Friday, November 21, 2008

Magallanes Tour

Do you ever even know where that is? No its not that swanky place at the intersection of EDSA and South Super Highway! This Magallanes is a town next to Butuan City (going northeast to the sea) and at the mouth of the big river. What made me go there? Just to see what the town has since it claims to have been the site of the very first Catholic Mass in Mindanao. Plus, it is the location of the purported oldest tree standing in the country.

Going there
I already knew from www that the best way to go to Magallanes was by boat, so I asked around where I could find those boats. Lucky me, from my rolling tour yesterday, I learned that the Philippine Ports Authority area which is where the boats depart from is just near Luciana Inn. It’s an easy trike ride away but I opted to walk the distance (just about 600 meters) along the side of the river.

It is not really a “port” or even a “wharf” as you would see in most places. It is more of a park by the bank of a river! There is no bustling human activity nor are there incessant vendors who harass you like it is at the Batangas City port. This one is beautifully different! Its just a breezy and not noisy park with a little open building as the “base of operations” with a lot of wooden benches as waiting area. There is no protruding structure to the river like a pontoon or anything like that. So the boats are parked with their sides parallel to the river bank. But all boats have “katig” – that wing like structure. So, they put out a plank of wood for all passengers to get to the boat. And for those not used to this kind of “bridge”, ha ha it is not easy!

Schedules? There are boats every so often and the skeds are posted on a big board. I couldn’t understand how they made those intervals – sometimes its 55 minutes apart, other times 20 minutes and so on. But it usually is never more than an hour interval from 6AM up to 930PM. I learned however, that during non-peak hours, some boats opt not to ply their route, so you have got to wait for the next! Lucky me again, I caught the 9AM trip with fairly a lot of passengers (about 20 hehe). I forgot how much the fare was, but that only means it is forgettable! And, if I remember right, no tickets! The conductor just goes the entire length of the boat from front to aft collecting everyone’s fare.

On this trip, the river current was fast going downstream, so the usually 45 minute trip did not even last 30. This mode of transport is so nice and different. You think the boat is heading up to the open sea, it’s a big big river for a highway, and the sights are either dilapidating wood industry structures or warehouses on both banks of the river. You also get to see some settlements by the river banks and out in the distant sea are private piers by some industry giants.

Arriving at Magallanes is similar to how it is at Butuan… meaning the boats “park” on their side parallel to the river bank. But the outrigger, the “katig”, gets in the way! So your dear boatmen must again stretch out that plank of wood to connect the boat to dry land. This activity is for me something that all tourists should watch out for. Am not telling here how it is done, but OMG! Be ready with your videos and digicams to capture 1) how they “anchor” or tie the boat to their chosen docking area; 2) how they are able to lay that long wooden plank, and; 3) how they assist passengers through the plank! Some pictures here reveal that if you are observant hehe!

I debated myself as to why they don’t park their boats with the bows perpendicular to the bank. Then I realized the river currents would just the same sweep them to their sides. Thus, the “parallel parking”!

The town
It’s a quaint little town. I think my village in QC is even bigger than the whole poblacion. The small but clean and well maintained municipal hall has its back to the river so you have to come out to the front – even past it, then turn your back if you are looking for signage that will direct you to the Magellan Marker. The locals are very helpful though and kids might even accompany you.

Magellan Marker
Well, this town being off the tourist path obviously made plans that did not (yet) see the beautiful end. This marker is a big enough parcel of land fenced off but with an always open gate anyway. The most remarkable thing about this marker is… it is unmarked! There are two monument-like structures I don’t know what for hehe! Well, at least I know this is where they say was the first holy mass in Mindanao was held.

Oh, there is a marble slab with inscription! And I took a close-up picture of it! Here, read it hehehe!
I actually noted this down and copied it to my PDA, it says…
QUOTE
The present town of Magallanes (Butuan Viejo) enjoys the
historically proven honor of being the site where the First
Catholic Church was erected and blessed and where the
First Christian Community of Mindanao came to life on
September 8, 1597.

We the present inhabitants of Magallanes dedicate this
monument in honor of Fr. Valerio de Ledesma, S.J., of
Salamanca, Fr. Manuel Martinez, S.J., of Segovia, and the
unnamed brother, and to our foreparents Datus Elian and
Silongan.

May it speak forever of our loyalty to the Catholic Faith
which our foreparents accepted four hundred years ago.

September 8, 1997
UNQUOTE

I noticed there is no visible sign or even hint of the National Historical Institute’s logo. So, this is not endorsed by them? Anyway, I proceeded to the riverbank for one of my most unexpectedly fantastic experiences!

By the river
Coming out from the Magellan Marker, I chanced upon four kids seated by the river bank. They were just looking out to the big river and telling stories. They were not boisterous or even giggling as other kids their age would usually be. Curious but conscious not disturb or distract them from what they were discussing, I slowly inched to hearing distance. One kid was saying (in bisaya) “if you’re on a sunken banca, just stay there, it will still float a little and the river will bring you to Butuan”. Another replied “then you will be able to visit the city”! Another one (pointing to the sea) offered her idea “what if the river brings you that way”? It was answered with “then you will reach Manila and you will see actors and actresses”. But one of them cut the story short with this: “it will not happen, you will be eaten by big fishes just there near that ship” (pointing to a cargo ship).

Hmm, that “very serious” discussion did flick something in my brain. How nice it is to be a kid again… oblivious of the real world and just dreaming day or night hehehe!

After taking shots of the kids, I thought it was time for my presence to be seen and heard. I stepped even closer to them and was promptly greeted with “good morning, sir” (in English). I readily returned the greeting with a smile! I asked them why they were sitting on their slippers. The unanimous reply was “so that our clothes won’t get dirty”. And so I said, but your feet will get dirty! One of them replied with “its okay, we’ll just wash our feet later, but our mothers won’t be mad at us since our clothes are not dirty”! Hmm again, I liked the logic hehe! I stayed on talking to them about the river. They had so many stories both fiction and non-fiction but I just listened to them. Ah no, I won’t tell it here anymore… those are part of my memorable “trophies” for roaming this country!

Moving onwards, I chanced upon a manong chopping wood. His wife was busy laying the chopped wood along the paved bank of the river to be sun dried. As if I didn’t know, I still asked what the chopped wood was for. Of course the reply was for “firewood”. I learned that all these wood (a lot of them) they just pluck out from the river as these usually come floating from upstream. Manong said these are usually thrown as scraps by the lumber companies along the river. Wow! Deforestation, I thought hehe! As the manong started to saw off another piece of log, he called out for the wife to check out what he had. He explained that it was rather of very good quality and asked his wife what kind of wood it might be. Wifey came, rubbed her palm on the wood surface and smelled it. She said something (name of a tree that she thought it was) and asked husband to cease and desist! She said “we could use it later for something more important”. As I wondered, husband asked for an example! Wifey was prompt to reply that it could be made into a chair or stool or even chopping board! End of discussion, husband heeded the order to cease and desist hehe! O hey, even their doggie also came to smell that wood, then it returned to its busy lifestyle of basking under the shades. Atrevidang aso!

The church
For lack of anything more to see, I was heading to the place where I could get a ride to the city of Cabadbaran. But I chanced upon the Magallanes parish, so I hopped in to check it out. This is the Nuestra Senora Del Rosario Church. It is fairly new and airy you won’t even need an electric fan as in other churches. There is a “second floor” and the sides are open so it makes the church real bright with a lot of fresh air. Oh, the entire length of both sides even sports an unexpected veranda ready for any spill-over during big church celebrations. There were some 20 or so little kids being taught a church song by some old lady but I didn’t dare take a pic or vid of them as the old lady looked like a wicked spinster and did not seem to be a bit welcoming! Y’know, them good old and strict ladies of the church hehe!
A modern church… does not look like an architectural wonder from the outside but has a bright and cozy inside!
Then I chanced upon a church cleaner who was (I just knew) already observing me as I roamed around. When I was about to exit, she timidly approached and directly asked me if I could spare “thirty pesos” for her to buy a kilo of rice. I just felt it… I was sure she does not do this all the time (how many tourists come this way anyway) and she just sincerely needed help. I reached into my pocket and happened to have fished a P50 bill. I gave it to her and she immediately said thank you. I could see in her eyes that she was half ashamed for begging. I asked (as I fished another paper bill from my pocket) how much she earns for cleaning the church. The reply was “nothing”, she just volunteers to come and clean the premises. This time I was able to fish a P50 and a P20 bill. I gave her the P50 and kept the P20 explaining it was for my tricycle ride to Cabadbaran. Tears lining her eyes, she held my hands almost kneeling and profusely thanking me. I said it’s alright and I proceeded to exit. Made a quick glance at the altar and silently asked… “why?” Oh well, I just hoped that the P100 would have helped her enough.

The tree
This Bitaug tree is advertised on the web and most tourist brochures as the oldest of them all in this country. And this was my other purpose for coming to this place.

Hopped on a multicab waiting for passengers going to Cabadbaran. I was just the second person to do so. I immediately discerned this would take some time of waiting until the vehicle gets full with passengers to start rolling. But impatience consumed most of me, so I got off the multicab and hailed a tricycle that was on its way to Cabadbaran. Told the driver to drop me at the tree. Now I was moving, yeah!

But on reaching the famous tree, it did not look like anything spectacular to me. When the tricycle stopped, I did not notice I was loudly talking to myself when I said “that’s it? parang madami na akong nakitang mas malaki pa dyan a”! That surprised the driver and the two other passengers. They were wondering who among them I was talking to hehe! I told manong driver I won’t anymore get off and just proceed with him to Cabadbaran. Along the way though, one of my co-passengers probably couldn’t help anymore keeping her knowledge to herself. So she politely explained to me that the tree was famous not for its size but for its age. I asked if it didn’t follow that the older a tree becomes the larger it grows. The reply of the young lady was “not necessarily”. I think I’ll have to take her word for this one! Hah, lesson learned again hehe!

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