Going home to Kidapawan

Some time ago I wrote that ultimate fulfillment for me is if I learned that Kidapawan was proud of me for managing to get a Palanca last year.

Well, ultimate fulfillment fulfilled!

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I went to Kidapawan earlier this month to receive this commendation from the city government. It’s not much, but it is very touching.

It was given during the monthly convocation of the Kidapawan City Government, held on the morning of February 12 at the city gym.

Photo courtesy of kuya Sonny Doctor

Photo courtesy of kuya Sonny Doctor

To my surprise it began with the awarding of recognitions, and I was first to be awarded. I went up to the stage and shook hands with the mayor, vice mayor Rudolfo Gantuangco, and city councilors Jivy Bombeo, Francis Palmones, and Mario Flores. On stage Councilor Palmones, who has an ubiquitous hairline, asked jokingly if he could take some of my hair from himself. I answered he can feel free to take as much as he likes.

The event was an amusing one, because it was really a way for the Municipio employees to entertain themselves. And because this convocation was sponsored by the mayor’s office, the production was particularly lavish. It featured song, dance, and magic show performances from the employees of the mayor’s office and the City Information Office.

The Mayor of Kidapawan, manong Joseph, giving the opening remarks

The Mayor of Kidapawan, manong Joseph, giving the opening remarks

The best performance? When the mayor, manong Joseph Evangelista himself, sang while playing the electric organ. Though I have to say, City Information Office head Psalmer Bernalte, who sang manong Joseph, was a remarkably powerful singer.

With my two grandmothers, and the first lady manang Marlyn

With my two grandmothers, and the first lady manang Marlyn

I went to the event, and went up the stage, with my two grandmothers. Also present in the event were my yaya kuya Sonny Doctor (now an employee in the Municipio), and the city first lady, manang Marlyn.

The event would not have been possible without two people: my friend Vincent Cuzon, who made it known to Kidapawan that I won in spite of my best efforts to hide it; and my elder brother kuya Dexter (an employee in the City Information Office), who informed the mayor’s office about it.

But probably more significant than the ceremony was the fact that I was able to return to Kidapawan for the first time in five years.

When I was in college and my family used to live in Kidapawan, coming home (in its truest sense) was always painful, as I saw the city I grew up in become more and more a different place. When we moved to Davao four years ago, I barely had the chance to return.

Needless to say, the otherness I encountered in what used to be my hometown was bothering. The streets I had come to know have changed almost beyond recognition, there are buildings where there used to be none, and the shades of trees are gone as they are felled one by one to make room for even more buildings. Kidapawan is becoming prosperous, but at the expense of the Kidapawan I knew.

Our house in the family ancestral compound in crossing Lanao, a dilapidated two story building a tenant built decades ago,  was renovated by my uncle into a guest house, and by all means it now looks a lot better. But it was no longer my home, and that bothered me a lot.

But what was perhaps most discomforting was when I visited my old alma mater, Notre Dame of Kidapawan. Having studied there since kindergarten, and having seen life there from early childhood to my teenage years, Boys (as the school is still known colloquially, harking back to its exclusive boys’ school days) was my capital of memories in Kidapawan, my emotional Mecca, where I slipped dreams into the old walls’ crevices and etched yearnings on the trees. Now most of those walls have been whitewashed, and most of those trees have been felled. It was almost as if I was looking for the bits of my youth I hid here and there but could not find them. The teachers in the high school department even look as if they were just my age.

Kidapawan in my imagination has ceased to be the Kidapawan of my imagination. I am in a crisis of rootedness.

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