See that green and orange Random Detoxification banner above?
That was taken approximately 6 years ago during one of our regular forays in the east coast (I miss those joyrides. It was one of those best weight loss supplements). It’s a picture of a valley surrounded by emerald hills made of neat green grass and which opens out into the azure sea beyond. The sea itself is dotted with eleven tiny islands of white sand beaches and shrubbery.
That valley is located in a barangay with one of the most beautiful sights in Zamboanga City. In fact, the barangay’s name is an aliteration to the view that greets its residents and visitors- Buenavista (which literally means ‘good view’ or ‘perfect view’).
We’ve been to passed by Buenavista countless times. However we only get to catch a glimpse (or in the aforementioned banner’s case, an occasional photo) of that beautiful vista as tales of rebels, kidnappers and brigands abound. Case in point:
Roughly 7 years ago, when me and my partner were working with caves, we heard reports of underwater coral caves in the eleven islands (which are part of Buenavista). Being speleologists, we wanted to explore the caves there. But locals warned us that if we go, we might as well bring vinegar with us. Why? Simply because the pirates will eat us alive the moment we set foot on one of those islands. The vinegar was for their sawsawan or dipping. Of course, we didn’t go. Who in his right mind would?
As the years went by, and news of the occasional gunfight and rebel threats filtered out onto the news, we could only look in longing at the glimpses of rolling valleys, green hills, sparkling sea, and blue sky as we drove by on the bus to Dipolog and again as we went back home to Zamboanga. Never did I think that I would have the priveledge of actually setting foot on that valley. But I did. Yesterday. And the views just floored me. They were awesome. Nay, they were spectacular.
It literally took my breath away. I even climbed to the very top of the hill in the very center of the valley floor. All around me was grass gently waving in the noon breeze and nothing but blue sky overhead and a white sand beach not that was not too far away.
The owner of the land built his house on top of the hill. It was not a grandiose house. It was small, made of nipa, and shabby even. It did not have furnishings, or any appliances, save for a dilapidated TV. But talking to him, and imagining how he gets to wake up to the sun slowly rising over the horizon, its warm, golden light washing away the tendrils of fog that accumulates in the night (yes, he says that the valley floor fogs up at night), and sleeping with the clearest view of the moon and stars at night, I think that he is one of the luckiest men on earth. I say this out loud and in response he just looks at me, smiles and says that he cannot ask for more.
PS in case you were wondering, there is no road leading down this valley. Only a trail littered with granite rocks. I went down this valley and up that hill on my trusty Bastian. It took a lot of manuevering and almost slipping to get up there.