Thursday, December 31, 2009

Tracy, CA and Cagayan de Oro, Mis. Or.

We now divide our time of the year between Tracy and Cagayan de Oro. In terms of living conditions, no two places could be as diverse, in my personal opinion. One is in the tropics and the other in a temperate zone. Thus, while Tracy may be heating up at this moment in the low 50’s, registering 80’s in Cagayan de Oro would be quite normal even during this time of the year.

The wife just flew back to Tracy, via San Francisco, and should be arriving any hour soon, while I had just bathed here in Cagayan de Oro after a sweaty jog around our park at past 7 this morning.

We have just recovered in the morning after from the noisy and raucous fireworks that brought the New Year in last night, but the wife will have arrived on the same day she left, New Year’s Eve, after logging in a total flight time of over 15 hours throwing in some waiting periods between flights. Credit that to the still-confusing (to some) datelines one crosses amid-flight.

To highlight a stark contrast, once the wife gets home to Tracy and prepares for bed early if the planned celebration is for the following day, a quick and complete change in attire and sleeping habits will immediately ensue. She will have to bundle up even inside the well-insulated house if the heater has not been turned on. And batten up under blanket and thick covers when getting to bed. Quite a drastic change from what she has gotten used to doing in the over 6 months she spent in Cagayan de Oro, where we are down to our shorts, or even naked from the waist up for me, when we prepare for bed even if the electric fan and air-con both do double duty to make the room comfortable. Only a very flimsy poplin blanket will provide cover should the air-con misfire from its med-cool setting.

But we have done this several times already.

Now to the geography of both places.

Tracy sits as part of the wide and fertile San Joaquin valley that stretches from northern California all the way to the central valleys in the south. It is one of several cities under the San Joaquin County. It was essentially a farming town before creeping housing developments started carving up the huge flatlands to perimeter-fenced housing tracts accommodating new residents spilling out from the crowded parts of the Bay Area.

Only the housing bust and global recession have frozen the almost unstoppable urbanization of Tracy. It now boasts of a population of about 80,000.

Our development sits closest to the western boundary of Tracy and from the ramps of Highway 205, which connects with Stockton and the Sacramento areas. The lot cuts are sizeable enough to allow for some miniature gardening in a number of streets. Thus, we have been able to plant some fruit trees and some flowering shrubs.

And one of our choicest advantages is that we can access the fabled Baghdad By The Bay, San Francisco, easily and within an hour going west.

On the other hand, Cagayan de Oro sits at the northern coast of the big island of Mindanao, land of promise and questionable security issues, in some parts of it anyway. No doubt from its vantage view, it is the premier city and is the unquestioned gateway to the rest of the island.

But it has own many redoubtable shortcomings – such as too many people, too many poor people, governments are ineffectual and lazy in serving constituents properly and adequately, its southernmost portions continue to be wracked with violent encounters with rebels and militias, between them and government forces, etc.

The city itself has a population maybe topping a million or a little less. Nobody really knows for sure. Many residents belong to the squatting class, people/families living on shanties built on either government lands or unused private lots, or even on shoulders or sidewalks of streets. It has a teeming population cramped within a relatively small city. Though it still has far-flung barrios, they call them barangays now, considered remote and rustic.

Our old house is inside a subdivision situated less then two kilometers from the heart of the city. One can literally walk from the house to the city’s premier plaza. Built in the 70’s, this squat one-storey and timber-frame building still reveals after some cosmetic work the cruel ravages of nature’s harsh tropical elements – like humidity, termites, and the blistering sun, etc. Now it has more concrete components than when it was first built – used to replace wooden panels, joists, and posts obliterated by fast-working and hardly detectable termites.

But we call it home, the first home that sheltered our emerging family then. And we also call our Tracy house home because it is in the place where we spent decades watching the kids grow and the grandkids added to the growing extended family.

This is called living bi-coastally. I think.