Tuesday, November 18, 2014

A brief respite to Zambo’s island with pinkish fine sand

This is the second part of my blog post with the City of Zamboanga as the main subject, my first time to write two articles out of a single visit in a single destination. Because the place is special to me, I would love to inscribe a separate post about The Great  Sta. Cruz Island, one of the most popular places in the entire Zamboanga Peninsula. I realized now is the very time to share my story about the island that was also responsible of itching my restless feet.

This island nestled in between the city of Zamboanga and the province of Basilan is by far the only beach front with pinkish white sand. Amidst the growing controversy about the island being abode of the notorious bandits in Mindanao, Sta. Cruz Island still stood out as one of the most sought-after beach destinations in the Philippines.

From the mainland of Zamboanga City, we were ferried by a boat to the island with a travel time of 15 minutes passing the Basilan Strait. The Paseo del Mar is the docking point where we were also provided by a police escort prior to our departure. An escort had already been a standard procedure in going to the island to ensure safety of the guests as imposed by the Local Tourism Office. While on our way, I saw several ferry boats cruising from Zamboanga to other portions of the Autonomous Region in Muslin Mindanao (ARMM). In the northeastern part of the island we spotted the two prevailing towns of Basilan, Lamitan and Isabela.

After 15 minutes of cruising we finally docked at The Great Sta. Cruz Island. Actually there are two islands comprising it, the other one adjacent to the bigger island where we settled is the small Sta. Cruz Island. As expected, we were all set to witness the pink sand. At first glance, the pink in it could never be distinguished but if you try to zoom in the sand, the pink colors will be very clearly laid out and spewed evenly to the white color that made the combination very saturated.

Also, when you position yourself some meters away from the island, the pink shadow will be very visible especially if it is kissed by the sun rays, very beautiful scenery in a place portrayed badly by others. The bigger coral formations in pink are other attractions in the island. To a colleague and friend who is afraid to visit Zamboanga, you really missed this island Doreen Joy Durano Bauya, and all these pictures (hehehe).

The seawater is very tempting, as well. You could not see single garbage floating around at least 500 meters from the perimeter of the island. And because the island is declared by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) as a Protected Area, strict implementation of environmental laws is being observed by the local authorities. At this point, the management of the island is done by the city government of Zamboanga while the promotion is handled by the Department of Tourism.

The community in Sta. Cruz also takes part in the protection of the island. We were informed that the eastern tip of the island is where the community settles; perhaps, to my mind also include residents who are members of the Abu Sayyaf, MILF and other groups. There were local folks selling souvenir items in the area. Some fishers even sell their catches of fish and crabs.

I really saw some fervent reasons to make ecotourism as the only way to save the island from further destruction and to ignite peace in this place.  Looking at the natural facets of Sta. Cruz Island and the friendliness of the residents, those potential visitors who voluntarily swayed away from this lovely place should take a second look. For me and my friends who reside in region XI, we are just two regions away from this island. We should not be hounded by the wrong notions that Zamboanga and the rest of region IX is not worth a single visit. After all have been said and done and in the final analysis, we are all mortals. If we do not try, nothing will really happen.

If I may quote the Eraserheads, “kung magsisi sa huli, kaysa naman walang nangyari.” 

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Mi Hermosa Ricorrido en la Ciudad de Zamboanga

(My Beautiful Tour in Zamboanga City)

Just two days before my scheduled trip to Zamboanga City for the 12th Mindanao Communicators Network Congress, two bombing incidents happened right in the heart of the city. A lot of question marks were then drawn from the minds of my friends and relatives whether I would pursue the trip or not because the security and safety of the city, according to them, were not stable. The bombing were the first incident happened after the city suffered a major siege last year as a result of the armed conflict between government enforcers and the Abu Sayyaf group.

As one of my bucket lists, I decided to go on with the trip. Being raised in Mindanao for the rest of my life, issues about conflict in Mindanao is not new to me.  And I have always been wanting to find out how the image affected the life of the city itself.

And I had no regrets pursuing that. For me, Zamboanga City is one of the best cities in the country with a very colorful history and culture. The negative image portrayed and exaggerated by the media could not overpower the beauty of this place also being known as Asia’s Latin City.

While my colleagues took the Davao-Zamboanga flight, I opted to take the long bus ride from Davao City to Zamboanga City. It was an “over ride” affair as I consumed an exhausting 24-hour one-way ride passing the corridors of Bukidnon, Cagayan de Oro, Misamis Oriental, Iligan City, Lanao del Norte, Zamboanga del Sur, Pagadian City and Zamboanga Sibugay.

Long before the Cebuanos came to Zamboanga, there were only three major dialects of the people; Maguindanao, Tagalog and  Chavacano, with the later being the dominant one. It was only now that Cebuano is the most-widely spoken dialect in the city. It is the third largest city in the Philippines and the sixth most populated region with population now reaching to more or less one million. The long coastal stretch of the peninsula is one of its assets, however, it is also  one of the reasons why this area is vulnerable for penetration of lawless elements coming from other parts of the Mindanao island.

Zamboanga City serves as gateway to the provinces of Tawi-Tawi, Basilan and Sulu. When the siege happened in 2013, these three provinces were also part of the casualties as the usual trade activities in Zamboanga were paralyzed for more than a month.

The city port as gateway to Basilan, Sulu and tawi-Tawi provinces
My impression of the city remains differing from what other people look at Zamboanga as a battlefield and an unsafe place to live or visit. The rich culture that is associated with the Spanish is one reason why we should look at this place as the country’s next big thing. When I visited the Zamboanga City Museum I learned the unique cultural attributes of the place and its people. I was even delighted when I found out that the city, with the help of the Department of Tourism, is making an effort to preserve its cultural heritage through the museum located just within the Paseo del Mar compound.

The local architecture of some of the structures in Zamboanga City is also a testimony of its rich historical identity. For me, all edifices in Paseo del Mar are living relics from which Zamboanga was built up from the very start of its checkered timeline. 

When I roamed around the downtown area, I observed a flourishing commerce and trade in Zamboanga City. Huge commercial structures are visible in major thoroughfares. Banks and other financial institutions are in greater number.

However, there is one place in the City that also illustrates a throwback of trade during the Spanish time and it is located in Canilar Trading Center, more popularly known among Zamboangenos as “Barter Market”. Of course, we all know that the term “barter” is a trading practice in the past with no cash involved. In Canilar, the products can be brought in cash but the big difference is the price because all items here are very cheap. It features variety of locally-made products from the place and aside from the items available, it also displays the creativity of the local people in Zamboanga.

I was supposed to take the overall loop of the peninsula but with the limited time I had in the place, I was not able to visit other special places of interests. Well, my experience in Zamboanga city for three days is more than enough to inform the rest of the world that there is indeed another city in the Philippines everybody should visit and experience.  

There are so many people, in fact Filipino people, who refused to go to Zamboanga because they did not want to be enlightened by the reality that the place is not as horrific as they thought of. There might be bombings happening there, but the bombings are not as frequent as the crime rate happening almost every hour in Metropolitan Manila and other huge cities in the country.  If only we can be agents to promote this city because of its positive attributes, Zamboanga could have been another Metro Cebu or Davao in the making.

As a government information officer who participated the communicators congress, I have always been in constant pursuit to visit places like Zamboanga. If I die out of curiosity then that will be fine. But in all honesty, Zamboanga is for those who wanted to live. Davao might have grabbed the “Life is Here” phrase first but Zamboanga deserves to have it as well.

I urged everyone to visit Zamboanga now and be one of those who left the place saying “muchas gracias Zamboanga.”

Sunday, November 2, 2014

All about Nostalgia Dekada 90 Concert and my Top 10 All-time Eraserheads Favorites

Let me start this article by stressing a few line from Ely Buendia in his latest song Sabado “buti na lang Sabado bukas”. It could have been a different story had the Nostalgia concert held in a separate date other than Friday. It is always nice to end a busy week with an impressive viewing of a concert I have long been waiting for without worrying of a next day’s work schedule. I had all the time in the world to rock and roll.  Thank you so much to the organizers of Nostalgia Dekada 90 concert last October 31, 2014 at SMX Convention Center in Davao City featuring two of the most popular bands in the 90s, Wolfgang and the legendary Ely Buendia of Eraserheads.

I was fortunate to have invited by a good friend Sir Andy Ugdoracion for a VIP ticket to the show and with the consolation of a half-day work scheme in relation to All Saints Day and All Souls Day, I travelled to watch for Captain Ely Boy performing live in SMX. I was way ahead of the schedule along with some of the obviously-excited Eheads fans. I had a long chat with some of the fans while we were sipping the very cold San Mig Light as we waited for the show to start. We didn’t care about our names, but we blended well with each other instantly because we had the common language used during our conversation –Eraserheads.  

My salute to Wolfgang for a very entertaining performance. Basti Artadi and company were in their usual alternative tunes. And when Ely stood out to take over the stage, all of us were overwhelmed. It was my first time to watch him performing live. I was amazed by the energy he brought out, and when he started singing some of the songs from their first three albums I was able to reminisce my early college days. It was indeed nostalgia.  

The performance by Ely during the concert was for me a reaffirmation of the band’s greatness. The simplicity of their music had made them phenomenal. The way they blended their music well with the real-life story of my generation was exceptional. What’s good about the Eheads is that they don’t complicate their music. The melody of every song is a testimony of every Juan dela Cruz experience. Their lyrics seem to be very simple but the message can hit you in the eye. And I felt all these when I watched the Nostalgia concert. 

Influenced by the  Nostalgia Dekada 90, I decided to list down 10 of the most personal favorite songs of the Eraserheads. Of course, this does not mean that I do not like the other pieces. In  fact, I love all of their songs but there has to be something special, songs that had already been a portion of my personality up to this very days.

This compilation starts from the breakthrough Eheads album Ultraelectromagneticpop and stretches to their last studio album Carbon Stereoxide. Some of the songs in my list depict my life’s circus and eventually helped shape my individuality. It has everything to offer in my 37 years of existence interfacing an ingredient of life, love, friendship and survival.

I do not want you to be bored by this list but I hope this selection will be part of yours too.     

10. HUWAG KANG MATAKOT. Being one of the singles of the Natin99 album released in 1999, this song speaks about  an assurance. Just when all the Eheads fans thought of an inevitable disbandment, they made sure to leave a promise to all of us that the Eheads will always be there no matter what happens. As a true fan, there is always reason for us not to be afraid of after disbandment because for as long as we listen to their songs, they would be alive forever and their music will be heard generations after generations.  

09. HEY JAY. Perhaps, this is one of the Eheads songs that did not gain huge popularity in radio airplays and fan request. However, this is a masterpiece. It reminded us of the true meaning of respect. The song portrays the life of a gay friend Jay who suffers discrimination. If you listen closely to the song you can feel the sincerity of Ely’s voice. The sympathy of a real friend is obvious. For those who did not hear the song, I advise you to look for it in youtube and I am sure you will be enlightened by its message. 

08. MINSAN. A cut from the Circus album, this song clearly articulates friendship that had been forgotten by the passing of time. One of the few good lines I like in the song is the finale that says “at kung sakali’ng mapadaan  baka ikaw ay aking tawagan dahil minsan tayo ay naging tunay na magkaibigan,” The song reflects the real meaning of preserving friends that despite the distance and time will always remain.

07. TORPEDO. I can always relate to this song especially during my high school days. Courting a girl during our time where there were no cellphones was one of the hardest things to do.  Aside from the humorous lyrics, I also like the arrangement of this piece as well as the melody. Marcus Adoro, Raymond Marasigan and Buddy Zabala also did their share of making the song even more captivating.

06. TOYANG. This is definitely one of the most romantic love songs ever produced in the history of Pinoy music. As usual, the message of the song was overpowered by the witty lyrics but if you make further word-for-word scrutiny you will distinguish the loveliness of this song. Some of the lines that depicts romanticism is “mahal ko si Toyang pagkat siya’y simple lamang, kahit namomroblema basta’t kami ay magkasama” and “makita lang ang kislap ng kanyang mga mata ako ay busog na,” and who else can be lovelier than them?

05. LIGHT YEARS. This song, I believe, is dedicated to a very special person. I have always tried to cultivate the deeper meaning but there is always a mystery associated into its lyrics. Nonetheless, the song is spectacular as it talks about chasing someone beyond reach. It is like chasing an impossible dream. What makes the song special also is that it was the very last song performed by Ely in their first reunion concert in 2008 when he suffered an unexpected heart attack.   

04. PARE KO. From the Ultra album, Pare Ko is a song about friendship. While courtship is a thing that should be enjoyed in school but somehow it also gives us annoyance which is being explicated in the song. The youthful voice of Ely reminded us all of a teenage trouble but at the same time relates friendship as a refuge. The line “O pare ko, meron ka bang maipapayo, kung wala ay okay lang, kailangan lang ay ang iyong pakikiramay, andito ka ay ayos na,” and I guess there ever has been a single youth on earth who never felt the same.   I will always love this song for sure although a lot of people hate this.

03. SEMBREAK.  In his letter to his classmate Kim, Ely sang an expression of boredom while having a semestral break. To some extent, I love the honesty of this piece. Usually we resort to doing strange stuff at home during dull moments. Like some of the song lines, I also did the same during my college days such as cuddling a guitar, writing letters and send them through snail mail, basketball sa banyo, fixing a bicycle and waiting for the rain, just to name a few.   It also articulates a wish to all students, “sana ay may pasok na para at least meron na akong baon.”   

02. FRUITCAKE. For me, this is one of the best Christmas songs ever. The arrangement is excellent and it really sounds like their idol The Beatles. From the album of the same title, Fruitcake conversed us all of the lone message in yuletide and that is love. The holiday should give us happiness. It should also be sweet. The one thing we should never forget about the song is that the season should be sustained all throughout the year, not just in December as described in this line “It’s the season for being happy, but the reason is dead and gone, if the reason for being happy takes a backseat when the season’s done.”  Our life as Christians should be like fruitcake made of candied or dried fruits, nuts and spices and added with a wine spirit to make it even delicious as it grows old. Life, indeed, is a piece of cake.  

01. ANG HULING EL BIMBO. This song deserves to be op top on this list and I guess I don’t need to explain why.

Could have beens: Ligaya, Waiting for the Bus, Poor Man's Grave, Alapaap, Overdrive, Shake Yer Head, Hard to Believe..... and the list still goes on I can no longer enumerate.