You are a nameless visitor to the oldtimers there. So obscure that no one among the residents asked where you came from, why the hell you are in this mountainside city overlooking the Illana Bay, how many days are you staying, etc. You do not know either the faces and names of people who you encounter in the streets that your feet pass through.

The city’s name is Pagadian.

From a map, the city looked liked a planned out square. Streets radiate from the center and named after some settlers who, in one way or the other, helped found this capital: Pajarillo, Alano, etc. Walking through the streets is not much of a problem except of being hit by one of the hundreds (or thousands) of pedicabs that make their way, sometimes painfully, through the steep roads, streets and sideways. Just like Davao city, this quaint area is also divided into districts, mostly named after Catholic saints.

Typical of provincial cities and towns, jeeps in the city ply only to other municipalities. Buses are useful if one opts to go to farther areas. One can rent vans to go to towns in Lanao del Sur.

The origins of the city’s name is just as obscure. If not for the fact that you happened to read up on the etymology from some 20-year-old or more souvenir publication, the fact just escapes your mind. One version claims that “Pagadian” or “Gagadian” came from the native Subanon’s name for the place that once was said to be bloodied battleground. A second version narrates how a Maguindanaons named the place after the flocks of geese that used to fly or roost there. Whatever the origins of the name, one can surmise that native Subanons and Maguindanaons used to interact there. Either mostly in peace or in war only the shrouds of unwritten history and folklore can tell.

The local lingua franca here is Cebuano, and many residents here are sons or grandchildren of settlers from the Visayas or even Luzon. But Maguindanaons, Tausugs, SUbanons and other speakers of native tongues are also to be found here. This is because Pagadian is a meeting ground of travelers and traders coming from the rest of Zamboanga peninsula and from Lanao del Norte, Lanao del Sur provinces.

Though they do not know you, they probably suspect you are a Manileno. A Tagalog speaker at that. Your Cebuano speech is halting, softened by educated accents and spoken within the rules of Filipino and English. Your attempts at Cebuano do not succeed to hide your “Tinagalog na Manila” accent. But at least you tried. Sulti lang ug sulti basta makasabot lang sila.

On the day that you first arrived there, it just happened that local political rivalry has accelerated. Elections were but just five months away. A rally is ongoing right smack in the heart of the city plaza. Thousands of people ring a specially built stage as speakers harangued against the provincial government. You and your family try to slip through the crowd so that you can visit some malls and supermarkets in downtown area. Apart from a Rustans Supermarket, one can also see Robinsons and C3, owned by the city government.



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