The International Writers
At four oclock,
in the humid dark of a Philippine morning, buses and trucks begin unloading
their human cargo. While the vehicles return to the city, to collect the
next batch, the volunteers congregate around a stage, in an open field,
enjoying the guitar riffs of a live rock and roll band. Grandfathers,
grandmothers, children, soldiers, students, police, teachers and city
employees have all turned out for the Pista Y Ang Kueban, the annual Feast
of the Forest, tree planting festival. By 9:00 AM a crowd of more than
30,000 people is expected to plant trees, adding to the hundreds of thousands
which have been planted in previous years.
Re-Election of Mayor Edward Hagedorn
conscious Mayor Hagedorn was sworn into office to the backdrop of
the Pista Y Ang Kueban, the annual Feast of the Forest, tree planting
The tree-planting festival is just one of the many environmentally motivated
programs implemented by the citys Mayor, Edward S. Hagedorn. It
was only fitting that the Mayor, who was recently re-elected in a landslide
victory, should take his oath of office among the reforestation festivities.
I feel great! Because our beloved Father of the City is back to
serve the people. Said Dennis Santos, a long time resident of Puerto
Princesa who turned out to plant trees. The mayors re-election
is important not only for the city, but for the people living in it. He
has done so much for us.
Since his first term of office, in 1992, Mayor Hagedorn has arguably become
the most famous small-town mayor in the world. In addition to winning
a slue of international prizes and awards, the mayor has been heralded
by the press as a modern-day Robin Hood, walking around with a sack of
money giving patronage to the poor. His critics have called him an old-style
ward-boss, buying the hearts and minds of his constituents. For the People
of Puerto Princesa, however, he is recognized as the man who greatly increased
the quality of their lives. In the face of a Philippine federal government,
which CNN referred to as The most corrupt in the world, Mayor
Hagedorn appears to be the one man they can trust.
His opponent in the recent elections was Ret. Gen Eduardo Matillano.
The Generals unofficial slogan was eliminate or assassinate.
Said a journalist, working in Puerto.
The threat was taken seriously. Leading up to the election, security was
tight, with the mayor constantly surrounded by uniformed SWAT team members,
carrying assault rifles.
The General was involved in so many bad things in his term as a
police general. Said Dennis Santos. Mayor Hagedorn won because
the people trusted him more than the General.
Santos went on to say, Before Mayor Hagedorn took office,
life was bad. There was illegal logging, illegal numbers, and crime.
Other residents said, The streets of Puerto were filthy. The
garbage wasnt picked up for days or even weeks.
At that time, the city dump was located only a few hundred meters
from a school. I couldnt believe that the students and teachers
had just learned to live with the smell. Said Mayor Hagedorn.
The quality of life is much better here than in Manila, financially
and environmentally speaking. Said Dennis Santos. His campaign
for the love of nature really helped us. The air here is fresher than
the polluted air of Manila.
Knap Sitchon, an NGO worker had this to say, I am so proud that
he was reelected, because I voted for him. His re-election is important,
because of the preservation of the environment. He loves nature.
Hes the best. Without Mayor Hagedorn, Puertos environment
might be in big trouble.
When in comes to the quality of life in Puerto, all I can say is
that, we live in a peaceful and wealthy environment. We have lots of job
opportunities here. We have clean surroundings, and the people are
disciplined. Said Knap Sitchon.
The mayors greatest achievement was Putting Puerto Princesa
City and the whole of Palawan Island on the map. Said Dennis Santos.
Before, all anyone knew of this place is that it was a leper colony.
Also, the outcasts of the country were sent here to finish their sentence
in Iwahig Penal Colony.
One of the greatest strengths of Puerto Princesa is the peoples
sense of community involvement. Every club and civic organization was
represented at the festival; Girl and Boy Scouts, the JCs, Lions, Rotary,
Womens League, sports teams, and soldiers both male and female.
Visitors came from as far away as Taiwan as well as representation from
the provincial governor and mayors of other parts of the Philippines.
Two rock bands and a traditional Filipino band were hired to entertain
the massive crowd. Even Mrs. Philippines was there to smile and plant
He just turned the city into the cleanest city in the whole country,
known to all, not just here in the Philippines but in other countries.
Said Knap Sitchon. His greatest achievements are the conservation
and protection of the environment, and creating a more progressive Puerto
Princesa. He taught us that we might not be able to show our richness
to the next generation, if we were not able to protect the environment
The Mayors message has been carried to the entire population.
I am here to plant trees so we can preserve the natural ecology
of Puerto Princesa. Said a 17 year old high school student, named
Alessa. She was accompanied by a large group of her schoolmates, all wearing
A man named Antonio and his wife were waiting patiently for their turn
to plant a tree. I have been planting trees with Mayor Hagedorn
since the beginning. My wife and I grew the seedlings on our farm and
then gave them to the school children to plant. He marveled at how
large the festival had become.
A hush fell over the crowd, as up on stage, the rock band was replaced
by a priest who said a Catholic mass. After reading from Saint Paul, a
verse about the importance of service, the priest said, I am quoting
from Spiderman, With great power comes great responsibility. He
went on to say that Mayor Hagedorn, unlike many others in politics, uses
his power responsibly, to help the people.
The moment had finally come when Mayor Edward S. Hagedorn would mount
the stage and take his oath of office. The oath and the speech following,
were relatively short, compared to the long-reaching impact he has had
on the history of Puerto Princesa.
City officials were called to the stage to release birds, to signify a
prayer for peace. Next, they released butterflies, signifying their love
After a thunderous applause, the mayor thanked his constituents, and took
his leave. Manny Pooh, the most popular stand-up comedian in the Philippines,
seized the microphone quickly taking the crowd from a somber moment to
an occasion of raucous laughter.
In the positive energy of the morning, citizens speculated about the future
of their beloved city.
In the next ten years there will be no more squatters living by
the shores of Puerto Princesa. Said Knap Sitchon. The mayor
has already built good resettlement areas they can live in. More tourists
will come to visit, and the city will have a greener environment.
In the next ten years we hope that the city will be more urbanized
and more and more tourists will come to know Puerto Princesa. It is the
Last Frontier. Said Dennis Santos.
Antonio Graceffo is an adventure author living in Asia. He writes about
ethnic minorities, martial arts, and languages. He is the author of four
books available on amazon.com
Contact him Antonio@speakingadventure.com see his website
© Antonio Graceffo July 2007
Get Antonios books at amazon.com
The Monk from Brooklyn
Bikes, Boats, and Boxing Gloves
The Desert of Death on Three Wheels
Adventures in Formosa
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