Saturday mornings I quietly spend with my brothers in the old banwa, but the last one was different. While the political heat in Bacolod was palpably rising, I went home to Hinigaran to join the same political exercise that was happening in the entire country: the launch of the campaign for local elections or opening salvo as we know it. As if I needed more political excitement.
I did not realize it then, but this homecoming was something more than just attending a political campaign. I was not only standing up with the rest of my kasimanwas as they try to recapture the town’s leadership, I was in fact rediscovering the town I have left but never really left 40 years ago.
It was a journey back in time, as we drove through the old streets, and saw closely once more the nooks and crannies where I once trudged and played and walked and ran. This was when I realized that indeed, I have never really left this place.
I saw the crumbling past and dynamic present as well as the rising future in the houses we passed by: some old, some new, some under renovation, others under construction. I saw shopping centers where once stood a gas station, huge buildings where shanties once thrived.
There were a few sights that wrenched the heart: the public plaza I could no longer recognize; buildings and decors, most of them ridiculously out of place, have risen here and there. I kept looking at this mess and all I could think of is they’ve swept away the past. This town has better taste that this!
For the first time since I left, I am joining the politics here, albeit only as a small time campaigner. Two developments brought me here: the plan to demolish the old bridge, and the other to rehabilitate the public market which will entail the entry of Gaisano.
To my mind, the demolition of the old bridge would be the last straw against the unrelenting attack on the town’s culture and heritage. There is completely no reason for them to destroy the bridge, not even with their proposition to widen the new one. If they had enough respect for culture and history, they’d find other means to widen this. Which begs the question: do we in fact need a wider bridge? Or do we not need a wider highway first?
The other issue, the rehabilitation of the public market, raises so many questions which have not been fully answered by the current leadership. For one, we still have to know exactly what the plan here is. How will Gaisano enter the picture? How much space will it get? What will it occupy, the ground floor or the second floor? What is the assurance that our vendors are not displaced in any way? There are other concerns, but lets all sum it all up: there is need to lay down the plans for this and be forthcoming about them. This is a huge project for the town, and we’d like to know what we are getting.
By now, it is obvious which side I am in this. I am with the opposition, led by the unassuming Paul Yulo whom many of us prevailed upon to run lest there be no challenger to the incumbent.
The motorcade last Saturday felt like it was the late 70s again, when Nonoy Aguilar won mayor in a historic fight as independent against the Marcos’ Kilusang Bagong Lipunan local bets.
There was a long line of cars and tricycles which participated last Saturday. People thronged in many parts of the route, there were cheering and dancing.
Watching these, I couldn’t help but think about Tito Nonoy’s campaign and victory, how people simply wrote “Nonoy” on the ballots and nothing else, lest they be suspected of not writing “KBL”; how they guarded the counting well into the night and carried the ballot boxes to the municipio, where more vigil went on to protect the votes
So, yes, it can be said, my hometown predated the EDSA People Power revolution by a decade. Will there be a second edition this coming May? To the political observer, that is an interesting development to watch. For us, that will tell whether we can still hope for a rebirth of our banwa, or not anymore.
We are ready to be counted.*