By Herbert Vego
TWO places in my home province of Antique bring back pleasant childhood memories. One is the “split river” where my elementary-school classmate Joe Escartin and I used to swim on weekends. The other is the upland site of the original Antique National Agricultural School (ANAS) in the town of San Remigio.
In that decade of the 1950s, the barangay was known as “barrio”. Our barrio San Pedro in San Jose enjoyed the distinction of having two river tributaries that emptied into the nearby seashore. It was actually the mouth of the Sibalom River divided by a wide sandbar. We called the deeper one “suba mayor”.
There are no longer two of them. They have become one, what with the sandbar already gone, and the river has stretched so wide that titled lots on opposite banks have eroded, no thanks to unabated quarrying of rocks, sand and gravel.
More than half a century has passed since our last swim in that river. The mouth of the river is now clogged, heavily silted and darkened by mud deposits. Based on studies made by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), it could endanger the environment and residents.
Two years ago, Joe called up to break the good news that a Manila-based corporation was interested in dredging and reclaiming the landmass, and that he would talk to San Jose mayor Elmer Untaran about it.
The site could then morph into an ideal seaport at the mouth of the river, a transit point for vessels carrying goods from or to other Philippine ports.
Joe and I also talked about government neglect of what used to be the cool rolling hills of San Remigio, which used to be the location of the Antique National Agricultural School (ANAS). The school relocated to Hamtic during the Marcos era.
Today’s young Antiqueños are not aware that San Remigio in the 1950s was way ahead of other Antique towns in its journey to progress. It had electricity and telephone lines. It was known as the “little Baguio” of the province because of its cool climate even during summer.
My late dad, an ANAS teacher, would occasionally take me there on horseback for a 30-minute run from our barrio of San Pedro. We would gallop back home with a sack of cabbages and watermelons which I would peddle around the streets.
The election of first-time San Remigio mayor Margarito Mission — an entrepreneur-franchisee of JD Bakeshop – in 2019 rekindled the Antiquenos’ hope of seeing the restoration of the town to its lost glory as “Little Baguio”.
In an interview with Annabel Petinglay of the Philippine News Agency (PNA), the mayor spoke of plans to further develop the town’s natural tourism spots like putting up a pilgrimage site in Barangay Magdalena; also in Barangay Aningalan, which is famous for its strawberry farm, the rare rafflesia giant flower, and vast vegetation.
The finished road network linking San Remigio and Leon, Iloilo would eventually be opened to vehicular traffic, which would cut today’s travel time between Iloilo City and San Jose, Antique from three hours to only two. No doubt, the reroute would initiate tourism and revitalize agricultural trade along the way.
Meanwhile, San Remigio remains identified as “one of the poorest of the poor municipalities in the region with the highest number of low-income earners.”
That was the ironic reason cited by the Department of Agriculture (DA) why it had cited San Remigio as the pilot site for the Special Area for Agricultural Development (SAAD) program in Western Visayas.
SAAD Program, according to DA spokesperson Sheila Mae Toreno, aims to reduce poverty through increased food production and establishment of community enterprises by providing the appropriate technology, financing, marketing, and other support services in order to make the farmers and fisherfolks productive and profitable.
It may be said that the Covid-19 pandemic has derailed the implementation of the program. But then, sa-ad in Ilonggo means promise.
So let it be done.
CLARIFICATION ON METER MATTERS, BILLING AND DISCONNECTION
MS. MARICEL PE, head of the Customer Care Department of MORE Power, wrote to clarify certain points raised in a past column.
As regards the utility’s meter elevation, she said it should always be at least three meters above the ground as provided by the Magna Carta for Residential Electricity Consumers.
Installation of a new customer’s meter from the mainline (source of power) to the service entrance (receiving end) costs free of charge within 30 meters. Otherwise, the customer should provide the extra wire.
Relocation of electric meters upon customers’ request may be allowed. If based on reasonable ground after inspection, it could be free of charge. Otherwise, its cost will be charged.
On billing payment. Once a customer receives the bill, he should pay the billed amount on the due date. For failure to pay on the due date, he will be served a notice of disconnection. Upon receipt of that notice, he has to pay within 48 hours to avoid disconnection.
Fair and square even for the doubting Thomases.