Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Visiting the ORG

Its not Cotabato City’s. It’s ARMM’s. So I learned of the cute situation, that I was in ARMM and I was not! And its already ORG, not anymore ORC! Gosh!

Here goes…
After that leisurely walk along Governor Gutierrez Avenue, with the grilled bananas, tricycles and Estosan Hotel sightings, I reached the expansive compound of the ORG. It looks like (and should be) a provincial capitol. Well, this is even a regional capitol. it’s a big building but distinctly a southern Philippines look especially up at the roof. Beautiful! The colors too, though seemingly modern, exudes that unmistakable Islam feel. Green is the most significant color in Islam and/or therefore, culture of our southern siblings. Ah I have known about that long ago while in Indonesia. If you think we Christians are wise at patronizing the color green to show our love of the environment and the present “save earth” advocacies, we are not the originals in that field. For the Muslims, it symbolizes nature and life itself – ever since! It’s even the most important color in the Qur’an! This was probably my first ‘sighting’ of a big building in this country that is Muslim-inspired.

Hey, it amusingly felt like I was in another country as I walked closer to the building hehe. There was of course the big flagpole with the Philippine flag waving (as if to remind me I was just in my very own inang bayan). But I noticed something else. There is that smaller, secondary (if I may call it that) flag also waving in the air, just below the big wide flag of this country. I even tried viewing it at different angles for a clearer vantage, but alas, I kept sneezing every time I looked up. Anyway, it looks like a morph of our own flag and something else. The red-white-blue colors are still dominant but sanz the stars and the yellow sun, I think. Argh, I really wanted a closer view of that thing but I could not! The nearer I went to the flagpole, the harder it was to look up for a clearer view. Basta there is another flag hehe!

The building is best viewed from the base of the flagpole. Looking at it amidst the wide expanse of concrete all around makes you feel like you really are somewhere outside of this country. Like ‘Tiananmen square’? Probably feels like it. The very wide area all the more heightens the building’s importance and/or authority. Real nice. And good that there was an army officer doing his afternoon jog, a yuppie who drove and dropped by in that maroon car, and these two dudes in a motorbike. All of them made my picture frame of the building all the more interesting (at lest for me). These folks added to emphasizing the size of the building, the expanse of the area and the distance from where I stood. Hah, maybe I should become a photographer next time hehe!

Approaching the building’s main entrance, I stopped at the stairs and hesitated going any further up at the sight of three armed men. No no, not your usual security guard in blue and/or white uniform. These three were military men in camouflage uniform as if ready to go to war any minute AND always lugging those long high-powered firearms called armalite even as they sat or stood by a desk. So I took genuine happiness at shooting this big and bright seal of the ARMM. That, even as I confirmed to my lowly brain, that yes, there were other pairs of eyes peering from the ends of, and the upper floors of this building. Hello Robert Ludlum, you taught me so many things hehe, and with that quick assessment, I was definite, there were at least 9 pairs of eyes intently watching my every move. It was not as if there were other people they would take interest in watching. I was the lone “intruder” and this was a Saturday afternoon! But…

One of them eventually stood up and walked over to the stairs obviously to confront me. I did not make it obvious and pretended I was still ogling at the seal, but I was listening to his every step that sounded like loud drums to my head and my heart pounded faster, probably 20 times faster than the intervals of his steps. “Good afternoon sir. would you like to see inside?” I almost jumped with joy. Not because I was being allowed to see the insides of the building, but just because I was not being driven away. And I hope all idiot security guards in this country will have a chance to read this paragraph. I am very sure, if it was a sekyu that was there, I was still at the flagpole he would have said “hindi pwede” or “bawal” without explaining why is it bawal BECAUSE he does not know in the first place! That’s all a power-hungry dyagwar knows! Anyway…

“Talaga? Pwede pumasok?” came my reply. And the military guy said “aw Pilipino ka pala, oo naman! Sarado nga lang ang mga office kasi hapon na, umuwi na ang mga tao kaninang tanghali, pero pwede kang tumingin sa lobby”. Eh how do I translate that… ah well, in short, the guy said “yes you can” hehe! First that I marveled at was this big green and gold slab above the main door. I knew this inscription was saying something important, but I couldn’t read Arabic yet hehe, thus I asked the three officers. But their reply was a unanimous “di namin alam”! So I asked “hindi kayo Muslim?” and the guy who approached me said "Tagalog kami, siya Ilonggo”! Awk! And I exclaimed “pwede pala yun”! Then they told me that as military personnel, they must be always ready to be assigned anywhere, and that this facility is of the country, so it does not mean only Muslims should guard it. And being a government facility, they should guard it well regardless if they are Muslims or not. Wow, I almost clapped at that explanation!

So I was at the lobby, that has nothing much really, except two other armalites lying flat on a shelf. That told me there were more of them in here somewhere hehe. Golly! The lobby, in fact everywhere that I could see inside this building is unlike your normal city hall or capitol that is crazily plastered with so many announcements here and there. This one is like entering a smaller version of the PICC or CCP lobby. Its respectably a formal clean office building. I kept the conversation as I moved around and they even allowed me to go up the second floor lobby and hallway. Though the rooms were closed, judging from the hallway, everything is very orderly. Again, this is unlike any city hall or capitol that teems with so many things tacked just anywhere.

There is a bulletin board with pictures and announcements neatly posted. Impressive! That door facing the stairs is labeled “Chief Of Staff”. Hmm, if that door is that elegantly clean and big, I could just imagine how the office of the governor itself looks!. I was a bit hollering as we spoke since I was at 2nd floor still reading the bulletin board. "What's the difference between ORC and ORG?" I asked. One of them replied "ORC is the old name, ORG is the new one". "Ano yung C at G, ano difference?" I continued. Another said "C is Commissioner, G is Governor".WOw. that clarified the big question in my head! "Cotabato City is the capital of ARMM?" I asked further as I walked down the grand stairs. Another said "no sir, Cotabato City is not part of ARMM". Ah, I just said "ganun?" and did not any more express my wonder. I just imagined its similar to the capitol of Rizal province being in Metro Manila.

I must say this has been the cleanest lobby and hallway combination of any government facility I have seen in the country so far! Hey, I even sat at the desk while talking to them very knowledgeable approachable and accommodating folks! After asking many more questions, I went out happily thanking the military men. Am not sure, but I think during our short conversation, they told me they are from the Philippine Marines. If that is the case, I do not wonder. Even their English was admirably good!

Let’s go to another military place still in Cotabato City. That’s my next story.


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