My job sometimes brings me to places I would not personally dream of going. Such place is Maragusan in Comval Province, Davao Oriental. The first time I heard the word “Maragusan” was from a friend who got stationed in this place for a short term pastoral work. He narrated his life there in a way that shows a sense of disbelief - why he signed up for such thing. And the way he reminisces those memories betrays his inner resolution – never go back to the place again. With that, Maragusan would be the last place for me to go.
Yesterday, April 17, 2012, I woke up at 4:00 a.m., took a shower, grabbed a quick breakfast, flagged down a taxi to take me to a waiting van somewhere in Claveria Street that would bring me to Maragusan. The day before, I got a memo saying I would be one of those who would attend a two-day conference in Maragusan. I had no choice but to go the place where my friend could only muster a sense of regret. For me though, the trip turned out to be a totally different experience – one that ends in gratitude and a prayer.
Maragusan is a small town, so small you can actually view the whole of it at one glance. It is enclosed by a swirling array of gigantic hills and mountains. The town is actually settled in the plain, just below the hills and mountains. If you stand at a considerably high elevation, you could see the entire stretch of the town – the miniature houses, road arteries, cars, trucks, and, motorcycles. It’s like looking at a model village complete with fascinating details.
The hills and mountains surrounding the town proper are enormous, almost majestic in their monstrosity. They stand proudly and solemnly as if guarding the town below from spiritual invading dark forces from the underworld. Looking at these hills and mountains you could almost feel their awesome aura. On the eastern side, there, lies the highest of the hills, its uppermost part is swallowed by a thick white cloud. The scenery could pass for a Harry Potter scene.
Maragusan lies at the head water of the great Agusan river. The word Maragusan literally means people living by the river side. “Agusan” itself means “river flowing”. Agusan river is what gives life to this small town. It is the major source water for the people’s everyday use. Fresh water can be found just about anywhere in this place. I saw one plastic pipe stucked in a mound and water was flowing from it continuously. While we, in the city, pays a dear price for such a resource, here, it’s almost taken for granted.
Despite its size, the town is thriving - merchants are plying their wares on the sidewalks, a busy bus terminal, hardware stores, dry goods stores, even cell phone repair shops populate the town. It looks self-contained and self-sufficient. It is complete by itself without any need of inter-action with neighboring towns. On our way home, I got a chance to take a picture of the town proper.
This town is proud of its two resorts – the Haven’s Peak and Kanlawig Hot Spring. We stayed at the Haven’s Peak and only passed through the Kanlawig Hot Spring. Haven’s Peak however, is a surprisingly nice and clean resort, the kind that exceeds your expectations for a small town as Maragusan. They have two swimming pools, a restaurant, a conference hall, and of course, several houses filled with guests rooms. Each room contains three double decked beds.
What I find so satisfying were the clean white bed sheets and pillows and the clean towels. Our bathroom had a water heater system that gave us warm water for the morning shower as an antidote for the thick fog that covered the entire town from early dawn until about 10:00 in the morning. The fog is quite thick that the mountains surrounding the town disappeared. Around 10:00 a.m. the thick white fog finally cleared away, as if ferociously whipped by the searing beams of the late morning sun.
Watching the full blast of the sunlight revealing the town once more, I could not help but say a silent gratitude that once in my lifetime I had this experience given to me for free. It’s a gift, an experience attributable to the goodness of life. I remembered a prayer in the Psalms “let me see goodness in the land of the living…”