Xiamen is not what most Chinese would call a big city, but perhaps to a lot of people from my city in the Philippines, Iligan, it would be pretty big. Xiamen has an area of 1,699.39 km2, while Iligan has an area of 813.37 km2; Xiamen had an estimated population of 3, 531, 347 at the 2010 census, while Iligan had 322, 821 in the same year. (Source: Wikipedia.)
Even though Wikipedia describes Iligan as a “highly urbanized city”, by Chinese standards, it is perhaps just a village. But size is not everything, and Iligan also has some things to offer that would not be easy to find in richer Xiamen.
Iligan is known as the City of Majestic Waterfalls, boasting of 23 waterfalls, the most famous of which is the Maria Cristina Falls, the primary source of electric power for the city’s industries. It has one mall (hopefully another one in a couple of years), a couple of parks, spring pools and beaches. I know it doesn’t sound like Iligan has a lot to offer, but as it is where I grew up, I still find it more convenient to live there. First, I know a lot more people there – former classmates, former students and colleagues– and have more relatives there (and that counts a lot especially if these people work in banks and government offices or company with whom you have to do business. Wink.) Second, shopping for food is way easier. I can easily buy butter, cheese, pasta, spaghetti sauce, etc. even in corner stores, and they are cheaper too! (In China I have to take a bus to go to a German-owned store that sells imported products! Hopefully that will change.) In Iligan I can go to the church whenever I want – especially when I want to be alone and have some quiet time. (I once took a 45-minute bus ride to a church in Xiamen only to find out it was closed on weekdays. Sigh.)
To be honest I do not know exactly what Xiamen should be famous for, although whenever asked what is there to see in Xiamen, I, and most people living here would say “Gulangyu.” Gulang Islet is known for its old buildings, most of which were used as consulates or embassies. But there is so much more residents can do for entertainment in Xiamen – there’s the beach and swimming pools or spas, numerous parks for people to go to, countless malls and shopping streets and KTV’s and bars and clubs. But these are not the things that make me like living in Xiamen. I like living in Xiamen because I feel so much safer here. I can go out without worrying about bomb explosions or people firing guns. I can sleep on rainy nights without fear of our home getting flooded. (God forbid there’ll be an earthquake as I live in a 6-story building!)
Seeing Xiamen develop so fast in the eleven years that I have been here, I wish the same could happen to my beloved Iligan. Sadly, my beloved hometown has not changed much for the past eleven years. (Except perhaps for Gaisano Mall, and the unusual color that the RVM Sisters chose to paint St. Michael’s College to match that of the St. Michael’s Cathedral’s, there’s really nothing new.)
When I go around Xiamen and notice what the city has to offer, I truly wish I could become the mayor of Iligan one day (IMPOSSIBLE!) and make my “yuta’ng natawhan” just as peaceful, modern and beautiful as my second home. (If not me, then somebody else who really cares about Iligan and help it develop as a city.)
Happy Easter to all!