Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Day Two in Cotabato: Instant coffee is dirty water with sugar

1. Ces has an aunt who told me a little story about Kapeng Barako from Batangas. She said when she was young, coffee was Kapeng Barako, the type one buys from the market, which is real dried coffee beans and ground with the manual grinder. This coffee is then packed in cellophanes and sold in centavo denominations. Coffee is then boiled in a coffee kettle and served the whole day, not just breakfast. Fast forward years after with the advent of instant coffee. With massive advertising, people were deceived into believing that instant coffee is better than Kapeng Barako. She remembered that they stopped serving Kapeng Barako to guests in their house, and started serving instant coffee, because they thought Kapeng Barako was inferior and should not be served to well-meaning guests. For many years, this is what she believed until she went abroad and lived in the United States when her guests became offended every time she served instant coffee. Then she realized Kapeng Barako is better than instant. Why am I saying this?

I woke up at 6 am and had my first Cotabato shower. I didn't use the heater, because I was uncertain about the inn's eletrical connections. Surprisingly, the water pressure was strong. The water felt great. I wondered how they treat the water and whether the water was ground or surface water. Then, I went down to the cafe after and ordered coffee. Whoa! They gave me Nescafe 3 in 1. Que horror! I told myself next time I vow to bring my own French press and my own brew. I am now being assaulted by a multinational which has managed to convince this country that its great coffee tradition is inferior to Nescafe Classic, thanks but no thanks to advertising and payolas.

But alas, I have to give it a try. I took a sip and made my verdict. This thing tastes like burnt corn! Reading its package reveals that its ingredients are "sugar creamer (contains milk proteins) natural and artificial flavors artificial sweetener and NESCAFE CLASSIC". What is in Nescafe Classic? Why didn't they reveal it in the label? This is not coffee. It's probably a mixture of the cheapest and most inferior coffee beans and burnt Boy Bawangs. Better to say it's dirty water with sugar.

2. The Task Force has a clean and wide office inside the ARMM compound. Curiously, Cotabato City is not part of the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) even as the seat of government of the ARMM is in the City. JC said part of the compound, particularly the auditing and accounting offices, have caught fire mostly due to "faulty electrical wiring". That is interesting, but I have a hunch the fires were caused not by faulty electrical wiring but some finance officer trying to burn an audit trail. Of course, I could be wrong. The meeting wenton uneventfully, but for the fact that again, I have been served Nescafe 3 in 1. I told myself is the the official coffee of Cotabato City? I asked JC if there's a way he could score me a brewed up? He muttered something to the secretary and after an hour, I had my first real coffee in Cotabato. My day is made.

3. We went to the Lourdes Grotto site which is maintained by OMI priests. The place looks like a forest sanctuary. tall trees and vines. They have the stations of the cross all over the compound. It must be a fine place to reflect during Holy Week. JC said unfortunately it has been a favorite dating place for young Muslim lovers. I noticed he was right, because there were about six young couples dating in the picnic area. I couldn't tell if they were Muslims though.

4. I went up the grotto looked at the stoneworks around the image. It's marvelous. I prayed a decade of the rosary because I didn't want to stall JC. By the way last night there was an EWTN preacher who said that we should pray the three mysteries of the rosary because the Pope does so. Being busy is not an excuse because he said nobody could be busier than the Pope.

5. While leaving the grotto, we were met by Fr. Dick Pomier. My friend JC who knows him from way back introduced me as the legal counsel fo the Task Force. Fr. Dick had kind words for the Task Force and he said he was impressed by the presentation of the Archbishop who heads the Task Force. Then, he talked about his frustrations on his proposal to have a water theme park in Cotabato and griped about the commercial complex that was built instead of the theme park. "Who wants to go there? They're selling the same things in that commercial area that they're selling in the downtown area." We bid him goodbye and he sent his regards to our boss.

6. We went to the Pedro Colina Hill (PC Hill) JC said it affords a great view of the city. The road to the top of the hill is spiraling up, but the view is blocked by tall grass and wayward shrubs. The place is poorly kept. When we got to the top, it said that the place is restricted. So we had to go down the same way, although glimpses of the Cotabato City coastline would show up in between the shrubs now and then.

7. On the way back to the inn, we passed by the entrance of the Kutawato caves. It's closed. JC said it has become a haven for drug users and dealers, so the government decided to shut it down. The cave is actually beneath the PC Hill. He said inside the cave, Japanese artifacts from World War II could be found , rusty guns bullets, helmets etc. It is also inhabited by snakes and bats. He said a Norwegian mountaneering group tried once to explore the cave, but they had to stop before they could actually explore it fully. They said the cave has to be cleaned for it to be opened to the public. That's just too bad because the city took its name from the caves. if the cavees are unkept, it somehow mirrors how the city treats itself. I told JC we should make the government of Cotabato City approve an ordinance to make the Kutawato caves a national park. It would surely attract attention from the Indiana Joneses among us.

8. I bought same mats, malong, and shawls for Ces. JC said I should also bring some durian, the foul smelling delicious fruit. I wanted to beg off on the durian, but JC said it's a must.

9. I asked JC, where am I likely to get mugged, Quiapo or Cotabato City? He said Quiapo. Ok, that sounded very re-assuring.

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