Monday, October 26, 2009

Day One in Cotabato: All that be can said or Crackberry in Cotabato

1. I remember my former teacher, Fr. Roque Ferriols, S.J. who used to mock tourists who visit a place once and go around telling every one afterwards that they have known everything about the place. The danger really is for me to feel and for people to believe that these notes are complete and accurate. Of course, that is hardly the intention in this enterprise. No one will ever have the complete notes about this wonderful city. Chuang Tsu, right? When everything that could be said has been said, the most important things have still not been said. So, what gives? Let's just say these notes are about travelling to Cotabato City on a Blackberry.

2. On the approach to the runway, the airplane flew near a large mountain which looked spectacular on the plane. I also saw an island which looked like a mini-Negros Island. I learned later that the mountain is called Tuldok Mamot, and the island is Bongo. I haven't been this thrilled landing on an airport since my last trip to Legazpi City when the pilot treated us to a crater view of the majestic Mt. Mayon.

We landed at Lawang airport at around 1:40pm. It's just one runway and a one storey structure but it looks very clean. There is one conveyor belt that waits for the baggages to be unloaded and distributed among the passengers. It really reminds me of the Legazpi City airport, although Legazpi's airport does not even have a conveyor belt.

3. My friend JC who comes from this place took me to a local inn Azolea Pension House, about 20 mins from the airport. He annotated the views on the way to the hotel. I learned that the airport is within the camp of the 16th Infantry Brigade, which explains the two armored personnel carriers (APCs) that I saw around the airport. A nice middle aged lady told me that they are like toys to them because they often see them roaming the city. We took the main road and got to Tamuntaka Bridge. JC said the bridge is often the sight of ambushes and kidnappings, which explains the police checkpoint before the bridge. Then JC pointed to a gated house (pretty large gate actually) and he said the owner there had so much money. One day it was attacked by robbers who killed everyone inside it. I hope he was kidding. I saw signs which said Lourdes grotto. I learned later that they have a replica here of the Lourdes Grotto in France. We passed by the Archbishop's palace and the large and beautifully designed City Hall. The lady told me, however, that it's only beautiful from the outside, which made me wonder what is inside that building.

4. When we got to the inn, I had a lunch of porkchops, rice and Coke. I went online using a bluetooth connection between my VAIO P and the E63. The connection was pretty sturdy as Ces and I managed to talk on video mode for about an hour with minimal interference.

5. Thereafter, JC took me around the city on a pick up. I noticed the big houses looked like fortresses with guardhouses on top of their walls. JC said you can tell that they're houses of politicians because of their fortifications. I saw a Mcdonald's branch near a church. JC said a grenade was hurled their once killing some faithful who were hearing mass and damaging the Mcdonald's store in front of it. Then I saw Jollibee and a mall. When we were passing by the "Chinese" area, it was about 6:00 pm, the shops were already closed because the proprietors fear of getting kidnapped. Then, JC pointed me to Young's Theater, said to be the only theater in the city. It had a big sign in front, which said, "Stop Kidnapping", a pretty loud statement that is more like a cry for help to me.

6. Somebody suggested we eat in a restaurant called, "Peaches". But JC said it would be better if we just stay in the hotel and get somebody to cook crabs for us.Indeed, by 7:00 pm, JC knocked on my door. The crabs were being served on the cafe with Philippine salmon. They were delicious sea crabs, three large ones and several slices of juicy salmon. JC ate them as if they were the most ordinary things in the world. I ate my share quietly savoring the treat. I told myself I would bring some to Manila, when I return.

7. Before retiring to bed, I turned on EWTN channel on the tv. There was a replay of the Pope's mass for Africa. I decided to keep it on until I doze off to ward off the evil spirits. Nighty night in Cotabato City.

(To be continued)

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