Tuesday, June 06, 2006


Not everything in Cotabato was violence and turmoil. On the contrary, I have very many pleasant and happy memories of Cotabato. And they did not involve big business deals or personal triumphs.

Here is one example, which was simply a lunch break.

About half my working time when I was in Cotabato working in road construction involved actual field work. I would have go to the camp and the worksite with my driver, security officer and sometimes with the company chief accountant.

Most of the time, I would actually have to do some administrative function, like distributing payroll, checking on the paperwork at the company gas pumps, or meeting with some official of Philrock, the general contractor for the road construction with whom we had our contract.

The rest of the time was either trouble-shooting, or just mingling with the employees to keep tabs on things. I wanted to make sure the employees knew I was available and approachable, and many of them would take the occasion just to say hi or thank you, or actually discuss a particular issue.

On the whole, I was happy when I was on the road. I enjoyed being outdoors, although sometimes it was in the heat and dust, and sometimes in the rain and the mud, depending on the season of the year. I enjoyed the personal interaction, and it was gratifying to offer employment to people and sometimes help resolve problems.

I tried to make the field work as enjoyable and interesting as possible. I remember one particular day that will forever stay in my mind. We were several miles from base camp, so I asked the driver to scout around and find us some good lunch.

When lunch time came, we drove to a house where the driver had contracted the lady of the house to cook lunch for us We collected our lunch, which was unbelievably inexpensive. It was rice, fried catfish, vegetables and soda. Catfish is one of my favorite fish in the Philippines. For those of you that know fish, catfish are ugly creatures, but delicious.

My driver then took us to a secluded area that was nicely wooded with a small, gentle waterfall. We feasted on the lunch, and that was a great lunch for eating on the run in a road construction site. Then we all took a dip in the shallow pool with the waterfall cascading on us, frolicking like little children. Since we spent a lot of time on the road, we always had clothes and gear for emergencies like this one.

That was probably one of the best lunch breaks in my whole life. Where else can you take a two-hour lunch break with a nourishing, home-cooked meal, then take a dip in a natural pool and waterfall with a lush, sylvan setting?

In retrospect, the two-hour, 3-martini lunches I had in my corporate life pale in comparison with this roadside lunch.

Reluctantly, we drove back to work at the site. I don’t know about my two other employees, but that was a magical day for me, to be able to work and briefly refresh the body, mind and spirit in a land full of violence and turmoil.


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