Saturday, February 27, 2010

Down on the South: Jack’s Ridge

* a small exhibit/display at the entrance of Jack’s Ridge; I like this shot for it highlights the lighting of the display [1]

Finally! A history piece. But upon checking on our saved pictures and comparing those on the things available on the internet, they are essentially the same.

Thus I am now making a first here, a direct quotation from the Jack’s Ridge page, as can be read too if you are to visit the place:

* Jack’s Ridge famous amphitheater [1]

* rocks from the past? [1]

“The land on which Jack's Ridge now stand once formed part of the headquarter of the retreating Japanese forces towards the end of the World War II. The Americans had landed in Davao on May 1, 1945, forcing the Japanese to beat a path to Matina Hills where they had a commanding view of the Davao Gulf where the American ships were anchored. Fierce fighting soon erupted between the two forces, and as history shown us, the Japanese lost.

Today, more than half a century later, Jack's Ridge is filled with reminders of its historic past. Caves dug by the Japanese pockmark the area, and once in a while people still find bullets and other war materials in the rocky soil.

There is also talk that hidden somewhere in the caves are gold bullions and other treasure that the Japanese had taken from other countries and brought to Davao.

Whatever the truth is about the treasure, Jack's Ridge maintains the feature that made it an important outpost for the retreating Japanese forces, a commanding view of Davao City and the Gulf, the same view within the premises is also refreshing, since the owner has made its mission to preserve the natural beauty of the place.”

* team UPLB [1]

* can you discern the height of the place judging from the lights on the background? [1]

The ‘commanding view’ description is fitting enough, as can be seen from the photos here. There was also a discussion during our visit there that the place used to be a part of the sea floor. But man, if that height was the seafloor back then, I can only imagine how big the seas and oceans were before! We were shown those curious rocks half-embedded on the grounds that could possibly stand evidence to these claims. Lastly, one thing that has stuck into me during our visit was the strong smell of goat dung found just outside the place.

(Next stop: Samal Island and the Philippine Eagles)

Thursday, February 25, 2010


 * on the grounds of EDSA Shrine

No opinion written for the reading public can satisfactorily fill in for the almost-perennial issue of how much of the EDSA People Power of 1986 'spirit' is still alive today. And noises made by angry, young voices in protest and cannot fully answer the questions of why the present administration seems to ignore, in every possible way they can, the commemoration of what could be one of the most important historical events in our recent history.

The Philippines does not lack the mechanisms to make the Filipinos every year aware of the historical events that need commemoration. Only the people undergo their own “historia-coma”, embracing lame excuses as work and multitude of activities in skipping to remember, even mentioning historical events.

I am in the realm of pessimism. Having immersed myself in the past few months in digging in Philippine history from the late 50’s up to the EDSA Revolution of ’86, I cannot help but have this feeling of regret for two reasons. One, because so much of what is being taught in the basic education (and I am talking of what I have experienced as a student) cannot fitfully serve as strong foundations for giving the students a reason to seriously regard the nation’s history. Yes, lame and certainly inadequate. Do we have to wait until the kids of the present generation reach young adult age to understand the beginnings of the communist insurgency in the country and the so-called 'reasons' for declaring martial law and the dark times that went with it? We cannot really earn money just by knowing something about history. But how can you call yourself fit and healthy when, despite having money in your pockets, you know nothing about our local history? It’s the same with being a gastador–a spendthrift–for we have not invested our time very well.

For the second point of regret: that personally, I am lagging behind in terms of the understanding of our history. I do not, in any way, disown my stay as an applied physics students; it has taught me so many things that I cannot imagine to learn anywhere else. But that excitement upon seeing the connections about this certain published historical event to the other moves me into digging more about them. (In a way, I am self-publicizing on the possibility that some institution or organization can sponsor a budding history buff like me to pursue a history-related degree.) But what’s this rant all about anyway?

EDSA, of course. 

For it is so easy to say that ‘yes, we join the people in celebrating EDSA I’. It’s like a birthday party. Practically anyone can go there, join in the celebration, eat the food there, but not really understand the reason for the celebration.

If we are to just spend every February 22-25 in passive acknowledgement of the EDSA People Power, we would only be breeding a later generation of ignorant children, totally uninterested in the details of its own country’s past.

Malalim ang pinag-ugatan ng EDSA I; ang pagkakapaslang kay Ninoy ay isa lamang malaking paggising sa mga Pilipino na tuluyan nang nawalan ng kumpyansa sa rehimeng naghahari noon, rehimeng may kaniya ring motibasyon sa pagtatakbo ng bansa. At marami pang bagay tayong malalaman, mga kaganapang mas maaga pa sa Agosto 21, 1983 na malaki ang maitutulong para bigyang larawan ang mga nangyari bago at habang nakababa ang batas militar sa Pilipinas.

I do not say that we spend our lives in seclusion in the libraries. Books are good of course, for they have the almost permanent status of detailing to us the part of history that we want to understand.

Next to it, I believe in discussions, discussions with people of older generation, of the same generation, to whom we could share our thoughts, insights, and experiences, and gain in return their own thoughts, insights, and experiences. With this, I believe, we could nourish our arsenal of Philippine history knowledge. I really long to have those discussions with people. Crippled temporarily by present activities I have to finish, I wish to see myself touring the country in search of people to talk with, be it with tribal people sharing their myths and legends, to the elders about their World War II experiences.

In the end, dear chance reader, do forgive me for having these thoughts. Do not take this as arrogance or anything. I only wish to stir the minds of those who would chance to read this and perhaps plant in them that germ of conviction to participate actively in cultivating a vibrant history-oriented attitude among the Filipinos.

[This entry appears also in ‘Viole(n)t Mugs’,]

Down on the South: Ponce Suite

* behold the Ponce Suite! [1]

If there would be something you might want to experience in
Davao, one of the things I’d definitely suggest is to stay at Ponce Suite.

* the stair leading to the upper floors [1]

* the second floor still littered with creative artworks [1]

* a closer look at an artwork [1]

Situated nowhere near the main thoroughfares of Davao but certainly a place sought after by tourists, weird or not. To a certain extent, I was quite surprised to learn at that time that Ma’am Blessie Basilia (of DOST and MAPUA) has checked in to that suite. But let’s drop racking our brains for her reasons. The place itself is a gem, as if the semi-seclusion of the place from the mainstream activities of Davao encouraged the making of that huge number of artworks that decorated the place.

* UPLB delegation outside the Ponce Suite [3]

Now of course I can no longer remember well each of those works that almost covered Ponce Suite. Suffice it to say with confidence that the owner (and perhaps the artist/s himself/themselves) has no reservations whatsoever for his/her/their creative outbursts, charging with all bravery and giving physical forms to those wild ideas of theirs. Some might find it creepy, but peculiarity does not necessarily equate to morbidity.

(Jack’s Ridge story coming up!)

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Down on the South: Downtown Davao 2

* students getaway – off to a local mall with Ma’am Hariz and Darril [3]

* at an eat-all-you-can restaurant, notice the seaweeds dish, man they are treasures! [3]

Being student participants in the conference, we were conferred with a seemingly default freedom. Unlike teachers who could possibly earn the ire of their colleagues if they do not focus on the activity at hand, we were essentially free to roam the venue in general, on-conference and off-conference.

I did not venture too far from where we were staying, primarily because of the fear that I might get robbed or I might get lost. Thus I stuck with my fellow students at that time. One of our escaped was to a local mall (Gaisano is the name, I think) and with so many Davao stuff to look at and ask the prices for, the trip is essentially worthwhile. I also remember lounging in the National Bookstore branch there and digging into books. Probably not a good way of spending a visit to Davao but certainly good enough for us. Later we ate at the food court, having initial difficulties communicating with the crew but Ma’am Hariz saved us the trouble (Ma’am was from the Visayas).

* a local bazaar where you can buy all kinds of souvenir stuff [3]

* down and out, after the shopping [3]

* photo shoot at the room! [3]

The next big escapade was to an eat-all-you can restaurant where almost all the seafood I could think of was there. And one of the things I’ve learned to enjoy immensely there was seaweeds (the other one is durian shake). Slimy, yes, but tastes like heaven when ate with the soo good vinegar dip.

And if I remember it right, later that night we went to a Mandarin-something hotel and went down again to a seemingly endless eat. It was he first time I dug in to a full arsenal of Japanese food.

Later I shall relay the short history note I have alluded to in my previous entry.

Down on the South: Downtown Davao 1

* Aveflor Inn, our modest abode during our stay [1]

* student attendees at the time; Darril Ramos, Trailer Pransis, and Ma’am Hariz Forio [3]

Can I call it metropolis? For that is the initial thing that occurred to me as I traveled in a contract-mode taxi through its circuitous roads, half-afraid that I might get mugged as I was obviously a stranger with all my stuff. The mere presence of taxis is evidence enough of its developed state.

But if one should be sensitive enough of a city’s past, one can dig in some books that Davao City has been the scene for many incidents of insurgencies and local upheavals, most of which were done by or through the NPA (more on this on a later entry). Needless to say, its growth as a city cannot be plainly described in terms of gradual, sigalot-free, process. As for innocent visitors like me at that time, the night time is especially enticing.

Walking through Davao streets cannot be said to be boring for one can essentially enjoy the sights, tourist or not. Most of the streets are still awake with activities through the night.

* the Marco Polo Hotel [1]

* picture taking at the Marco Polo Hotel with Professor Herrera [2]

* lobby leech, still inside Marco Polo [2]

* the presidents’ wall [2]

* tapestry? framed big at the Marco Polo lobby [2]

The inn where we rented rooms for our stay is situated strategically, close to some of the big time hotels, Ateneo de Davao, and important establishments in the city. But I cannot claim that it is at the heart of the city, for until now, I cannot scale the expanse of the city, having only toured to some of its parts. It’s a big city, there’s no doubt about it.

* behold, Ateneo de Davao University! [1]

* Ateneo de Davao entrance [3]

* view of Davao proper from Ateneo de Davao [1]

* view from Ateneo de Davao with the seas visible at the horizon [1]

We had the conference in Ateneo de Davao but I believe we have pent more time sighting seeing and touring than at the conference itself. Need I describe the size of this school? Maybe I should put forward instead my hunch that a famous blogger, of ‘Village Idiot Savant’ works there. If only I have known the person at that time, I could have had a good lit-time with him and with the lit-people there.

Did I say I was not able to have some history notes? Well yes to a certain extent. But my first tour the night I arrived there proved to be a very important place in Davao’s recent history.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Down on the South: Davao City

* downtown Davao City in the morning [3]

My recollection of our trip to Davao City is not to show that I no longer have any more trips to relay here in Back Trails. The reason for doing this is that the trip is characterized by pure excitement that I did not really expect at all. I remember having to take (in haste) my general chemistry final examination to catch my flight and having to pull myself up after falling away from a loved one. My mother has been hazy about her consent about the trip, thus having learned (probably from my sister) that I have flown alone (yes, alone) by airplane to Mindanao, I got one good scolding from her through the cellphone, and ending in a light note by reminding me to bring pasalubong for them.

The reason for the trip was to attend a physics conference, the details of which I decided to omit here. Instead, I would chop our trip into several entries, focusing on those places we have visited. I’m afraid that I can’t input any substantial historical tidbits here, for I did not really made any significant historical notes there. Allow me to confine myself to descriptions of the places and experiences. Welcome to the south, the great place that is Davao!

As I have not brought any camera at that time, I will use the photos the UPLB delegation has collected in the almost-week long stay in Davao.

[1] Photos from the camera brought by Professor Emmanuel Florido
[2] Photos from the camera brought by Professor Marvin Herrera
[3] Photos from the camera brought by then fellow student Mark Daryl Ramos

Travel’s Speed

* Crossing-Calamba, Laguna

Sometimes speed can be one of the most potent sedatives for our strongest emotions. I have seen a young couple drove an owner-type jeep recklessly inside the U.P. Los Baños campus while they are obviously in a bitter quarrel. I have seen a motorcycle slid down the main road after slipping off a flooded part of the road in Calauan, Laguna. I have witnessed a motorcycle crashed into an island in San Pablo City, Laguna, the rider’s arm pitifully broken. If not for such incidents, speed on the road could prove therapeutic in the face of our own dilemmas and worries.
Riding inside a nearly empty jeepney on the way home, I could have reached for the driver's shoulders and tapped them gratitude for allowing me to experience again those exhilarating moments in transit, when I felt that the 100+ kph thrust of the vehicle seemed to have stripped off my problems.
It is not an escapist thought. Perhaps we humans are designed to share feelings in our own ways.
I do not know if I am making any sense here.
I enjoyed immensely my ride in the jeepney last night.
That’s it.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Oriental Mindoro Tours: Dulangan, Baco - A Dream Land, Almost

* two drunk men, I suppose, having their small problems, on the way to Dulangan

* a view of the rough road, the fields, and a portion of the mighty Mount Halcon

* an army truck from the mountains; I tell you, you don’t want to meet it on your way - it scattered all the dust and dirt in the vicinity

* Trailer Pransis trying to rest

Among the numerous eskapo (escape?) trips on the island of Mindoro, the trip to Dulangan in the town of Baco has been uniquely inspiring and risky, as would be explained fully later.

As far as I can remember, we boarded a jeepney bound for San Teodoro in order to reach Dulangan. Their jeepneys were exceptionally long, perhaps to accommodate more people for that long travel and one has to pay on a conductor at the end of the vehicle, like the ones in Davao. We dropped off at Cinco, this one I remember the most for I was able to make a poem with that title.

Tricycles were available for the trip to Dulangan proper, most of which were in contractual mode. We had to pay 90 pesos I think for it, but decided instead to wait for other passengers. Since it has been three years ago, I cannot possibly go into details about the fare. One thing is certain: it has been a long trip, battling on the way against dust, dirt, and rough roads.

Prior to the trip, I have already heard of the stories about members of the New People's Army (NPA) inhabiting the mountains and a certain resort somewhere in the mountain which was unfortunately destroyed by the onslaught of typhoon Milenyo in 2006.

* the sun looking down brightly on Mount Halcon

* a small sapa that people have to cross in order to get to other side of the barangay

* the sapa looks fairly shallow

* the kids after their school, it was during those moments that I had a genuine urge to be a teacher

* Trailer Pransis posing at the makeshift bridge

It should not be surprising to one visiting a place in the province to have people greeting you as if you are a royalty. They treat visitors from other place (as in our case students from UP, which was enough back then to solicit respect) with so much enthusiasm you would have an idea that they long for new things. We visited some people to which my companion has relations, and they have that feeling of pride in having a relative from UP.

We then proceeded to visit a local high school. One has to cross a makeshift bridge over a sapa (creek?) in order to reach the place. A seeming isolated place, the school stands amidst the fields at the foot of the mighty Mount Halcon. If there has been any instance where I was treated like a celebrity, it was when I was there. The students almost ran out of their rooms to get a look at us, as if we are already in the Hall of Fame of the celebrity world. I can no longer translate into words the intensity of my feeling back at that time, when I realized that these young people here has so much to know about the world. They seemed to be satiated at their situation, but there was that air of longing to go beyond the borders of that wide expanse of rice fields. Thus, the title ‘Dream Land.’ Being there makes you want to dream for more, not because that not all things are provided for in the place, but because the serenity of the place and the creeping stagnation – as if things are suspended in dreams there – compels you to have a wider horizon of plans and dreams.

We talked to a budding teacher there; one who we knew has spent her college days working to sustain her school fees. Although she has so many chances of employment in Calapan, she chose instead to teach there perhaps because her family is there. In any case, I did not pursue the issue about dedication and heart for the education of the children.

* a CAT training at a local high school in Dulangan

* the rice fields below Mount Halcon

* I hope this Philippine flag has been replaced already

* the sun calling it a day already

With a torn Philippine flag still waving tiredly atop the school's flag pole, we traced the path back to the main road and ate a small snack of mami at a roadside carinderia. I can still remember a kite being flown on the other side of the road where an elementary school can be found. Having that experience, I would divulge later on to my companion that I wanted to be a teacher and teach there, to be there as those young people grow and share to them the things that I was able to experience and learn beyond those rice fields. It never felt like burden. It felt more of a newfound direction of my life. Too bad, things got a little out of control in the university and I am now currently treading a somewhat divergent path from that dream I conceptualized in Dulangan.

* the barangay arc of Dulangan II

* in transit we saw what could be a tamaraw

* a beautiful sunset sky and scene

We reached Cinco by dusk time and we had to spent more than an hour waiting for a passenger jeepney (and at the same time suffer under the thought that we were not going to get home that day) before a sympathetic tricycle driver finally agreed to bring us to a certain junction. Unfortunately, I forgot the name of the junction. From there, we boarded a jeep back to Calapan. The trip to Dulangan, Baco was both tiring yet inspiring.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Addendum to Bundok ng Tikew (Mount Kalisungan)

I am still wondering about the monument erected just a few kilometers below the top of the mountain, a monument very similar to the one placed at the back of Baker Hall in U.P. Los Baños. But that one marks a spot where there used to be a mass grave. I wonder if that monument in Tikew was erected for the same purpose.

Incidentally, there was once a veterans’ office just a few meters away from it. Also, there is this big caved in portion and I am thinking that a bomb caused it.

Better look into them one of these days.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Interlude: Bundok ng Tikew (Mount Kalisungan)

 * view of Bundok ng Tikew from Calauan in the morning

Situated between San Pablo City (Barangay San Mateo) and Calauan, Laguna (Barangay Imok), Bundok ng Tikew, or to be more precise Mount Kalisungan, is easily identifiable because of the P.L.D.T. antenna on its top. Passing near its top aboard a jeepney between 8 and 9 in the morning I did not expect to experience such cold air there. I have always passed by the place when I was still a full-time student but never experienced that. Looking outside the vehicle it appears that this part is not usually reached by sunlight in the morning for the mountain blocks it as the sun rises from the east.

This may seem inconsequential, if not irrelevant. But thiis only shows that we can have new experiences in places that we would otherwise treat as ordinary.

Nature indeed has lots of surprises for us mortals.