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Saturday, November 24, 2012

Chapter 26 - Mt. Sungcal

Chapter 26
Mt. Sungcal

     "Mt. Sungcal is simply irresistible. She is the only second active volcano in Mindanao next to the one in Misamis Occidental. What she lacks however in beauty as she looks like a jarred shark teeth from afar is compensated as second highest mountain behind grand Mt. Apo; ergo, still favorite summer destination of extreme mountain climber. It’s really tough going there. Roads are impassable. You have to walk through trails, wade through river before arriving there.
           But that was long ago before Martial Law specifically  before the Lakay Apo held the reign of power. Development gave way to tourism industry since then and through the help of native  tour guides for a fee, you can reach there. Freezing weather actually because of its height but tomb-like concrete house await for you to experience the thrill. Once there on the top, your eyes would be feasted with the view of major cities in Mindanao – Cagayan de Oro in the North, Davao on West.
           That time its rich forest and watersheds were at their best preserved under constant control and protection by authorities. From its bounty springs life to the seven Bukidnon tribes – Higaonon, Matisulog, Bilaan and other tribes living along the river. It was never the same again however after the encroachment of the Dumagats from low lands. Its waters flowing steadily all the way down to Macajalar Bay in Cagayan de Oro and Iligan was once  crystal clear  flowing downstream into Macajalar Bay and other tributary,  Iligan. Reason that thousands of casualties would soon happened on this cities when Sendong unleashed its fury later. Unfortunately, it losts its luster as pollution spread its ugly wings killing natural fishes thriving in its water. But all is not lost with community taking care of the environment. With illegal mining stopped upstream, what once the so-called orange river was back to its original blue green color.
            Promenaders and gawking tourists passing Carmen bridge could not help sometimes but admire and thank God that they are not living in far away Manila when river hardly move because of filth, toxic materials and garbage dumped by manufacturing firms and industrial establishments at will showing the ineptitude of the government in instituting desired mechanisms of preserving cleanliness and fresh air in its surroundings.
           Land of promise, that’s what we’ve been  taught by history books about Mindanao. Indeed  it is. In fact, the tag is simply  most fitting given all the promise the Island has. The millions of migrants coming into the island and have the rest of their lives spent here speaks for itself how these people were smitten by various resources Mindanao has. In fact, much of its resources benefitted too the entire country unfortunately the lion’s share going to Imperial Manila crumbs flowed back to the island.
            The island is definitely more blessed than Luzon and Visayas. Witness how Bukidnon as breadbasket of the island could feed alone its entire population. That not to mention Davao, Cotabato, General Santos City and the rest of Mindanao providing an alternative wealth should its supply of livestock, poultry products and pineapples and all that running  dry al throughout two seasons.
 There’s gold rush too at Mt. Diwalwal in Compostela Valley, blue marlins in our seas specifically Gensan and Zamboanga; tropical fruits in Davao, tourist haven practically in all places but notably in Misamis Occidental and Camiguin. Almost heaven indeed is what Mindanao is to one writer. Moving on reaching your career is also peanuts given all topnotch  accredited university spread  throughout the region.
           Truly,  God must be laughing up there realizing His lapses choosing Israel instead of Mindanao as Promised Land.  No wonder that He has all sorts of religion from Islam to Christianity, animism to Buddhism and all that established here. Peter Gowing’s Island Under the Cross  chronicled how the Christian churches have evolved since Magellan planted the cross in Cebu on March 1521. It’s probably this slice of history that lend credence to hostility that has remained implacably brewing in the island all throughout the centuries. Or is it  the case of conquer, rule and divide  characterizing the past that still reign supreme today.  What about feudalism existing  among many  Muslim culture. Or is there simply an unjust political system given lopsided top-heavy development enjoyed by Imperial Manila leaving the crumbs again to Mindanao. There are obviously too many reasons as far as our imagination would allow.  But where all of these leave us. Peace and no less! That’s the bottom line and seemingly an incontrovertible proof without which we could safely say that there exist development at all. in the island, engrossing reflection again catching Taklin as he was preparing for final ascent of the mountain..
           Unfortunately, the precarious development of its existence giving rise to various hostilities, sporadic encounter between the military and perceived enemies support the still  alarming situation of Mindanao. As it would later cause division, the unsettled issue of MOA-AD that brought many stakeholders holding peace dialogue all over Mindanao is still found wanting. Second, the unsolved hostilities, killings and that notorious  incident Maguindanao Massacre whose infamy stirred the global conscience of media sector is still haunting us. Bombings have taken too its toll all over the place from Cotabato to Iligan. And what about the “Sunshine Industry” of taking innocent people notably tourists and clergy as hostages demanding ransom money by Abu Sayyaf  showing their notoriety brandishing their  brutality beheading their hostages if demands  are not meet.
           This does not include similar cases  like rendering failure of election in some Muslim areas by losing candidates. Broadcasters among media sector were also killed in Davao. What about their fearsome Vigilantes clearing the city of its bad elements that drive other City Mayors in the region reviving and or organizing their own Mayor’s Action Squad cum Death Squad to secure peace and order from the spate of criminality and killings, nasty thought pre-occupying still the minds of Maj. De la Rosa.
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           ‘Land of Compromise’ it seems has transformed this once promising island,  an apt description today of Mindanao. Never mind the promise. Leave it to  the marines. Sadly,  the peace and order situation today is barring further development in some region of the island. It might be because of the cultural tradition of the past specifically feudalism reigning supreme among Muslim group. Worst their fetish to arms making it an extension of their intestines, one they could no live without. Add the bloodbath where even the unborn is already marked up for extinction once revenge in conflict happens. Maybe it’s time to think twice that more than what the people outside wrongly perceived the sensitive peace situation in Mindanao  is the challenge for authorities and its people to breath, live and practice peace. There have been  various development organizations making stride on this crusade, hope it’s true and not for media hype, Taklin further prayed.
           “But I wonder whatever happen to these peace-oriented groups that peace remains elusive as ever,” Major Taklin de la Rosa exactly hit the nerve of the issue back again.
           “We should move on not stopping the momentum already gained  progressing more. Or we would find ourselves overtaken by still volatile unpredictable events blown away by landmines planted everywhere by the rebels adding us  as additional fertilizers for Mindanao. But  God forbid! “  he asked awakened from deep slumber.
           “What’s your take? Need to say more?” was his apt clincher as if there were people listening.
Relating to his travel all over Luzon and Visayas, comparison ensued.
“They are truly great spectacles wherever you are but compare that to the beauty that is Mindanao. Sorry, they just simply pale in comparison what with all those breathtaking and excellent landscape,  fruits, foods and places abounding everywhere. The air too is one of the freshest and biting when you travel Bukidnon.”
“Your eyes are treated to vast, track of  pineapple and banana plantations to vegetables, coconuts, corn and all that all the way to Davao and Cotabato making you think that this is the incontrovertible proof it seems that then Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir might have misinterpreted that theirs’ is the promise land but  Mindanao as it’s literally  flowing with milk and honey.”
           “Why really not when you consider the fertility of our soil unlike theirs when you either import top soil or just apply agricultural extension all throughout to  make their land productive.”
           “I saw this reality unfolding right before my eyes as I traveled probably covering entire Mindanao as part of my tour of duty especially hot spots where peace and order is erratic with my ever reliant KMX-125,” reveals Major de la Rosa.
            “So you want to have a juiciest blue marlin for a kinilaw other than Gensan’s best in town  then go to Mati of Davao Oriental. And for scenic landscape from mountain resort to excellent seascape then reroute your travel back home via Pacman’s Saranggani Province all the way to General Santos City. Going down to Koronadal and Marbel be sure to take a side trip to Lake Sebu and be treated to a wonder of nature like Sun Moon lake of  Taiwan appreciating how God puts there this wonder  with all bounty of fishes right on top of a mountain in the same way of the  captivating Lake Lanao in Marawi, Mainit Lake of Surigao del Norte and  and that one in Bukidnon.”
           “And want a trek more than Baguio’s Kennon road? Then there’s Mangima Canyon and up to Bukidnon. Real mountain trek however would never be the same again unless you pass the thrilling Noventa of Surigao del Sur where you to too would be treated to world’s largest ore deposit.”
           “What about those exotic fishes of fresh catfish, mudfish and carpa displayed still frolicking in a container right along the road of Agusan del Sur and Matina of Davao. How about testing a hell of drive of skylab at Mt. Diwalwal or of wooden cart in upper Carmen, Puerto, Cagayan de Oro City,” his mind in full throttle as if briefing tourists.
           “Camiguin too offers excellent wonders of nature from hot and cold spring to sunken cemetery and White Island. Just be sure to visit the province in October when sweetest lansones are harvested that would compliment your appetite for shoot-to-kill for fresh delicacy menu of Sinugba, tinola and kinilaw.”
           “This is Mindanao and as your second home, traveling around is simply irresistible.”
           “Its tourism industry is always there beckoning to be explored whether you are in your own locality or out on a special trip. As different cities are its melting pot, it offers you everything all there is life from career development to economic opportunity,” his thoughts ended making sure  invitation to all travel bugs  delivered.

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           Well said but that is only one side of the story, Maj. De la Rosa deliberately paused. Sensitive story should not be revealed or his mission would be  n peril. Snipers, landmines, water, fruits laced with poison above all, serenity of the area is gripping making each footstep an ordeal along the trails.  How they were secured by the NPAs is no accident. The effort is deliberate. It’s a place where they could be free. It’s what the hierarchy considered secure reason why they give their approval as venue for the 13th Plenum. That however not privy to Maj. De la Rosa whose forward observers already did their job even before the rebels finished theirs.

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