Monday, April 24, 2006

Two Extremes in Oriental Mindoro

San Teodoro is 19 kms. south of Muelle in Puerto Galera, 45 minutes and P 35.0 by a passenger jeep. White Beach is 9 kms. north of Muelle, 15 minutes and P 15.0 by jeep. While only 28 kms. in distance, in pacing it is miles apart.

San Teodoro is a quaint small town whose main livelihoods are fishing and farming. The main town is divided by the highway, one east and another west. Several blocks farther down lead you to the shoreline which also serves as the town park. The three prominent structures in San Teodoro are the Public Elementary School, town hall which also houses the medical center and the Immaculate Concepcion Catholic Church. The right side of the highway steers you to the caves, mountain and over a dozen waterfalls the most famous of which are the Tamaraw and the Tukuran Falls.

Main social activity during Holy Week is the town folks milling around the blocks in pairs or in groups in the evening tagging along their cell phones. The younger groups in clusters claim their favorite social spots at the shoreline interacting via conversation and text messaging. Adult males typical in a small town hold their drinking sessions partly at their residences and at the streets. Pork barbeque grilled by an elementary school boy on vacation is sold at P 5.0 a stick. Locally made hotdog is P 3.50 a stick. On a regular day, the town is practically asleep by 9 pm. except tonight which is Holy Thursday where most of the overseas workers and Manila migrants of San Teodoro are in town, San Teodoro's lights are still on.

While seemingly quiet, the town gained notoriety for the assassination of its mayor in broad daylight at the church in April 2002 attributed to the conflict between the military and the underground movement. A military detachment stands right behind the church.

Time stops in San Teodoro. A mere two hour car ride from Manila, add an hour ferry ride and an hour of jeepney ride, you have moved back to the life in the 60’s where the only interruption to living is the simple meals.

But not for long.
Minutes and one jeepney ride later, we are in another world.  Barangay San Isidro, Puerto Galera, address of the world famous White Beach, a cheaper alternative to Boracay, destination of adventurers, backpackers, bohemians, non conformists, nature lovers, peddlers, generation x, peddlers and all sorts of characters changed the  pace from slow to fast and a the lifestyle from relaxed to stressful. It is noisy, busy, crowded and alive which sharply contrasts to the natural setting of superb harbor, rich marine life, dive sites, corals and the Talipanan-Malipunyo mountain range. Initially developed as a tourist spot in 1979, there are now over a hundred landmarks and cuisine that cater to almost any nationality and disposition.

You know you are headed for the future when your hundred pesos can buy you just three drinks compared to the 20 barbeque sticks in San Teodoro. In Puerto it is not just text messaging, it is broadband wireless fidelity right smack at the beach. Using a waterproof hand receiver, you are never out of touch with the outside world either in the stretch of San Isidro, Aninuan or Talipanan. Like the pace in Malate and in Eastwood, the world does not stop. Action is on a 24 by 7. (It makes one wonder how many cell phones and wallets have changed hands in Puerto today?)

Is it possible to go two extremes in two days? You just need a high tolerance for adversity to survive. Thanks to the hospitality extended by “Bo Derec” and the company of PALMC associates Ding and family, tropang Meridian and Bontoc for playing host to us in San Teodoro and to the company of generous friends Jonnell and Mark for all the other amenities.  The holy week season provided the backdrop to experience the extreme pace.

It was an experience "all so dazzling and diverse as to seem unreal" quoting the line of travel writer Amadis Ma. Guerrero. The entire enriching trip did not cost me a fortune. For me that seemed like the unreal part.

24 April 2006

1 comment: