Bonbon river

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Wednesday, August 27, 2014


I CLOSE my eyes and I can still picture in my mind the river in Barangay Bonbon, Cebu City when it was largely untouched. “Largely” because before I ever set foot on that river, some spots near the riverbank were already the sites of coal mines built during the heydays of coal mining in Cebu. Trucks carrying coal crisscrossed the river then.

The Bonbon river is one of the tributaries of the mighty Mananga river in Talisay City. But it also sources its water from smaller rivers, like the one that meanders down from the waterfalls in the mountains of Morga. The Bonbon river is thus wide even if it is a mere tributary.

I wasn’t alone when I first followed the entire stretch of the Bonbon river. I was in a passenger jeepney that we rented for a trip from Talisay City to a village in Bonbon called Campo, which was located at the innermost edge of the river and at the foot of a mountain.

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Before the Cebu Transcental Highway was built and the road branching off to Bonbon proper was developed, the only way a vehicle could reach Bonbon was through Talisay City following the Bonbon river. Today, vehicles can go to Cebu City proper using the Barangay Busay route.

We travelled at night and darkness limited our vision to areas reached by the glow of the vehicle’s headlights. There was no problem following the route to Campo 4 in Talisay, but it was when we followed the riverbed of the Bonbon river that I started to worry.

The driver was a stranger to the place and we were negotiating the route in total darkness. He only relied on the instructions of a Bonbon resident who was at the front seat and who was familiar with the look of the riverbed and the depth of the water in areas used as vehicle routes.

While my companions tried to doze off, I couldn’t will myself to sleep. I was worried not only because the jeepney could plunge into deep water but also because rain could make the water level rise. But it didn’t rain until we finally reached the village of Campo.

Even at night, one could sense the might of the river. That sense became more pronounced when I became familiar with the river after years of staying in its environs. It was much wider than the Guadalupe river that forms the boundary of our place in Sitio Kawayan, Barangay Sambag 2 with Barangay Calamba.

I don’t know where the Cebu City Government built the Bonbon bridge. But I know that population in that barangay grew considerably after the Transcentral Highway was built and the road going to Bonbon proper was paved. I passed by that road years ago and I was amazed at how the once lonely Sitio Mawmawan in Bonbon has become lively.

But with growth came the problems associated with it. The river has become the site of illegal sand and gravel extraction causing the weakening of the Bonbon bridge. I could just imagine the holes that must be adorning the water-shaped flatness of the riverbed.

So the problems hounding the Mananga river have also bedeviled its main tributary, the Bonbon river. I often pass by the Mananga river and have seen how urban growth has destroyed its once pristine look. Aside from the illegal extraction of sand and gravel, garbage is being dumped into it and structures are creeping into the riverbank.

What is happening to Bonbon river is sad. For me, this is more worrisome because only barangay officials can be relied upon to protect this important natural resource.

Bonbon is far from Cebu City’s seat of government and the activities of people there could not be monitored by city hall daily.

(khanwens@gmail.com)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on August 28, 2014.

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