Feature: Dinagat Roads to Development

Passing through the road of Dinagat Island from Cagdianao to Loreto gives Dinagatnons clues of the island’s past and a vivid picture of its current status. It also gives us a glimpse of our future towards development, or perdition.

From the picturesque road of Cagdianao, to the welcome road of Dinagat, to the hilly road of San Jose, to the scenic road of Basilisa, to the Libjo road that dissect Paragua Forest, to the rustic road of Tubajon, and to the historic road of Loreto, Dinagatnons could see indicators of current endeavors towards local development. New bridges, concreting & repairing of roads, and sprouting of public signboards are almost everywhere. Old roads are having a facelift, while new ones cut across uncharted terrains. It is just a matter of time when these roads will be totally paved with concrete.

From these roads, Dinagatnons could see protected watershed areas, reforested coasts & highlands, bat sanctuaries, and marked fish sanctuaries. And yes, one could also see denuded forest covers, coal remnants of slash and burn, house shacks built closely along roads, burnt garbage dump, uncollected litter of plastics, cemeteries that encroached on road proximities, and murky flowing water of streams from mining operations. The juxtaposition of these two sceneries offers great challenges to the new province. Should we be responsible stewards of the place we proudly call home or allow tradition, superstition, peer pressure, financial want, or vote looping obscure our decisions? The response of every Dinagatnon, whatever it may be, will surely shape the future of Dinagat Islands. To discern what is best for Dinagatnons is the responsibility we each carry on our shoulder.

Unlike Butuan, little is written about the ancient history of Dinagat Island. The 20th century however witnessed the emerging of the island in the map of the Philippines. Three major events captured national attention and changed the lives of Dinagatnons. First was the spread of cholera epidemic from Manila to Dinagat in 1930’s that resulted to an octopus effect threatening to dissipate Dinagat’s sparse population. This epidemic eventually spread to the municipalities of mainland Surigao alerting local health authorities on end. Their epic quest to contain its spread was very well documented in Philippine medical journals. Second was the gallant struggle of Filipino and American soldiers against the Japanese soldiers in Loreto Municipality at the dusk of World War II. Their brave stance helped opened the door of Philippine liberation capped by the heroic re-entry of General Douglas MacArthur to fulfill his promise of return after abandoning his comrades in Bataan and Corregidor at the onset of the war. Third was the establishment of a haven for the members of Philippine Benevolent Movement Association in Barangay San Jose, Dinagat Municipality in 1970’s. Their arrival suddenly highlighted the need of more social services in the island. These three (3) major events re-shaped local dynamics that eventually resulted to the creation of the Province of Dinagat Islands.

But the greatest story of Dinagat Islands still has to be written. It did not unfold in our ancient and recent past. But it can unfold right now, right in front of us, under our noses, with the real sceneries we actually see today as the backdrop, and us as the players. It can happen if we Dinagatnons successfully combat environmental challenges and other social ills that confront us today; if we help each other help create a system that safeguards ecological services while ensuring efficient social services to Dinagatnons; if we jump start the new province with the right foot forward & not in our mouth; and if we seize this moment & use it to show smart leadership this part of Mindanao. Yes, we can write our greatest story right now, making our times the golden era of this province.

However, dilemmas should be squarely confronted: Should we choose economy or ecology? Conservatism or liberalism? Exclusion or inclusion? Utilitarianism or selective justice? Democracy or authoritarianism? Money or morality? Personal values or organizational values? Should we choose to protect our environment? Or use environment as a means to our personal end? It is prudent that we choose carefully our decisions especially when the plot of the story we would like to write is full of uncertainties.

Each of us has a role to play. And the role we play today may be considered a lead part by the judgment of history many years from now. It may be the role of a villain or a supporting one, history will say. Moreover, it is the interplay of these roles and its effects that are in fact the real road of our journey as a people towards progress, or maybe perdition.

But whatever the results of our own doing, we should be Dinagatnon enough to face the consequences. Like the soldiers of Loreto, we should be brave enough to look at death at its face. Like the cholera-fighting health personnel, we should contain damages through humility, sincerity, commitment, and hard work. Like most early PBMA migrants, we should show stoic perseverance.

Enough with rationalizations like heaping blames to spirits when we commit dastardly acts. We all have to be responsible and accountable to all our actions. After all we are living in a real world, lest we forget.

Few days ago, an aging mother went to my office requesting me for the signing of the death certificate of her son whom I had not seen. She showed me barangay certification that indeed her son was a resident of San Jose Municipality and actually died at their home unattended by health personnel. But what struck me was her insistent that her son died from “Daut”. Accordingly, her son was gidautan because he died soon after he had a haircut. After reviewing her son’s medical history and the circumstances of his death, it was obvious that her son died from Myocardial Infarction (MI). But still the mother was insistent that it was daut and even suggested that I write Gidautan as the Cause of Death. It was only after a lengthy explanation of the patho-physiology of MI that she accepted that it was after all not Daut. And in long afterthought, she deeply regretted that they didn’t bring her son to Dinagat District Hospital that could have saved his life.

This ignorance is alarming. This shows that we lack proper health Information, Education, and Communication (IEC) campaigns, our referral system is ineffective, our communities have inappropriate health-seeking behavior, and our district hospitals are not that appealing.

Yes, our current road is not perfect. In some part it is dusty, in some part concrete and smooth. But it is this imperfect part that gives us opportunities to hold each other’s hands in shaping our future. It gives us a chance to act a leading role, to stick to universal principles, to fight for super-ordinate global causes, and to transcend beyond ourselves.

In the very near future when circumnavigation of the whole Dinagat Island is already possible due to the concrete road that revolves around the island, Dinagatnons could immediately fathom the profound meaning of social change, see the bigger view of peace & development, discern the lessons of the past, and harness renewable resources in building our future. Not for personal ends or family preservation, but for the common good of the greatest number of Dinagatnons both now and the future.

But each Dinagatnon has to act responsibly, for each our action contributes to our shared concrete road to development.

And maybe at last, this is our greatest story unfolding today. (Adriano Petagara Suba-an, RMT, MD, MPH ,MCHM – Provincial Health Officer II)

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