A HERO FALLS UNEXPECTEDLY

Why does a hero have to die when things are going so well?

When Abraham Lincoln was assassinated, the idea of democracy in the US was becoming a way of life.

When Ramon Magsaysay died in a plane crash, the people of the Philippines were learning to live a corruption-free lifestyle.

When Mario Okinlay was killed in an ambush a few days ago, the Municipality of Impasug-ong was enjoying an uncontested political leadership that went back several terms. And not because he was a tyrant or a dictator, but because nobody seemed to want to break his EXCELLENT track record.

Happy Times

Happy Times

I met Mayor Mario a few years ago. At the time (2008), it was Julie, his wife, who was the incumbent Mayor, but Mario was the brawn behind her seat. Star Cinema was making a film called Love Me Again and their main location site was in Impasug-ong. Our meetings were brief but were enough to make a lasting impression.. well, on my part at least.

First, he didn’t dress to impress. When we went to do a courtesy call, both he and his wife sported simple polo shirts tucked into worn jeans tucked into signature cowboy boots, topped with signature cowboy hats. If I hadn’t known better, I would have thought they were just a couple of cowboys come to audition for the movie.

a hundred or so extras

a hundred or so extras

Second, everything that was requested – a rest house, highway-to-location-site roads, electrical service at a remote location site, 100 extras, tractors to pull vehicles out of the mud, fire truck water hose props, and a lot more – was provided, most of the time for free (the extras were given free lunch).

Third, wherever we went – within Impasug-ong or even traveling between their municipality and Dalwangan in Malaybalay – we felt secure, though we never really saw who our security detail was or where they were stationed.

break time

break time

Last but not least, he was down-to-earth and easily approachable. And he had no qualms about filling in to carve the sumptuous lamb, a treat that came from no less than his own flock. Again, for free.

So why would somebody want him gone? What sick reason was strong enough to justify taking his life? There are just some things in this world I will never understand.

Mayor Mario T. Okinlay.. May he peacefully rest in eternal glory forever.

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The Teacher and The Engineer

She was a Teacher.

She was born in Tiwi, Albay to a Chinese-Filipino couple, and the third child in a brood of eight. Her parents owned a large grocery store that took up the first storey of their house. As a child, she and her siblings would play underneath the rice boxes and in the bodega (warehouse). One time, they tied dilis (salted small fish) to the skirts of the wives who were buying rice, so when the women left the store, dogs would chase them. It was one of their pranks, she claimed, with a twinkle in her eye.

Her father would harvest fresh cacao fruits from their back yard and roast the seeds in their pugon (clay oven). He would then grind up the seeds using a hand stone grinder and she would enjoy watching the oily powder fall into a bucket at the edge of the table, knowing, anticipating the delicious hot chocolate it would be made into later. During stormy weather, her mother would cook large vats of champorado (rice boiled in native chocolate) for the neighbors who would seek shelter in their house, which was the only concrete house in their village. Of course, with the neighbors came their children and they would all have a grand time playing.

As a young girl growing up near rice fields, it was common for the whole family to pitch in when it was harvest time. Of course, it was the men who pounded and threshed the stalks to detach the grains, but it was the women who separated the rice from their hulls and the young people helped clean up. And sometimes, just for the sheer joy of it and on nights with full moon, they would find themselves breaking into song.

She remembers when, in college, her father rented an apartment for them (her brothers and sisters all went to the University of Santo Tomas) in Manila and her mother would bring supplies from the province on the train, and would have to hire a whole jeepney to transport them to the apartment. What were the supplies? Everything from salt to rice to coconuts to fish and meats. Now I know.

She was a graduating student when she was invited to a local dance. Back then (1950s) night life consisted of organized dances held at the school halls and everyone from the other universities was invited, heavily chaperoned, of course. Even if you didn’t want to go, you had to because this was where you applied the social graces your parents so painstakingly taught you at home.

So she went (against her will, she says) with her eldest brother as her chaperone. Her brother was a young doctor, so he introduced her to all his doctor friends (and lawyer and engineer friends as well) in the hopes of her liking maybe just one of them.

He was an Engineer.

Coincidentally, he was also born in Tiwi, Albay and had gone to the same public elementary school in town as she did, albeit a couple of years ahead. His family knew her family and they socialized in more or less the same circles. Both his father and her father dabbled in politics but they both were elected Councilor at the same time.

He was the second child in seven and the first son. And because of this, a big burden of responsibility was placed on his shoulders. Though his older sister also graduated from college and became a court stenographer, it was he who was being groomed for something greater. It was he who would bring the family name to its glory. First, though, he had to find a niche for himself.

He didn’t have much of a childhood, but because of it, he learned to be a good worker. And because he saw a lot during his working years, he developed his own practical sense of humor. During his off days, he and his friends would buy and sell goods. You could say he was one of the first mobile salesmen of his time. Once, during lanzones season, they divided their purchase among themselves and went off to sell their shares at different corners of the market. They all had their marketing strategies – one was to drop a bag-full of black ants into the pile so that customers would think the fruits were really sweet. Another was to bad-mouth the other guy across the way, but when his basket of fruit was emptied, he would go across the way to the other guy and get some more.. and they would share the profit.

He chose to study at Araneta University, the best agricultural college at the time. For their practicum, he and his classmates were sent to Bulacan for a few months. Their mission was to build a house and live off the land efficiently and effectively, even selling their goods for a good price. During that time, they were to make notes and journals of all their activities and, afterwards, submit to the school their project report. Needless to say, he and his mates enjoyed their assignment together and did a fantastic job and were allowed to graduate with honors.

It was his school’s Senior Prom and he was without a date. He saw a friend in the crowd, a doctor, who seemed to be introducing a beautiful young lady around. He approached them and met.. her. A week later, he received a telegram announcing a new job waiting for him in Cotabato. He had been so enamored by her that night that he dressed in his Sunday Best and hied over to her house immediately, and in the presence of her parents and his grandfather, asked for her hand. He would not go if she did not say YES.

Their courtship wasn’t all roses and chocolates. He had a lot of distractions. He came from a family that was of Spanish descent and was the heir apparent but her parents didn’t care about that. At every opportunity, they tried their best to show his family that they (hers) were of a higher class and that she deserved better. (Does this sound familiar, like as in a soap opera?) On the other hand, she also had a lot of distractions thrown at her by the community. Remember those doctor-lawyer-engineer friends of her brother? And each time one paid attention to her, she would write a letter or telegram or note to him, citing real and imagined reasons why they were not meant to be.

Finally, after receiving and reading a meticulously long discourse relating how his mother seemed to show particular favor towards another teacher (of Spanish descent), who just happened to be a boarder in his family’s house, he decided to conclude it once and for all. Unknown to her (but I think her brother knew), he flew in from Cotabato. She was at another dance, this time, held by Tabaco High School, where she was teaching Home Economics, and she was dancing with a very persistent suitor – a doctor, who could have been one of her brother’s friends, but who had spent a substantial amount of time trying to woo her until that moment.

Without care for the other people in the room, he cut in and solved the problem she had presented in her letter, saying, “If my mother likes her, let her marry her. I am marrying you.”

They were wed on September 7, 1957.

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It Was Normal

Being a kid in Cawayanon was normal.

The famous Acacia Trees

The famous Acacia Trees

It was normal that Kindergarten Commencement was held on a picnic blanket with tea party props under an acacia tree in the school yard with our parents around us looking on and we sang and danced The Little Teapot:

“I’m a little teapot, short and stout.
Here is my handle and here is my spout.
When I get hot then I shout!
Tip me over and pour me out.”

It was normal to sit on top of the jungle gym bars (some 10 feet above the ground, without harnesses or safety ropes) and play Broken Telephone: “Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers. If Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers, how many pippers did Peter Pickle pep? What?” We would laugh until our stomachs hurt and nobody fell off.

It was normal to read 10 books a week and memorize the longest word in the dictionary: pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis – which meant something like a disease that affected the lungs.

It was normal to be in Grade 6 but be taking assignments from a Grade 8 Math book.

It was normal to be eight years old but be on the same team as all the older kids because you were a fast runner or a good kicker or a quick thinker.

It was normal to climb the guava trees at the back of the school, wade in the creek (nobody had heard of leptospirosis back then), roll in the freshly-mowed grass and try to catch as many falling leaves as we could whenever the wind blew through the acacia trees in the school yard.

It was normal to race to the Baclig’s front yard and climb their many fruit trees (rambutan, santol, star apple, balingbing, macopa, mansanitas, guava, orange and what have you). It was always ok, whether we asked permission or not. (Thank you, Mrs. Baclig!)

It was normal to barge into the Lodge and demand (with a please) for sliced pineapple, ice cream cake and cinnamon rolls. All signed, of course, for our fathers to pay later when they received their paychecks.

It was normal to see your mom dress up in party clothes or formal wear or even funny costumes for the once-a-month Ladies’ Day Celebrations.

It was normal to play in the rain, swim (in the pool) in the rain, tell each other secrets in our own little hiding place under the house.. in the rain.

It was normal to play bowling without ball boys (young boys hanging around the golf caddie house at the Clubhouse moonlighting as bowling ball boys).. We learned how to fix the bowling pins in the proper position for the perfect STRIKE! This was years before the bowling alley became automated.

It was normal to go Trick-or-Treating on Halloween and tell ghost stories about the house we were about to ask treats from. (“Did you know that Mr. Mendezona had a visitor last night? He was sitting in the sala reading a newspaper IN THE DARK! Really? What time was that? Around midnight! Eeeeeeee! Trick or Treat!”) Trick-or-Treat usually started at 6:00pm and so if we were to visit each house, we would sometimes end at around 11:00pm. The last house was inevitably the Hernandezes, the Mendezonas, the Javellanas, the Valorias, the Jaranillas or the Morans.. the scariest houses I can remember.

It was normal to sit on Santa’s lap on Christmas and receive the exact gift you wanted, complete with all the stuff you asked for in your letter to Santa, not realizing that “Santa” was really Mr. Barger or Mr. Martin or Mr. Wheeler or one of the Weather Station servicemen, who coincidentally hadn’t been around earlier. (Hmm.. think Superman and Clark Kent.)

It was normal to learn all about American History and American Heroes (i.e. General Douglas MacArthur) and know practically nothing about our own country. (To the Americans reading this, I write this with pride because it gave me an edge over my high school classmates when we took up World War II.)

It was normal to call the Guardhouse on a Saturday night and request horses for the next morning. Then we would just walk over to the Piggery (which was next to the Dairy) to claim them.. The rest of the day would be bliss, riding off and getting lost in the endless pineapple fields. We would come home tired but ecstatic, not really knowing how (the horses knew).

It was normal to get fresh milk in glass bottles dropped at your doorstep every morning. My brother and I would call dibs for the thin film of cream that always formed on top.

It was normal to pick up the phone and wait for the Telephone Operator to come on, and ask for your friend’s house (Can I have the Carew’s house please?), hear a few Morse-code-like rings before someone picked up on the other end. I always wondered why our phones didn’t have any dials.

It was normal to handle insects, frogs, worms, fish, and even snails with your bare hands.

It was normal to sit on the ground without padding (towel, handkerchief or piece of paper).. when we stood up, we just patted our bottom and off we went.

It was normal to take off our shoes and run through the “fog” created by the Fog Machine – which was actually a tractor-driven tank spraying insecticide to kill the mosquitoes. This was scheduled every other Saturday and we would get a kick whenever the “fog” would enter the house. (Amazing none of us acquired pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcano-coniosis for eagerly inhaling it.)

It was normal. (If you could see me now, I’m shrugging with a confused look on my face, because you see? It was.)

“Do not educate your child to be rich. Educate him to be happy. So when he grows up, he will know the value of things, not the price.” –

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A Sheltered Life

Growing up in Cawayanon was different. There were only a few families, about 30 in all. We went to a different school and played with just a few kids. Many of them were American, hence our spoken language was English. Sometimes, we would be introduced to some teachers from OLLES (Mr. Vismanos, the Scouting Teacher; Mrs. Tavera, the piano teacher) and were encouraged to play with the children. But that was only sometimes. Most of the time, we just stayed in the Compound, and invented our own games.

We had Slip-n-Slide (after or during a heavy downpour, puddles in the grass would form and if you ran fast enough you could slide on the slippery grass), Annie-I-Over (two teams positioned on both sides of the school building, one team would throw a tennis ball over the building and had to chase the other team to catch the one member who caught it), Kickball (the foot version of baseball, complete with bases and a soccer ball), Scottie (the Cawayanonized version of Tag). During P.E. class, we learned Patintero and Piko (the square version of Hopscotch), which quickly caught on and became popular recess games as well. And because recess was only 30 minutes short, we would “continue” our unfinished games later during lunch period or after class. Somehow even without the aid of photos, everyone seemed to remember where they were standing when the bell rang.

In the Compound, “outside” meant outside the house. We knew not of the goings-on in other places, though we would venture out every Saturday afternoon to go to mass in the Fabia Chapel (now the Sacred Heart of Jesus Chapel) or we would go on the occasional road trip (it was that far then) to Cagayan for some shopping. Otherwise, going fishing at the lake, spending some quality time with friends playing Marco Polo or Shark at the pool, or just walking around was enough to fill the hours.

We had our share of parties. For the whole year, there were many occasions to look forward to. Easter, Independence Day (June 12), Fil-Am Day (July 4), Halloween (October 31) and Christmas Eve (December 24) were much-awaited holidays for us kids. Valentine’s Night and New Year’s Eve were strictly for adults only. Birthday parties were held in school, with the child’s mother coming over with an entourage of yayas bearing the coveted birthday cake and goodies. The whole school would come out to celebrate with you, too. Were classes cancelled? It would seem so.

Movie Night was something else, too. The films (often shows that had not yet launched in the Philippines) were so generously lent by the Weather Station officers. Wednesday was a school night, so R-18 movies or higher were shown. Friday was for everyone (G) and Sunday was mixed (kids were sent home before the second movie started), because after all, the next day was also a school day. Movies were shown at the Bowling Alley, which was really a Bowling Alley during the day. There was also Bowling Night (every Monday) started by a few families and joined by others who wanted to develop their bowling skills or just enjoy the camaraderie.

It was common practice for American families to hold garage sales when they “left” (transferred out). I remember we acquired two bicycles from the Martins. I learned to ride on them, fall off of them, race on them. Those bikes survived some 10 more years of childhood escapades before they finally were laid to rest, coincidentally, after my dad’s retirement in 1987. I guess they, too, realized their purpose in this world was done. If only they could talk, what stories they could have told.

The day I entered high school in the big city, I realized what a sheltered life I had led. The school had a total of 900+ students as compared to the 20-student total population I had just left behind in Del Monte School. There had only been two of us in my class (I was 2nd Honor!), while I was suddenly lost in my freshman section of 30. Suddenly I was nobody, just one face among many, striving for good grades. Eventually, I learned to live with having many people around me (millions, because I lived in Manila for 10 years). There were days when I needed them but most of the time, I was happy with just my handful of close friends.

And yet, looking back on it all, I wouldn’t have had it any other way. I am fortunate that my parents decided to settle in Damilag, a mere stone’s throw away from the pineapple plantation and 20-minutes drive from Cawayanon. None of us (5 kids in my family) followed in my dad’s career in Del Monte, but it warms my heart to know that though people have come and gone, the standards have not changed, and it is an honor to be serving the company, even if indirectly and from the outside.

My dad, Reynaldo Cuerdo, Sr. (b.1930-d.1995), was the General Manager of Liberty Flour Mills when he met Mr. Luisito Lorenzo, Sr. (then Plantation Manager of PPC) and was presented an offer (to transfer to Bukidnon) he couldn’t refuse in 1963. A year later, Rey brought his small family (wife, Vacion and two children, Boy and Nene) to live in Camp Phillips. With their meager belongings – just two large boxes worth, according to my mom – they settled into camp-life in house #_, in front of the Labor Union building, and then were later transferred to house #_, beside the church. Vacion was a high school teacher but because there was no public high school nearby, she accepted the post of Home Economics Teacher for Grades V and VI at the Plantation Elementary School. She taught there from 1964-1972. In that time, two more children were born (Tingting and Joey) while the youngest, yours truly, was conceived just before their transfer to Cawayanon.

Cawayanon Lake, Hole #12, House #26

Cawayanon Lake, Fishing Dock, Hole #12, House #26

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Philippine Holidays in 2014

With the ease in buying domestic airline tickets and booking tour packages nowadays, having the knowledge of WHEN to travel should be most useful. I’ve also taken the liberty of including the more popular festival dates for you to check out. See you around!

JANUARY
January 1, Wednesday – New Year’s Day (Regular Holiday)
January 9, Thursday – Feast of the Black Nazarene (Quiapo, Manila)
January 19, Sunday – Sinulog Festival (Cebu City)
January 26, Sunday – Dinagyang Festival (Iloilo City)
January 31, Friday – Chinese New Year (Special non-working day)

FEBRUARY
February 23, Sunday – Panagbenga Festival (Baguio City)
February 25, Tuesday – EDSA Revolution Anniversary (Holiday for all schools)

MARCH
March 8, Saturday – Kaamulan Festival (Malaybalay, Bukidnon)
March 15, Saturday – Sandugo Festival (Tagbilaran, Bohol)

APRIL
April 9, Wednesday – Araw ng Kagitingan (Regular Holiday)
April 17, Maundy Thursday – Holy Week (Regular Holiday)
April 18, Good Friday – Holy Week (Regular Holiday)
April 19, Black Saturday – Holy Week (Special non-working day)

MAY
May 1, Thursday – Labor Day (Regular Holiday)
May 1, Thursday – Pista’y Dayat (Lingayen, Pangasinan)
May 15, Thursday – Pahiyas Festival (Lucban, Quezon)

JUNE
June 12, Thursday – Independence Day (Regular Holiday)
June 24, Tuesday – Parada ng Lechon (Batangas)

AUGUST
August 7, Thursday – Eid-El FITR Muslim Festival (Special non-working day)
August 21, Thursday – Ninoy Aquino Day (Special non-working day)
August 23, Saturday – Kadayawan sa Dabaw (Davao City)
August 25, Monday – National Heroes Day (Regular Holiday)
August 28, Thursday – Kagay-an Festival (Cagayan de Oro City)

SEPTEMBER
September 20, Saturday – Peñafrancia Viva La Virgen (Naga City)

OCTOBER
October 18, Saturday – Lanzones Festival (Camiguin Island)
October 18, Saturday – Masskara Festival (Bacolod City)

NOVEMBER
November 1, Saturday – All Saints Day (Special non-working day)
November 23, Sunday – Higantes Festival (Angono, Rizal)
November 30, Sunday – Bonifacio Day (Regular Holiday)

DECEMBER
December 20, Saturday – Giant Lantern Festival (San Fernando, Pampanga)
December 24, Wednesday – Additional special non-working day (Special non-working day)
December 25, Thursday – Christmas Day (Regular Holiday)
December 26, Friday – Additional special non-working day (Special non-working day)
December 30, Tuesday – Rizal Day (Regular Holiday)
December 31, Wednesday – Last day of the year (Special non-working day)

The New CDO-Laguindingan Airport

The New CDO-Laguindingan Airport

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A Writer’s Tour

Last month, we toured a guest – magazine writer/editor TERRY BRAVERMAN from California – who was in town to do a write-up of Cagayan de Oro City. His 3-night stay at a 4-star hotel, basic course rafting activity, visit to the various museums and shopping centers, as well as his day tour of the city were all kindly waived in exchange for a good word in his magazine. This is his post:

December 12, 2013  
Volume 11 Issue 260 TRAVEL ADVISORY
CAGAYAN DE ORO, CITY OF GOLDEN FRIENDSHIP 
One of the prime regions for growing, processing and exporting coconut is the island of Mindanao in The Philippines. Cagayan de Oro is the primary shipping port of departure for coconut products. This bustling Philippine city of 700,000 residents is often referred to as “CDO” by fellow countrymen. While the city proper is not particularly impressive or exciting, it is a strategic hub for exploring nearby nature and eco-adventure sports like white water rafting, kayaking, trekking, and zip lining.

The metro area of CDO is highly urbanized and given the dearth of multiple lane highways, the city is often choked with traffic even during the middle of the day. The Downtown area is generally limited for aesthetics and cultural amenities, with two small but quality museums standing out as exceptions. Absent is the grand Spanish colonial architecture, majestic churches, and elegant plazas more readily seen in Latin American cities. Recently, a new mayor is undertaking some ambitious beautification projects to upgrade and revitalize areas of Downtown and the riverfront. Some marked improvements should be seen in two years’ time.

There is one notable city-wide event, though each barangay (neighborhood) has its own fiesta honoring their patron saints. The Kagay-an Festival, is a week-long spectacle in celebration of CDO’s patron saint Señor San Agustin. It is held every August. The word “Kagay-an” means river in the native Higaonon tribal tongue. Highlights of the Festival are the Kahimuan Trade Fair that features the native products of the city and province, particularly the agriculture products, colorful Folkloric Street Dancing, Golden Float Parade, and a culinary show.

Tourism infrastructure within the city is in need of enhancement, with just one information center in the central Plaza Divisoria. Accessibility to accurate updated information, directions to points of interest, and professional tour operators are lacking. Online websites, whether government or otherwise, lack specifics about hours, days of operation, or directions. However, once you find your way around there are some very worthwhile experiences for both culture and nature.

SITES TO SEE                                            
Downtown Area      

Plaza Divisoria (a.k.a. Golden Friendship Park)
Built around 1900, it served as a town divider after a great fire that almost burned down the entire city. The park is dedicated to local and national heroes like former President Ramon Magsaysay, Andrés Bonifacio, Dr. José Rizal, and former Mayor Justiniano R. Borja. Most of the Kagay-anons soldiers who died during the Philippine-American War are buried beneath the monument and has survived the ravages of time including World War II. Local Manghihilots (practitioners of the Hilot style of massage) can sometimes be found at the Ramon Magsaysay monument on the plaza. They work on a donation basis. Hilot is a word from Tagalog that generally translates to “massage.” The practice of Hilot is part of the traditional Filipino way of life.

St. Augustine Cathedral
Originally this Gothic-inspired church was built around 1845 and nearly a century later was destroyed during World War II. It was rebuilt and only the wooden cross in front remains from the old church. Home to the Archdiocese of Cagayan de Oro.

Gaston Park
It was in the year 1626 that Fray Agustín de San Pedro persuaded the chief of the local Himologan native people to transfer his settlement down river, to the present-day Gaston Park. Gaston became an execution ground for Spanish criminals when their rule came to an end. Later it turned into a training ground for the local revolutionaries during the American occupation. Despite the great historic significance for the people of Cagayan it is disgracefully maintained, as exemplified by a broken, trashy fountain in the middle. Now shovels are in the ground for some long overdue beautification of this important site. Located next to the St. Augustine Cathedral.

City Archives Museum
This is an Old Water Tower built circa 1922, just across from the Cathedral and Gaston Park. Recently, it has been upgraded to a museum that houses antiquities, memorabilia of well-known families in the city and a gallery parade of Cagayan de Oro history. Not really worth your time, unless you are doing a research project about the city.

Executive Building (Old City Hall)

It used to be known as Casa Real de Cagayán, a former Spanish Governor’s residence and seat of the present-day local government officials.

Vicente de Lara Park (a.k.a. McArthur Park)
A popular jogging area during the morning, it is situated in front of the Provincial Capitol of Misamis Oriental building. The age-old mahogany trees provide a therapeutic canopy for strollers. The Press Freedom Monument and the Heritage Monument of Misamis Oriental designed by national artist Eduardo Castrillo can also be found in this redevelopment park.

MOGCHS Administration Building
This was part of the 1907 Gabaldon initiatives to establish and build public schools all over the Philippines under the American occupation.

Casa del Chino Ygua (Balay na Bato)
Built in 1882 by the Sia family; they are the first Chinese migrants in Cagayan de Oro. Most of the revolutionaries died and buried behind the house during the Philippine-American War.

Museo de Oro

A museum located within the main campus of Xavier University, Ateneo de Cagayan. The museum exhibits artifacts dug from Huluga Caves and a repertoire of Bukidnon, and Maranao cultures that have survived the ravages of time. Closed currently for renovations.

Museum of Three Cultures
This museum is part of Capitol University. The highlight is the excellent gallery of Maranao brassware and gold antiquities from Tugaya, Lanao del Sur Province. The craftsmanship is truly inspired. Another gallery of ethno history displays Cagayan de Oro history, Butuan archaeological artifacts, Lumad arts and crafts from the Higaonon and Manobo cultures, and a treasure of lowland artifacts of the Northern Mindanao region. Finally, there is an art gallery and coffee shop that promotes the local visual arts of Mindanao. It also has a research archive that houses Spanish-era written documents, photographs, and memorabilia of well-known personalities in Mindanao, which is open to all researchers and students of culture.

DINING & ENTERTAINMENT VENUES

Brew Berry Restaurant
A national Philippine magazine claims that the Chicken Adobo made here is one of the ten best in the country. While I’m in no position to make the call, I have to concur this is one of the best servings of the national dish I’ve ever tasted. The sauce is a perfect blend of sweet and sour that is to be craved and raved about. Located on the corner of Velez & Chavez Streets in Downtown CDO

Lantaw Bar & Restaurant
A festive outdoor ambiance lends color to the restaurant, whose specialty is Cagayan’s very own cuisine creation known as Siniglaw. Essentially, it is another dish called Kinilaw (seared Marlin soaked in lime, spiced with chilis and other delights) with a dollop of grilled pork thrown in for good measure, and it’s delicious. Served with steamed vegetables as well. Live jazz is performed here on weekends in late afternoon-early evening. Located on Masterson Road, just beyond the entrance to the Pryce Plaza Hotel on Carmen Hill.

Luxor Bar & Restaurant

It was a Saturday night, and as far as I was told this was one of only two places with live music. It was pretty standard pop tunes sung by a female threesome and played on a keyboard/synth. by another. Their voices were Filipina fine. Corner of Tiano Bros. & Macahambus Streets.

Inilog Bar & Grill  
This was the other live music venue, anchored by a brother and sister duo who were replaced by a solo male singer/guitarist with a good repertoire of songs. If you’re thirsty the Buko (Coconut) shakes are yummy here. Just a block away from the Luxor, on Tiano Bros. & Kalambaguhon Streets.

AROUND THE CITY                          
La Castilla Museum
La Castilla was the home of the elite Peláez family. Now it is a museum housing the family heirlooms and antiques. The quality collection embodies the varied decorating tastes of the family, from Spanish colonial to Chinese traditional. The memorabilia includes family history and is administered by the Liceo de Cagayan University next door.

Gen. McArthur Memorial 
A historical marker located in Macabalan Wharf, at the edge of Port of Cagayan de Oro; the monument commemorates two historical events, one supposedly claims this is where the General made his famous “I shall return” speech.

WHERE ELSE TO EXPLORE
Makahambus Cave
This was the site of the only battle won by resistance fighters against the Americans in 1900. Ultimately the U.S. won the war and occupied The Philippines until independence was achieved in 1945. Makahambus is an underground cave with a 130 foot (40 m) circular gorge. The ravine is thick with various species of plants and huge trees. It is the most easily accessible cave, located on the main highway.

Huluga Cave
An archaeological site in Sitio Taguanao, barangay Indahag. It is composed of an open site and two caves where skeletal remains of a child and woman were found. A fragment of the woman’s skull was discovered 377 A.D. by the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, California, United States. Currently it is closed to public access after a damaging flood in 2011, but may be re-opened soon.

Monigue Cave
Located in barangay Mambuaya, the cave entrance is water flowing in from an underground stream. The cave has a small opening that seems too narrow to be passable, it has six inches airspace between ceiling and water that you have to submerge yourselves one by one, equipped with a helmet and a water-proof cap lamp. It contains a beautiful sparkling formation, of Calcium Carbonates (CaCO3) or Calcites. These stalactites and stalagmites, white and brown, are a sign of oxidized materials that take 50 to 60 years to form; the cave is definitely spellbinding. There were formations of flowstone, gurpool-resembling, rice terraces, transparent crystals and picturesque speleothems, such as cathedral drapes and icons.

Opol Beach 
The place to go for a swim, and to find frolicking Filipino families feeding themselves and having fun. About a 30 minute drive from the city.

TOURS
Great White Water Tours
If you seek a wet adrenaline rush on the river, this is the place. The tour company offers beginner or advanced courses, but after doing the former I concluded this is a cut more adventurous than a beginner’s ride. Some of the 14 zones of rapids traversed will spin you around pretty good and give a good drenching. At one point the guides intentionally collide with a large rock, capsizing the raft. I was briefly trapped under the raft and gulped some water before escaping to open space. This is not for timid types who cannot swim. And the option exists to jump into the rapids and be carried downstream for quite a ways (which is a lot of fun, for sure).

I was told that I could bring my camera, but not informed to turn it over to one of the guides for protection. Knowing that I was doing this tour as a journalist, they should have surmised that I’d want to take photos. Apparently the other tour participants were told; perhaps I was not present at the moment it was announced. This should have been done at the office instead of the river site. Thinking it was an easy-going beginner’s course, I brought the camera into the raft. Shortly after climbing into the vessel, the guides proceeded to pour buckets of water on all of us. I asked them to stop as my camera was getting soaked, but they kept on and the camera became inoperable. It was frustrating and later I had to spend two hours and 200 pesos in a repair shop to make it work again. While the trip was fun, the camera damage was an inconvenience and reflects poorly on the professionalism of the tour company. http://www.riverraftingcdo.com

La Montana Tours
Edgar & Gina Amador are a friendly and knowledgeable tour team who will take you anywhere you want to go in their van around CDO. I was shown the Makahambus Cave, La Castilla Museum, and General Douglas McArthur Monument. Tour prices are very reasonable. Contact: La.montana.tours@gmail.com or +63 928 507-3843

WHERE I STAYED                           
Pryce Plaza Hotel
Perched atop Carmen Hill is this peaceful oasis within the city that will satisfy most any traveler in need of a break from the congestion below. Pryce Plaza is the oldest upscale hotel in CDO and presents superb views of the city and coastline from your room’s window. Spread across several acres of woodsy environs, it is a pastoral sanctuary within the city.

The Superior Room is spacious, clean and comfortable for a good night’s sleep, and includes a mini-fridge. The furniture is very basic and uninspired but at least not tattered. For exercise, the swimming pool is well maintained and has sufficient length to do long laps. Pryce has a fitness room on the premises as well as a basketball court. For the pamper-minded, the spa provides relaxing massages and facials.

The breakfast menu varies from American style to Filipino, Chinese, and Korean. One night I ordered Tanguigue steak a la Pobre for dinner – grilled swordfish smeared with pepper and chopped nuts, flavorful though a bit parched to the palate. Food was generally OK.

The lounge entertainment in the form of a keyboard/synthesizer player with female vocalist is good quality. This well-schooled musician plays with the whimsical enthusiasm of Chico Marx, and the versatility of someone who has performed in many countries and explored many genres.

This hotel is suitable for company events which require a big plenary session. The ballroom accommodates up to 500 pax, and there are two smaller meeting rooms.

If you like the feel of the by-gone days of easy-going, gentle Philippine hospitality, this is what you get at the Pryce. If you desire a more modern trendy hotel with music and TVs blaring, and being jostled and hurried, go somewhere else. Yes it’s old and could use some restorative touches here and there, but I like the old-style feeling. As long as everything functions, the staff is congenial, and the food is good, I’m quite content and that’s the Pryce in a nutshell.
Reservations: www.pryceplaza.ph

Terry Braverman

The Writer and The Author

To know more about the magazine (which is called THE REPLENISHER, by the way), check out this link: terrybraverman.com/Replenisher.

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Turning 40

Normally I wouldn’t give a damn.. but my high school batchmates have been posting articles about this milestone since January that I guess it rubbed off on me.. just a little bit. In fact, I don’t feel forty. They say you’re only as old as you feel. Well, if I said I feel 18, you mean I can go back to college? Besides, seriously, would you feel 40 if your 82-year-old mother looked like this?  011So, here we were, on our way to Malaybalay, to celebrate our birthdays – Mama’s was a couple of days ago, mine is still next week – at the Monastery of Transfiguration. Why there? Many reasons: one, I have always wanted to bring Mama there in time for Brunch with the Monks (which happens only every 2nd Sunday of the month); two, this year 2013, the 2nd Sunday of December happens between her birthday and mine; and three, long before Dahilayan or Divine Mercy or even our decision to go full-time into the tour operations business, Ed and I were already bringing guests to the Monastery, and therefore, this church holds a very special place in my heart.

The plan was to treat Mama like she was our guest and give her the Exclusive Bukidnon Tour. Though she had already passed this way several times in the past, I felt it was important she “reviewed” the sights, particularly the ones which had changed significantly. And what with the ease of taking digital photos nowadays, I figured, take, take and take some more!

At Alalum Falls, Sumilao (alalum is Binukid for ‘deep’) 025026

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At Pine Hills Hotel, Malaybalay City (where we spent the night)  061043

 

 

 

 

 

 

At the Monastery of Transfiguration (where we attended mass and celebrated our birthday brunch)  088109

 

 

 

 

 

At the Impasug-ong Panika Marker  126At the Maluko View Deck (overlooking the Maluko “Bowl of Life”) 148On the bright side, because they also say “Life Begins at 40″, I will no longer be pressured to “act my age”!

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