Doormats in the countryside

Liloan and Pintuyan are port towns (as well as transit points on the North-South Backbone) but for some reason they are not boom towns. How come? I noticed two things.

First, these towns are not active participants of the sea trade itself. Rather the sea traders on their way to their final destination through these towns “wipe” themselves on them as if doormats.

Second, the lethargy of the local markets has something to do with demographics.

Income. Who among the locals have disposable incomes? In terms of number, coconut/copra farmers comprise the majority followed by the few the wealthy locals (landowners, employed in government, etc.). What do the farmers buy? Coconut trees don’t need much fertilizers, so it’s food which eats up most of their budgets. What kind of food are these? Not chef-cooked obviously but basic ones – rice, fish, a bit of meat, canned meals, bread. They buy these locally, and often, on credit. What do the wealthy locals buy and where? They could go as far as Metro Cebu and Metro Manila to shop and dine on probably the sky’s the limit budgets. So you can imagine how much actually goes into the local market and out of it in the form of re-investments which should further stimulate the local economy. The goods and services in demand by the locals shape the supply in the market: basic things they need basic things they get. The market won’t stock up on sophisticated goods and services that locals because of income and tastes won’t buy.

Now that I mentioned tastes, these are shaped by several factors such as education and technology. Many adults – those with disposable incomes – in the barrios did not – could not – finish high school and so you can’t expect them to start demanding for, say, little black dresses or couture (although I found that wedding gowns are a serious local business but how often would a man or woman wed, right?). If the women party hard every day – which means they will spend on dresses and things – their husbands will probably kill them (or divorce them, so could it mean the increasing divorce rate is due to growth and not really falling out of love?). To keep the peace, there are always the flowery blowsy dresses in the local dress shop. (Still on the subject of tastes, but this is concerning food, the presence of Jollibee in a locality that was a sleepy town is a popular lay person’s indication of local economic progress, and in a way people are correct. Neither towns has the food chain. Yet.)

The youth, as is the case nationwide, makes up the bulk of the local population. Unfortunately, for the majority of the working aged (19 and above), due to lack of opportunities at home, leave to find work in the cities. This is a big loss to the local market. The migrating youth bring along with them their higher level of knowledge and skills, more sophisticated tastes and world views, their economic potential. It is the cities where they work, reside, shop, eat, and party which gain (further grow) by their presence. Well, they can always send home a portion of their incomes but, again, who, back home, decide where to spend that money? Farmer-parents, which find us back to square one.

Unless these parent-farmers first undergo a change (sophistication) in their consumption and investment patterns. Which brings us back to the incongruity of little black dresses in rural towns. Which then means rural should first become urban. I guess if a place is urban it won’t be the doormat; it can now “wipe” itself on a doormat.


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