ILIGAN, Philippines – In this day and age, one would be surprised to find an entire town in the country without electricity.
Such a place still exists in the land ruled for more than half a century by the Dimaporo political dynasty.
Some 2,000 feet above sea level and more than 100 kilometers from Iligan City is a town that has never seen a supply of electricity.
Nunungan, the largest town in Lanao del Norte in terms of land area with a population of more than 18,500, has a local government that operates by using small diesel-powered generators.
It officially became a town during the first Marcos administration in 1968 and has remained a third-class municipality in Lanao del Norte’s 2nd District even after about five mayors took turns in running the local government since 1986.
The district is represented in the House of Representatives now by Sittie Aminah Dimaporo, a third-generation member of a powerful family that dominated Lanao politics since the administration of the late strongman Ferdinand E. Marcos.
Dimaporo succeeded her father Abdullah or Bobby, son of the late congressman and governor Mohammad Ali Dimaporo. Her brother Khalid is the representative of Lanao del Norte’s 1st District while her mother Imelda is the province’s governor.
At the Nunungan town center, there are a few solar-powered lights, and only a handful of families with small generators can afford to light up their houses at night and enjoy the small luxury of a few appliances.
Naim Dimak, a barangay chairperson and head of the town’s Liga ng mga Barangay, said town residents have long been clamoring for a supply of electricity from the Lanao del Norte Electric Cooperative (Laneco).
“We have been dreaming of electricity for years. I was born and grew up here without electricity. We have been neglected,” Dimak said.
Local officials and Laneco executives said Nunungan was practically isolated for years due to the absence of a road linking the 473-square-kilometer landlocked town to the rest of Lanao del Norte, with the issue aggravated by serious peace and order problems, many of them cases of rido (clan feuds).
Nunungan Mayor Marcos Mamay said life in his town can be difficult for people used to urban living, the reason why attracting investors has remained their biggest challenge.
“Going off the grid means changing your lifestyle, and leaving many things behind,” Mamay said.
He added, “The people of Nunungan have been clamoring for change for many years. They have suffered enough.”
Yet Mamay is not a new town mayor – he has been Nunungan’s chief executive since 2016, the fifth to hold the post since 1986.
Mamay, who was elected on September 29 as the national vice president for external affairs of the League of Municipalities of the Philippines (LMP), said local officials, the Dimaporos included, had to work on providing a better road first to make Nunungan accessible to the rest of Lanao del Norte.
The town of 25 villages has seen a ray of hope with the local government signing on September 22 a memorandum of agreement with Laneco and the firm Lanao Builders and Enterprise for the supply, installation, and construction of a power distribution line.
The project will be covered by the 2015 Pamana subsidy project of the National Electrification Administration (NEA) started during the Aquino administration.
The agreement was signed by Mamay, Laneco chairman Khalid M. Dimaporo (not the congressman), general manager Zenaida Fabunan, and Lanao Builders general manager Omar Noor.
Mamay said the town saw the deal signing as a “historical event” that could change many things and spur Nunungan’s economy.
He said he hoped that the town would see itself in Mindanao’s power grid before his term of office ends in 2025. – Rappler.com