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Welcome to Matabungkay, the lost idyllic paradise

12:42 AM September 05, 2015

“Welcome to Matabungkay!” a sign greets as you enter this barangay in Lian, Batangas, from Zobel Highway. And then you see the numerous plastic bags of garbage scattered on both sides of the road.

On my first visit here in 1998, this was an idyllic, small piece of paradise that inspired me into committing to make this place my retirement home. Tourists and residents alike could walk along the beach and neighborhood roads without fearing for their safety. For many years Matabungkay remained such a place, and so I bought a condominium there.

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Then five or six years ago it began to change.

Squatters (land thieves—not informal settlers) began appearing in droves. Groups of men hang about along the roads at all hours, day and night. An entire community of them now lives on a land owned by the Department of Education.

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And gangs of youngsters accost tourists on the beach, demanding money. The beach itself is now spoiled as people relieve themselves in the water, and trash is everywhere. Nobody feels safe walking around here anymore.

Stray dogs roam the place in packs, also at all hours, day and night, posing a threat to people, be they on foot, or on bicycles or motorbikes.

The chatter of karaoke “performances” can continually be heard 24 hours a day during vacation periods despite local ordinances limiting their operation—such that one hotel guest had to ask, “How can you allow people to come here for the weekend and hijack your village?” He and many like him have not been back.

Vehicles of all descriptions, without registration—and likely without insurance—freely ply the roads. I don’t mean just a few of them, but most of them. In fact, the barangay-based vehicles lack registration stickers.

Children as young as 10 years old could be seen operating motorbikes. And to think that one should be at least 17 years old to get a nonprofessional driver’s license.

By far the biggest assault on the law-abiding residents is the engine roar coming from motorcycles with no mufflers—even in the middle of the night.

Apparently, Republic Act No. 4136 or the Land Transportation and Traffic Code does not apply here. As a matter of fact, a barangay official here told me the law only applies on the highway and not inside the municipality.

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Some time in the past, a new, terrifying development started to unfold. Residents were being robbed at gunpoint right inside their homes. This prompted concerned residents to seek audience with the mayor of Lian and the town’s police chief. During our meeting, we voiced all our concerns. They assured us that the appropriate measures have been taken to address those concerns.

The armed robberies have since abated, obviously because police patrols have become move visible. But RA 4136 is still felt nowhere here, even as our problems with the karaoke, stray dogs and squatters continue to pester law-abiding citizens.

The mayor says he would like to see more investments to bring Matabungkay Beach up to “tourism standard” to entice more visitors.

Good luck! While lawlessness prevails and unless peace and order is restored, the welcome sign at the entry road to Matabungkay means nothing.

—TIM WATT, (on behalf of some of the Matabungkay, Ligtasin and Luyahan residents)

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TAGS: Batangas, lawlessness, Lian, Matabungkay, peace and order, Tourism
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