Mindanao Shoe-journ

Several years ago around 2001 I think, I came to Cagayan De Oro on an assignment from my previous employment whose detail I could not anymore recall. All I know I went to Bukidnon coming from Cagayan De Oro to witness Kaamulan Festival. The other time I was in Cagayan De Oro I made a side trip to Camiguin.  Anyway, as a result of some bad experience in Manila, I was always a bit apprehensive of taking a ride with unscrupulous taxi drivers  not sparing those operating at the airport terminal, that is why I always make it a point to walk from the airport terminal to anywhere outside the terminal where I can either take other public utility vehicles, or walk all the way to the city if manageable or flag a taxi cab that would not anymore be able to charge fare that seem to include purchasing a share of stocks of the airport terminal. My first time in CDO, I tried to walk from Lumbia Airport Terminal which lies on top of a hill along Masterson Avenue but after about more than half an hour of  walking and seeing only lines of trees and occasionally the overview of the lower portion of the hill, I finally relented and flagged a taxi. I saw then that I was still too far from the city proper which still lies below after crossing Cagayan River.


When I recently came back to Cagayan De Oro to participate at the run event, Pryce Gas International Marathon which happened December 13, 2015, I didn’t know that Cagayan De Oro has a new airport terminal located at Laguindingan, Misamis Oriental about 40 kilometers away from CDO’s city proper. When I took a cab from the terminal to my hotel at Pryce Plaza Hotel located along the old airport road or Masterson Avenue, my fare totaled P467.00. Imagine if I attempted to walk once again from the airport. I might have gone crazy turning up in the middle of nowhere in Misamis Oriental without an easy access to public transportation around to bail me out of my fetish.


With about 15 years apart from my early visit to Cagayan De Oro, the Pryce Gas International Marathon would have reoriented me with CDO’s city proper and perhaps reveal more of the place that I was not able to see before if the race route went full out and back starting from Pryce Memorial Garden near the former airport terminal in Lumbia. Instead, the race made used of two loops to complete the 42 kilometer distance for the marathon. In the previous year the route had taken runner as far as Opol a town nearer the new airport which showcased the view of the sea and beaches along the route. But with the current road repairs going on it was understandable that request for the use of that older race route was not permitted and thus the 2 loops.


From the starting line a 7 kilometer downhill along Masterson Avenue provided runners with enough momentum to propel them into a much faster running pace which will make up for the ones that might be taken by the uphill on the return trip to the finish line area. Aside from me, the 72 year old Master Vic Ting were the only runners from Manila in the 42k category while Lyndon Datu and Victor Urgel were the only two runners I know from Manila running in the 21k category. Of course there were the Kenyan runners about 8 of them all gunning for the 42k podium slots. Upon reaching the foot of the downhill, runners crossed the Carmen Bridge or Golden Mile Bridge and headed towards Rodelsa Circle turning left along Don Apolinar Velez Street. This portion was the introduction to the City. Among that could be espied along this route was the Xavier University-Ateneo de Cagayan which lies at the right side of the street near Bonifacio and Magsaysay Park. Rows of establishments like banks, fast food chain and hotels line this route. The previous day I went to Ayala Mall from the hotel. Although the distance was not that far the fare for taxi had me churning out a hundred bucks. I told myself I cannot spend this much on transportation fare every time I go out. So, on my way back I tried walking from Ayala Mall to my hotel. I did not break so much sweat in doing so even with the 500 meters uphill.  So, with taxi meter seemingly on a sprint pace my next concern was how to get to the airport without spewing P467.00.  I was even told that no taxi will ferry passenger on a meter basis other than on an automatic P800.00 fare? The answer lies at SM City Cagayan De Oro near my hotel. They have a van service at the transportation depot that take passengers to Laguindingan Airport for a fare of P199.00 per head otherwise I was told that at Limketkai Center there are “Magnum” maybe van also that ferries passengers the same as those at SM City.


On the downhill stretch I really packed some speed and was able to pass by some runners ahead of me but as soon as I hit the flatter road some of my steam got tapered. Pretty soon a lot of those runners I had overtaken were again gaining their lead from me until I was pretty much sure I was lagging behind most of everyone. This made me think that in the provinces there were fewer people joining run events as compare to Manila. But those who do join run events in the provinces were pretty much prepared for the races. They were stronger, faster and determine to establish respectable PRs than those many people who join run events in Manila and run in a leisurely pace and maybe out of joining a fad.


The next turn the runners took was a left turn near the Flyover which is part of the Iligan-Cagayan De Oro-Butuan Road and into Marcos Bridge. This portion of the route until the first 42k U-turn near the Renaissance Motel was very much similar to the Talisay portion of the route in Cebu City Marathon.  On my way back since it was still dark I did not paid much attention to the route and the only remarkable aspect of the route that registered to me was the uphill portion going to the 2nd U-turn for the 42k.  Remarkable in a sense that you can feel the uphill while the flatter portion came and went like a breeze.   On my way to the 2nd U-turn while crossing the Carmen Bridge, I came across my two other acquaintances running in the 21k category by this time the huge cluster of 42K Kenyan runners had already passed me by and so with the Filipino lead runners in the 21k. After crossing the 2nd U-turn for the 42k about less than 5 kilometers downhill awaits. Unlike the first time I was not able to pack some speed at the downhill. I noticed also that there were probably just 3 more other runners behind me on the way up to the U-turn. It was already bright with the sun was shining hot and brilliantly at the time I was again crossing Carmen Bridge. I thought I was really doing terribly for I could not see runners ahead of me. But as soon as I reached the city proper I gained sight of few stragglers. I hurried my pace and was soon slowly passing them by. I was full of delight.  By the time I hit beyond Marcos Bridge I was again gaining on some more runners. This kind of restored some confidence in me and even my strength seemed to get a second wind. After crossing the 3rd 42k U-turn, I saw that behind me were other runners just making for the U-turn. They were still quite a handful. As I was passing by near Don Gregorio Pelaez Sports Complex a religious song was being played in the background. Somehow I was touched by it and felt I was being fed with renewed spirit. So, I raised my right arm and slowly waved it in the air in the act of praising the Lord above.  My biggest coup of the day however, was when on my way to the final 7 kilometers uphill along Masterson Avenue I caught up with Master Vic who was pacing a lady and another runner. From thereon I ran close by Master Vic who was trying to establish a finish that is less than 5 hours and 45 minutes. Quite impressed by his feat, people taking the opposite lane of the road took photographs of Master Vic with their cellphone camera.  Running close by Master Vic might have provided me with an opportunity to have my photograph with Master Vic landing in some of the local newspaper or in someone else’s Facebook account. I ran close by Master Vic until were about a kilometer and a half away from the Finish Line when I started to pile up my pace and left Master Vic speaking with the race organizer who was then moving some race cone closer to the service side of the road to give way to the opening of the left side of the road to regular traffic. I finished 91st out of 122 participants with a time of 5:50:31.


The following week I was again flying to Mindanao. This time to Davao City to participate in the event, Punisher 50 a trail run event organized by Doi Calbes held in Sargeant Barracks Resort, Babak, Island Garden City of Samal, Davao Del Norte. I was registered at the 25k category. This time I was the lone participant from Manila. This was by far my farthest run event venue I had participated in. As in Cagayan De Oro, Davao City also has a new airport terminal. But at least this was nearer the destination I was heading for which was the Samal Ferry Terminal at Sasa. I took a barge that ferried across the bay not just people but also vehicles to the terminal at Kinawitnon, Samal Island. I was originally apprehensive about going to Davao City because at the moment I was flying to Davao a Tropical Depression named “Onyok” was passing by the Caraga Region. The race organizer posted at Facebook that rains were expected to fall during the event. I imagine the scene we had just before the suppose gun start time in Fort Magsaysay, Nueva Ecija at the height of the typhoon Lando. It did not help ease my apprehension my bringing along the book, Finding Lost: Season Six by Nikki Stafford, which is about the TV Series featuring the survivors of Oceanic Flight 815 which crashed on a mysterious island.


Like in Cagayan De Oro, I first came to Davao before via some assignments from my former employment. Among them were my trips beginning in October 28, 2001 to Sibulan, Davao about 50 kilometers from the city where about 15 kilometers of which was done going up into the mountains and into one of the original settlement area of Tagabawa Bagobo. I was there to document the opening of a Bagobo School of Living Tradition. Then in 2002 I went to Kaimunan, Mati, Davao Oriental about 3 hours away from Davao City and in Sangab, Caraga, Davao Oriental an hour away from Mati, Davao Oriental right smack into a settlement caught in between NPA rebel and military conflict to witness the Kalindugan ng Sangab for Mandaya. In almost 13 years a lot of things had change in Davao City and my memory of the place seemed to have been washed away by the currents of years.


When I came out of the plane it was far from the stormy weather that I imagined Davao City would welcome me with. In fact it was more like summer there.  So, after depositing my things at Sgt. Barracks Resort at Babak, Garden Island City of Samal, I took off to see the city that I used to walk along at. However, I instead spent most of the time caught up in a slow paced traffic going around the city without me ever recognizing what I was seeing. Only on my way back to the Ferry Terminal did I saw some of the features that were familiar to me, like the Central Bank Building, Ayala Mall and Gaisano Mall. By the time I got back to Samal Island I was stressed out and was instead looking forward to the next day’s event which started with this evening’s race briefing done in Visayan language of course.


On the race day the weather turned a bit gloomy with light rain pelting since the evening.  The gun start for the 25k runners was reset to 5:40 am.  The previous day I initially feared that I might have made the mistake again of joining an event participated predominantly by seasoned trail runners and imagined myself eating most of their dust just as what happened in Akyathlon in Mt. Ugo. But upon arrival of my bunkmate Louie who originally hailed from Silay City but currently working for 5 years now in Davao City, I learned that this race was his second trail run event with his R.O.X. Mapawa Trail Run held in General Santos as his first. In that event he got DNF after running about 18 kilometers in the 22k category. I took this with a grain of salt for he might just be doing a reverse of bragging. Even I resort sometime to sandbagging my capabilities so that I do not reveal so much of what I am capable. According to what I could make out of the briefing. For the 25k we have 7 hours to complete the route before being considered DNF. The route was paved with orange ribbons indicating the route to take while the yellow caution tape signifies, “do not go this way”. However, upon gun start at the onset of the race finding the ribbon had already presented itself as a problem especially at the time of our release the surrounding was still not very much well lighted.  Runners smartly were trying to keep up closely with each other so that they would not get lost along the way while allowing the lead runners to figure out the path to take. By this time the rain had already halted. But the rain had already made our path both muddied and pocked with pooled brown water. After I got acclimated I soon picked up my pace and began overtaking some runners. Before I knew it upon hitting an uphill overlooking the sea, I saw I was 9th overall and was even about to overtake four more runners. But soon the other four lead runners found themselves getting lost.  Shortly, I joined them in trying to figure out where the next route. Soon most of the runners behind us caught up with us. So, when finally someone figured out the right route and everyone else resumed running, I ended up at the tail end of the queue for having to leave the area last. After the Aids Station at the 6th kilometer of the race the gaps among the runners gape wide open. I soon was running along a group who found ourselves again getting lost. It turned out we exited at a wrong side of the trail and into the concrete road. A timely passing of motorcycle riding marshal pointed out to us the right track which we soon got back on and negotiated. I then lagged further behind the couple Theo and Melanie which I was following due to almost twisting my ankle at one point. By the time I tried to catch up I could no longer determine the path they took. I was alone by myself figuring out where the orange ribbons where located. I soon found myself again getting lost. I ended up exiting in one of the concrete road near a building that resembles a local government hall. I asked around if runners had passed by this way but I could not understand Visayan. However, I was pointed at a stationary ambulance where Doi and another marshal was standing by and waving at me. I ran towards them and was directed to the path the other runners had taken.


The whole route even the occasional uphill was actually manageable in terms of technicality. This made me wonder if the 50k category of this race was achievable for me without getting caught by the cut off time if ever I return along with my other running acquaintances next year.  By the time I was about a kilometer away from the 25k U-turn at Hagimit Falls the other runners were already returning from it. But I noticed there were fewer of them I came across with. At the U-turn I caught up with Theo and Melanie who were getting ready to leave the Aid Station another runner who was nursing his legs had decided to quit the race. While another one just arrived who seem also was contemplating on quitting the race. Just as I was about to leave three more runners appeared. They were from the Panabo Runners Club and one of the original lead runners was their companion. I knew they were originally ahead of the group I was running along with. In fact the two ladies from this Panabo Runners Club were the leading female runners of the 25k category. However, they told me they got lost and ended up running near the shoreline. Now the new leading female runners were the two women in the group I was originally running along with before I fell far behind them and couldn’t catch up until the Hagimit Fall U-turn. But they’ve been gone long when the Panabo Running Club arrived.  To avoid getting lost again I decided on the way back I will run along with Panabo Running Club. The other runner, Prince who almost quit was also encouraged to join our pack. On our way back after about 2 kilometers from the U-turn we encountered another group of runners just trying to make it to the U-turn. Louie was among them including the American but now Davao based David Cooper whose running club membership he listed was with the Team Titan Davao. They also got lost along the way.  The trip back was not really much of a big event. We walk the most part and running only around the last 3-4 kilometers of the race. Along the way I was able to overtake about three more runners. I finished the race 18th out of the 28 who participated with a time of 5:02:13 much longer than my last Salomon X-trail finish of 4:50 at 24k category. I could have gone much faster if I hadn’t gotten myself lost and probably if I pushed myself further to run.  When I left Samal Island after I had gotten my free lunch meal I wondered if Davao would be my farthest in Mindanao. 2016 held a lot of promises. There are still run events I wanted to conquer that entails longer distance. Will this get in the way over my desire to try to run in places that require me to fly long distance? I feel I am just stretching my muscles. I am just beginning to warm up. Maybe it is not far-fetch that the following year will usher for me international venue for my next runs.