Friday, February 20, 2009

Maragusan Valley

I spent the first 15 years of my life in Maragusan Valley, Davao del Norte. It was in this town that my growing up memories were formed. I literally learned how to walk, run and climb mountains here. I went to grade school and high school here. My love for people and the beauty of their different cultures was shaped here. I discovered the the importance of having an inner circle of friends in this place. I fought the battle of peer pressure as a teenage girl here. The circumstances around me here had pushed me to be close to my Creator and God.

As far as my memory serves me well, I cried more than I laughed in Maragusan. I was not happy that I had to bathe in cold water before I walk to school every morning. It didn't please me that we had to eat lots of sweet potatoes or casava with salt when we ran out of rice and fish. The place seemed very remote from the bigger city. I got frustrated that we didn't get to watch TV because electricity didn't come to town until later in my high school time. I was stuck with my little radio listening to some silly journal broadcasters and audio plays aired from Davao City. I also had to share my radio with my siblings, which made it very complicated because each one had his/her own favorite station. We ended up fighting over the little radio. I didn't like the low temps in Maragusan. It felt like I would freeze to death. Yes, it's cooler down there because it is highly elevated. Growing up, I thought it was the coldest place in the world. No kidding. I dreaded our high school parades around the town. The heat from the sun at 12 noon could easily cause me a stroke. The hardest time in my life was when my mom would ask me to do food shopping where I had to walk from our house to the market for about 15 minutes each way. There was no public vehicle to use for commuting and the roads were not paved... dusty on dry season and muddy on rainy season. I walked like crazy in this town. I hiked to school every morning and ran back home late afternoon. I climbed mountains with friends to pick coffee beans and guavas. I was always skinny growing up... no wonder!

Maragusan was a melting pot of different ethnic groups. Here, I was first exposed to different languages and cultures. Quite a few tribes settled in this town. Thanks to that, I have learned that communication does not depend solely on someone's fluency and eloquence of words. I have also learned not to be ethnocentric but appreciate the uniqueness of each people group. In fact, being ethnocentric is being ignorant of the reality and beauty of life. Maragusan was a home of the Mansaka, Waray, Boholano, Mandaya, Moslem and Ilonggo groups of people. Very interesting! It sure did prepare me for my trips to several countries.

My family left Maragusan 20 years ago, just right after I graduated from high school. I was kind of happy because I didn't have to deal with its "cold" weather. We moved to a city by the pacific ocean... plenty warm and humid... lots of fish and coconut. However, after a while, I started complaining about the typhoons and floods. We never had such things in Maragusan being that it is in a valley- surrounded by high mountains that were covered by virgin forests. I also started getting sick of fish. I so longed for the fresh brewed coffee and the huge variety of fruit we could get in Maragusan. I began to miss bonding with different ethnic groups. Tandag was very ethnically homogeneous. I became homesick. We only got to visit is once in a few years.The last time I visited the place was 9 years ago.

On our trip to the Philippines recently, we got to squeeze in a day to drive to Maragusan on the way to Davao City from Tandag. The drive was terrible. It was raining and the roads were in pretty bad shape. But I would say, they were a hundred times better than 20 years ago. Dan, who was driving, had to be the best driver in the world to deal with the rough roads with deep puddles and soil erosion on both sides. Arriving in Maragusan brought back quite a bit of memories despite the many changes in the town. One important change I noticed was the presence of banana plantation. It used to be all coffee trees. It was also nice to see the closest mountain to the town developed into a mountain resort, now called, Haven's Peak. We stayed at one of the beautiful cabins there for one night. The temps were so perfect. It's maybe about 75 degrees Fahrenheit. It was great to see 4 of my closest friends in high school, my close friend when I was 2-10 years old and the people who were very close to me growing up including my nanny and her sister who was the closest person to me growing up. One of my high school classmate who also was a good friend until college prepared a big lechon (roasted pig) for us. It was really great to be specially treated that way.

I would like to bring my family again to Maragusan in two years. This time, I want to be the one giving all those who are very close to me a special treat.

To all of you who I got to meet in Maragusan the other week, thank you very much from my heart of heart!

Ate Kims (close/best friend, big sister, nanny, partner in everything growing up)

Ate Abet (my nanny)

Jingjing (my close friend from age 2 to 10)

4 of my closest friends in grade school and high school: Ferdinand (Enan), Bembem, and Mar Ulysses

Aerial view of Maragusan Valley

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