Ormoc On My Mind
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Author Topic: not "MY TRIP TO ORMOC "  (Read 702 times)
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« on: September 25, 2013, 02:25:55 am »

Some story about Ormoc

May come of help one day.


"We cannot control life's difficult moments,
but we can choose to make life less difficult.
Too often, we try to choose and control things we cannot.
Too seldom, we choose to control what we can...our attitude."
John Maxwell
I went to Ormoc City today (May 9), another slapdash touch and go kind of trip. The wondrous efficiency of these fastcrafts never cease to amaze me -- how we can hop to another island or province and be back on the same day!

Only made up my mind yesterday morning. So no big surprise when I arrived in Ormoc and found nobody at the pier to welcome me. Called the Cebu office from the boat terminal and was advised that the sales supervisor is not in town. Still, I was fairly confident I would be able to locate the sales office or contact some people. But several calls with no answer or a programmed voice "the number you dialed ..." my mood began to turn as mottled grey as the dark skies that sprinkled me with a welcome shower the minute I stepped off the gangway.

It appears that the weather in Leyte has not been paying much attention to these El Nino reports because the province is frequently rained on, so much so that the mountains and hills look refreshingly lush and fertile.

Still, the humidity and damp weather got to me. Drops of sweat were already tickling, trickling down my back, between my cleavage, adding to my discomfort and I have only been in Ormoc for an hour. I didn't want to spend my precious Saturday here in the first place, but felt duty-bound to interview some people for our newsletter. The deadline was peering just around the corner, three days away, May 12 -- day after the elections.

What irritated me was the stares I've been getting from people as I walked around. What are they looking at? I was not in the mood to bask in this undeserved attention. Felt like an alien or circus freak. Some men were so downright rude, making catcalls, doing that "psssst" thing, bumping me on purpose or squeezing past me when there's a lot of room to maneouver around. Ah, the hassle of being an unescorted young woman traveling around the country. I didn't know tuloy who to approach and ask for directions to our sales office.

That's another good thing about San Miguel -- it has sales offices and warehouses just about everywhere in this country. A tricycle ride to anywhere within the city boundaries cost only P2.50. I hopped into one and told the driver to take me to our warehouse. He appraised me from head to foot with that "alien" stare, then he leered, slowly, and asked me "how much will you pay?" Forget it, I shot back and disembarked. Really, the nerve!!!

My day and this trip completely wasted, I thought, I was tempted to head back to the pier and get on the same boat back to Cebu. And the next trip is still four hours away -- what does one do to kill time here? I strolled to the commercial district to look for a decent shopping mall, or movie house, or bookstore. Nothing but shops, stores, banks, vendors.


Then I spotted a kid pushing a trolley stacked with three cases of San Miguel Beer. "Dong, which way to the San Miguel warehouse," I asked him, adding if it's within walking distance. He shook his head, "it's too far, but there's a beer truck just around that corner." And there it was, right in the bus terminal at the gate of the pier! I went in and found one guy madly perspiring and huffing while lifting cases of beer outside a mini-mart. A Chinese lady, obviously the store manager, asked me what I wanted. I dismissed her with a light wave. After introducing myself to the guy as an employee of San Miguel and explaining my predicament he offered to drive me to the sales office as soon as they're done unloading the beer. I thanked him and addressed the lady.

Then it hit me that maybe I could interview her, since she's obviously a beer wholesaler. That was my sole reason for coming to Ormoc, to interview one or two business partners if they like our new trade terms. She refused but remained friendly. I can't shake that feeling that I look strange to these people because I was still attracting a lot of attention at the bus terminal, and I sensed that same curiosity from her. She wanted to know me better. The store manager's name is Gloria, and I started quizzing her without letting her on that the interview has already begun. The only difference was I couldn't whip out my pen and notebook to jot down her answers.

In a free-style exchange we chatted, a bit briskly because Gloria is the kind of hyper-active person who's used to doing several things at the same time. I lost count how many times we were interrupted or Gloria's attention would trail from our talk:

"Who are your customers?" I asked (Gloria is waving at a male servant to approach us)

"The sari-sari stores, barbecue vendors, and eateries around here," she replied then added, "so you're from San Miguel, from Cebu?" (while handing some change to a salesgirl)

"Yeah, that's where I'm based, but I also cover Leyte ... ah, uhm, what's your sales volume?" ... (She instructs the guy to call somebody)

"Oh, it varies, it depends how much cash I have because I prefer to buy my beer in cash -- Hey, you! (she'd yell at another employee), get this -- usually over 200 cases ... so what do you do for San Miguel?"

"I'm sort of a writer ... are you a wholesaler or dealer?"

"What's a wholesaler? And why are you here in Ormoc?"

As I mumbled my response a reasonably fit and cleanly dressed panhandler approached us, handing Gloria a letter asking for money because a relative is sick at the hospital.

"You again? Who is it this time ... your grandmother, your wife, a fire, a calamity ..." The guy stood there looking at her wordlessly.

Pausing to catch her breath, Gloria picked a shiny P5 coin from her little mosquito coil box of loose change, then hands it to the guy. "Have a nice day," she says. He nodded towards her in gratitude then walked away while Gloria and I shook our heads in silent disapproval.

A woman strode up between us and Gloria snaps at her before she could open her mouth, "No! I won't give you credit because you haven't returned your empties yet." Before the dumbstruck woman could say something, Gloria turned her back and yelled at one of her boys, "Hey, how much does she owe us again?"

"Alright, I'll tell my boys to give you two cases," she beams at her customer.

"But I only need one case," the woman finally found her voice.

What a character, I wanted to hang around longer and just watch Gloria in action but she knew I had to be at the office soon so she told the San Miguel guys to just leave the beer alone and give me a ride. I promised her I'd come back.

Oi, I regretted for the first time not planning on staying longer in Ormoc because the truck was heading for Baybay, Leyte in the afternoon and I wanted so much to see more of the countryside. Maybe next time.

There was only one person at the office, the warehouse-in-charge. He showed me their list of partners in good financial standing. Gloria's name was in it. Since the WIC couldn't provide me with a transpo or guide to the other dealers, I told him I'll just take it from there on my own. Saw another lead in that list, a dealer at the public market which was right beside the bus terminal.


I have a thing for markets. When I was still new with San Miguel and doing all these traveling to Visayas and Mindanao, the first place I'd check out was always the public markets. Nothing captures the flavor, mass culture and spirit of a locality than its market -- throbbing and pulsating with the hopes, dreams, aspirations and the day to day worries and concerns of the people who flock to it.

Ormoc's public market building was still under construction. Two structures of a two-storey affair straddling the street blocks from the bus terminal towards the pier. Hence, most of the vendors set up their stalls and wares in the sidewalks and streets bounded by the merchants' shops and hardwares. There was a semblance of order and organization: fruits and vegetables in one section, followed by the grain and seeds stalls with their sacks full of rice and animal feeds, a line of basket trays full of shells and seaweeds announced the seafood section at the pier side, the eateries in the elevated dry interior, past the shops selling fake Levis and fake leather goods. There were vendors selling toothpaste side by side with lighter fluid, scissors, hair clips, moth balls, pliers, artificial flowers, ceramic jars, dolls, and what-have-you's. One guy set up his stall in front of a corner bakery. He was selling pirated cassette tapes and the latest disco tune was blaring from his portable speaker box.

As I went around -- taking in the colorful stalls displaying everything from salt-coated flour preparations of chips and pastel-colored chicharon, calamansis the size of marbles, to cheap plastic toys, denim jackets and photographer's vests, baskets, bamboo furnitures spread out in four city blocks -- I felt that familiar stirring within me again, as my senses were tantalized by the sweet inviting cries of vendors, "Yes miss, what do you want?" ... the smell of the dried fish mixing with the heady aroma of the choppy sea and the putrid stink of stagnant water by the pier ... the colorful sight of tomatoes the size of olives, some local roses in deep red bloom, ripe green mangoes everywhere I turned ...

My heart sank at the pile of the rare pitcher plant lying in the sidewalk. To think that I climbed Mt. Kinabalu to catch a glimpse of exotic plants such as these. I asked the lady where these came from -- Tongonan, Leyte (where the geothermal plant is), and she's selling them for only P5.00. I gave her a sad smile, bit my lip and moved on.

Around one corner I saw a store selling nothing but nipa thatches. It seemed too far off from the store selling nothing but bamboo strips about three blocks away. The nipa cost P280 per 100 pieces. Hmm, for P500 I could build a nipa hut here, well, not me exactly but somebody I know who is a good carpenter.

One vendor sold what looked like wood chips. They're mahogany, she explained. "What do you do with these?" I couldn't resist asking, "You break it open, there's a seed inside, and you drink it," she said. I remembered my herbal lessons that mahogany can cure or ease stomach aches. There were other curious looking wares on display but since I was not buying I did not waste their time anymore with my stupid questions.


I never did find that other dealer at the market. An hour had passed but it didn't feel anymore like I wasted my time. I backtracked to the bus terminal and resumed my interview with Gloria, and met her husband as well. I really enjoyed her company and didn't notice that another hour had gone. When I told her I wanted to take her picture for the newsletter, she insisted that she wanted her employees to pose with her. That shows what a warm-hearted lady she is, she doesn't only think of herself but of others as well.

I stopped at a fruit stand on my way back to the pier, bought sineguelas and Indian mangoes. I love tart fruits. Sineguelas, I read, have more vitamin C than citrus fruits. They're so much cheaper here than in Cebu. Curiously, those famous crunchy Ormoc pineapples that are sold everywhere in Cebu is hard to find here. Maybe the people got tired of it, or maybe they only produce these for export to Cebu.

Somewhere close by, a radio was blaring Celine Dion's "Heart Go On" from the movie "Titanic" -- with a disco beat. Should have known it's only a matter of time... Only in the Philippines, where even the Lord's Prayer has rock and disco versions. FM stations in Cebu are already playing the Bisaya version of "Heart Go On," ... ("Ruz, saari ko nga dili nimo buhian" ... "Oo, Djak ...")

In the comfort of the airconditioned ferry terminal I whiled the time away nibbling on unwashed fruit, and composing this letter in my mind. I still don't like Ormoc, but my day was saved by a spirited Cebuana named Gloria.

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