While the Bicol Region is rich in culture, it is also poor in written history. The last written account was about some events of the second World War. After which, quoting Norman Owen, “Bikol history virtually came to an end”.
It cannot be said, though, that the Bicol Region became too drowsy during the American occupation until it finally closed its eyes and slept after World War II. As a matter of fact, the Bicolanos were as politically active during the post-Japanese liberation era as they were during the Spanish and American periods. Oral accounts say that from 1945, Bicolanos started to be more cohesive that they were noted to vote as a bloc in the national legislative bodies. This behavior were also seen and felt culturally that Region V was referred to by the Bicolanos not as a region but as a province. For instance, whenever a Bicolano is asked as to his province of origin, his answer would always be “Bicol” and not Camarines Sur, nor Albay, nor Catanduanes, etc. Even today, this remains the most common answer.
But despite this cohesiveness, how come nobody thought of “waking up in the night” and writing some sort of a Bikolano history? Or shall we say: Somebody did wake up, wrote a diary, but a modern day Spanish conquistador took over a political fiefdom called “the local government unit or LGU” and burned his diary to ashes?
Looking at the case of the LGU websites, there is more evidence to believe that nobody slept, afterall. It’s just that politics came to play and erased or buried into oblivion the traces of the accomplishments of the previous politicians. A survey of Bicol-based LGU websites show, for instance, that only the incumbents and their accomplishments are recorded as if they have the exclusive right to the domain name (the name of the site) as well as the host (i.e., the server where the data and everything about the site is housed). This is forgiveable if the site was set-up only during their incumbency or when the new local chief executive caused the purchase of space for hosting thus necessitating the revamp of the site to comply with the hosting requirements. The problem, 90-percent of LGU websites were constructed either in 2001 or 2002 and with the help of the National Computer Center (NCC). This means, if the polity is active in replacing their officials, at least two or three mayors already took over the city or municipal government.
In addition to the fact that almost all websites were constructed with the help of the NCC, the “dot-gov-dot-ph” domain name, as well as the hosting site, were also availed of from the said national computer agency. And these were done through the mayors during the 2001-2002 period. In a sense, there is no reason why records of the mayors during those times should be erased.
Well, Count Galeazzo Ciano may be right in saying that “victory has a hundred fathers and defeat is an orphan”. Mayors who lost their posts either through elections or term limits are losers and as such, they deserve what is due. But the problem here is not only the lack of giving credit where credit is due but also the lack of having a sense of history for the immediately preceeding period. For this reason, newly elected politicians tend to re-invent the wheel. Instead of realizing the un-finished agenda of the past administrations, newly elected politicians tend to develop new programs, start with new projects and after three years, finish their terms without having any accomplishments. And then they complain that three years is not enough. If they lost their bids for re-election, the cycle begins again.
Worse, the lack of a sense of history also has an effect to the younger generations. For example, in a mock poll conducted asking who the governor of Albay was prior to Al Francis Bichara, only two out of ten can give the corret answer. And moving backwards from Romeo Salalima, a historical blackhole appears. Even the websites do not contain information regarding this. Not even any data about Jose Maria Penaranda to whom the bust and the Freedom Park in the Albay District is dedicated.
So what then is the use of the LGU websites? Nothing but for the publication of the propaganda materials of the incumbents. And when these incumbents lost his or her grip of political power, so goes the memory regarding his accomplishments. For this reason, it is not impossible to expect that the written history of the Bicol Region will remain as elusive as before.###