Residents of an upland farming village in Malapatan town, Sarangani province can now cross a major river in the area without worrying about their safety, thanks to a newly-opened steel footbridge built by the municipal government.

Town officials formally opened the newly-completed footbridge on Thursday, ending decades of struggle for residents, especially the children.

FOOTBRIDGE. The newly-completed PHP5-million steel footbridge built by the municipal government of Mapalatan in Barangay Kihan, one of the area’s remotest barangays, in Sarangani province. Residents of the village waited for at least 29 years before the “dream project” was realized and finally opened on Thursday (Nov. 12, 2020). (Photo courtesy of the municipal government)

“This is a realization of a long-time dream of our people. We’re really grateful that our officials prioritized us for this project,” Danilo Abdulradzak, Kihan barangay chairman, said in the vernacular.

Abdulradzak said they waited at least 29 years before the footbridge, which is located at the entry point of the barangay and connects it to several sitios, was finally built.

He was referring to the time when their barangay, which is mainly inhabited by Blaan tribal folk, was formally established on August 29, 1991.

The village chief recalled that their residents had to brave the river’s usually strong current, which turns worse during heavy rains, so they can cross and make their way to the town proper.

He said the river usually gets flooded following the rains in the upland areas, posing danger to residents of the barangay, which has a population of over 4,000.

Last September, Malapatan Mayor Salway Sumbo finally gave the go-signal for the construction of the footbridge with an allocation of PHP5 million.

The mayor said the funds were drawn from the 20 percent local development fund for this year of the municipal government.

He said the footbridge, which has a total length of 78 lineal meters, is the second longest that was built in the municipality.

Sumbo urged residents to “take good care” of the project and at the same time take advantage of the huge opportunities that it brings to their community.

“Rest assured that we will also do our part in making sure that more developments will come to our communities and see to it that the local government’s funds will not be abused or go to useless projects,” he said in a statement on Friday.

Barangay Kihan, which is bounded by Don Marcelino, Davao Occidental in the north and Barangay Pag-asa of Alabel town, Sarangani in the south, is accessible by means of “habal-habal” or motorcycle and “weapon” truck.

It is one of the farthest barangays and located some 28 kilometers northeast of the coastal Poblacion or Malapatan town proper.

With the completion of the footbridge, Sumbo said the local government will prioritize the construction of the flood control as well as the upgrading and opening of more farm-to-market roads in the area. (Allen Estabillo, PNA)