Jimmy K. Laking
My family and I spent the remaining week of 2020 holed up in coastal village in Davao Oriental’s Gov. Generoso town where the waters of the Pacific Ocean meet the waters of the Davao Gulf.
This is the same town where a lighthouse has been built on a limestone outcrop and where an altar-shaped rock wall is located. One account said it is believed to be where St. Francis Xaxier in the 1500s embarked on a mission to spread Christianity in Mindanao. The place is more popularly known as the Cape of San Agustin.
It used to be a sleepy village that could be reached by a dirt road starting in the 1980s or by pump boat when there was no road. Today, the two-lane highway is well-paved all the way to where a lighthouse has been erected as a beckon to fishermen at the southern tip of the Davao Gulf.
The daily flock of visitors, mostly on vehicles and motorcycles, was in a sharp contrast to the mid-1980s when economic activity was limited to fishing and copra production.
Today, regular bus and van lines travel along the route daily. To complement the rise of resorts, eateries and snack houses also can be found along the 56-kilometer stretch from the municipal building to the lighthouse in Lavigan.
We were there for the holidays and to renew ties with my wife’s relatives. But while twice I luxuriated in the white sand beaches, I spent most of the time tending to my adlay (Job’s Tears) plants on a slope dominated by coconuts for the past 30 years.
They were averaging more than a foot and half and twice during the week, the rains fell heavily to my satisfaction.
The general vicinity saw a rise in the number of resorts over the past years. Some of these are owned by third-generation descendants of the couple Bernardino and Felotea Banzali, originally from Macabebe, Pampanga in Central Luzon.
The couple were among a few migrants from Pampanga who settled on both sides of the Davao Gulf immediately after World War II.
The Pampangueno couple chose to settle in Sigaboy (or what is now Gov. Generoso) where their children eventually established themselves. Most married into the indigenous population and this explains why Dabawenyo or Mandaya is spoken widely.
It also explains why some indigenous rites stuck to this day as when a pig’s blood is shed to a hole where a house post is about to be planted.
Once at the local cemetery, I witnessed a brother-in-law building a smoke with a pile of small branches and leaves.
Then he bade everybody to step over the smoke as we went our way out from the cemetery. His prayer rang loud and clear: “Lagpot di malas, puli di buenas.” Let bad luck stay behind. Let it be replaced by good luck. Who can argue with that? I was also told not to look back.
The prayer seemed appropriate to welcome the Year of the Ox. But with the Covid menace still gallivanting all over the landscape, it is still a hard row to hoe for most of us.
And while a vaccine has been discovered, it is too early yet to tell if it has been fully tested safe for use. There is also no certainty on when it gets to be within reach. Methinks the only defense remains to stay safe via physical distancing and by observing hygiene. But probably as sure as the sun rises tomorrow, the light of the tunnel may eventually show itself to enable us to face life and its blessings with renewed vigor and focus.