Bukidnon summer escape

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Friday, May 16, 2014


SUMMER is almost over and if I remember right, I mentioned in my previous article last month how I fantasize of sandy beaches, how I crave for coolers, and how I want to spend summer with my significant romantic other.

But alas, not everything came true.

Well, I did satisfy myself with coolers but those were only bought in malls.

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As for the first and the third item, I’ll cross the bridge when I get there.

Nonetheless, I was still able to enjoy my summer but from a different perspective.

My summer escapade officially started last March 17 (quite early) when a special order came out and said that I will be augmenting the validation team for the registration of Set 7C ‘Pantawid Pamilya’ beneficiaries.

For those who are not so familiar with the program, Pantawid Pamilya is a poverty reduction program which aims to improve the lives of the Filipinos particularly in matters of health and education.

My assignment? Bukidnon. It was great, I thought, since I'd be able to go home on weekends and visit my father but relive as well sad memories of when I lost my mother last January.

But I was too excited with the idea of travel, and all sorts of expectations came into my mind.

I imagined the picturesque mountains of Kitaotao or maybe San Fernando, the tough waters of Pulangi River that we may have to cross, the vast sugarcane plantations in Quezon that we have to pass by, or maybe the fresh high-value crops that we could buy in Lantapan.

I was getting to travel the whole province — imagine that!

Definitely it was mostly about work but there is always fun in one’s job if you love what you are doing.

Not to mention that I was with my provincial colleagues, equally competent and flexible at the same time.

My first stop was Damulog. This municipality will always have a soft spot in my heart since my mother-in-law hails from this place.

The wife of the former mayor of this town happens to be a relative of mine and interestingly, the current mayor was the one who officiated the wedding of my in-laws.

I sort of admire Mayor Tiongco when I had the chance to meet with him last year in one of our planning workshops.

And boy, he has a good-looking son who happens to have the same first name with my son, too.

I sensed that the mayor was an advocate for peace and development, a public servant who knows the dynamics of development or poverty reduction programs, and how they are being implemented.

We were gladly welcomed by the municipal social worker since the mayor that time was in Manila for an official travel.

We were bombarded with questions and clarifications from the crowd but it all ended just fine.

Next stop was Kibawe. I thought that my fieldwork for the second day would be just chicken — but I was really wrong.

Kibawe did not only offer me a steep and muddy terrain but also gave me goose bumps when we had to cross a swaying hanging bridge, popularly known as “Skylab,” riding a single motor.

The road was so narrow that only tires of a single motorcycle could fit in it.

No exaggerations here, really. I had to ride on the right side and sit on a flat piece of wood with the steep rugged cliff under me.

Literally, I was floating on air.

The road to Barangay Sampaguita may have been hard but the scenic view of the mountains made me gasp in amazement.

I estimated the distance to be around 17-20 kilometers from Kibawe proper.

When we arrived in the area, we were greeted with genuine smiles from the indigenous peoples and their ‘datu.’

We heard stories about how critical the area was since this was the favorite spot of crossfire between the military and the communist rebels.

The area even extended to nearby barangays such as Pinamula and White Kulaman.

But nothing compared to that challenging moment when we had to walk barefoot for almost two hours because of the heavy rain.

We were about to go home during that time but unfortunately our 17 year-old habal-habal driver could not take any more the thick mud surrounding the area.

I really do not know if it was the driver giving up on us or his motorcycle. Whichever.

I was just concerned with the printer, laptops, and the boxes of validation forms that we had with us.

I only remembered falling down several times, slipping through the sharp stones and thorny makahiya plants, and walking over cow’s dirt.

Or was it from the horse? I don’t remember anymore. I had no choice but to laugh at myself, enjoying this one-of-a-kind experience.

Despite the difficulties that our team went through, we still managed to smile as we passed by elementary kids soaking wet, them and their makeshift bags made out of sack drenched with rainwater and heavy mud.

I could not help but admire their resiliency, and the resiliency of teachers and other development workers who went through that terrain every day of their lives.

Surely, there are still a lot of things and other interventions that our government can do for these hard-to-reach areas.

I stare at the white bond paper in front of me. Next stop will be Dangcagan and Kitaotao.

“Will I be greeted with thick mud and slippery slopes again?” I ask myself.

The worries and questions can wait, though.

For now, let me enjoy the soft cushion of my bed and savor my cuts and cramped legs, a genuine remembrance of my summer adventure. (Divorrah Estrada-Meneses)

Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on May 16, 2014.

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