I hate it when people obligatorily inquire what I have been doing on my extended vacation to the old homeland. For one thing, it has been everything but a vacation; it never was planned as one and all those trips back over these many years never were nor did they develop into anything other than harried working trips.
I am no workaholic, neither am I obsessed with work. But simply because of pressing realities, I have been constrained to take those trips, including this one, to attend to business that required my presence and decisions.
Still, without meaning to random incidents and activities manage to insert themselves unobtrusively into the trip timeline, to spice up a bit what otherwise would be a very serious, somber, and boring succession of business activities that had to be attended to and resolved.
Thus, related hereunder under no specific chronological and/or priorities order, are certain interesting recorded trivia during this trip, enlivened with some pictures.
18th Century Residence
This plaque is prominently and permanently plastered close to the corner side of the building which fronts our old home site in Cagayan de Oro, which family dwelling was earlier demolished to make way for an awkwardly towering three-storey concrete commercial building, made taller by a mezzanine and a partly-roofed roof deck. This historical landmark plaque recognizes and details the importance of this ancient building built in the late 1800s by a local Chinese resident who used imported stone masonry from his old hometown in mainland China, Shipped in the dark and damp hulls of trading ships plying between China and the Philippines, cut stones made of coralline served as the main component of the Chinaman’s residence in what was then a very remote part of the archipelago, in the island of Mindanao. The present building reveals very little traces of the original building since it has over time been plastered over with new materials and has been resourcefully incorporated into a larger and more modern multi-storey commercial building.
The text on the plaque is in the Pilipino language, which I assume does not sit well with the local residents who speak a different dialect, Bisayan. And much like dredging old wounds, it speaks about the heroic deeds of some “revolutionaryos” who fought against the foreign invaders in the early 1900s, and the latter would be the Americans who occupied the entire archipelago after imperial Spain lost the Spanish American War. And morosely reveals that many of these unfortunate “revolutionaryos”, hapless casualties of the resultant war, were buried in the back of this old house on supposedly unmarked graves.
Pictured here is the tallest crest on the Kitanglad range which sits majestically on the plateau of a province called Bukidnon, which in the dialect means, mountainous. At over 9,000 feet it is proudly ranked as among the top tallest mountain ranges in the entire country, maybe overhauled only by Mount Apo, another tall monument in Davao, way further south in the same island. When the US armed forces still held sway locally, it had maintained a sophisticated tracking system on its peak, euphemistically referred to as a weather station. But now the peak is dotted and punctuated with many commercial pylon structures, though its sublime heights continue to exhibit an almost surreal atmosphere. Nature’s way of obliquely providing cover for many of its grandeur?
We have been quite fortunate that we bought some farmlands that lie just below the foot of this awesome natural wonder. Atop 1100 meters, we are blessed with the cool climate of a temperate country and yet it is no more than an hour away from the jungle-like city bustle toward the north.
And tucked in a cozy ridge liberally planted with green cool pines is the story-book actualization of a mountain retreat – a new subdivision quite unlike many urban development. It has big lot cuts ideal for truck gardening on the side. Aptly named Mountain Pines, its big clubhouse from nowhere is pictured above. And we share our dream images of the stately Kitanglad range with its prospective residents.
A Timely Reminder and A Cause For Hope
Now, what the heck are gravestones, locally referred to as lapidas, doing in this entry?
When one has been away from a place for too long, it is not unusual for stray thoughts to wander into the distant past – of close relatives dead and gone. A quick visit to the local cemetery, or what are now called memorial parks, helps to soothe these aching thoughts. A timely and apt reminder also of one’s oncoming mortality.
But on a more hopeful note, a helpful revelation about how one generation has improved much in terms of lifespan, both expected and actual, does elevate one’s time-worn pulse a bit. My paternal grandfather died at age 54, my father at 57, his younger brother at 55, an older sister at 48, and a cousin died at childbirth.
But my generation has not only set the bar of life higher but many have hurdled way past above it. Hooray!