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Friday, June 25, 2021

Embibing the joy of life

Jimmy K. Laking

I spent the last week of 2020 and the first few days of 2021 at the southern tip of Gov. Generoso town in Davao Oriental.

Barangay Lavigan used to be a sleepy community that could be reached by a dirt road in the early 1990s or by pump-boat along the coast. Today, a two-lane paved highway cuts through the village all the way to where the road ends at the Cape of San Agustin lighthouse.

At this spot sometime in the 1500s, Francis of Assisi held a mass that highlighted Spain’s evangelization efforts in Mindanao as one provincial account puts it.

It is also at this point where the waters of the Pacific Ocean collide with the waters of the Davao Gulf.

Decades earlier just after WWII, scores of settlers from Central Luzon settled on both sides of the Davao Gulf.

Among them were the couple Bernardino and Felotea Banzali from Macabebe, Pampanga who decided to settle on what land there was for the taking. Their descendants can be found mostly in Lavigan and in the neighboring barangays . They have also since came to embrace the culture as well as the language that is widely used in the Davao region.

Hence, it was not surprising to witness firsthand the shedding of pig’s blood to every hole where a house post is to be planted. And considering that the house is being built on a secluded spot, I was advised to speak respectfully to the spirits not to bring harm to the house and to its future occupants.

I was also advised to do the same whenever I find myself alone in that slope tending to my adlay (Job’s Tears) plants.

Earlier, we joined kinfolk in trekking to a cemetery on a rocky corner of a village that overlooks the sea.

Here, my grandchild and I joined her grandma and her relatives in lighting candles in front of several graves.

Bottles of cheap liquor were placed atop the graves while flowers were laid to rest on the others.

We joined in the prayers which were said mostly in Dabawenyo or Mandaya for that matter. That done, somebody gathered dried coconut palm stalks and then built a small fire which he promptly covered with leaves to induce smoke.

Then as if on signal, one after the other stepped over the smoke with one final wish or prayer. I heard my brother-in-law clearly through the din of voices: “Magpabilin ang de-malas, mag-uban ang de-buenas” which I understood to mean ‘let bad luck stay behind but let good luck accompany us.’

I was also told not to look back but to walk straight ahead.

One thing that stood out is that the COVID pandemic notwithstanding, development cannot be denied.

It is in the shape of more resorts shaping up along a coast that is gifted with white sand and protected coves. In fact, the tranquility of the coastal waters appears deceiving considering that miles out to the sea is the vast expanse of the Pacific Ocean itself.

The emergence of resorts appeared to have triggered the economy with the rise of related businesses catering to the tourism and construction industries. Here and there, banana plantations were replacing coconuts as the go-to plants.

Clearly, the people are not to be denied their means of living. Fishing remains a major source of livelihood as is copra production. But other entrepreneurial endeavors are showing up.

There is no ignoring the threat of the pandemic. Locals are still wary of outsiders, especially those coming from Davao City. Physical distancing is observed. But there is a general disregard for mask except for the town center in Tibanban where it is strictly enforced. 

Overall one can feel an overwhelming joie de vivre (joy of living) every which way you look. Life is here. And it is meant to be lived and to be enjoyed.

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