Let the river run

By Rex Catubig

THE Vietnam trip of the brothers Lomibao–Dante and Willie — has rekindled my unrequited love for the river.

Dante who’s based in the world’s concretest jungle, until his early retirement, is partial to travelling the unbeaten path that has led him to the savannahs of Africa, the shangri-la of Tibet and the awesome Himalayas, the white wilderness of Antarctica, the rarely seen nooks and crannies of a sadly beautiful world on self-destruct.

This time the travel itch had taken him to Vietnam. He was barely into high school when the infamous war raged and ravaged this French Indo-Chinese region. He grew up amid the horror and indescribable destruction of the war that escalated when the US intervened and pumped the place and its people with napalm—which ironically was made by the maker of Saran wrap.

As highlight of this “sentimental journey” he took the touristy boat ride along the Mekong which recalls the eerie river odyssey of Francis Ford Coppola’s epochal Apocalypse Now.

Looking at the pictures, one is gripped with nostalgia–not of something in the remote past, but paradoxically, of something recent and here and now.

A decade or so ago, the innovative Mayor Benjie–more lovingly known as BSL–whose every move was trailed by controversy, launched Dagupan City’s River Cruise—a leisurely boat ride along the mangrove lined Dawel river. It sailed along the easterly portion up till that part where the remnant of the rail bridge stood as silent witness to a city’s storied past. It was an hour-long turnaround that was soothing and relaxing, a balm to the traffic and noise weary city dweller.

Alas, the unpredictable and unforgiving political clime nipped this idyllic dive into culture and history. Left derelict down by the Dawel Bridge is the gracefully-designed loading dock, the ghosts of what-might-have-been lingering in its wake.

The equally dynamic, forward-thinking and forward-looking  Mayor Belen Fernandez when she took over the city helm, had chosen to organize a subsequent river cruise on the western side, along the more historic part of the river that flows out from the Limahong channel and into fabled Pugaro at the mouth of the sea. But, for reason of political vagary, that one, too, was submerged in a state of moratorium and washed away along with the planned ambitious august new civic center that was plunged into oblivion when it was unconscionably used as a political weapon to defeat the incumbent mayor at the polls and repudiate her grandiose plan for the city.

Now, Mayor Belen is back as the beneficent harbinger of good times.  But the return to normalcy after an emotionally charged election, has left the city precariously floating loose on shaky moorings. The ogre of Shylockian retribution is a storm surge that seeks to topple it under merciless waves, with the Dagupenos suffering the onslaught as collateral damage.

It is beyond reason why things are engulfed as they are. Beyond prayer what could heal the wounds of politics.

Maybe, we should take another look at our river and its tributaries. Consider the seven waves engraved on the city seal.

The history of Dagupan grew out of the river. Let the river from whose matrix it came, continue the flow of its history and usher in another beginning.

Let the river run.

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