Moving On Up

No point pretending I can offer great insights into this new location for me in Catigan near Toril, Davao City. I had watched for 2 months only. Events took some turns which dictated how the next 2 months was to become.

I arranged an electricity supply, I had a beautiful toilet to sit on and I was surrounded by what sometimes seemed like paradise. Life was looking up.

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I went through a short-term crisis with cash but although it was going to be an issue in the future at this time some relief came quickly just enough to get us through each day, but still I was very short on funds. Hunger wasn’t an issue but I was down to just having enough for everyday needs. Fortunately living this simple existence meant it was enough.

I was still the rich foreigner in locals’ eyes and I was in no mood to discuss my finances with anyone. I simply had to ignore the constant references to my money.

Consequently the next month was fairly uneventful.

The Catigan Electricity Grid

Having electricity was only a benefit in so much as we didn’t need gas for lights and we could charge our phone. Although I’m sure the kids would have loved it, I hate Filipino TV with a passion so we never had one of those polluting my kids’ minds. The cost of having an electricity supply was equal to buying gas. Having it installed was somewhat costly though.

So I’m guessing you’re thinking that means I went to the local electricity company and asked for connection. Well nothing that simple here as only a few lucky ones near the Catigan road had that privilege. If you want electricity supply here then a strange system exists which means buying a long wire and connecting to another house over 400 meters away. All the supply comes via running wire from house to house which originates at a church where an electricity supply is available.

Subsequently, a crude system of wires runs around the puruk connecting one house to the next and they charge you by the unit. When I say unit, I don’t mean kilowatt-hours. If you charge a cell phone, that is a unit. If you have 2 lights, that’s 2 units. We had 3 units which meant only a cell phone and 2 lights. The bill is then divided amongst all the users by the amount of units you have.

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Some had supply, some didn’t. It was a fairly crude system but there was no other way as it is impossible for the local electricity company to run wires over such a vast area and no means for them to get their equipment on site to build a network. Subsequently, this is how it is done here and most likely the same in many rural parts of Mindanao and the greater Philippines.

So compared to the first 2 months, life was looking up. We had a toilet, electricity and a place of our own. We lived day-to-day and I got to appreciate the simplicity of life here. That existence revolved around everyday needs only. I chopped wood for cooking, carried water and little else. I was hardly the man of the house as the twin’s mom had been doing this everyday for around a year or more as well as hand washing clothes at the spring and was one tough cookie.

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Still building fitness, I would allow her to do too much. Whenever I sensed it was a wood chopping moment coming up, I would quickly volunteer to cook, it seemed like a much easier option. As time went on, I really did build fitness without really trying too hard. I wasn’t blowing so much on uphill walks and I was managing the water with ease. My whole body was feeling the benefits of this new active lifestyle. The more weight I lost, the more energised I felt. Yes, I got bored sometimes but this is how it was so I just had to make the most of it. The compensations were that I was staying in beautiful idyllic surroundings and had little else to worry about other than where our next meal was coming from. The relief I received took away the desperation as at least food wasn’t an issue at this point.

Free To Be Kids

The other compensations were watching my boys growing up in nature’s playground. They would play outside all day running around freely without any threat from traffic, weird strangers or negative city influences. Everyone knew and loved the twins. They rolled in mud and would wander off sometimes. Although the free and easy attitude of their mother concerned me for a while, I soon came to realise that they were free from most threats that we experience in city living. They never knew what a tablet was or an X Box and just played innocently as God had intended them to. They had nothing material at all, but they had a great time every day.

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Still they were not risk free by any means. You don’t get cobras in the city and you don’t come across charcoal pits for them to fall into. Still it seemed cruel to spoil their enjoyments. They were as free as birds and life was starting to feel good. It is simply a case of weighing the risks against their happy child existence and balancing it.

So I continued my adaptation and was doing quite well. Every day I would go on walks with the twins and I was being accepted by people and generally toughening up. I withdrew a little as the constant invitation to share shots of Tanduay or drink tuba got to be a bit of a strain. I stayed home mostly and tried to avoid the excessive drinking I had got into when I first came.

We ate mostly vegetables and rice and in fact I was feeling fitter and healthier than I had done for years. More weight was falling off and all I was doing was what most do here, live and survive and be active. The terrain was my gym and the daily chores were my training programme. I had learnt a lot more about how to live in this environment but I still was not too clued up on all aspects of what I was living amongst. I was progressing towards the learning stage.

Cut Off

Catigan was a little cut off although only around 8 kilometres away from the main highway and a little further into Toril which was the nearest population centre. Public transport was a nightmare.

Apparently there used to be a jeepney service which ran up the Catigan road some time before. It was sad to discover that that service had been thrown out of business by a totally unsafe mode of transport, the motorbike.

People started providing a service illegally of running locals down the Catigan Rd to Toril. You had the choice of illegal side-cars or motorbikes which they would put 3 or even 4 people onto. This is commonly done around the Philippines and here that mode of transport was your main option. The drivers provide no helmets and your only other way to get out of Catigan was an almost as dangerous illegal side-car with no roll bars just an open crate with a seat. These side-cars had been made illegal to use as public transport for reasons of safety and it was easy to see why. It never stopped them.

Megalomania and the Law

Enforcement, despite the bragging and attention seeking of the local mayor was a joke. Enforcement only applies when it creates a lot of revenue for city hall. I won’t go into that but the local mayor is a symbol of everything that is disgusting in the Philippines, yet they love him, enough said.

People were given a warning if they were deemed to be criminals in Davao. Criminals apparently mean people who commit crimes no worse than drinking coffee. I will let you work out for yourself what that is. If they don’t heed the warnings they are likely to be shot by the DDA (Davao Death Squad). I will let you decide who the real criminals are.

The motorbikes were usually low powered, too small for the job and when you consider that they were often putting 3 or 4 passengers on the back and children in front of the driver; it was frankly insanity. Every journey was an accident waiting to happen.

I would not allow my sons to ride the motorbikes and as the side-cars were few and far between, it made getting out of Catigan difficult. There were times we had no choice and even had to endure the worry of having my sons ride on them as if you didn’t, some days there was nothing else.

There were accidents waiting to happen every day. That accident was waiting for me.

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Filed under Culture, Impressions, Philippines, Travel

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