FIELD NOTES N14
The scheduled brownout yesterday put many of us living island lives in shambles.
It was not a localized brownout but something that involved other places, including the big city, Dipolog.
I did not know about its being widespread, in much the same way that I had known about the widespread threat of scalawags waiting in the wings for people to kidnap for ransom, their acvitity that has become some kind of a livelihood.
This is according to a concerned relative, a medical doctor, whose husband, a surgical nurse, is involved in a medical mission somewhere in Zamboanga Sibugay.
Zamboanga is a huge country, initially just one.
But this hugeness has created some kind of an administrative inefficiency, and somehow, a nightmare for political leaders.
Only some pockets of this country has tasted progress; all the rest have become veritable exhibits of the opposite and thus, government neglect.
Even in these small pockets of the developed parts of the island—a continent on its own—we see a clear divide: those who have had a taste of the good life, in their finery and polished ways, and those who have yet to see the light of what it means to share the blessings of a real, honest-to-goodness, social contract.
The small people and the big people—these are the categories that clearly tell us what Mindanao is all about, at least in these parts.
There is no in-between the small people and the big people.
The middle ground, or the middle class, is a fantasy: either you are in the professions, or you have money to invest, or you are a politician, in which case you have lots of money coming your way all the time, or you are a statistic during election time, when your votes take some kind of a magical extrapolation to accout questions of voting fraud, which has become naturalized in the country as a whole.
The three-kilometer sea boulevard in Dipolog is an exhibit of the plaza complex type: now we have a place to go, we small people, and never mind that the only public thing in this boulevard is the boulevard itself and the seawall, and rubbish-ridden shore that disincentivizes people to take a dip in the cool water.
From the pensione house where I took a lodging just a few steps from the boulevard, the sea is unseen.
It is blocked by private establishments, in ugly concrete, that some brilliant people have erected, perhaps as an afterthought when people began to flock to the boulevard.
Strewn along that stretch of a walkway are CRs (comfort rooms, according to the label), a stage in the middle that announced some kind of a festival on May 31 or just a couple of days before I flew in, some stunted coconuts in the first stretch, and young trees of the sea type including two coconuts on each plot, all these at three feet, plus or minus.
Somewhere, there is the announcement of the completion of a three-phase boulevard, which suggests that the southern part has yet to be completed.
Signs of construction—or attempts to have one—are visible.
Because the stunted—yes, miracle—coconut trees looked old, it could be that the northern part of the boulevard is the first of the three phases, perhaps constructed a many years back.
The signs of aging are manifest: cracks here and there, mossy walls, chipped edges.
At the point where the northern part of the cemented boulevard stops to give way to a mangrove is a narrow street littered with garbage.
I see two houses on stilts in the grove, and these houses are connected to barong-barong houses that dotted the left side of the street from where I stood.
The other side of the northern end of the boulevard is a cemented public space with kiosks one after another, elbow to elbow.
In front of these kiosks are plastic tables and chairs for weary legs, or simply kibitzers like me.
Many of these announce barbecues, inasar, and other goodies, all in the name of meat, and less in the name of fish.
Vegetables, forget them.
They do not offer some veggies in restaurants over here.
You ask for salad and people will say you are nuts—or you come from the United States.
Which is another story.
Broiled meat is the in-thing over here, as in Manila the big city, with the seductions of the promise of ‘unlimited’ rice, promising to the diner that he can have all the rice in the world if he wants to.
The streets are small in Dipolog, the roads perhaps a hindsight when this place got to be bigger and bigger until it harbored the illusion that it can become the motor for development in these parts of ZaNorte, the popular, and administration sanctioned abbreviation of the province’s name.
There are no traffic lights here—or if there were, perhaps I did not see them.
Or they missed me in much the same way that I missed them.
One only have to have the capacity to run to the other side of the street when one is crossing; that is the only one that matters.
Otherwise, this is a country where tacit knowledge is plain and simple, knowledge.
And perhaps better than those demonstrations of the efficiency of first world governments and first world capitalists.
There are capitalists here, of course, and the story of buildings being erected by the Dipolog shoreline is a case in point—a proof of this unethical commerce performed by many in other cities near the sea.
Such as Dapitan, for instance.
Which is another story too.
On my first afternoon, I felt I could no longer stay in Dipolog, but I gave the city another day to amend, to come to a public confession, to admit mea culpa, and ask for forgiveness from a lowly viajero like me.
But this city does not have the language of humility, and so, by the following day, I planned my escape route. Escapo maestro, here I come, here I am.
Two days of wasting my time to a city pretending to be one is too much.
Even if the people are the kindest of the kind people around.
June 9, 2013