The river of return

By August 27, 2022Entre'acte

By Rex Catubig 


FIVE years ago, as we chronicled the city’s past seven decades, there was a scathing outcry that put into question the city’s evolution in the coming years. The core of the outburst was the planned relocation of the city hall and creation of a new growth center.

I grew up close on the heels of Dagupan’s cityhood. In those early years, Tapuac where the public high school stood, seemed a far-flung destination–so remote from the poblacion that for us students, it was almost another world.

To make room for the school’s PMT training, assembly and other large gatherings, the adjacent large parcel of land was donated by a family and became the track and field oval and site of athletic meets. The family that generously bequeathed their property in the name of public interest, never gave a thought they would subsequently profit from what was undoubtedly a philanthropic act.

In the mid-60’s a new City Hall began building in the donated land. It was a stone’s throw away from the then Mayor’s residence but nobody cried foul. It was the legal status of the site that halted the building’s completion.

Years hence, the surrounding areas–the rice fields and the water lily covered swamps where boys scoured for apuler–were backfilled and concrete structures sprouted. The ecological habitat was obliterated. Needless to say, property value skyrocketed and business boomed.

As this happened, no one raised a red flag and ignited a ruckus about vested interest and environmental backlash. And remote Tapuac prospered and became just para jeep away.

Going forward, in 2019 as Balon Dagupan was envisioned, a controversy erupted. The planned site was questioned for its remoteness and its disastrous environmental effect.  But most alarming was the suspicion that the property owners would amass vast wealth in the process – as the intended donation of the lot was deemed a Trojan horse, a case of Greeks bearing gifts.

The concern was the alleged millions the Mayor and her family stood to gain.  It was claimed that the donation was mere pittance compared to the “return on investment“.

Had it been owned by another family, would that have precluded the abrasive response to the issue? Making it less questionable?

Alas, our Lilliputian mindset prevailed. The Mayor lost her bid and Dagupan lost its chance to grow.


Now, as we embark into our Diamond decade let us rethink our priorities. Now is the time to embrace change and make our city relevant to the times but respectful of its legacies. We owe it to the next generation to get out of our comfort zone–the outdated, crowded downtown– and escape from the claustrophobic city. Let us take the risk to seek new frontiers within the city’s vastness.

I dare say that the población will never be home for the adventurous future Dagupenos.

Years ago, our progenitors in search of their Shangri-la started out from the mouth of the river and sailed their way inland, inhabiting the kaniyogan. The time has come to complete the cycle, rekindle the dream, wander into uncharted horizon, and discover the riverbanks anew–there to create the settlements for the next generations.

But to pursue this new beginning, we have to unchain ourselves from the shackles of fear and suspicion and ill will.  We have to relearn trust, thereafter join hands and together cross the bridge to our future.

The meandering journey back to the river, the glory of kapasolan, starts from the hopeful heart.

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