Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Adventures Along the Road Less Travelled

 While I was scanning old photos, I came across pictures of my misadventures in places I never imagined I could visit.  Thanks to my previous job, I get to go, though hesitantly, to areas where it needs a bit of tinkering to help improve their way of living.  Ok, tinkering is an understatement, I guess they need a semi-overhaul.  Anyway, these places are considered conflict areas in our country where, let us just say, activities happened in a very very unusual way.  This is Western Mindanao.

When I took the job, I was expecting that I'll be doing 80% office work and the remaining for field inspection.  However, it turned out that the office work will also be the office in the middle of the site project.  I worked for a non-government organization, funded to provide infrastructures to conflict areas particularly in Mindanao.  so I'm a bit proud that I have been involved in giving better life to the people of  my country.

The first month on the job zoom in a flurry.  Two weeks orientation then off to site inspection.  I was full of excitement at the same time apprehension.  First stop is Zamboanga City.  A 45-minute plane ride from Davao city.  Honestly, I was so unprepared to travel to this kind of places.  Nobody even picked me up from the hotel, because the company vehicle was unavailable that time.  I checked in at Garden Orchid Hotel.  Nice hotel, but needs a bit of renovation.  Their carpet needs to be change.  Seriously.  When I was already inside my room, I was so excited to explore the city.  So got my sling bag and decided to brave the streets of Zamboanga.  Knowing that this city experiencse bombings once in a while, that didn't stop me.  No taxi in the city, only tricycles.  So I went to this Gateway Mall.  The fare was Php 50.00 which I think is stiff and later realized that it only costs Php 25.00. hmp!  I bought my toiletries and checked what I can buy for pasalubong later.  Went back to the hotel and ordered my dinner at their restaurant.  The food was good but a bit oily.

Me - beside the 19 seater plane

Next morning, I was scheduled to fly to Tawi-Tawi.    So I carried my backpack and other luggage  and went to the airport, which is cool because its just a walking distance from my hotel.  I'll be taking the Seair Airline.  A small airline, so it was funny when I checked in and told me to jumped into the weighing scale with my back pack.  Seriouly?  Anyway, its protocol because I'll be riding a small aircraft.  Tadaah!! A 19-seater plane.  When I saw the plane, I was already shaking.  I was asking myself if that day is going to be my last day to be alive.  My heart was pounding so hard, I have to hug my backpack tighter for fear that my heart would just jump out of my body.  I think I prayed a hundred Hail Mary before boarding.  Do you want to know about the plane?  It's not as high tech as I want it to be.  It was even non-air.  Meaning windows are opened at the cockpit area.  The flight took 30 minutes before we touched down in the middle of nowhere.  There I was welcomed by my co workers.  It was like we were the only people there.  The whole time that I was there I have two close friends following me wherever I go.  And they carry toys that I don't particularly like.  From the project office, to the site until I arrived at the hotel, my "friends" wearing fatigues stayed outside my hotel.

Bongao Peak

My "friends's" toys. Not in the picture not allowed

What I love about Tawi-Tawi is the essence of the place being untouched.  So many beautiful resources.  Even the sunrise there is majestic.  The Bongao Peak I guess is the queen of the place.  Overlooks on the area and majestic anytime of the day.  Plus this beautiful plateau houses the famous white monkeys.   Their dried fish and squid are also pretty cheap.  Those kind that are expensive when sold in the groceries.  And, must try is their wild boar tapa.  Though was not able to try it because, by the time the people there informed those who sell this type of delicatessen I was already on my way going to Jolo, Sulu.  I feel sad, because one local really brought a fresh boar (still bleeding) to give to me as present (*blush*).

Next stop, Jolo Sulu.  Since I know that this city is notorious for scary activities, I was informed that I have to cover my face during the inspection.  They would easily identify a new face and you know what will happen next.  It was one scary night.  I was not able to sleep well.  The one thing I will never forget about Jolo is their airport, which is basically just a small office, is asking passengers for travel tax before boarding costing Php 10.00.  Only in the Philippines.

Before I went back to Davao, my last stop is Zamboanga, my boss took me around the city and check their tourist spots.  That's where I discovered the barter market.  Way before malls were created, a barter trade area is established where goods from Malaysia and Indonesia are being sold.  I bought some goods and even haggled like I'm in divilandia.  I bought tons of imported stuff for a cost of Php 300.00  Shopping!

That first trip was something I will always remember, I came back to Zamboanga and Tawi-tawi every month except Jolo, because of death threats and warring groups in our project area.  Still, I will always remember sunsets and sunrises in Tawi-Tawi.  The fresh beat of Zamboanga and their barter market.

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