When one talks of Gubat, Sorsogon, the first thing that comes to mind is Rizal Beach — the only beach in Sorsogon located at the center of a cove and is popularly known for its fine golden sand. But that was before. Gubat has changed a lot both physically, economically, and even politically.
The first time I visited Gubat was in 1993 through a school-organized field trip to Bulusan. Aside from the Rizal Beach, what stuck to me was the lush vegetation and the sturdy trees which scientific names I have to take note well or else fail in the natural science class. But after almost two decades, and stepping off the bus, I, along with the other passengers, was greeted by playful tricycle drivers: Maligayang pagdating sa Gubat na walang kahoy.
From the bus terminal, the next stop was the Rizal Beach Resort as the Internet is scarce with information on where to stay in Gubat. The tricycle driver (sorry, there are no taxis!) brought me to Rizal along with a question, “Saen po kitang Rizal Beach Resort”? Shocked, I asked, “Pira po an Rizal Beach Resort digdi?” His response, “Duwa po.” Later, I realized, the original Rizal Beach Resort is locally known as Aduana and a newer one is called Vera Maris.
I stayed at Aduana and recognized the facilities including the pool as nothing much has changed. Most, though, are worn with time but efforts are being done by the management to repair these. Likewise, I recognized the cove and the familiar sand but too bad, the sea began to eat up the beach. The water also has become brownish probably because of the erosion of the surrounding landmass. A fish pen also rose to cater, of course, to the needs of the people along with a mangrove reforestation area to satisfy, perhaps, the requirements of the DENR.
But while Gubat’s resources were not properly used and its tourist spots not maximized, the municipality did not totally fall prey to stagnancy. Economically, the municipality is inching its way ahead of its neighboring municipalities that to date, it already has an ATM machine; and it boasts of having one of the more stable cooperative in the Philippines if not the most stable in the Bicol Region — The Gubat St. Anthony Cooperative or GSAC. This cooperative was also able to immune itself from politicization and as such, it became the strongest player in the municipal economy.
Of course, the municipality courtesy of GSAC now has a hostel (albeit unpublicized), and the local department store chain in the region, the LCC mall, is now starting its construction for a Gubat Branch. What I still missed, though, is the active and very dynamic competition in the transportation sector. When BU-Gubat Campus was still in its infancy, jeepneys and buses were competing very hard against each other that while jeepneys plying Legazpi-Daraga were charging P5 for the five or six kilometer distance, the fare for Sorsogon-Gubat ranges only from P1.50 to P2.50 for that 19-kilometer route. Such competition eventually “killed” the local buses including the JB Line that at present, the real kings of the Gubat-Sorsogon road are the jeepney drivers. Such kind of competition, though, still remains to be seen today.
Another notable change in Gubat is in the realm of politics and governance. One of the younger mayors in the Philippines and perhaps the youngest in the Bicol Region at this point in time is in Gubat in the person of Mayor Ronnel Lim. Though perhaps because of age that he is finding a hard time to convince the members of the Sangguniang Bayan support his governance agenda, his election to the local chief executive post show a changing political behavior on the part of the people of Gubat. While most of the voters in the Bicol Region are still after more mature (in terms of age) municipal mayors, the voters of Gubat chose a younger one — an indication that the people are now after fresh minds and fresh ideas.
Indeed, Gubat has changed. Even then, it still has a long way to go. Because of the opening of the Camarines Sur Water Sports Complex (CWC) and the Caramoan Island resort both in Camarines Sur, and with the opening of the Misibis Resort in Albay, Gubat’s golden sands may lose glamour. Likewise, with the aggressive efforts of the newly created cities in the region, attention to second class municipalities like Gubat may be of lesser priority. But with the proper direction coupled with aggressive action, it is not impossible for this municipality to assert itself, and economically maximize the benefits from its remaining resources as well as from its being at the fork roads.