Grand design

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By Stella A. Estremera

Spider’s web

Saturday, February 1, 2014

I’VE lived long enough and experienced a lot to say, there is never a coincidence, not even serendipity. Rather, everything is part of a grand design where people meet, mix and match through stimuli.

I first noticed the pattern with the friends I’ve collected since kindergarten. From year to year, I seem to be keeping to myself, connecting only with one or two friends. But in hindsight, having kept most of them, there is now a long list who are somehow connected to each other as well, across the country. How that happened? Destiny, I guess.

A friend posted a photo of her holding some woven bags that interested me. Not to have, but to watch how it’s done. Except that the weavers are Tedurays of South Upi, in Barangay Romongaob. South Upi. Google “map, South Upi, Maguindanao” and you will see a long wiggling road that cuts into a huge landmass with no sea nearby.


Now, if you’re familiar with Mindanao geography, you will quickly realize that any road that wiggles along a huge land mass with no coastal area to speak of is most likely going up the mountains. True enough, South Upi is on top of a mountain.

A few days later, she posted a message, the natives will be gathering in the house of a kagawad to demonstrate their traditional weaving methods. The date, January 31.

The fun part started right on the trip in a comfortable SUV complete with aircon front seat at that.

That wasn’t how it was first thought up to be.

With Aveen being based in Cotabato City, and Cotabato City being just a few hours from Upi, there was no reason for her to go down to Davao City just to accompany me there.

She also has a schedule in South Upi the day before and may not be able to accompany me from Cotabato to Upi.

The instructions: “From downtown Cotabato get a PUJ for Awang. Baba ka sa corner bago magliko pa 6th Infantry Division. May mga motor for upi sa kanto, may PUJ din. I think P50 (wil have to check) ang PUJ. But you can also ride the motor, morag P150 pud. The house of kagawad Lencio Arig is just daplin sa dalan. Kaila ang driver sa motor ana niya. anyway naa man mi didto ana nga date, itext lang ko. (Kagawad Lencio ARig’s house is just along the road. Motorcycle drivers know him. Anyway, we’re there on that date, just text me).”

Hurdle 1: the last time I was in Cotabato City must have been ten years ago. No idea at all how far it is.

Hurdle 2: That a motorcycle ride will cost P150 per person and a jeepney ride will cost P50 per person should give you an idea about the distance. Planning the itinerary is needed.

Plan 1: Go to Cotabato and stay overnight for an early morning ride to South Upi based on the instructions.

Hurdle 3: There’s war in Maguindanao!!!! The television headlines are shouting. High tatlumpung myembro na ng Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fights ang namatay!

Errrrmmmm… check with the military.

“The conflict is far from where we are going,” goes the reply.

All set to brave whatever has to be braved the weekend before the grand adventure, Kublai, Jon, Melissa, and I spent our Saturday wine night at Kublai’s house. On the way home, with Jon bringing me and Melissa home, I briefly mentioned about my planned trip. It turned out that North Upi is his regular route and that South Upi is just a few more hours farther away. He can bring me there.

Really now. I’m not about to say no to an offer of a driver with an SUV as against a jeepney and habal-habal ride to nowhere.

The plan was hatched, we were off.

How did the story end? On SUV with the needed stops for nature’s call, gassing up, snacks, and lunch/dinner, a total of eight hours one way. Now imagine had I not mentioned I was going to South Upi and braved it the way I planned to… Maybe 12 hours isn’t enough.

Yes, I got my story and photos, and a few iPhone videos. But the bigger stories are just developing. Jon, aside from being a traveling trader, is an engineer and furniture maker who is interested in the basket weaves of the Tedurays for his designs… he got to discuss his ideas with kagawad Arig and agreed to discuss the deal further once he sends out possible designs the weavers can make… and, Melissa is setting up her shop here for indigenous arts and crafts and organic stuff, soon, with Jon as her contractor. On the way home, Jon brings us over to a friend in North Upi, who it seems may just hold some more surprises for the tiny group of wine drinkers on that Saturday night. But that will have to keep for the moment, until we start real work on it. Is that just coincidence? If it is, then that is one grand series of coincidences that will shake the very foundation of your spirituality.

Oh, if you’re asking how I managed to grab two whole days to go traipsing up those mountains with no care about office work; the week before, office work borrowed my one and only day-off for the week. January 30 was a Thursday, my day-off, it’s the date before the January 31 gathering of the weavers. Last week’s day off plus the other week’s day off equals a two-day trip without having to spend a single leave credit.

Lesson: Find your higher purpose in life and life will open the doors and gates and windows and bring over an SUV occasionally for you to live up to that purpose.

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on February 02, 2014.


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