I was home in Iriga City this Father’s Day weekend. Immediately after arriving in our barrio of San Agustin at 5am last June 16, I took the opportunity to run while the rest of my family were sound asleep.
I would have wanted to run upland and do a round-a-bout of Mt. Iriga, but my Bicol-based 83nean running buddy, Ric Lozano, was in Manila. This 37-km adventure run would have to wait another weekend when the 83neans ultra runners are around. Safety concerns dictate that I tackle the mountain roads with at least one running companion.
Instead, I opted for the safer option of running the lowland roads from our barrio of San Agustin to the centro of Iriga City (5kms) to the poblacion of Nabua (5kms) to the town proper of Baao (6kms) via the Maharlika diversion road and back to our house in San Agustin (4 kms). A total of 20 kilometers thru the heartland of Rinconada, the 5th district of Camarines Sur.
|Map of my running from Iriga to Nabua to Baao to Iriga|
It took me a total of 2 hours and 23 minutes to finish this 20-km route. It was very much less than half a day of running, but in the process, I got to feel that I was on an exploration, revisiting old places and discovering new sights and sounds. It was a visit of my home city and its neighboring towns in a visceral kind of way.
At Km 4 of my run, as I traversed the barrio of San Nicolas, I chanced upon an old grade school classmate, Armando Generoso. He was in front of the new building for the office of National Commission on Indigenous Peoples – Region V of which he is a long-time employee. On a weekend, he was there to supervise the cleaning of the office premises. Such dedication from a government worker. And his loyalty ran true also for our batch of LCA 8379 (La Consolacion Academy Grade School Batch 1979 & High School Batch 1983) as he was wearing proudly our batch shirt from the 2008 alumni homecoming.
|With my grade school classmate Armando|
|Armando showing the LCA8379 logo|
Prior to entering the centro of Iriga City, I dropped by a store in front of the Iriga City Central School to buy a bottle of drinking water. This is the store of another grade school classmate, Enyong Nueva, and I was fortunate to see him manning the store. Everytime I am in Iriga, I make it a point to drop by Enyong’s store. The store is also a carenderia and counts among its specialties such as Bicol delicacies “laing” and “tinuktok.”
|With another grade school classmate, Enyong|
As I turned right on the road to enter the centro, I noticed that the park in the shadow of both the La Consolacion College and the Parish Church of St. Anthony of Padua, had been beautified, with a new Japanese garden landscape to boot. In my grade school years in La Consolacion, this park was a children’s park complete with swings, slides and seesaws. This is the park where we used to play “agawan base”. Now, it is a park where the Veteran Memorial Monument is erected, celebrating Iriga’s contribution to the wartime effort against the Japanese invaders - - the American Legion resistance group of Iriga. There is a new name enshrined in the monument recently, that of an army sergeant killed in an Abu Sayyaf ambush in Mindanao. Our Iriga continues to produce war heroes for our country. I just hope that our country will get to have a permanent vacation from the ravages of war. It will definitely be more fun in the Philippines without these stupid insurgencies and rebellions.
|Veteran Memorial Monument in Iriga|
After passing the centro of Iriga, I was on my way to the town of Nabua. The road connecting Iriga and Nabua is a happening place. I saw on both sides of the road sturdy and handsome mansions. One in particular seemed to have combined form and function in an eccentric way. Knowing pretty well that his barrio is in the lowlands and thus prone to flooding in the rainy season, the owner decided to surround his mansion not with green grass lawns but with water ponds.
|An eye-catching mansion along the road leading to Nabua from Iriga|
The Iriga-Nabua road corridor is also the address of the Holy Child Educational Center (HCEC). This private school owned and managed by the husband and wife team of Rodolfo Nadal and Teresita Perez is starting to acquire a reputation of producing some academic achievers. The latest exceptional alumna is Camille Trinidad (HCEC grade school graduate in 2008 ) who graduated class valedictorian of the Ateneo de Naga High School this March 2012.
|Holy Child Educational Center|
|Ateneo de Naga High School 2012 Valedictorian|
And beside the Holy Child School is a new hospital in the district – the Rinconada Medical Center (RMC) which seems to be physically bigger than the Our Lady of Mediatrix Hospital and the Dona Josefa Hospital. This bodes well for the healthy well-being of our kababayans. Hopefully, this new hospital would provide more comprehensive health services so as not to necessitate a visit to the bigger hospitals in Naga City, 40 kms + away.
|Rinconada Medical Center|
As I entered the town proper of Nabua, I was greeted with a site of a monument which explains the origin of the word “Nabua”. It emanates from the word “boa” which is the young embryo of the coconut. It is said that a Spanish missionary, back in the 1500s, visited the place where Nabua is now and saw some natives cutting coconuts. The good friar was offered these young white coconut embryos called “boa” in the local dialect. Immediately, the good friar tagged the place as “NABUA” pronounced with his Spanish accent.
|The monument at the junction of the Diversion Road and the Iriga-Nabua Road|
Behind this monument at the crossroads of the Iriga-Nabua road and the Diversion Road of the Maharlika Philippine highway is the old magnificent Nabua church – formally known as the Vicariate of the Holy Cross. This church is very old. It is the oldest church in Rinconada, having been founded in the year 1578 (the present church was constructed in 1700). This makes it 7 years older than the oldest church in my home city of Iriga, the Church of the Parish of St. Anthony of Padua. It shows that Spanish settlements were established first in Nabua before that of Iriga. Some even say that Iriga used to be a barrio or “visita” of Nabua and the name Iriga is derived from the word “I raga” which in Nabua dialect means a place where there is land, alluding to the fact that during the rainy months, Iriga was a highland place where many townsfolk of Nabua would migrate to escape the floods.
|Vicariate of the Holy Cross in Nabua|
I had a pleasant discovery while visiting the Nabua church. Beside the church is the Holy Cross Parochial School and among the tarpaulins displayed in the school entrance was one that contained the list of successful “Brain Quest” contestants. Included in the list were the names of the mentor-teachers and I saw a familiar name – Eden Barandon. She was the college scholar of my LCA 8379 batch. A few years ago, she finished her Education college degree at the La Consolacion College in Iriga where she taught in grade school after her studies. Last year, I heard she left LCC and my classmates were inquiring from me where she is now. Thanks to this Saturday run, I now know where she is teaching.
After a brief visit and pray at the Nabua church, I continued my run along the Nabua-Baao diversion road which is part of the National Maharlika highway. Cars and buses ran fast in this diversion road, so I had to be careful in this 6-km stretch. I often had to run on the shoulder of the road. Despite the danger, I also enjoyed running along the diversion road as it gave me a great view of the rural agricultural life. I saw to my left and right several farmers planting rice the old fashioned way.
|Rice farming the old way|
|Freshly-caught birds being sold along the Diversion Road|
Midway the diversion road, I chanced upon a farmer selling some freshly-caught endemic and migratory birds. These birds travel from China and Mongolia to the Philippines. It is not only in the swamps of Candaba, Pampanga that these birds touchdown. Baao, with its wetlands around Lake Baao, is a hot spot of migratory bird activity. I remember my childhood years when I saw these birds flying as well as being sold by the roadside. Yup, these birds are sold and cooked as delicacies like adobong snipes and tinuktok na abo.
At the end of the diversion road, I turned right to enter the poblacion of the town of Baao. This place is a deeply Catholic town. At the center of the town is the Parish church (patron saint is St. Bartholomew the Apostle) which was established in 1664. The municipal hall, which is where the town mayor and the police chief hold office, you hardly notice. There are no visible churches of other religions (INC or Mormons or JIL) in the town poblacion. The biggest monument in Baao is the statue of Jorge Imperial Barlin, the first Filipino Bishop in all of the archipelago who was born in Baao in 1850. Ordained as a priest in 1875 and consecrated as a bishop in 1906, his name is in the annals of Philippine jurisprudence as well, for his vigorous defense of the Catholic Church’s ownership of churches and properties from the break-away Philippine Independent Church (PIC) prelates. In 1902 he was offered supreme prelacy of the PIC by no other than the founder of the Aglipayan Church , Padre Gregorio Aglipay to which he curtly replied: "Prefiero ser lampazero a ser la cabeza de su iglesia cismatica," (I prefer to be floor sweeper than to be the head of your schismatic church). Another native of Baao of national prominence is Fr. Joaquin Bernas S.J., a well-respected constitutional scholar, who was the president of the Ateneo de Manila University in the 1980s.
|Parish Church of St. Bartholomew the Apostle|
|Pedicab with a multi-colored umbrella|
Leaving the poblacion, I got to pass by several human-powered cabs that point to Baao being a green-minded kind of town. Unlike other towns in the area whose primary means of transport to go around the place are tricycles whose conventional carbureted two-stroke engines are not only inefficient but also a dirty source of air pollution and noise pollution, Baao is different. Its pedicabs are powered by human muscles, not noisy but nice to look at with their multi-colored umbrellas.
|Waras River where I swam in my childhood years|
|UNEP & USANT billboards at the foot of Waras Bridge|
After a handful of kilometres running, I reached the Waras bridge which marks the boundary between Baao and Iriga. On the other side is my barrio of San Agustin. At the foot of the bridge are billboards trumpeting the Philippine Association of Colleges and Universities Commission on Accreditation (PACUCOA) accreditation of the University of Saint Anthony (USANT) and the University of Northeastern Philippines (UNEP). Fittingly the signs of these learning institutes are what welcome those entering Iriga from the north. This is because I believe that the rise of the these two universities is one of the factors that have helped Iriga City become the more progressive place in Rinconada in the last half century or so.
Finishing my 20-km run, I smile. I am smiling because this run is another affirmation of my belief that running is a great way to know or revisit a town or a province more. It is an endorphin-rich way of immersing oneself with the place.
It is free. It is me.
|Finishing my run on a green and happy note|