Guided only by the luminous moon, the pitch black highway sees our ragtag van with only its headlights billowing like a white smoke from the horizon. It passes through equally darkened small communities in between, each coping with rotating power interruptions. Small stores and houses are seen only through its flickering candles. I looked out the window and could only see faces hiding from the dark staring back at our moving van. Every few ticks off the map, we passed by military checkpoints, some are deserted while some were manned by heavily armed marines. Each time we would nod out at the flashlight beaming forward to our faces. I've heard stories about fake military checkpoints, highway bandits and how treacherous the Pan-Am highway could be. In fact, a few people have warned us from leaving Cotabato City on a night trip.
Having all that in mind. I fought hard not to sleep while Lauren naps while our van jumps up and down from the numerous potholes on the road. Driven masterfully by the driver it weaves through the dark road like a moving fireball. I saw the outlines of the forests and edges of small hills at both sides and I wonder what kind of roadside scenery might have been if viewed during the day. During the last few kilometers our van slowed down because it blew up its break. We arrived in a crawling ant manner at the city of Pagadian at around 11:00 pm and immediately went on to locate the homely abode of Doc Wendz.
Fortunately, a feast of spaghetti and a sumptuous desert of maja blanca awaited myself, Lauren and Dennis and right on the bat, we hurriedly chewed our starvation over a lively conversation with our gracious host. While a Siberian Husky puppy named Laika licks our feet underneath the table.
The next day, Doc Wendz, his brother and our local guide BigBug showed us around town. I had the best fruit salad in the market, as it consists of real fruits and a perfectly sweetened milk cream. After having our lunch we proceeded to the abandoned island of Dao Dao Daku, which according to Doc Wendz, during his childhood the island was teeming with marine life and a popular spot to spend the Saturdays with the whole family.
Going there, we passed by a row of small stilt house community by the sea. Overlooking a long stretch of the city's coastline we can already see the small island from afar. It was low tide so the only way to reach the small boat we rented, was to walk over the muddy slopes of the sea bed.
Stepping over slippery and soft thick mud, we tried hard to balance ourselves from falling over as each time we would take a step forward, it feels like we're stepping over a quicksand. It was a wonderful experience getting acquainted with a new type of sea terrain. Lauren and I we're kidding each other about getting a new revolutionary method of foot spa.
Once aboard the small boat we compared toenails and mine was the runaway winner in the most unpleasant feet category. The condition of the island was now relegated to and in ironic way reminisce of the shipwrecked boat tumbled over at its foot. We saw what was left of a man made stairs going over its small hill and rested on the steps for a few minutes while we enjoyed the winds brushing against our faces.
The island might never have the charm it once had, but it is still alive and surrounded by trees and other vegetation. A bustling fishing community built on stilt houses nestled nearby provides an authentic glimpse of the ordinary lifestyles of the families earning its living from fishing. It was a minor eye opener for myself, walking through the muddy banks, might be of slight inconvenience for me or anyone, but for the residents, that's their home turf right there. Their houses are perched on top of it, built over this soft part of the Earth.
In the end, it wasn't much about the current state of Dao Dao Daku that needs to be improved. The life of everyone living in this coastal community needs to be noticed, guided, nurtured for improved self sustainability in order to ensure that this community will never sink below the muddy banks of Dao Dao Daku.
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