Dear South Cotabato,
There are so many things I wanted to tell you before we ended our four year relationship. Ours was not a conventional run-of-the-mill kind of story so you can imagine how painful it was for me when I left. But rest assured that I did not write this letter to destroy your reputation. I wrote this as a celebration of my undying love for you.
Let me run down some things that I’ve always wanted to say.
- I thank you for teaching me how to speak Ilonggo. Sure, there are many Ilonggo speaking locals in my hometown but it was you who made me realize that it is a romantic language I’d rather use than French and Spanish. My friends are always fond of hearing me speak your language when I try to express the malambing side of me.
- I hate the fact that a lot of tourists are flocking to you. Since when have you become so popular? I am jealous. As much as I want to keep you to myself, deep in my heart I just want you to know that I am so proud of you. You have come a long way and it amazes me seeing what you have become.
- I could still remember my first T’nalak Festival experience. I was a freshman at Koronadal National Comprehensive High School and the images of the festival are still vivid in my mind. It was the morning of July 18th of 2003. In a boarding house along Bonifacio Street near Alunan Avenue, I was busy washing the dishes when I suddenly heard a song – something festive, grandiose and celebratory. And when I took a chance to witness your festival, I fell in love with your arts and culture.
- Take care of your street dancers. Mold them. Guide them to be ambassadors of your culture. They are the new generations of artists who will blaze the trail of hope to preserve your heritage. I saw some of them at the Aliwan Fiesta and Kadayawan. I admit, watching them brought you so much closer to me.
- T’nalak, your very own sacred cloth, is the best thing that sets you apart from the rest. It defines you. It is you. Spread it but don’t ever lose it. Seeing the creations of Randy Ortiz and other Filipino designers, I know that it is only a matter of time before I get to see T’nalak gowns sashaying down the runway of New York Fashion Week.
- I was surprised to see your products in Singapore. My friend was pointing at green bananas hanged along with other fruits when I checked the label – DOLE Philippines. I told them they have to taste your pineapples. They can also give the turon being sold outside our school a try.
- Moreover, I can’t stop raving about your Tilapya and Balbakwa. And I should stop talking about your food before I crave.
- I wish you will never stop fighting for your place. Protect your mountains even if it means giving resistance to mining companies wanting to use your own natural resources.
- I regret not taking you to my hometown. I wish you were able to see the scenic view from South Cotabato’s boundary to Columbio. I can imagine the two of us riding a habal-habal taking the road resembling to Baguio’s Kenon Road. Or we could be sitting on the roof of a Jeepney and let the moment take us to be infinite. It would have been a ride of a lifetime.
- It is always a good thing when you are able to unite your people. Their cultures, however different, create a harmonious way of living.
- I thank you for making high school interesting. At KN, I met my friends for life. For all you know, I wrote 50% of this letter in our class valedictorian’s unit. Whenever I see students clad in their uniform, I get a sense of pride and “kaangasan” but perhaps it is because graduates of public schools like us were given a different kind of upbringing.
- Your Alunan Avenue was my refuge whenever I wanted to do paperwork. When gazillions of internet cafes operated along the avenue during my senior year, it became our second home. Heck, it’s where I finished my research paper. I hear that some bars have cropped up like mushrooms. I have yet to see them but if I do, I’d probably miss the old eatery, internet cafes and some other places they replaced in the name of giving the place a cosmopolitan vibe.
- I’ve met some of your students in our country’s prestigious universities. They are the testament of your high literacy rate. Take care of them for someday they will bring new ideas and share knowledge to let you move forward.
- I thank you for making me feel that Mindanao is not what most of the people think it is. With you I feel safe – that I have nothing to worry about even if I walk in the street at midnight or decide to jog early in the morning.
- Baby even if we’re no longer together, I still find myself coming back to you. Sometimes, I think of using the Davao Airport instead just so I won’t be able to see you. But Gensan’s Airport is a better option since it makes travelling more convenient and practical. The journey from the Tuna City to you is like a trip down the memory lane. Even if we only get to see each other every summer and Christmas, I like the feeling that I am always welcomed. Sometimes it makes me think that we never ended our relationship. Until now, I could still feel the sense of belongingness and this letter made me realize that I am still connected to you. And so I promise that whenever I get the much needed break from my work, I will see you. We shall reminisce like long lost lovers. But I guess what I’m really trying to say is, “Palangga ta gid ka.”