Monday, December 1, 2008

Cotabato City Weekend: Going There

“What”?! “Are you serious”?! “You must be sick”! “Why don’t you just go to Kota Kinabalu”?!

Those were just some of the comments of friends and family when I told them I was jetting into Cotabato City. But I was all set and determined to do it! I was just telling them, not asking for permission. I could not have foregone my ‘most valued’ zero-fare on Cebu Pacific hehe! I spent a sleepless night booking them zero-fares, so I deserved them. Oh, even an employee of the airline herself asked why I was going there, and my reply was “you don’t have any more destinations that I have not been to, that’s why. And if I don’t return alive, blame your airline for offering zero-fares” whahehehe!

Actually, its not as if I am so na├»ve and clueless of current events in such destinations. I often watch the news, and for places like these, I do a little research. And when I say ‘research’, I do not just collect the bad events on the news. I try to pinpoint them as to exact location and how far they were to my intended destination. Plus, I painstakingly weed out the sensationalized stories. Its just like talking about Batanes. People think it’s a place of howling winds and crashing waves every minute of the day Hello?! Here’s an example of the result of my research: I read on news archives that a bomb was found in some of Cotabato City’s Christian denomination houses of worship. So?! So, I just know terrorists don’t immediately repeat their acts of terror in the same place. Something like “lightning does not strike twice” ba?! So I was safe hehe!

See?! My philosophies and principles in life are just fantastic hahaha! So off to Cotabato City I was! Yey!

Nice flight! The plane goes south as if on the way to Dumaguete, then goes straight towards the Cagayan De Oro – Iligan areas crossing the big land mass that is northern and mid-western Mindanao, down to the Moro Gulf passing via Bongo Island and dives back down towards Cotabato City Airport that is not in Cotabato City! Yes, it’s not. The airport (and runway too) is located in the town of Datu Odin Sinsuat, though it is very near the Cotabato city centre. Just 5 or 6 kms away. Nice enough airport too. Looks and feels like most other airport buildings in this country. Yep, similar to that of Puerto Princesa, Cagayan De Oro, Tacloban, Kalibo, San Jose, etc.

Unique arrival proceedings too! I noticed that the arrival area (and the whole airport vicinity in fact) were rather “peaceful and calm” compared to others where there are so many people. Well, yes there was the usual ‘transport, limousine services to the city from the arrival hall. But outside, it was rather quiet. I came on an almost full flight, how come there were no people waiting to meet/fetch their passengers. I was even talking to myself saying “don’t tell me all my fellow passengers were visitors like me with no one to even meet them at the airport”. That would be uncharacteristically Filiino hehe!” By the roadway beyond an almost empty parking lot, I saw a tricycle already with passengers, some from my flight, others looking like they live or do business in the area. Trike driver called on me and I asked if there were no jeeps. He said there are, though not so many, but advised me that most jeeps wait over at the “junction”.

Whatever he meant, I took his word for it and took the seven-peso ride. I think it was probably a kilometer or less that the trike forded. Voila! True to the trike driver’s word, jeeps were aplenty at the said junction. And people too! As in, it was obvious to me that those people by the sides of the y-shaped intersection were either waiting for passengers coming from the airport or sending away their relatives going to the airport. And there was a checkpoint with barricades. I asked a jeep driver what was all that about. He told me that the area was all the public could be, beyond that was already off limits and only passengers are allowed onwards. That, he said, was to ensure security of the airport and the area since it is a military camp. Wow and gosh!

So I took the next 7–peso ride to center of the city. Jeep driver told me Hotel Castro is right on its very route. But that’s another story. So I was in Cotabato City. So far, so good!

Next topics: the rest of my Cotabato City Weekend!

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