Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Visiting Santa (Sta Catalina, Negros Oriental)

My Negros Oriental Tour: Santa Catalina
Arriving at Bayawan from Basay, I just went up Casa Rosario to take another shower, grab my things and checkout. Then I walked to the Ceres terminal to catch a bus. When I approached his desk, dispatcher (who by now seemed to be familiar with my face) told me to immediately get on the bus up front, as it was ready to depart for Basay onwards to Hinobaan and even Sipalay. Smiling I said, I am going to Santa Catalina. I laughed at his reaction, his face was a mix of “as if he had seen a ghost” and “as if someone was trying to fool him” hahaha!

Laughing with me, he asked “gikan na ka Basay sir?” (have you just come from Basay, sir?) and I said yes. He checked his list and the next bus on the way to Dumaguete (therefore passing by Sta Catalina) was not due in 30 minutes. But he suggested that I might as well take a “pedicab” to “Santa” since it is just about 8 kilometers. I asked again “pedicab to …”, and the reply was “Santa sir, Santa Catalina". Ah so I got it, people in the area refer to the place as just the shortened “santa” instead of the full “Santa Catalina” which is mostly written as “Sta. Catalina”! Learned something new again! Yey!

I walked to where the pedicabs wait and asked the driver of frontmost trike… “Santa?”. His reply, “oo, Santa, sir”! O ha?! As if I know my way around hehe. Santa ka dyan! Front seats were already occupied but a backseat and back-of-the-driver were still vacant so I opted for a “behind the driver” 8km ride and requested him to tell me if we were passing by special places or tourist attractions. There were few he told me and most were criticisms of places and politicians as we passed by. Uneventful really, except that early during the ride (as in, we were not even out of the city yet) some passengers already started getting off. Whoa! Good for me, I placed the dear backpack on a backseat of the cab then shifted my sitting position to be like that of the driver. Way to go! But I had to raise my feet between me and driver’s butt to avoid getting wet when it drizzled a bit as we forded the highway.

Nice rural views. Santa Catalina seems like a place of really big farms. Very wide fields leading up to some big mountains were my consistent views to the left, while equally vast fields and the sea were the sceneries on my right. Big town I must say. When we passed by Sicopong Bridge, driver told me that it was the longest bridge in the province. Wheh, its probably even shorter than most pedestrian skywalks over EDSA hehe! But I noted a kilometer marker near the bridge that said 96KM which probably means we were 96 kilometers away from the provincial capital, Dumaguete. Not far after all.

Entering town, there were only two passengers left - me and a girl who seemed to have come from the city (Bacolod probably). Yeah, I already know how to identify them from the way they look – sunglasses covering not the eyes but the forehead (nasisilaw ang utak hindi ang mata haha), the bangles, the fake havaianas, the thumb constantly ramming a cellphone and just about many things more hehe! Alright, driver asked where we both were headed. We answered almost simultaneously… I said “munisipyo” and the girl said “simbahan”. Driver did not make any other sound after that. Somewhere in the middle of town, he veered left from the road and a few meters after he stopped and told me “munisipyo”. So I got off and he turned back proceeding to bring the girl to her destination.

Ah the municipal hall of this town is a big concrete block. Not ugly, not beautiful… just so-so. And, at 1130AM, I was glad to have noticed that workers in that building seemed to have still been IN that building. Why? Because in some municipal halls I know, ah at about that time employees are either already out to have lunch or are on their way out. Front of the municipal building is a big wide concrete area that serves a dual purpose – parking lot and basketball court. Would have been much better if they kept most of it grass and just do cement for the court. Anyway...

This town is not short of the greens. In fact, their park/plaza is enormous and that is just across the road. There are trellises and a bandstand in the middle of it all and there’s Jose Rizal, though small a monument, the platform that holds it is about as big as the bandstand that could even serve as stage! And there is one big big tree at the corner near the highway.

Oh, the church is just across this park, that means diagonally across the municipal hall. There is a waiting shed by the corner across the big big tree and there was the girl who was my co-passenger on the trike. She was actually waiting for a next ride onwards (probably to Siaton). The church was closed so I could not peep in. But looking at it from the outside, its fairly “recent” and can really use some donations for a new paint job hehe! There was a cow inside the compound who seemed to be the only living thing accompanying Santa Catalina De Alexandria that day hehehe!

It was already noontime and I did not think I would find anything worth a dig for lunch in this town. That was just my guess, and did not even ask around. I walked to a sari-sari store at a corner behind the municipal hall. I thought some skyflakes and coke would be better than lunch as I was not so hungry yet. I had free 'breakfast for two' at Casa Rosario, remember? Hehehe!

A not so old lady buying something from the same store noticed me and said hello. I smiled at her and said hi. I half-expected her next statement or question, if ever there was to be any. “Are you Filipino?” was the next thing I heard. And I joked saying “dugay na lola”! She lightly whacked my behind with her umbrella to indicate she digged my "ridiculous" reply. But continuing in English she asked “what brings you here?” to which I honestly replied “just to see whatever is there to see, I am visiting all towns of this province”. “Why are you a newsman?” was lola’s next question and I said “no”. “Unsa may imong gipangita diri” (but what are you looking for here) to which I was quick with my overly rehearsed ready reply “I don’t know really, are there any tourist spots here?”.

Aha! I got away with it again… got her talking and she started educating me. All the while, we were just standing on the corner outside the store eliciting some curious looks from passers by.

The lola told me that there are beaches but quickly qualified her statement with “I’m sure you have already seen many good beaches”. Defensive ba hehe! Then, lowering her voice, she told me that there are waterfalls and springs out in the hinterlands as this was the biggest town of the province, but there are a lot of NPA that’s why there is even an army battalion in this town. She told me the ‘stations of the cross’ is beautiful but very far. Then speaking in English again she said “my husband, when he was still alive, he told me that they are impostors”. I clarified what she meant. “The NPAs in this town, they are not real, they are just thieves and lawless elements pretending to be NPA. They don’t even have principles on governance or improving the economy. They just want money, they are robbers, criminals.”

Wow, I thought that was erudite a statement, and I understood why she lowered her voice. And I was fascinated at how she spoke the English language. She told me she’s a retired college professor and pointed to my camera saying “erase my face in there”! Ahhehehe! And I said “yes, lola”! I asked her more questions which she readily answered. When I thought I’ve been keeping her too long, I thanked her and she said “happy to have told you about this place, this is a beautiful town but I already told you why there are no tourists here… go now, God Bless You”. She said that last sentence with a tap on my arm that was half a push. Felt like we have been relatives for already a long time hehe!

So I walked back to the waiting shed at the corner across the big tree, and no sooner a Ceres came by to which I hopped on moving onwards to Siaton.

If you want to read the chronology of all stories on this tour, click the following:
01 02 03 04 05 06 07 08 09 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35
36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65


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