memory's sacred domain

moments mundane and magical

Gensan

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Rescued from my defunct blog (12/13/2004):

I was in high school when my city of birth became known to the outside world as “Boomtown Gen San.” The mayor, an academic before she entered politics, (and the first and only woman to head the city named after Paulino Santos, a former governor of Lanao  and former chief of the constabulary in the days of the American commonwealth government ), combined a vision for the future and deft public relations to usher the city into an unparalleled economic boom. Rosalita Nuñez placed General Santos City  on the map, thanks in no small part as well to an outpouring of economic aid to the Philippines  following the ouster of the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos in 1986, what with the city identified as one of the emergent corridors of progress in Mindanao.

Aid money built what may well be Mindanao’s best – and still under used – airport, and expanded the city’s Makar wharf. The era would be known as the golden years that produced multi-millionaires out of small businessmen who struck it rich with the expansion of the Tuna export business.

Indeed, it  was a quick transformation from what then was a hot bed of the communist insurgency – Bula district for many years was the “laboratory” of the New People’s (NPA) Army Sparrow unit– to a boomtown riding high on the optimism that a bright future was now, oh so suddenly, within reach. On March 18, 1988, by grand cosmic design, the city fell under the direct path of a much-awaited solar eclipse that drew attention from around the world to the emergent economic center in Mindanao  The rooftop of the newly-built City Hall became a beehive of scientific activity, as well as tourist revelry.

Thousands of tourists and scientists and media persons from all over flocked to Gen San. Then President Corazon Aquino was on the yacht Ang Pangulo when an eerie darkness enveloped the city – the “center line” of the eclipse – for three minutes and 22 seconds.

One American journalist who had earlier protested her “bad luck” of having been sent to the Philippines to cover the event was said to have remarked, “this is the most beautiful sight I have ever seen.” It was for the life of me – then a second year high school student at the Notre Dame Dadiangas College High School Department in Lagao – an unforgettable experience.

In a moment, in a twinkling of an eye, the earth stood still. A darkness cloaked everything in its cold mantle. Then the cocks crowed. And after what seemed like an eternity, the city of 250,000 residents broke into an applause for the Divine gift of wonder. I recall how as a freshman at the University of the in Diliman in 1990, I would, when asked about my roots, say with pride that “I am from Gen San,” and receive knowing nods from my interlocutors.

Last night, I was enjoying the annual Christmas concert of the Diliman Campus Bible Church choir at the Engineering Theater inside the UP Campus when I got word that a bomb had ripped through the city’s public market late in the afternoon, killing at least 15 people and wounding 60 others. As I sat there listening to the choir sing masterfully of that “Thrill of Hope” – the prophet Isaiah’s Prince of Peace – amid the turmoil of the present, I uttered a prayer for the loved ones I had left behind in the city of my birth that has become a different boomtown gripped by a deadly eclipse.

Written by Romel

May 4, 2018 at 6:52 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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