Field Notes N14

My Dipolog-Dapitan fieldwork was a mixed bag of pure joy and pure contempt.

In Dapitan, in an effort to run after the promise of Internet service, I took the plunge of leaving my pensione house by the boulevard in another city. 

That pensione house simply failed to fulfill its promise of providing Wi-Fi. It said that in its brochure by the airport and I chose to stay there because of that promise.

The brilliant staff put me in in a first floor room, at G (standing perhaps for ‘gago’), and there, the router is hidden away from me. 

I had asked again and again about the Wi-Fi thing before handing over my hard-earned, and scarce, pesos, and they said they have Wi-Fi.

But that was a lie.

They have, but not in my room.

That goes for the "gago" deal. 

The only thing that could save your day is to stay in that pensione house's lobby of 3 by 3 meters and listen to all the sordid stories of people running away from the troubles of the other Mindanao.

Indeed, there are two Mindanaos, or perhaps three. 

Dipolog-Dapitan are Mindanao places, but these are by the peninsula, and a bit more peaceful than the other places where scalawags were reported to be on the lookout for people to kidnap-for-ransom.

“That has become their livelihood,” a policeperson told me.

“They are earning a lot because people pay ransom.”

“Do they? The papers say no ransom was paid each time a kidnapped victim is released.”

I rattle off tales of non-payment of ransom for released victims.

I tell him of the congratulatory posturing of the government and the military and all those involved in the hocus-pocus of negotiations more out of ignorance, more out of dependence on what the newspapers are saying.

The policeperson has become my ally in these parts, and had confided to me some ignoble motives of parties involved in this cottage industry called kidnap-for-ransom and perpetrated by dubious revolutionaries. 

A young policeperson, he finished criminology but had wanted to go into agriculture.

“I found joy in cultivating the land,” he tells me. “I found the meaning of the miracle of life in animals and plants—the signs of them having had to grow, and grow fast.”

“What happened?”

“My father wanted nothing of this miracle talk of the land. He had been a man of the earth, and he told me if he had an option he would not become a farmer. So he pushed me to become a policeperson.”

“You are happy being one?”

“No, not in these parts. How can one be a happy policeperson in the land of terrorists and kidnappers?”

“You do not want to change jobs?”

“Not when father is still alive. I would be a disappointment. I am his redemption in some sort of way. Redemption from all the storms and sacrifice he had to put in to give us a chance in life.”

“I want to take the 8-hour ride to Zambo City from here.”

“Do not even think about it. There are checkpoints everywhere. And we got word that there is this breakaway group of a breakaway group running around and looking for people to kidnap for ransom. Do not even bother.”

“There are checkpoints on the road to Dapitan this afternoon.”

“The checkpoints have been around for some time. And there is an increasing police and army visibility now, as you probably have seen.”

“So I cannot take the road trip to Zambo?”

“No. I do not want to negotiate for your release. And unless you are willing to pay for ransom.”

I looked at him straight in the face.

The afternoon sun is about to rest. The auburn west is about to hide the dimming light of day.

This man is serious, I tell myself.

So instead of going to Zambo City, I took the van to Dapitan and there conversed with the land of Rizal.

I thought I breathed the same air he breathed.

--Dipolog-Dapitan, Las Islas Filipinas 7 Jun 2013

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