It was a convenient 30-minute trip to Guinmaayohan, a far-flung barangay of Balangiga in Samar. Thanks to Mayor Viscuso De Lira whom the Waray constituents call Viscoy. The rough road that was a dusty, bumpy trail was flattened and has become passable by not only the motorcycle locally called haba-habal but by four-wheel vehicles as well this September.
One of the nurses seated in front of the mini-truck the mayor newly bought for the municipal government politely offered his front seat to me and climbed atop the roofless truck instead where seated the staff spearheading the medical mission scheduled on that warm Sunday.
We passed by a plain covered with root crops intermittently dotted with green grasses on the right side of the road near the river. Driver Mario pointed it to be the place where the Americans camped on years he does not know. Maybe he was referring to the 1900s for it was on that fateful day of 28 September 1901 that the Balangiga Encounter earlier called Balangiga Massacre before it was established to be the former by virtue of Congressman Ramirez’ proposed law – had been launched successfully.
The mayor- surprised for my gate crashing (thanks to the graciousness of his tourism officer Fe Campanero) – calls it uprising though because he is taking the point of view of the Balangigaons. A young lady whom I talked to while strolling in the park facing the historic Balangiga church says the word massacre is violent and thus she prefers the word encounter over it.
Back to the Balangiga municipal government medical mission’s trip. The barangay officials in Guinmaayohan were helpful and even went from house to house to call its more than 1,600 citizens to avail of the medical services with the PCSO’s donated medicines in celebration of its 75th anniversary. It was a nationwide simultaneous medical and dental mission.
Parents, mostly mothers, came with their playful children in tow. Most of the residents complained of upper respiratory tract infections and skin lesions, according to the two doctors.
Barangay Kagawad Maxima Macasaet says they were lucky because free medicines were given during the mission. Segueing the topic to their way of life, the 65-year old community leader says they have always been lucky because land in Guimaayohan is fertile that everything grows on it.
“All we have to do is work,” she said optimistically while seated beside the six cavans of rice she bought in Tacloban then to be sold in her barangay. She is amazed at how the land her husband and she cultivates earns them Php 1,800 a week as it produces calabasa, okra, eggplants and other vegetables.
No wonder this barangay which was established in 1952 according to Barangay Captain Maria Escalo is not God-forsaken.
May the likes of these community leaders and followers strive and thrive. Guinmaayohan (a Waray word meaning for betterment), as the word connotes – sans poverty and diseases – will always be a better place. There is always hope for people whose calloused hands have been charting their own destiny.