(First of two parts)
HIMAMAYLAN CITY, Negros Occidental, Philippines – The sun was high, its heat blinding, searing as an Army truck full of soldiers made its way up a rough, rocky stretch of the mountain road that cuts across sugarcane and coconut plantations.
“Subidahon (steep),” an ex-Red fighter who was there on that day described the road in Bulod, a poor sub-village in the barrio of Carabalan in this then town.
It was the turn of the century, in the middle of dead season in the sugar industry.
A year before Himamaylan became a component city of Sugarlandia.
The town police later reported it as an afternoon ambuscade, the rebels called it a “silot (punishment)” against the “pasistang kaaway (fascist enemy).”
The national leadership of the “revolutionary” movement praised the Negros rebels for exacting a high price on the “reactionary” State.
Seventeen soldiers killed in one blow.
A national record for the Negros Red fighters.
On a Monday, 21 August 2000.
Twelve years before that, also in the middle of tiempo muerto but during the Semana Santa, elite soldiers killed a family of five, parents and three children, who lived inside a hut that riddled with bullets from a Scout Ranger unit led by Capt. Melvin Gutierrez.
That story, linked to the murder of wealthy sugarcane planter and logging firm owner Serafin Gatuslao, was immortalized in the book “Dead Season” by American author Allan Berlow.
Death, poverty, war, hardships and the occassional distraction and fanfare brought by religion and elections defined Himamaylan for decades since the Spaniards founded it and once made it a provincial capital in the 1700s.
Fast forward to today.
The carabaos and goats grazing on its roadside, mute witnesses to war, will see hundreds of bikers passing through this month as the Tour of the Fireflies return here.
This year’s ride, dedicated to frontliners, will see two legs, the regular and endurance ones – an innovation brought about by the need to avoid the clustering of people, a measure against the COVID19 spread.
The Tour, now on its second run here, are among the activities that Raymund had been encouraging since he became mayor, an indication of how the Bacolod-raised and university-schooled chief executive understands marketing concepts. [READ: Tour of the Fireflies kicks off tomorrow]
Or branding as the craze goes nowadays.
But this new brand of leadership goes beyond videos of drone shots with EDM overlays or social media gimmicks.
It is deeper than that.
Observe in this interview (insert link to one on one video) how Raymund responds to a question about the previous administration.
“I am not in a position to really say what happened in the past,” he tells DNX but hastens to add that what he plans to do is to maximize resources for the more than 100,000 residents of this third-class city.
IN PART TWO: Indi lang lalabyan and how roads matter to Himamaylan’s future