Sunday, February 26, 2006

Exploring Cagayan de Oro

Apart from meeting criminologists, I took time out to explore Cagayan de Oro, a city that claims to be “in blossom, in bloom and in boom.” While I find that PR-statement exaggerated, one can easily notice efforts of the municipal authorities to give a face-lift to the place to attract investors and tourists.

Unlike other Philippine cities, in Cagayan de Oro there is a resemblance of urban planning. Situated along the Cagayan River, the city has a historical center with a fine (and airy) cathedral and a rather attractive down town shopping area (apart from the various modern malls which all look more or less alike and are not worth mentioning here), formally known as Divisoria.

Luckily, I was there on a weekend, when at night time the whole area is converted into one giant open air market with vendors – many of whom Filipino Muslims – from the surrounding districts and provinces. It reminded me of the night market in Chiang Mai (Thailand) I had recently been to. In both places, pirated CD-Roms and DVDs occupy numerous stalls.

Mindanao’s second city has a huge student population. Nowhere else in the Philippines have I seen so many Internet cafés in such a small area as in Cagayan de Oro (I frequented them for online updates on the political developments in Manila.)

Less attractive than the Internet cafes and bars with their youthful customers, I found the many beggars, many of whom blind or crippled asking for small donations to buy some food.

On the flight back to Manila, I sat next to a Filipino gentleman with whom I engaged in a lively political dialogue. At first, I assumed he was a journalist or a political analyst because of his profound commentaries regarding the political crisis. In the end, he turned out to be a Protestant clergyman.

Of course, we discussed the president’s declaration of national emergency. At one point, I said, what a stupid and counterproductive thing to do. My co-voyager’s response to my comment:

“When you are in fear, you don’t think straight.”

It’s never good if those at the top don’t think straight.

I hope to find some time in the next few days to put to paper a more profound commentary regarding these depressing (and certainly illiberal) developments in domestic Philippine politics.


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Anonymous Magnolia said...

"When you are in fear, you can not think straight."

Where does this fear come from? Is it because until now the President's legitimacy is still in question? The Hello Garci episode will always haunt her for she knows the truth and somehow she does not want the truth to set her free.

We just celebrated the 20th anniversary of people power. Personally it was a painful celebration. It seems that we could have been a great nation again when EDSA 1 happened but we failed to follow it up. We were jubilant because it toppled the dictatorship but we left it at that. The ruins were not rebuilt. We did not get down on our knees to work our way up. Is it 20 years already? And of course PP 1017 didn't help either.

A lot of times I say to myself that it's time to pack up and leave the country and search for greener pastures. But then again, the Philippines is the only country I have. I could go to other countries, Germany, Canada, USA, or whereever but still I will be a Filipino. I may get a new citizenship but that does not change the fact that my color stays the same, my heart will still be the same - still Filipino.

The President says she is the best person to lead the country, all I could do is hope and do my part. But what is my part? What are the expectations for a good filipino? What is a good filipino?

We fought hard for democracy - to be free. And I guess I have to do my share to keep it that way.

8:40 AM  

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