DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/7 April) – Finding myself with a free afternoon in Iligan two weekends back, I texted Bob Timonera on the off chance that he would be home and free to show me his beautiful city. Now, there is no one who loves Iligan City more than Bob does. He immediately volunteered to drive me around, and I soon found myself riding shotgun as we wound down the mountain roads.
Pipes dropping from the mountainside provided constantly running water to the residents lining up with their plastic containers. Water distribution had yet to be restored in some places after the damage wrought by Typhoon Sendong, and yet it looked like Iligan did not have a problem with water supply. Bob commented that Iligan does not have a water system worth talking about. Water coming down from the mountains had always sufficed for some of its residents, but unfortunately the water doesn’t reach the taps of most.
Soon we found ourselves in the tropical forest leading to Maria Cristina Falls. Locals refer to this giant cascade as “waterfalls by appointment”, as the dams feeding into the falls are sometimes closed. So sometimes, it’s just Maria. Other times, it’s just Cristina. Or you can actually get there some time after Maria Cristina fell. In which case, you get to see Maria Cristina False.
It was my lucky day. I saw the Falls, and the smaller ones fanning the side of the mountain, too. The Falls hit the bottom and spewed out bouncing mists that looked like fairies rejoicing. The water rushed exuberantly through the boulders and merrily off to the burgeoning river.
But I couldn’t get down to dip my foot in these fairied waters.
We looked up to find strong cables running everywhere, filling me with the yearning to go zip-lining across the mountains, go hand over hand like my orangutan cousins. I turned green with envy at the power men in harness dangling thirty meters up the side of the cliff, laying the screens that would prevent bits of the mountains from breaking off and falling. The boys obligingly posed for Bob’s point-and-shoot.
To work and to have fun. Feet not quite on the ground. Ah, that’s the life.
Bob tunes in to my need for the diwata. He drags me along to Mimbalut where I can go skipping over the mossy boulders – the better to survey the watery realm under my toes. He snaps me at it.
Ha! Diwata by Bob Timonera. Now, that one is for the picture books!
We dropped by the Tent City in Tambo to find cellphones charging at the reception area. There are 153 families that are still here three months after Sendong. Surprisingly, there are no reports of violence, robbery, or other petty crimes. The grounds are clean and devoid of smelly trash, all tidied up in segregated waste receptacles. We wound our way among the children playing. They looked happy and healthy, watched over by adults huddled over the cooking fire outside their tents. A few women were washing clothes, doing others’ laundry for pay as their husbands go out to work as day carpenters.
The City rebuilds largely on the labor of the displaced.
Outside the tents, evidences of normal family life abound. A salvaged sala set carefully arranged in one corner. A collapsible table laid out for supper. A modest array of variety store stuff on display at another. A span of sturdy tarpaulin covers the distance from one tent top to another, providing shelter for a makeshift kitchen where a good wife was bustling around at the stove.
I was looking for indicators of resilience – that quality of striving for normalcy and stability in the wake of disaster.
The women I talked told me that their children had transferred schools nearer to the evacuation center. They didn’t know when they would be relocated, although some of them had already been lined up to occupy the core shelters being readied in Sta. Elena. Meanwhile, they just kept busy every day doing what was needed to ensure survival and to provide for the children.
It starts to shower.
Bob brought me home to Padfoot, this 27-kg canine, friendliest of his breed. The least invitation and Paddy would drop his considerable weight on your lap. I should introduce him to my new friend Bruno up on Ascension Hill in Sta. Filomena. Bruno had given me more tongue baths than I had deserved in the last two days.
Paddy padded after me in the garden as Bob ground coffee in the kitchen.
Coffee by Bob Timonera. Now, that one is definitely a treat every time.
Darkness was about to fall as Bob drove me back up the hill. Somewhere down the street, he points at an overpass.
“That is where the student took a dive,” he said, referring to a recent case of suicide.
Jumpers go splat. That mustn’t have been very pretty.
We continued down the road in companionable silence. The soothing sound of Oldies on stereo filled the car. I was wondering what personal disaster forced that child to take the easy way out.
Meanwhile, people were still lining up and down the road, fetching flowing water from the generous pipes that dropped from the mountainside.
(Wayward and Fanciful is Gail Ilagan’s column for MindaViews, the opinion section of MindaNews. Gail heads the Center of Psychological Extension and Research Services at the Ateneo de Davao University, where she is also the editor of the university’s journal, Tambara. For comments, email her at [email protected])