Saturday, October 25, 2014

A GREEN ISLAND IN A SEA OF CONCRETE & STEEL


IT WAS A SOMBER EVE before the feast of the Sinulog.  I am sitting on a steel bench inside the Cebu Country Club in the early evening of January 18, 2014, my attention is on the picket line of displaced caddies, nursing their placards and their unsteady future along the sidewalks outside the exclusive golf course.  I am personally supervising my wards enforcing the club’s policies and help maintain peace and order here after yesterday’s tension.

Gliding unhampered now are Cebu’s elite and expatriates with their flashy cars and expensive SUVs making their way among the open parking slots.  Tonight is the awarding ceremony of the prestigious Coral Invitational Golf Tournament which had ran for two weeks and was unexpectedly terminated on the last day when the caddies blocked access to the golf club.  That picket line is now gone after a peaceful dispersal and negotiation.


The parking lot is full but, as minutes tick by into hours, it had thinned slowly, allowing me to ease my watch.  Some of my wards are astride these battery-powered golf carts, doing their rounds of patrolling the fairways, invisible from view, right here on the parking lot.  They came to pick up their packed meals that the club provided free to the security detachment, which gradually increased since January 5, because of the caddies’ forced strike.  

It would be good for me to take a ride on one of those golf carts and do a night survey on the farthest reaches of this 18-hole golf course.  The night is cold.  Winds stirred by a tropical depression off Surigao made it colder still, adding to the cold that the northeast monsoon winds usually bring in from Siberia at this time of year and I had enough of it on the parking benches, even with my thick Alburqani jacket.  I need to stretch my legs and the fairways is a good option.      

I had never done a thorough survey of the golf course in daylight but I had conducted inspection on some parts of its protective fences from the outside.  The golf course is 55-plus hectares in land area with the main part of its lot belonging to Kasambagan, Cebu City where it is accessible at its main entrance located along the busy Governor Mariano Cuenco Avenue.  The rest of it is within Subangdaku, Mandaue City.  

The Mahiga Creek partly runs through the fairways and becomes part of its boundary with Gentle Breeze Subdivision.  The golf course is bounded by several plush subdivisions, high-end condominium projects, an international school, a heavy equipment yard, a furniture factory, warehouses, commercial buildings, a spa, a temple, a techno bar and some individual residential structures.  

Cebu Country Club used to be part of the Banilad Friar Lands which had been expropriated by the Americans after the Spanish-American War of 1898 and sold to a private individual named Luis Cabrera.  It was a choice lot then considering that it is on a high ground surrounded by marshy areas, places where the Mahiga Creek used to fill in when it overflowed.  It is a pleasant rolling terrain conducive for ranching, farming and recreation like horseback riding.  It changed ownership and it belonged to the golf club now.


A subordinate offered to drive the golf cart for me and tour me around the fairways.  It is a perfect moment to check the guards stationed along the perimeter and to stir them from their ennui caused by this cold night.  Another golf cart with two armed guards offered to provide escort.  As soon as we left the bright lights of the clubhouse’s greenfront, it is dark.  The golf carts do not have lights and I use the hand-held LED torch issued to each cart for navigation along the concreted cartways.  

The path weaved among the greens, the sand traps and the putt mounds.  Rows of pine trees (Local name: maribohok) lend an air of coolness, its needles whistled when stirred by the cold night breeze.  Growing also here are mahogany, eucalyptus, gmelina, India berry, ashoka, acacia, rosewood (narra), Mindanao gum (bagras), sweet tamarind (kamantsile), Malabar almond (talisay) and other trees which I could not identify due to darkness.  I saw an ancient strangling-fig tree (balete) standing mighty and proud – a source of imaginary fear.

We pass by several ponds, part of the design and obstacle for struggling golfers.  The ponds contained carps and tilapia and forgotten golf balls.  I saw toads hopping on the grass and I believed I saw fleetingly of what looked like a molted skin of a snake snagged underbrush.  Then the path wind beside the concrete fence lighted by nearby houses until we reach a break in the fence and a foot path lead to a solitary house which the club left alone as it is standing on a small creek easement, considered government land.    

It is silent save for crickets and the ripples of water.  We made a detour and resume the path that follow the course of the Mahiga until we cross a small bridge and continue on to the bank across us where a small man-made lake is located.  A palm tree is half-submerged in water, a victim of Typhoon Yolanda.  Nearby is a pen for domesticated ducks.  These are released during daytime but are driven back into the cage before dusk.  A canal feeds the lake with water and, for the fishes, morsels of food coming from the clubhouse.

The fairways are off limits to enterprising outsiders, who enter surreptitiously to collect stray balls and sell these to members.  It is also forbidden for anyone to catch ducks and fish.  Hunting of birds and other wildlife are not allowed.  Long ago, there used to be marshlands nearby and had been the roosting and feeding grounds of migratory birds but it is gone now and these birds alter their habits to the present ponds.  Although sometimes a nuisance for golfers, the club let it be.  Two guards are stationed here with a golf cart for mobility.


Driving on, we proceed and the carts easily maneuvered about between mounds and among a copse of mango trees.  We stop by a closed restaurant in the middle of the greens where two shotgun-wielding guards are stationed and a cart parked alongside.  Nearby is a coop for Guinea fowls.  Just like the ducks, it is freed at daytime and herded back before nighttime.  These fowls are utilized by the guards as a natural alarm system.

We leave that station and I saw a lot of debris arranged on the side of the fence.  These are broken branches or remnants of some of the surviving trees growing on the fairways which were downed by Yolanda’s 215 KPH winds.  In a little while, we will be back to the clubhouse but the cart failed to accelerate on a high grade and conked out.  We changed carts with our escorts and the driver maneuvered into the front driveway where I alighted.

The Cebu Country Club is a verdant island in a very crowded metropolis of concrete and steel that has diminishing green spaces.  It nurtured a micro ecosystem that had developed through the years under the noses of the very people who made the fairways their playground and of another set of people who made the golf club their livelihood.  The caddies, the gardeners and the security guards may have noticed plant and animal life in their midst but their knowledge are limited.  However, a survivalist sees everything.

An abandoned fairways is a safe refuge of a surviving individual if ever SHTF comes to Cebu in a magnitude comparable to that of Tacloban City after the onslaught of Tropical Cyclone Haiyan and could sustain a small community of survivors in the long run.  The soil is clay loam underneath Bermuda grass and a thin layer of sand.  Water can be sourced underneath the ground while rain water can be collected on the existing ponds or channeled to a future reservoir.  

The ponds can be enlarged and converted into small-sized rice fields; the open fields can be planted with corn, rootcrops, vegetables and fruit trees.  The ducks and Guinea fowls may have been bred there for a purpose by the club and can provide regular nutrition.  Drinkable water can be had from even a shallow well if you know where to find it although it had to be treated well since golf courses are known to use abundant fertilizers to keep their grass perpetually green.  Firewood are plenty.  


The creek and the ponds are a magnet for migratory birds and these are another source of protein.  Flowering plants growing along the periphery of the fence should be left alone and these attract pollinators and supply beehives of nectar.  Stones can be placed in warm open areas to lure small mammals and reptiles by its excreted mineral salts.  Pygmy coconuts may have to be grown to supply oil, fuel, food and vinegar.  Other bamboo varieties can be introduced to provide housing materials, fuel and food.

The golf club’s location is, without a doubt, conducive for conversion into a survivor’s redoubt.  It can be protected against intruders since it has an existing fence and it is on high ground overlooking east with the Mahiga Creek partly functioning as a moat.  Rooftops of houses along the fence can be used as observation posts and, possibly, sniper nests.  The weak spots along the fences can be plugged by propagating spiny bamboos (kagingkingon), bougainvillea and rattan palms.

There are endless possibilities by which you could harness the fairways to your advantage.  I doubt if club members have not noticed this, especially those who are into prepping.  I understand it is a rich boys club but when SHTF comes, it would be abandoned, I am sure of that, because the property is collectively owned under a corporation.  No individual owns 51 percent of the stocks.  Not even 10 percent.  Besides, they have their own private properties and businesses to take care of and this is the least of their worries.

Document done in LibreOffice 3.3 Writer

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