I hope you still remember the time when you used to bathe at agricultural irrigation pumps in the province when you were 4 or 5 years old. During that time, you were too young to care either about the past or the future. You race with your cousins to the cool, gushing water wearing nothing but anticipation, curiosity, and muddy little shorts. You drop the shorts and jump in a small clear pool that flows to a makeshift ‘canal’ leading to newly-planted rice fields. Because you were a child, you didn’t worry about being accused of losing (and finding) your dignity at the very spot where you left your shorts – those were adult concerns.
I hope you still remember those days. The memory came back to me this afternoon upon seeing little children jumping from the riverbank, trying to stave off the sweltering Philippine summer. While we were listening to instructions of our whitewater rafting guide, I saw them enjoying the moment: every run, every jump, every splash, and every stroke of freestyle swim was enclosed in a bubble of carefree delight.
But before you wade in the memory of our childhood years, let me first share to you some details of our whitewater rafting experience:
“Five strokes forward!” our river guide shouted from the back of our raft in a voice that is a mixture of command and encouragement. Initially, there were five of us: Alex and me at the front, Cherrie and Lau at the middle and our river guide at the back. “We are not trying to stir a cup of coffee here! We should row in unison” he joked. To me, that was a sign of a well-developed adventure tourism industry – tour guides who know how to establish rapport with ‘clients’. His enthusiasm made all the difference during the 16-kilometer downstream adventure interspersed by 21 major rapids. He showed us how the recent flooding in CDO changed the course of the river and altered the ‘face’ of the riverbanks. He too, unknowingly instilled in us awareness on the state of education in this part of the country: some school children had to cross the river and climb a temporary ladder hanging on a cliff in order to get to school. Some bridges linking the two provinces (divided by Cagayan River) were destroyed by flood.
James, I finished the rafting adventure with a smile on my face. I drew inspiration from the carefree attitude of children playing at the riverbank; from the determination of the same children who had to climb a ladder against a cliff in order to get to school. Just like in life, we bumped against rocks; and some of us almost went overboard. But the experience did not make us bitter. I hope that you find yourself now in a similar state of mind: that life all through the years was able to paint a permanent smile on your face (the circumstances notwithstanding).
And please, for the sake of your children’s sanity, don’t lose the shorts.
I hope you still remember your name,
P.S. If you ever decide to try whitewater rafting again, remember to go there before the rainy season (the water is green...as opposed to muddy brown when it's raining hard).
note: most of these photos were taken by the river guides from Kagay.