Dapitan: Living on the Edge

October 7, 2008 — still in Cebu

WE LEFT the port of Cebu way past 9:30 p.m. I didn’t feel it any more. I was numbed from tiredness, not to mention that short 9-inch stint by the edge of the water. I couldn’t even look forward to being in Dapitan, which I was supposed to be happy about because I love trailing history.

That night, I was moving about aimlessly, not knowing what’s going to happen next in the agenda (if there’s any). All I knew then was we had to wait for 9 hours before we land our curious feet in Dapitan. Nine hours was a mixture of quiet agony, chats that almost lack common sense, outrageous banters, catnaps, checking boat exits and lifesavers, watching Betty La Fea from a television that’s located far from our double decks, and criticizing the unfriendly white paint of the vessel. It did feel like we were in a floating hospital.

At one point, we went out to see how the Cebu pier and all of it visible to the eye would look under the evening sky. The sight was, of course, extraordinarily good! The nicest view before one falls asleep.

In front of this Catholic church in Dapitan City is the garden map that residents there said Dr. Rizal made himself. (Taken October 11, 2008)

Goodness gracious, great balls of fire. If all fires are these beautiful, I’d gladly allow myself to burn. (Taken October 8, 2008)

October 8, 2008 — finally, Dapitan City!

I’m not sure what time I fell asleep the night before, but that sound the vessel made as it approached the small pier in Dapitan, Zamboanga del Norte was so attractive, it started my morning right. It means we’ve arrived finally. I could kiss the ground.

The sun was already preparing to rise from the horizon when I went out, armed only by a toothbrush, a toothpaste and my digital camera. I can see its golden rays beautifully highlighting the landscape, giving it that much-needed appeal a convention-delegate-trying-to-also-be-tourist like us would like.

Carlo and Malou, my best friend and the incoming president of JCI Puerto Princesa Kiao, were already at the corridor ahead of me. I went to the bathroom first to brush my teeth, and then followed them outside to see what the world has there in store for us.

It was a nice morning; breathtaking sunrise for very eager people like us to leave the pier and be where the action is in Dipolog. On second thought, a sunrise aficionada won’t let go of the chance to be filled with a kind of magic, the kind of power that she knew was from a Higher Being. To see sunrise is to be given a new chance at life. To live it and dwell in its gifts, more than seeing natural arts that depict fantastic subjects in a realistic manner.

Dapitan became an important site in the Philippines’ historical map even before the Spaniards came to Mindanao. The first settlers of the place were the Subanens from Indonesia. They’re called Subanens because they live along river banks. In Cebu last year, we lived for about three days at Subang Dako, or “big river.” Suba means river. Subanens — therefore, river people.


Save my life, lifesavers.

We failed to get good seats in the bus that comes one time in the pier to fetch GP Lines passengers whenever it arrives due to that sunrise gig. From the pier, we had no choice but to take tricycles to reach Dipolog City that we learned was still about an hour away.

Didn’t someone tell us it’s only 15 minutes away?

Docking at Dapitan pier, and cruising its main streets, made me realize that life in ZaNorte seems to be “living on the edge of, living at the edge of, living by the edge of, living in the edge of…”

The houses I saw by the pier stand so high on stilts, I wonder how their owners get down from them without being scared of falling. Even the homes we passed by in the highway appear to be by the edge of a creek, a salt-making farm, a hill — whatever. I’ve never thought of any place like this. Not even in my own province where I had braved treks in the jungle just to see the Pala’wans on my birthday some years ago.


Tricycles that only need propellers to jet to the skies.

The tricycle we rode alone, made me on the edge. They’re pretty much like our own in Puerto Princesa; the only difference is that they’re manufactured higher, making it difficult to clamber up and down with our bags.

My adventurous clone told me it’s alright; that it’s exciting to get on the escapade and not mind danger and paranoia. Never mind the fact that they run on land but makes you feel cruising the air space at a speed that makes your belly highly strung — like holding on to dear life suddenly had a LIFE of its own and it’s overwhelming emotionally. Awww!

It’s not easy getting to Dipolog via Dapitan pier, its roads, and tricycles, if you have your whole house with you. It may not be living dangerously, but you’re always courting the possibility of jeopardy to come and fool around.

Of course, this is not to say that I don’t like Dapitan. Any place that embraces history as part of its BEING is worthy of visit, of staying for a while. I may not be a great fan of Dr. Jose Rizal, yet since his part of Philippine History, someone who made life hard for me in college just to get to know him — why not?


Cebu: Living on the Edge

IT’S BEEN so many weeks since I got back from a trip to Dipolog City to attend our national convention. It wasn’t one of the sweetest travels I’ve had lately within the Philippines, but it was certainly unforgettable.

Beautiful sunrise in Dapitan City. Taken on October 8, 2008.

Dipolog isn’t Dipolog yet if you’re coming in from the ocean via slow boats from Cebu. The boat docks in historical Dapitan, a second class city in the province of Zamboanga del Norte. It is historically significant as the place where Dr. Jose P. Rizal, our national hero, was exiled by the Spaniards during their colonization of the Philippines.

I have stories about Dapitan, but let’s backtrack a bit as I want to (I need to) recall our Cebu gig that only lasted from 2 p.m.-9:30 p.m., and yet, felt like a lifetime for me.

Our arrival in Cebu in the afternoon of October 7 was welcomed with a mentally shocking thud made by the Cebu Pacific plane that landed on the airport tarmac like a taxi with broken wings. I couldn’t stop myself from being nervous. Remind me next time not to watch National Geographic Channel because it’s there were I’m getting all my paranoia about riding planes — INVESTIGATION OF FLIGHT so-and-so CRASH — who wouldn’t be obsessed with paranoia?

In the same blog that I had posted here in October 2006, I recall complaining about the same incident; Cebu Pacific planes land like the pilots were trained to maneuver taxis. Right now, however, it’s the only airline that offers the best travel fare… so why not?

This isn’t really the prescribed sleeping position at GP Lines. I wonder why they all had to face that wall there… hmmm… maybe SLEEP is there?

Cebu is the second fave big city of this irritatingly trying-to-be-self-confident-itinerant (hahaha!). I’ve always been amazed by the Cebu International Airport’s vigorous and forceful quality. It doesn’t make me think of what else is living and breathing outside its perimeter — crazy. Yep, I had been told!

I can live inside the airport, and I’d feel comfortable unlike Viktor Navorski (Tom Hanks) in that comedy-drama-romance movie The Terminal. As long as nobody chases me, or forces me to leave, or do latrine duties, I can probably do a LIFE there.

From the CIA, some of us (we were 7 in the group) packed ourselves in JCI Sen. Bobby’s Palawan Pawnshop car. We didn’t fit so Ian, Malou and I, hailed a taxi to reach Estancia. He has a house for his staff there, and if we decide to stay, we could.

I’ve been to Cebu a number of times, but I think it’s the first time I moved on foot there. There’s nothing spectacular in Estancia except for the water dispenser we found in one sari-sari store that has a hole for a coin before it allows a drink. That was a first encounter; the idea can be picked up in Palawan… probably!

The whole street is only a slight wider than J. Abad Santos Street where I live. The only mighty difference is that my house is in front of a barangay hall with a basketball court, while JCI Sen. Bobby’s house stands next to a line of small stores that sell different kinds of things — from Good Morning mineral water, to spare parts, to fried and grilled chicken, etcetera.

Friend and grilled chicken… ewww! Not ewww because the food’s horrible; I just realized I’m dead hungry. Super hungry, my goodness. All of us were.

We all left the place with the possibility of acquiring the wickedest kind of all psychiatric conditions as we were all delusional about FOOD, FOOD, FOOD… none of us ate before leaving Puerto Princesa. We couldn’t stop — no way, we still had to endure to find the office building of Cokaliong and GP Lines and get our tickets first to get out of the place as soon as possible. Susanne, Carlo, and Bong have an academy to attend the next day.

At about 4:30 p.m., with tickets carefully kept somewhere in the jungle in Malou’s bag, we headed to SM Mall to finally eat. We were so hungry, we all look like fried chickens to each other. Susanne gave me that stare I didn’t like. Hahaha!

“The proof of the travel is in the adventure,” this thought kept running in my head quietly because I don’t want everyone to hear it from the facial expressions I was making the whole time. We only stayed in Cebu for a few hours and yet, like what I’ve already said, all the hassle made me feel like I’ve lived there a thousand years. I wish I was back at the CIA as it was my connection to Palawan — besides, I like it there.

Quarter to 9 p.m. was the best laugh I’ve ever had that day. It was living on the edge of insanity. I think food didn’t do me good because I still think crazy.

By this time, a bus of the GP Lines had taken us to the pier. Upon reaching a terminal building there, it made a U-turn and stopped at the edge of the water. My calculation brought me to realize that I was only about 9 inches or so away from falling into the murky sea. It was night time, for dios por saint!

Talk about living on the edge, I got scared. I had to warn everyone to move carefully when they go down as I don’t want the bus to keel over with me sitting by the window.


The Man and The Gucci Gang

Everyone who’s familiar (are we all?) with the powerful use of the Internet to spread information wherever people are in this planet and the potency of BLOGGING to generate various kinds of reaction from bloggers and blog readers must have heard about Brian Gorrell’s story. http://delfindjmontano.blogspot.com/

Like many, I also got curious about Brian. I mean, who wouldn’t when even the most elite circle is talking about him? The “Talented Mr. Montano” became popular on blogspot.com all of a sudden. If I remember it correctly, it was early in February when I first heard about the controversy that was generated by his personal blog. I looked it up on the Internet, read it a couple of minutes, that’s all. I was distant, not because I didn’t want to know what his cause was, I was just really busy. Besides, reading articles about what people in high society do are boring for me no matter who wrote them.

Fashion shows, my-lips-are-sealed sorta thingy, Embassy night outs discussing the latest in plastic surgery, so on and so forth, like they’re the biggest of all world problems, are you kidding me? I’d rather read the cartoon sections of national dailies.

Brian’s story got to some of my friends here in Puerto Princesa too. Ruth, my very good friend who’s a radio entertainment program anchor at DYPR, sent me a text message one night last week, inquiring how she can go to his web site. I had to wait for some moment for her question to sink in as I was busy minding a proposal for the Jaycees. Then I recalled that I had actually bookmarked Brian’s Blogspot URL. Why? I don’t know. Maybe for future reference? When I gave it to Ruth was also the first time I read its whole extent.

So who is Brian Gorrell? And what is the-now-famous “The Gucci Gang?”

According to wikipedia.com, Brian is an “Australian blogger who published his accusation against his former boyfriend of swindling him of money totaling to $70,000.”

Brian’s first blog about his boyfriend, a guy who goes by the name DJ Montano, was published on March 4, 2008 (what a coincidence, this is Puerto Princesa’s foundation day). In this blog, he also accused DJ’s high-society friends called “The Gucci Gang” of ganging up on him and allegedly attempting to cover up what he did. Since it went up on Blogspot, it has become the hottest gossip (if it’s true, do you still call it gossip?) ever to hit Manila. Read excerpt below from wikipedia.com

After he was forced to flee the Philippines to Australia, Gorrell (a landscape designer) published his blog on March 4, 2008, using Blogger.com. He claimed that he had been sending money to his former boyfriend as a “silent investment” for a restaurant called Bonza in Makati City as well as a tour booking company in Boracay. He soon realized that the money was used to pay the ex’s own debt and that the companies were non-existent.[7][10] Gorrell then narrated that he confronted the former flame about the money at a hotel room in Makati, which resulted in a public altercation.[11] He said he was charged with assault through the help of the ex’s friends, but was later dismissed.[1] The blogger then posted entries involving the “Gucci Gang”—consisting of prominent young Manila socialites who are close to Gorrell’s former boyfriend including scions of political families and media personalities—accusing them of infidelity, cocaine abuse, cover-up, and crassness.[5][12]

He stated that the blog was put up when he was told by Philippine lawyers that the soonest Gorrell could recover the money, totaling to US$70,000, is three years. The blogger also wrote that it also aimed to shame his former lover (as well as the Gucci Gang) into paying him back, and would erase the blog from the Internet once the debt is paid.[4] Gorrell said he plans to use the money as treatment for his HIV.[11] As of March 14, 2008, the blog has received 270,000 visits, amounting to 36,600 visits a day and each lasting an average of 52 minutes. Gorrell wrote that he has received over 3,000 e-mails since the blog opened, apart from hundreds of comments.[4]

It’s not just Gorrell who had been duped by devious, deceitful, unprincipled, corrupt, crooked, dodgy, immoral, devious, ruthless (and other synonymous terms) Pinoys and Pinays in the Philippines. His was just one of the many stories I’ve both read and heard. Even here in Puerto Princesa, I know one or two ex-pats who have been tricked by their Filipina girlfriends.

It was embarrassing for me as a Filipina to hear them speak about their bad experiences before. My thought was “how can they be so gullible?” This is already the age that we send men on the moon; the century that we can already hide our life secrets inside microchips the size of rice grains for implants in human bodies; that we can play with virtual pets in place of real ones so we don’t get rabies or other diseases they can communicate; that we can communicate with our families even if we’re on the other side of the planet, why?

Love? Hmmm… I’d hate to argue.

What made Brian’s case special to me was he’s the first foreigner I know who brought his bad experience in the Philippines out in the open. True or not, it’s his guts I’m talking about. I must say using the blogs to get back at his Filipino boyfriend, or take back the money that he lost, is totally CLEVER. The legal aspect of that, I am not sure how to deal with. There are other people debating about it, I’m not interested to join the fray, right at the moment.

Another thing that’s notable about this was the fact that a foreigner, an admitted HIV-carrier, was able to shock and upset the elite of the Philippines. The names he mentioned in his blog are known to be sons and daughters of high class parents — those who only move in affluent, fashionable and rich groups of people. The rest of the victims, those I know, they just remained quiet; embarrassed to speak about their awful encounters except to those whom they trust.

Libelous? I’m not going there. What I want to point out is that Brian was offended. If he wasn’t, why would he raise hell in his blogs? He had to start somewhere, right? What’s a foreigner’s business to criticize some people spitefully, the richer ones of the poorer lot, if nothing was done to him? Pray tell.

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(Courtesy of www.titikpilipino.com)
The municipality of Cuyo is star-studded right now because famous Philippine actress Judy Ann Santos and her boyfriend Ryan Agoncillo are there to shoot “Ploning” with new writer/director Dante Nico Garcia. Although Agoncillo isn’t going to be part of the film, he’s there to provide support to Santos.
We heard actresses Izza Calzado, Gina Pareño and other talented actors are there, but we can’t ascertain their names since some of them flew their directly from Manila. One thing sure though, is that majority of them is in the film cast.
Ryan Agoncillo (courtesy of ricojr.blogspot.com)
I wish my friend Dante kudos on this movie, his break as brand new director. We can’t wait for Ploning to be shown in cinemas all over the country, especially because we know it’s going to be one film flick that will have all the right ingredients to be a box office hit.
The people of Cuyo are very lucky. Dante is a good son of the town who has never forgotten his roots and is now using it as a backdrop of his film debut. It should be proud to have someone who is willing to go to great lengths just to show the beauty of the place and the unique way of life of the Cuyunon.
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It’s not yet official, but the entertainment industry is talking about actor Cesar Montano who is reportedly coming to Palawan to shoot the French version of his film muro ami that won 13 awards at the 1999 Metro Manila Film Festival.

Muro ami (reef hunters), according to geocities.com, is a film flick that depicts one of the worst forms of child labor in the illegal fishing system. In this movie, Montano plays the character of Fredo, the ruthless captain of 150 muro ami child divers.

At Showbiz Chika At Iba Pa over radio DYPR, Montano, who was reportedly asked about the film, said he is not sure where exactly in the province the movie will be filmed and that he still has to discuss his talent fee with a foreign television director/producer who wants to make its French version.

One of the sites allegedly being mulled over is the Tubbataha Reefs National Marine Park covering 33,200 hectares in the Sulu Sea, including the north and south reefs. The park is a unique example of an atoll reef with a very high density of marine species; the North Islet serving as a nesting site for birds and marine turtles. The site is an excellent example of a pristine coral reef with a spectacular 100-m perpendicular wall, extensive lagoons and two coral islands.

The muro ami technique involves sending a line of divers to depths of 30-90 feet with metal weighs to pound on corals to drive fish out and into waiting nets.

Montano’s film earned accolade for his acting as well as best child performer for Rebecca Lusterio; best story for Marilou Diaz-Abaya, Ricardo Lee and Jun Lana; best director for Abaya and best picture.

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ONLY HOURS after President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo declared an autarchic ceasefire for the Holiday Season, the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) staged again a daring ambush in Palawan that killed three elements of the Philippines Marines Corms (PMC) under the Marine Battalion Landing Team 9 (MBLT).

Western Command (WESCOM) commander Commodore Ruperto C. Borromeo in a phone interview said the Marines were ambushed by communist guerillas on the morning (around 7:30 a.m.) of December 16 at a rural community called Binga in the municipality of San Vicente in northern Palawan.

The body of one of the three dead Marines is loaded in a PAF rescue helicopter to be brought to Puerto Princesa.

Apparently, the Marines were on their way to get food and other supplies from a nearby marketplace.

In a media conference called immediately at the WESCOM, the military said the ambush group was composed of 20 heavily-armed rebels led by wanted CPP-NPA leader Gilbert Silagan.

The three Marines were reportedly wearing civilian clothes and were unarmed when they were waylaid by the CPP-NPA.

Last September, an ambush also staged by the leftist group at Sitio Double Line, Barangay Ibangley, Taytay killed two innocent children and PO2 Saturnino Lazo. Since the incident, the WESCOM has been on a vigorous campaign to arrest Silagan and a woman rebel who goes by the alias Alma Moreno.

Advertisements were placed by WESCOM in weekly newspapers in the province for any information leading to their arrests. A bounty was offered too to anyone who can give information regarding their whereabouts.

In Manila, a story from the Philippine News Agency (PNA) said Navy spokesman Lt. Col. Ariel Caculitan disclosed that because of the incident, they have instructed all troops in the country “not to be complacent with their security despite a ceasefire that’s in effect.”

He was quoted in saying that the CPP-NPA did not reciprocate the good gesture of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) which is supposed to be for the spirit of Christmas.

Caculitan said the rebels “should have exercised restraint in attacking the soldiers, noting that they were in civilian clothes and unarmed.

Meanwhile, Commodore Ruperto Rico C. Borromeo, commander of the Western Command, said they will be more vigilant against the CPP-NPA in Palawan following what happened.

On December 26, the CPP-NPA is celebrating its 39th founding anniversary. It is not clear if the ambush was a prelude to its celebration.

Manhunt operations have already been ordered to look for the armed rebels who staged the ambush, WESCOM said. (see http://thepalawantimes.wordpress.com/)

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I’m back now after reading the draft of the 124-page “Ploning” written and soon-to-be directed by Dante Nico Garcia a.k.a. Angga. It felt like reading a book!

Two or three days ago, I was with Angga. We strolled along the airport area hoping to find the perfect location for our future bar-cafe which we will most likely call “Tabirab” because we find the name cute and has a lot of character. In Cuyunon, one of the vernaculars we speak here in Palawan, it means “I don’t know about you or I don’t believe you.” If I say: “Elam kanimo, ang katabirab kaw!” that would be saying “I don’t know about you, baloney!”

This photo of Angga was stolen from his Friendster profile. His hair is no longer like this. I told him I want this hair back because it’s full of character. Angga is, of course, the writer of Ploning. He will soon direct the movie too!

We were with Emilyn, Malou and Ruth that sunny afternoon. Rash, another friend, who’s interested to partner with us in this bar-cafe was somewhere we don’t know. I couldn’t wait for her since I hate waiting, especially when I’m early or on time, so I cajoled everyone to do the foot trip without her.

Angga, Ruth and I and the rest of the foot gang were eying this particular place where there’s still a souvenir shop. Before we even got there, we met Redempto D. Anda a.k.a. Dempto, my mentor and former editor in Palawan Sun. He was riding his mountain bike, and that day too, he won the essay contest for the media sponsored by Shell Philippines Exploration B.V. and the Provincial Information Office.

It was Dempto to whom I sent Angga’s first and second drafts of Ploning a few weeks ago. That afternoon was an opportunity for me to introduce Angga to him since he told me he’s very interested to make a review of the future movie in his blog here at wordpress. But he said he hasn’t read it yet because he was busy.

Angga with popular Philippine actress Judy Ann Santos who will play the part of Ploning. He’s best friends with her; for friends money isn’t a matter of importance just to do a film that primarily seeks to promote the unique culture and traditions of the Cuyunons of Palawan. I stole this picture too from his Friendster. This was taken when they were filming “Ouija.”

The meeting with Dempto reminded me that I, too, has a copy of the drafts. I’ve already uploaded the teaser video of Ploning here. Since it’s 124-page long, I’m forced to discuss it piece by piece. It’s a long read, besides I couldn’t print it because I’m out of printer ink right now.

The story started at Tabunan Shore in Cuyo. From the dark, one slowly hears two voices singing “Ploning” (yes, Ploning is a popular song of the Cuyunons); a guy and a little boy; they were accompanied by guitar.


Nga labing maleban

Ang gegma mo Ploning

Nga ing kandadoan

The singing goes on until near the calm shores of Tabunan, a mystery is revealed through the reflections of a gas lamp. There are many gas lamps and people are on the shores gathering shells. Picking shells is a typical event in Cuyunon communities. I was reminded by my lola — when we were children, my grandmother, a Cuyunon, would take us every weekend to Canigaran beach to also pick shells we can cook for food.

Although to many this is a way of being careful with money and resources because they don’t have to go to the market to buy, it’s also a form of meeting together to catch stories about their lives; not necessarily to gossip, but just to see how they are doing. Of course, those days were gone here in Puerto Princesa. We no longer go to Canigaran to pick shells. But I’m pretty sure that in Cuyo, residents still do this.

Back to Ploning, the mystery revealed was that of two teenagers passionately and tenderly making love inside a small crude shack. They kiss and they almost don’t want to do it, but their emotions show great love for each other. You can see tears falling from both their eyes.

The sound they emit is like there’s something hard being rubbed on the floors made of bamboo strips. Before they reach their key moment, the young woman stretches her arms above her head, the guy slides some balugo (tree) seeds to her palms and closes them tightly with his own.

I can’t wait to see this scene on the film because it’s so bold, vivid and strikingly impressive — very exciting and intense to start a film. For a minute, I thought it’s like “Blue Lagoon.” Angga’s creative mind was probably oozing that time he was writing the script. He gets a standing ovation from me for this opening of the “Ploning.”

More to follow.