CATEEL, Davao Oriental (MindaNews/31 December) — Light rain turned the road misty and gray up ahead. We had entered the municipality of Baganga in Davao Oriental.
“It’s been three years to the day since we were here together,” I reminded RR as we slowed down to make out the sign leading to the turnoff for Lambajon. Working during university breaks is a long-running habit for us at COPERS. While we recognize research and extension to be co-equal responsibilities we take on as university instructors, we’d rather not use either as an excuse to not be in the classroom when we should be.
Three years ago, RR and I took advantage of the Christmas break to work with the children in Bgy. Ban-ao. It had then been merely three weeks after Typhoon Pablo struck. As with most of Baganga, Ban-ao lay in ruins, its homeless residents huddled mostly in tents brought in by our friends from Balay Mindanaw. We at COPERS had been among the external organizations that hoped to help the village recover from its disaster experience
In the three years since, we’re happy to note that Baganga had somewhat recovered. Past the bridge that led to the wet market, we grabbed a bite to eat at a random roadside stall. That we had a choice where to eat was quite an improvement from three years ago when there was nowhere we could eat. Every time we had a deployment in Baganga then, we had taken to bringing boxes of pastil to eat on the road and to share with the typhoon survivors. Later, the Incident Command Post that was set up at the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) facility allowed us the use of a tent to accommodate our transient teams. The ICP people even shared their meals with us. It made for easier coordination when we too were based at the ICP.
After dinner, we picked up supplies and headed back to a beachfront lodge in Lambajon for some rest.
The next morning, we awoke to bright sunrise coming up the horizon. The pale silvery sea looked decidedly tranquil. I caught Cezar and RR walking down the beach, idly bantering about taking a dip.
“Coffee first,” I croaked. I’m really useless before that first cup. The boys know it, too. They obligingly piled into the car so we could get some breakfast.
We could see the island of San Victor from the road. It was now sprouting trees and vegetation again. It was a Tuesday, but some families were having a picnic at the open cottages lining the beach. Little children were dipping in the shallow pools among the mangrove.
“You want to cross to the island, ma’m?” asked an enterprising outrigger owner.
“Oh, thank you, but not today,” I ruefully replied. I would have wanted to, but we had work to finish up. I only had time to snap me a selfie with San Victor in the background. I sent it to Nelly to remind her of the time when four days before Pablo struck, they played in San Victor while Hadji and I were at work. She’d be happy to know San Victor is again a haven for those in search of the Island of Pleasant.
Over breakfast, we marveled at how quickly the hills and plains of Baganga had turned green again. Oldtimer Manong Junie, a government employee whom I caught at another roadside stall when I stopped for a cold drink, shared that the farmers here had been given seedlings and other agricultural start up resources.
“Those are dwarf coconut trees. They’re starting to bear fruit now. Yes, those can also be turned into copra. But those trees are only productive for ten years at most. They’re not like the taller varieties that were felled by Pablo. Those would bear fruit for a lot more years,” he said. He said Baganga farmers also planted bananas and cacao, but not so much coffee because it doesn’t grow very well in Baganga soil.
“But it can grow?” I persisted.
“There are some,” he admitted. “Plants are easy to grow, because they really would want to grow. They’re like people. Bad things can happen to people, but even if nobody helps them, they really will try to survive. There’s something eternal about all living things. The physical body, well, that can die off and rot, but the will to live – that never dies.”
Wow. Must be the sun in my eyes. I didn’t quite know what to say to that. I weakly waved back goodbye as Manong Junie gave me a half-salute and limped away.
Eastern Davao philosophy right there on the dusty street corner at high noon in Baganga.
Some things we just don’t learn in school. (MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Wayward and Fanciful is Gail Ilagan’s column for MindaViews, the opinion section of MindaNews. Ilagan teaches at the Department of Psychology at the Ateneo de Davao University. She is head of the Center of Psychological Extension and Research Services. You may send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. “Send at the risk of a reply,” she says.)