Saturday, June 2, 2012

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I've been to paradise, and I've been to me

I'd been to a number of places this summer, done some life-threatening things I didn't imagine I'd ever do, but there was a part of me that wanted to explore my own place, too. It felt wrong if I didn't. How does that Charlene song go again? "I've been to paradise, but I've never been to me."

South Cotabato is blessed with natural resources, many with the potential to become major ecotourism attractions. Presently these spots remain unheard of.1

When my high school classmate Charlen Suedad—we fondly call her Tita—invited me and some of our classmates to her home in Lake Sebu, I knew it was my chance to do that local adventure. I only had a couple of days left. I wanted to make the most out of it.

The town of Lake Sebu is about 1.5 hours from Koronadal City. At its heart are three lakes: Lake Sebu (from which it is named), Lake Lahit, and Lake Siluton. The areas around these lakes are considered ancestral domains, bursting with history and culture.

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We took the bus to Surallah, then boarded a jeepney to Lake Sebu's town center. When we arrived, we saw this young fashionable manly man who gladly posed for the camera. A pink nail polish? We knew we were in for a crazy time.

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At the bus terminal we saw old women wearing the traditional malong cloth.

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After about 20 minutes of motorcycle ride—skylab is the local term—we reached Bacdulong where Tita's home is. Her family owns a conference venue and lodging house for meetings, parties, and other social events. From her porch, we could see Lake Sebu's posterior portion.

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The air was cold and fresh. The place was quiet, save for the chirping birds and my classmates' incessant chatter. "It's so beautiful I can read my books here," I told her.

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I was thankful for the opportunity to be with my high school classmates. I cherish my friendship with these people. We all studied under the special science curriculum of Koronadal National Comprehensive High School—a fancy way of saying we had additional subjects that the average student. From left: Krysteen de Pedro, Shean Chiva, Tita, Hazel Rhudy, and Herman Padernal.

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Our class still meets during Christmas or sembreak, and we're still as noisy and adventurous and hilarious as when we were still in IV-Newton. We never get tired of repeating age-old jokes and anecdotes. People always change, but there are parts of themselves that never do. That's why people remain friends even if they hardly see each other.

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Seeing so much biodiversity in Tita's home garden made me long for a garden of my own.

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I've always liked plants. I religiously follow this blog about plants. As a child I even wanted to be a botanist.

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I saw plant specimens I hadn't seen before—for instance, the plant (see Right) called Stick-O.

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Or this flower called "slippers," which looked more like a shoe to me.

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And here were a few more beauties. (Please click the thumbnails to enlarge.)

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For Tita's birthday lunch we had, among others, tilapia taken from the nearby lake. It was delicious.

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With our bellies full we headed to the nearby resort and spent some time to breathe in the freshness.

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What a marvelous creator God is! This was the view from resort's vantage point. The lake looked peaceful.

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We saw this man rowing a boat, checking on the fish cages.

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We were supposed to do a tour around Lake Sebu's perimeter, some 45 minutes of boat ride, but the boat hadn't been repaired yet. I felt disappointed somehow. It would've been a golden opportunity. Alone I descended near the waters. This view brought my spirits up again.

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My friends followed me. While we had this photo taken, the makeshift bamboo bridge was wobbling.

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Future lawyer Herman looked around, cherishing the peace and quiet before the intense and stressful atmosphere of the courtrooms swallow him whole.

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Hey, Herman and Krysteen!

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Don't they look sweet together? Yihee.

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I slowly made my way near the fish pens, and I almost slipped.

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At 2:30 PM we went back to the Suedad's. After minutes of chit-chat, we said our goodbyes. We wanted to do some more exploring.

Riding the skylab again was an adventure in itself. When the motorcycle swerved along a steep curve, we felt that we could crash on the hard, concrete road anytime. But it was a whole lot of fun.

We paused to take a picture of the local Tourism office.

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Simple houses amidst rice paddies lined the roads.

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We also saw Lake Sebu's anterior portion, the area seen in the town center.

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Our plan was to do the bungy trampoline. To go to the recreational area, we passed by a bridge that gave us a not-so-distant view of the First Fall2.

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I liked these flowers.

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I also got to see the Second Fall, taller and bigger that the first.

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Bungy trampoline involves a lot of jumping. The tension of the ropes is adjusted to achieve maximal height. As with rappelling and rock climbing, it looked easier that it seemed. Adventurous spirits that we were, we dared ourselves to do the flip at least once!

First to go was Hazel.

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Shean was next. She literally flipped in slow motion.

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I was next! When I tumbled I lost my sense of orientation. This was crazy.

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Herman did it like a pro, but he tired too easily.

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Krysteen flew right at the top but managed to do the flip anyway.

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Here we were, tired and happy after a day's work.

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At 4:15 PM we reached the terminal. There wasn't any moving jeepney in sight! The drivers told us that on weekends no trips are made after 4 PM. I looked at my companions and laughed, realizing that going back to Koronadal was going to be an adventure in itself. My classmates and I were thinking the same thing: we were going to hitch a ride. We hadn't done this before.

As we headed to a sari-sari store along the highway, we saw an ambulance! This could be our chance!

A child, probably eight or nine months old, with a one-day history of fever, was being rushed to a hospital in Koronadal. The driver and the child's family agreed that we could join them.

That fast, bumpy ride back home was a testament to the fact that the Lord does answers prayer, even the trivial ones.

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1These past years, media has depicted Mindanao as a war-torn area. Parts of it are, that's true, but people ignorant of geography are made to think that all of Mindanao is a battlefield, in the same way that people who've never been to Manila think that when it rains, it floods everywhere every time. Truth be told, it's safe here in South Cotabato. But enough of my frustration.

2It's the first of the Seven Falls. There are seven consecutive water falls. The farthest I had been to was the Second Fall.

8 comments:

  1. Ambulance hitchhikers!!! :) sounds cool -aa

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hahaha, that could be a title of a new blog!

      Delete
  2. nice experience...
    I enjoy reading...
    Miss you all..

    ReplyDelete
  3. " People always change, but there are parts of themselves that never do. That's why people remain friends even if they hardly see each other."

    This is amazing!

    ReplyDelete

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