Long and Wrong Route

As the title goes, I once found myself riding a 5-hour ride going to Surigao City. I was all anxious and my partner was on the verge of despair. Where is this road leading us?! It was the longest ride of our lives.

We woke up early to catch the friendly morning sun rays as any traveler would. We started off from Barobo Surigao Del Norte and made several pit stops along the way, either to ask people where is the road leading to Surigao City or rest our bones for a while.

People would just nod every time we ask them if we are nearing Surigao City. They just say the same thing: “Just go straight”, and so we went straight ahead. We were already went as far as Tandag when an old lady selling ripe mangoes at the roadside told us that we went the longer route from Barobo to Surigao City. Had we went back to Surigao Del Norte via Butuan route, Surigao City might have been just a 3-hour ride.

But we persisted ,and it’s already too late to backtrack.

What we saw in Carrascal

The air is getting more saturated with dust, and we have to wipe it out from our helmets as it’s becoming more difficult to go uphill. We pulled over at the shady part of the road. At first I thought, where is this place and why is it all covered with red dusts?

My partner told me that we’re at the foot of a large open pit mining. We surveyed the area and of course took some pictures. We saw several makeshift shelters beneath the almost dead trees owned by former Lumad inhabitants who decided not to leave their land. Right in front of us was a stark and glaring irony of former inhabitants now illegal settlers, and foreign investors raping the life out of the mountains.

We asked the Lumad inhabitants what are they doing there and they said they have no choice. They have to scavenge for food and they have nowhere to go. Before, animals especially wild boars and deer are plenty and they never run out of food. Most of the people in their community already went away and searched for new places to put up their huts and re-build their lives. After several Lumad leaders who went against the mining industry were killed one by one, they lost all hopes of going back again, like what it used to be. We bade goodbye and went on.

We have seen the full view of the mining devastation from the top hill. The coffee-colored water oozed from the hills straight out to the coastal area. It’s like blood flowing from the valley wounds, and its cry can be heard by the harrowing sound of the wind. The coastal area surrounding the valleys are colored red and brown. It was more like a sea of blood at first glance.

We have to move forward as we want to reach the city proper before it gets dark. Upon reaching the town, we went to the first gasoline station and have the motor pumped to full. While filling, we asked the gasoline boy about the mining industry in their town. I particularly asked if there were improvements in the lives of the people, were their more jobs ever since the mining industry started?

At first he was hesitant to answer, thinking perhaps we are insiders or reporters or investigators making a case out of the mining industry in their place. But then he gave in and said that the lives of the people in their place didn’t particularly improved. Some benefited but many are still impoverished. He said that most of the workers hired by the mining companies are not from their area. Some are even foreigners, mostly Chinese. In addition, he said that the whole town is owned by the mining companies. As I looked around, yes that was obvious. Most of the signage in every building had the name of the largest mining firm. He said that the one getting rich in their town are the mining companies and the local government leaders who approve the mining contracts.

We rode away with a heavy heart and a painful truth embedded in our minds. It was not just about finding our way to Surigao City, but finding out the truth about the social and environmental injustices committed by these mining firms with the local government as their accomplices! Truly, some times we get lost only to find the truth.
Published in Commentaries