WHEN ANDRES Montejo became mayor of Malalag, Davao del Sur in 1994, he dreamed of turning the fifth-class municipality into an agricultural center of Region XI. His town, unfortunately, was not strategically located, stiff competition drove the value of its people’s produce down, the locals lacked technical skills, and municipal employees did not have the necessary capabilities for development planning, resource development, fiscal management, and enterprise development. Neither did Malalag seem to have the capacity to generate its own funds; at the time, it was almost fully dependent on its share of the Internal Revenue Allotment.
Everything was different yet the same. The smell of early morning cooking — fish stew called tinowa simmering in an earthen pot — was a welcome greeting as we crested the last hill of the village. The same puny shrubs snagged our pants and the same emaciated dogs sniffed our legs. But where were the furtive glances, the scurrying away at the sight of strangers, the palpable presence of fear, or the guns openly wielded by almost everyone?
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