Monday, September 9, 2013

Kidding around in Kidapawan City (Part 1)

You’re probably thinking I’m kidding about this but I’m not. Many of my firsts as a kid happened in Kidapawan, one of Mindanao’s cities closest to my heart. I got lost in its old public market at seven; fiddled with my uncle’s Armalite when I was eight; got chased by a mad dog when I turned nine; rode a 6 x 6 dump truck at ten; gulped a bottle of San Miguel Beer when I was eleven; lit up a Philip Morris stick at twelve! 

Gateway to City Hall

Now, before somebody starts shouting child abuse, here’s the thing. My grandma eventually found me; the rifle I touched wasn’t loaded; the wild bitch failed to bite me; it was my uncle who drove the truck, not me; the beer was good but it didn’t stay long in my system—I puked later; and the cigarette wasn’t mine—I was  just told to buy and light one stick! If only for these memories, Kidapawan will always be precious to me.
Archway at the city's entrance
Known for its tonic springs and tropical fruits, this progressive city in Central Mindanao is one of my favorite summer hideaways during my childhood days. Home to my relatives on both the paternal and maternal sides, I’ve spent many memorable vacations in Kidapawan. Whenever time permits me, I hit the road to the city not only to soak myself in its highland springs but also to kid around and kindle ties with kins. 

Quezon Boulevard
Kidapawan may well be called the “City of Highland Springs” because of the many hot and cold springs found there. Incidentally, its name is a portmanteau of two Manobo words: tida which means “spring” and pawan which means “highland”. Something must have gotten lost in translation somewhere—probably the mumbo jumbo of some early Christian migrants—such that the name Tidapawan evolved into Kidapawan.

Downtown Kidapawan

Kidapawan City Hall
Nestled at the foot of mighty Mt. Apo, Kidapawan is being marketed by the local government as the ultimate gateway to the great outdoors. Every year, thousands of climbers from here and abroad troop to the landlocked city, considered as one of the most exhilarating entry-and-exit points to the mountain, which seasoned and neophyte mountaineers alike consider as their “ultimate dream climb.” 

Saguing River
I, too, had long dreamed of scaling the heights of Apo, whose name means "master" or "grandfather" in the vernacular. After failing to climb it for years, the chance to go up the mountain came my way during the Lenten season in 2005. Casting away all my fears and doubts, I joined some co-workers and their friends in realizing our collective dream: to walk above the clouds in the seven summits of Apo! 

Statue of Manobo carrying a
basket of tropical fruits
After a successful climb, our group then headed for Kidapawan, the exit point of the trail we followed starting at Kapatagan in Digos City. It was one exhilarating descent from the peak that saw me and my colleagues frolicking in Lake Mainit’s springs, braving the strong currents of Marbel River in crisscrossed fashion—not just once but many times over!—and immersing ourselves in the hot and cold waters of Lake Agko.

Fruits of the season
More than just a tourist destination, Kidapawan seems to be on the verge of an economic rebirth. Standing in the middle of eight Mindanao cities—Davao, Digos, Cotabato, General Santos, Koronadal, Tacurong, Valencia, Malaybalay and Cagayan de Oro, it sizzles with exuberance as it steps out anew into the road to progress being one of the cities belonging to the so-called SOCCSKSARGEN Region.

Gaisano Grand Mall
Since becoming a full-fledged city in 1998,  Kidapawan has portrayed a pivotal role, not only in the development of the province of Cotabato, but also that of SOCCKSARGEN, a conglomeration of four provinces (South Cotabato, Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat and Sarangani), two other component cities (Koronadal and Tacurong), one independent city (Cotabato), and one highly urbanized city (General Santos).  

Marang in my uncle's backyard
Heralded as the “The Second Fruit Basket of the Philippines”, Kidapawan is also noted for the plethora of exotic fruits grown there. Rambutan, mangosteen, lanzones, marang and durian, among others, are cultivated and harvested in abundance at the foothills of Mt. Apo, stretching downwards into the orchards found at the city’s outskirts and even in the backyards of many homes in the downtown area.

Pomelos ready for picking
Every year, the city pays tribute to this plenitude with the celebration of the Timpupo Festival. Taken from the Manobo word timpupo meaning “harvest”, the festival provides a venue for the city to express gratitude for the prolific harvest and the profusion of exotic fruits. So, if you want to indulge yourself in the guiltless pleasure of gobbling exotica, then Kidapawan is the place to be from August to October! 

It’s been a while since my last peek at the city so a revisit seemed in order. It was a journey that I’ve been raring to do for the longest time because it would also reunite me with relatives I haven’t seen for quite some time. Besides, it’s harvest time for tropical fruits that are abundant in the city. It was so hard to resist Kidapawan’s luscious rambutan so revisit I did.

Mary Mediatrix of All Grace Cathedral
Embarking on my first solo long distance drive all the way from Davao City, I reached Kidapawan after more than three hours on the road, passing through Digos City and the towns of Sta. Cruz, Kiblawan, Matanao and Bansalan in Davao del Sur and the municipality of Makilala in Cotabato. If not for the heavy downpour that slowed down vehicular traffic, I could have reached the city in about two and a half hours.

Arriving in sunny Kidapawan, I headed straight for Mary Mediatrix of All Grace Cathedral, where many important events in our family took place. The church looked resplendent that time after being spruced up for a wedding later that day. After saying thanks to the Lord for a safe journey, I drove all the way to the first mall in the city, Gaisano Grand, where I took my lunch.

Sated and satisfied, I went to Terraza Lei where I met Leah, the owner who’s my cousin. Housed in a three-storey building, her budding venture offers catering services to different functions and events—birthdays, weddings, baptisms, and the like. Terraza Lei also has a convenience store at the ground floor. Later that night, I stayed at her place in one of Kidapawan’s new subdivisions where my hosts warmly welcomed me.

Terraza Lei
Before going to sleep, I spent some time bonding with my aunt, uncle and cousins, sharing interesting anecdotes on my first solo long distance drive to Kidapawan. Tired, I didn’t have trouble dozing off early. In the wee hours, however, the bitter cold that envelops the city most of the time roused me. Geez, it felt like I was in Tagaytay! Shivering, I put on my hooded cardigan and snoozed again for three more hours. 

Later, I rose up feeling refreshed. While sipping my coffee, a huge, brown dog—a Great Dane named after the American president!—came out of nowhere and started licking my hand. Caught by surprise, I tried running away, thinking that Obama wanted to get a piece of me! “He’s just asking for that pan de sal you’re holding”, my aunt said.  Relieved, I shared pieces of my bread which he gobbled voraciously. We hit it off as friends after that.

Feeding Obama
Never did I imagine myself getting chummy with dogs again after my traumatic experience of losing many pets in the past. Brief as it was, the encounter with Obama turned out to be one of the most unforgettable episodes of my recent visit to Kidapawan. Who would have thought that my gesture would endear me to him? Cliché as it may seem, dogs are indeed man’s best friend. Geez, I’m missing the big fellow already! 

Later that day, I joined my relatives as they headed for the suburbs to visit the family of another kin, my father’s brother.  Though he had already joined his Creator a few years ago, we still keep in touch with his widow and children. Since it was noon when we got there, they had prepared sinigang na tangigue for lunch. Whew, it was one of the best tasting fish stews I’ve had in years! 

One of my uncle's feathered pets

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Halfway through lunch, it began to rain. Since there was nothing left to do after eating, we spent time kidding around with my nephews and nieces. To celebrate the academic achievements of two of the kiddos, we bought pizza and cake for merienda. Unfortunately, the inclement weather kept us from taking the little ones for a stroll at the mall. I guess that would have to wait until my return to the city. 

Calda Pizza!
Holy cow! A real "Farmville"!
I wouldn’t consider my visit to Kidapawan complete unless I’d get to scour the town and visit some of its landmarks. After the downpour subsided later in the afternoon, I drove back to the downtown area and went to see some of the spots I’ve missed for years. Geez, I could only beam with pride at the beautiful changes that have altered the city’s landscape. Truly, the City of Highland Springs is going great guns!

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As expected, the weekend wandering in Kidapawan turned out to be another helluva great adventure for this incorrigible vagabond. Too bad, I didn’t make it to Lake Agko to immerse myself in its hot and cold springs. Well, there’s always a next time.  All told, I enjoyed to the hilt my quick escape to the city, which earned for me a big kick that came from kidding around with kins. :D

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