The title above is the first line of the official anthem of Cagayan, my home province here in the Philippines. I've been wanting to write about this topic for the longest time, and it was only recently that I finally found the perfect excuse to do so with the launch of the Google Map Maker. But more on this Web tool later.
Filipinos are generally "regionalistic" people, which means that they have strong attachments to their home province or ethnicity. This trait can be both good and bad, although it often veers to the negative side because it tends to foster factionalism among our peoples. I hate to admit it, but I'm one of those die-hards who always feel proud of being a Cagayano, as we call ourselves.
Cagayan is the northern-most province of the Philippines, and I must say it's the most beautiful place on earth for me. Both my parents came from Cagayan--my late father was from the capital Tuguegarao, while my mother is from an old town called Gattaran. That, in effect, makes me a full-blooded Cagayano. My surname, in fact, is very indigenous and you'll know right away that I'm from that part of the country.
My father, Tony, was a dyed-in-the-wool Cagayano who spoke the local dialects Itawes and Ibanag. My mother Linda, meanwhile, speaks Ilocano. I can understand these three languages but I can't speak them fluently because we converse mostly in Tagalog, the national language, at home.
Despite the lack of modern-day amenities, I spent the best years of my life growing up in the province during the 1980s. I remember when I was still, ahem, a cute little boy, I'd go hunting with my friends for spiders, which we'd pit in a battle using a stick. We'd also climb fruit trees and go to the river to fight the terribly hot weather. On a lazy night, we'd sometimes take a "joy ride" around town in a calesa, a horse-drawn carriage that is fast dwindling in numbers.
During Christmas and Holy Week, our family would go for mass in nearby Ermita de San Jacinto, a lovely Spanish-era church that is elevated in the center of one of the town's main streets. Unlike in the big city, its parishioners actually knew each other.
At Tuguegarao West Central, a public elementary school, I met and had the privilege of having the best teachers and brightest classmates around. I say that with conviction because I transferred--during my fifth grade--to a school in Manila.
My best buddies, whom I still correspond with to this day, came from West Central. I had a blast, therefore, when we had a reunion last Christmas when I saw some of my classmates after 20 long years. I also had a great time last June when I met up with Ian de Leos, also a grade-school classmate, in Riverside, California, where he is now based as a member of the U.S. Navy. I was also looking forward to seeing another classmate, Napoleon Palattao Jr., when I was in Shanghai last week, but he was in Chengdu for a business trip. If I do get the chance to go to Louisiana or in any state near it, I'd also like to visit another classmate, Charlotte Tugaoen-dela Cruz, who's working as a nurse in Baton Rouge.
Having narrated the origins of my life story, I'd now like to talk about Google Map Maker. When search giant Google held a press briefing in Manila recently to announce the new map-making tool, the first thing that came to my mind was to look at my home province and take a virtual tour.
But, just like what the Internet company had asserted, a huge part of the country, including my beloved Cagayan, still had empty maps. Through Google Map Maker, the company is hoping that local folks would fill in content such as street names, schools, and other landmarks. With these information, a place such as Cagayan can boost tourism and investments, according to Google.
I'm therefore calling on fellow Cagayanos to contribute content and place the province, figuratively, in the map. We have a beautiful province and we ought to let the whole world know about it.