, Sariaya, Candelaria, Tayabas, and Pagbilao is enough to backstop the annual government operations of the province. On the other hand, what does the 4th boasts of? We only have the Philippine Flour Mills in Hondagua, Lopez. PFM pays miniscule land tax to Lopez certainly insufficient to support a new province.
How about the 3rd District of the Suarezes? The local treasurers of the 12 municipalities have no official record yet on how much that section of the Province pays in land taxes. The good congressman of the 4th District appears abysmally misinformed. Unless he wants to rename Quezon del Sur as Province of Tanada after his name sake, the former Senator Lorenzo Tanada.
With the current cutting edge technology, the 40 towns and Lucena City can be wired in one loop and by a flick of a finger call in a teleconference the mayors of Jomalig, Guinayangan, San Andres, and San Antonio.
The Bondoc Circumferential Road was made possible by a foreign grant. What happened to the almost P1B CDF of the Suarezes from 1992 to 2007? To date, the Tayabas-Sampaloc-Mauban road sphere remains unfinished, thanks to the sloth and stupidity of Ex-Governor Enverga who gets reelected time and again. By allowing dismemberment, instead of kicking out mindless trapos who ruled the political roost for generations, we betray our state of mind as masochists.
GERRYMANDERING THE SOUTH
We have seen the Plazas gobbling down Agusan del Norte; the Chiongbians, Saranggani; the Antoninos, Dadiangas; the Lobregats lording it over in Zamboanga del Sur, etc. Quezon with its proud tradition and open-minded public has not elected a movie star yet…and any dynasty for that matter. Many tried and failed. Idolatry has no place in these parts. This ploy however is effective in bringing home the message to Lucena that the fate of the province does not depend on it. The choice of leaders is not a monopoly of the second district. The people of Lucena being more, presumably, cosmopolitan and urbanite are, again presumably, broadminded, issue-conscious and do not generally pander on the inanities of politicians.
The whole of Quezon, with its enlightened electorate must select men and women who best represent the ideal Quezonian as a public servant. And they can be found from all the corners of the province. Otherwise, the rest of the province will nurture tampo, which in the end might snowball into resentment for being left out, and therefore, clamor for division. This sentiment is no longer just a sliver of thought – it has reached a concrete stage in the form of the Quezon del Sur bill that has passed muster in Congress.
Once the choice of future leaders is pervasive and truly representative, then perish the thought of dismemberment.