pop goes the world: paradise in mindanao

POP GOES THE WORLD  By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today,  14 June 2012, Thursday

Paradise in Mindanao

Maayong buntag ka ninyong tanan. (Good day to all of you.)

I’m practicing my Visayan because I have fallen in love with Mindanao, after visiting Cagayan de Oro City, Iligan City, and Davao City last week.

In Cagayan de Oro City last Friday, I witnessed the turnover of an integrated health facility by the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office Employees Union (PCSO-SEU) to the residents of a typhoon Sendong settlement area built by Habitat for Humanity in Barangay Canitoan.

It was my second visit to the city; the first time was in January, a few weeks after Sendong devastated the area. We spent less than a day in both Cagayan de Oro and Iligan, not enough time to get to know the place.

This time around, I got to stay a couple of days.

The PCSO-SEU project is an advocacy of the PCSO employees, who have internalized the agency’s mission of charity. By contributing a portion of their bonuses to the SEU fund, they were able to put up a 54 square meter clinic on a 100 square meter lot donated by the city government under Mayor Vicente Emano, through a linkage of the SEU with Mater et Puer (Mother and Child) Foundation, a non-government organization whose members are women professionals, most of them from Davao City.

The PCSO-SEU Integrated Health Facility at Bgy. Canitoan, Cagayan de Oro. At the left are personnel from PCSO-Manila and Misamis Oriental who attended the inauguration.

The clinic includes a reception area, treatment room, birthing room, recovery room, and standby water tank, all donated by the SEU. The rest of the land will be planted with vegetables and herbs.

Mayor Emano attended the ceremony, along with personnel from the PCSO: physician Jose Bernardo Gochoco, special projects department manager, and SEU officers Chris Bautista, president; Andreo Nualda, first vice-president; Andrew Barcelona, second VP; Soledad Rasing, third VP; Jerusa Corpuz, secretary; Estela Divina, treasurer; Alex Asuit, auditor; Teddy Tomas, budget and accounting department representative; Archie Sopenasky, PR department representative; and lawyer Ravena Joy Rama, VisMin cluster representative.

PCSO will be donating medical supplies and equipment for the clinic, while the Cagayan de Oro government will provide the people to run it – doctors, nurses, dentists, and maintenance workers.

PCSO-SEU water tank in Bgy. Canitoan, Cagayan de Oro. A similar tank will be installed at a PCSO-SEU clinic in Iligan City.

The PCSO-SEU plans to put up a similar health facility in a settlement in nearby Iligan City, which we also visited. Details on its construction are being worked out with the project partners.

Among the other places we got to see were the Agus 4 and Agus 6/7 hydroelectric facilities in Iligan City, the City of Waterfalls. Unbeknownst to many are the vast catchment basin of Agus 4, covered with water plants on the surface, while underground tunnels honeycomb the earth beneath. Three giant turbines of shiny steel there are among those driving power to the region.

Underground tunnel at Agus 4 hydroelectric plant, Iligan City.

The cascading waters of Maria Cristina Falls power Agus 6/7. The foliage around the falls are lush and exotic; its waters rush down to a nature park which welcomes visitors who take pictures under the spray of the falls.

Maria Cristina Falls, Iligan City. It had rained the night before our visit, hence the muddy waters. Usually the waters are clear, say the locals. 

There’s a nature park in Davao, too. Nestled in the pine-covered hills of Toril is Eden Nature Park, which has a zipline facility, buffet dining hall, and activities for visitors such as hiking.

Cagayan de Oro, Iligan, and Davao have highly urbanized centers with malls and shops. The ambiance is Quezon City or Las Piñas, but with more trees. Everything is so clean. The roads are well-paved. Many of the cars tooling about on the roads are late models. The area looks prosperous and developed, but still closer to nature than Manila.

So close, in fact, that the beaches on Samal Island are a mere half-hour away from Davao city proper, including a banca ride across a stretch of sea. At Chema’s by the Sea, a private garden resort on the island, a pocket white sand beach and saltwater infinity pool invite relaxation, as the wide-spreading branches of talisay trees provide shade.

Saltwater infinity pool at Chema’s By the Sea resort, Samal Island. 

SMART’s 3G signal is fairly strong; I can imagine myself filing my MST columns from there, toes in the sand and drink in hand, cackling evilly while my editors hunch over their keyboards in their cramped windowless offices in Makati.

I now know where I’m going to build my retirement cottage.

A cup of brewed mountain arabica coffee at Chema’s By the Sea.

Mag-amping kamo. (Take care.)  *** 

All photos taken with an iPhone 4S. Check out my Instagram feed: @jennydecember

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