Monday, March 26, 2012


GOING AWAY AGAIN to Misamis Oriental this time. My employers needed to have their farthest and most remote detachment at Laguindingan investigated for some lost items. I take a Trans-Asia boat that leaves at eight in the evening and arrive at Cagayan de Oro at 5:30 AM of January 18, 2012.

Before leaving the Port of Cebu, I take a seat inside the public terminal operated by the Cebu Port Authority. You cannot directly embark on your ship without riding a shuttle bus where, in my case, I board mine after the bus took a circuitous route only to drop me about fifteen meters from where I first rode it.

The government could have saved money if passengers were allowed to simply walk the short distance from terminal to boat instead of riding through a long route which, naturally, would use fuel, oil, manpower and other resources. The system is good but there are instances where it would defeat its purpose. It should be applied on a case-to-case basis.

So much for that. Coming along with me is my Sony DSC220 digital camera and an autobiography of Ranulph Fiennes which describes himself as “mad, bad and dangerous to know”. The book had been with me for more than a year and I haven't got the time to read that until I got tired of seeing it collecting dust at my book shelf.

I pass by Carmen Bridge and I see the damage wrought by Typhoon Sendong which hit the cities of Cagayan de Oro and Iligan a month ago that killed more than a thousand people. I begin to wonder what happened to that little girl I saw in 2008 who lived under the bridge right across the Sacred Heart Parish in Kauswagan? It seems a needle is pierced into my heart at that moment.

The public jitney driven by an annoying driver reach the terminal at Bulua and I transfer to a Rural Transit bus bound for Iligan. It leaves its station promptly for the next. The bus pass by the towns of Opol, El Salvador and Alubihid before I alight infront of the Laguindingan town hall.

I take a picture of the building and a policeman approach me suspiciously. He is asking me too many questions and my nerves are beginning to smell trouble. Time to show him my ID and my purpose and, finally, he begins to comprehend that I am no al-Qaeda. He won't believe I am a tourist. Poor cover story!

I take breakfast at a small family-run restaurant. They offer me “La hoya” and I am intrigued. I buy one order for me and it is just beef stew with the same ingredients and given another name or it's just the way folks here name that dish. Just the same, it is very cheap. Anyway, I pay just 45 pesos for the whole meal, to include bottled soda and rice.

Down I go to the village of Sambulawan astride a motorcycle and get inside an abandoned structure that used to be a steel mill. The guards are all there and I start my inquiries. I move about this huge shell of a building with my camera and I notice each living quarters used by the guards are covered all around with fire bricks at chest level.

One hut, aside from the fire bricks, even used other materials such as hard rubber mouldings, rubber tires and concrete culverts filled with gravel. At the far side, are breastworks made of culverts formed in a square that could accommodate one man and there are four of these. They look like midget fortresses.

Amidst all these are huge rectangular holes that are five feet deep that could be used as fox holes. One hole became an impromptu firing range complete with an asbestos target board that have recently welcomed five new holes. One guard showed me the gun that fire such big holes and it is a bushcraft rifle1 made to look like an M16.

These guys are preparing for a zombie attack, I think. They are self-sufficient. They stack lots of firewood, bred hens and roosters and utilize a lot of dogs as their alarm system. They had been forced to improvise a defense system when they were surrounded by a belligerent community who coveted the steel structure which can be converted to cash if you have time and know-how to cut it in small pieces.

Just like in the movies. I admire these guys for their steadfastness and resourcefulness. At the end of the day, I rejected the notion that they have had to do with the missing roof sheets. It just blew away when Typhoon Sendong came. Force majeure!

Might as well spend a night at this place. Buy lunch and, later, dinner for them. I choose a slab of concrete that project over the ground and spread my ground sheet over it and then place my sleeping bag. There is no breeze and I get a worry of them mosquitoes. I collect a couple of coconut husks as my mosquito repellant. It gives off thick smoke when lit with fire.

The night is dark as there are no electricity here. Even my natural night vision find it hard for me to work my way around for a leak. I remembered the fox holes and I don't want to fall into one. Now I have to consider answering the call of nature in a not-so-comfortable distance but bushes are nearby me and I put on green leaves on my small fire from time to time.

I like these guards and they have kept their shotguns in good order although they have short supply of ammo now. I spend breakfast and lunch with them the following day before I proceed back to Cagayan de Oro at three in the afternoon. I pass by the bridge where a little girl lived underneath it and it is washed out now and I found drops of tears stream out of my eyes.

Walk my way around Cogon District and look for something to temper my heart. I found it and I buy ten pairs. These are the biasong (sp. Hystrix macroptera) and the tabon-tabon (sp. Atuna racemosa) and they make your raw fish dish taste heavenly. Trust my wife, she does magic with those.

Leave for the Trans-Asia boat early and I make my bed at six in the evening and continue reading about Ranulph Fiennes. This guy is really mad, bad and dangerous to know and has something to do with the “Feather Men” that had became the base story of a recent movie – Killer Elite. I admire his expeditions. I see myself in his shoes someday.

I am so sleepy that I ditch my urge to have supper. I sleep early with a heavy heart. That little girl under the bridge is always on my mind. Tomorrow I will do her memory good by absolving the guards of a harsh accusation with my report. Really, it’s the least that I could do and it would, at least, help me recover my stupor.

Document done in Libre Office 3.3

1Home-made rifles that fire glass marbles. It uses denatured alcohol as propellant that is ignited by a disposable-lighter igniter attached to the trigger.


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