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July 26, 2012

Backpacking in Zamboanga Day One

Part of my work is to visit far-flung areas in the country and help them address the perennial problem of maternal and infant deaths. As of the latest stats, the maternal mortality ratio of the country is 221 per 100,000 live births. So, last Friday, just as I was about to leave the office for a fun weekend, I was told to go to Zamboanga Peninsula to visit two far-flung municipalities: Gutalac and Siayan. This is not my first time to visit Zamboanga but it will be my first time to commute around the peninsula. Gutalac and Siayan are in Zamboanga del Norte. And because it was at the spur of the moment, I would be travelling without cash-advanced from the office. This sounded like an adventure.

Together with another fellow associate, we landed in Zamboanga City airport early morning of Monday, had breakfast and proceeded to the Zamboanga City Bus Terminal in Guiwan. There are buses that would bring us to Dipolog City. To get to Gutalac which was our first stop we would be dropping off in Liloy. Bus fare to Liloy was 310 pesos for an air-conditioned bus.

By lunchtime, the bus stopped over at Tungawan where we had lunch in a small carinderia for 45 pesos (or not more than a dollar!). A few minutes later, the bus left for our next bus stop: Ipil. The bus waited at the Ipil Terminal for a good 15 minutes before it headed for Liloy.

At Liloy, we went off and rode a small rickety bus that would bring us to Gutalac. But this small bus had to pass through Labason where it stopped and waited for another 30 minutes. While in Labason, we went around the market, bought some bread and water and waited.

From Labason, it was another good hour before we reached Gutalac. The familiar sights, the bumpy rough roads and the winding cemented roads along the mountain's side would remind me of my DTTB days when I would travel from Bacolod City to Candoni.

We arrived in Gutalac later afternoon, made our courtesy call with the Mayor and the Municipal Health Officer and oriented them of what would happen the following day: a mternal death review.

We were then brought to a pension house in the town, the only pension house actually, where we checked in, watched some news on TV and slept. Thus ended our Day One.

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