DRIVING AROUND MINDANAO
It’s a treat to visit one town after another, without concern for time, for any appointment, for any consideration. Just moving from one place to another. Like malling where one is treated with a barrage of gadgets and novelty items, travelling is exactly the same. Well, except for the fact that in malling, one must walk, ogle, haggle and salivate if the price of something one pleases to consume or take home but the tag does not correspond to the amount which the pocket can assume. In traveling, everything is fair game—the sceneries, the fruit stand along the hi-way, the intermittent traffic, the pesky tricycles, the paved roads, the unmaintained thoroughfare once in a while, the undisciplined motorbike drivers, some dusty and muddy street shoulders, well, some checkpoints and the personal choice of music I brought to accompany the dreary at times exhausting manner of driving.
Of course, traveling is costly than malling. The fuel which is consumed in traveling could already order so much in Shakey’s or ChowKing. But the experience is better. Trekking is more adventurous than window shopping. There are more challenges and yes, more dangers if one is inured with much security as being confined inside the office most of the time. Exposure to the elements is something healthier and more exciting.
Travelling around Mindanao is also very educational. It has a total area of 97, 530 square kilometers slightly smaller than Luzon. And a population of 21 million, almost one half of the population in Luzon. It sustain a number of jungles and rainforests although explorers from nearby island including entrepreneurs have exploited better areas for logging and related land based utilization.
Wandering around the island teaches one the reality of politics, of leadership, of survival, of confidence, of self-reliance, culture, of wisdom. And why not. One could appreciate a competently maintained boulevard. The organized and clean by ways. There is leadership presence and politics in the area and it readily speaks of maturity and responsibility. Of course, there are towns which are also in a state which is very dismal and way too long ignored. Blame leadership, politics but never the people in the town. The people are mere victims of glib talking politicians and opportunists who happen to be elected. If the state of the community affairs remains the same for years, the people must have to deserve their condition. They continue to vote people who impose the worst on them, and they seem to like it.
Travelling affords time to relax despite the backbreaking routine of driving at the end of every week. I drive an average of 10 hours a day, with breaks every two hours. It is a very revealing exercise. It is the only sports I felt affection for. For the last 6 years, I have seen every corner of Mindanao from North to South, from East to West. It is not only fun but a telling event. I feel like Charles Darwin exploring the wilds; I am Jose Rizal contemplating on the new environment.
For quite a time, I felt like the first Arab to discover the nomadic jungle people; I also felt like the first Chinese merchant who landed on the shoreline. There are still unexplored corners of Mindanao and in those areas; life was at its best. In between courses, to fill up gaps in my task as government officer in charge of prison, traveling removes the monotony of bureaucratic concerns and makes me whole and fresh to look into with enthusiasm my regular responsibilities.
Sometime half a decade ago when I was still in Mindanao and about to wrap my term in Davao Prison, I drove from Davao to Manila by land, on my 1100 cc Yamaha Verago big bike. And it was a very exhilarating experience. It was a 48 hour travel time, not continuous though but pleasantly with stop over for every 10 hour stretch. What made it grand was that I was alone. It was man versus machine. It was man versus the elements. And I made it.
My head may be stuck in a stack of papers on week days but I see to it that on weekends my spirit soars including my awareness in every part of the universe where I try to be a pulsating medium of excitement.
What better way to be a serious mental worker five days a week and a two-day journeyman on a regular basis. It makes the mind dynamic and the spirit full of zip.
It is not only pleasurable but highly entertaining.