FASTLANES: Homecoming

Last Saturday, I did not mind waking up early and hauled my extended family for a homecoming in Gingoog City.

Gingoognons living elsewhere are familiar with the question ‘where is that?’ when filling up forms.  The question is a no brainer though. Whether one knows its latitude and longitude or not, he or she finds a way and time to visit the city.

Time stops in Gingoog City, the motorela and its digressed mutation – the motorsikad – a cranky three-wheel contraption powered by marine engine are still the primary means of door-to-door public transportation.  Food is fresh and the air is either waft by the saline breeze of Gingoog Bay or the mountain scent of Mount Balatukan. The city is slow, fresh, idyllic.

Daan Merkado (old market) and the Pantalan (seaport) evolved into parks. One features beautifully crafted giant sculpture of local fruits – banana, lanzones, pineapple, marang and buko.

Both the Daan Merkado and the Pantalan are “sweet surrenders” of what it can no longer be. The Pantalan tried to be a seaport but seafarers choose elsewhere.

The Daan Merkado used to be the center of commerce, where Vicenta Wong, Teresa’s Trading and Dy Piao, among others were having brisk business, until it gave way to the new market south of the city. Along with the Sta. Rita de Casia Church and the Rizal Park, the Daan Merkado and Pantalan are enduring symbols of the city of my childhood.

The Bag-ong Merkado on the other hand shows progress. Jollibee and Mercury drugstore have invaded the city. A traffic light has been installed in a junction nearby. And a new mall of the Cebu-based retail and wholesale chain Prince Hypermart has opened in another block.

The city used to thrive in the wood industry with the Anakan Lumber Corporation and the plywood factory in barangay Lunao, last owned by the Asia Pacific Timber and Plywood Corporation. With the wood industry going into the sunset, government has become the biggest and most lucrative local employer.

Agriculture, fisheries and tourism however provide the city with huge sustainable development potentials. Latent conflicts rooted on feudal and semi-feudal relations could however erupt, like the murder early this year of a friend, fellow Christ the King alumnus (High School Batch 1988) and former city councilor Archie Bagaipo and the ambush by the New People’s Army of former mayor and Misamis Oriental governor Ruthie De Lara in 2013.

One important aspect in the socio-economic life of the city is education. And this is where Christ the King College (CKC) run by the nuns of the Religious of the Virgin Mary (RVM) leaves its marks. Along with other educational institutions, CKC has been providing high quality basic education to Gingoognons. CKC was where I got my elementary diploma and finished first year high school.

I cannot thank enough my childhood friends and classmates for adopting me as a member of High School Batch 1990. This year, as silver jubilarians, we hosted the 68th grand annual alumni homecoming last Saturday (Nov. 21). The efforts of my batchmates led by our president Eric Talja, class valedictorian Tetet Dy-Militante and everyone here and abroad need to be congratulated for working hard to make possible that wonderful journey back in time.

I had great post-lunch conversation over brandy with my elementary baseball, and track and field coach Mr. Ed Santiago and Math teacher Mr. Gerry Menil. Mr. Santiago was a strict disciplinarian. He once locked us in the old gym to play basketball the whole afternoon after catching us play hoops during class hours. Mr. Menil tormented many with his numerical equations.

I also remember those who I had not met in that homecoming like Mrs. Dolores Ubalde, our science teacher and coach of the science quiz team. I actually thought I could be a scientist only to realize that science and numbers are two sides of the same coin.

Perhaps, the teachers who I want to pay homage most were my English teachers. One left for heaven, the quintessential teacher Ananias Picando and Bonifacio Timbal, who I was told is still teaching somewhere in Bohol.

I figured that the logic of subject-verb agreement molded me to where I am now. I have been into development work, now in government, but I have always been and am always a journalist, a storyteller.

In the larger community of my childhood, CKC is one of vital social fibers that weave the City of Good Luck.

Homecomings are always poignant. CKC president Sr. Mary Nora R. Joson, RVM, spoke during the homecoming party that the school will always be there to welcome its alumni.

As I re-enter reality, I am reflecting on the homily of Fr. Salvador “Badong” Torres, himself an alumnus of CKC who is now a pastor in Coron, Palawan during the reunion Mass. His thought-provoking homily focused on the need for downward mobility if one has to live his or her faith. He offered an anti-thesis to the concept of upward social mobility that has resulted in the mindless rat race dominating our consumerist society.

I woke up early again last Monday to catch the first flight from Laguindingan, Misamis Oriental to Manila. While waiting for the delayed flight, and thinking of the traffic and diesel-scented air and work pressures that await, I asked, are all these efforts worth it?

Meanwhile, it is back to reality.

(The writer is a Mindanawon journalist, environmentalist and development worker. Comments can be sent to