[With my sources for stories fast drying up at some point in 2001, I suddenly remembered the transformation Timoga underwent on weekends as Iliganons trooped there–not to swim in the spring pool resorts–but to do their laundry. More than ten years after this article was printed, I saw that this practice was still going strong–turning into a well-organized and thriving business.]
by Rex Godinez Ortega
WHAT does a labandera do when tap water refuses to flow? Or it produces only mono-syllables on the concrete floor of her banyo?
Iligan residents’ answer: Timoga.
Yes. The place where visitors to this city of waterfalls love to frolic and swim in.
Timoga, of course, is where the city’s numerous spring pool resorts are located. But to the not-so-observant visitor, it is also a big natural laundry area – perfect for that mountain of dirty laundry forever accumulating in one’s home.
And no, silly, people do not wash their clothes in the swimming pools. They go mostly to two major spots within the vicinity of the resorts where spring water is not yet…well, fenced in.
The typical waterless Iliganon, with family in tow, stuffs his family’s one-week’s worth of soiled clothes into a big travelling bag or empty sack, throws it in the trunk of his car or truck, or, he carries the heavy bag or sack on his back and he flags down a jeepney and rushes to Timoga during the weekend.
He does his washing perched on big stones amid cool, crystal-clear water (the kind that is bottled and sold) gushing out of rocks and flowing into frothy little streams.
Some do theirs on the big stream- the combined outflow of the water in the six resorts which join into the sea across the road.
It may be quite ironic for a city known to have about two dozen waterfalls and taking pride in it too, to have quite a number of its residents go through several kilometers of trouble just to do their laundry.Even though water does flow out of most Iliganon’s faucets, it is not strong enough to support a heavy wash load and, according to the people washing clothes in Timoga, they can do the washing and rinsing faster.
This is why Timoga, in Barangay Buruun, 13 kilometers from the city, explodes in a myriad of colors with the array of clothes, bed sheets and curtains drying on clotheslines just a few meters from the national highway on Saturdays and Sundays.
As a testament to the popularity of Timoga as a washing haven, people from the different municipalities of the province of Lanao del Norte, like Linamon, Kauswagan, and Balo-i also visit the area to wash their clothes. According to Timoga residents, they do that each time there is a water crisis in their hometowns or barangays.
Sometimes even those from as far as Marawi City in Lanao del Sur come down to Iligan just to do their laundry, according to the residents.
The occasion also provides parents an opportunity to combine housework with fun. The trip to the laundry area eventually becomes an excuse for them to have a picnic with their children.
So one can expect to see people doing their laundry and taking a bath at the springs, streams, or the nearby beach while food is being prepared.
Although the water is free, people still have to pay P5 for the use of the clotheslines erected there by enterprising Timoga residents.
Those who do their laundry at the big stream pay P5 also for the use of the pile of big stones placed in or near the middle of the stream which acts like a platform where the labandera can spread out her laundry. The platform also gives one access to deeper water.
According to Junior Camphil (correct spelling), 33, of purok San Antonio in the city, the practice of washing the laundry at Timoga has become a tradition for his family since their clothes have been washed there since the time of his grandmother.
“Before it was our parents who did the washing while we played in the water, but now it’s us who are doing it,” he said.
Camphil considers it a family affair and goes to Timoga with his family and neighbors almost always every Sunday.
For couple Erenejo and Conchita Ambalong, who live in the port area of Iligan, Sundays spent washing clothes at Timoga is also a time to relax and give in to their kids’ demands for a dip in the cool spring waters.
Erenejo says that they just wait for money to buy soap and then head for Timoga with the kids with some packed lunch. “If we have money then we bring lechon for our balon, if there is none, we just settle for inun-unan or ginamos,” he said.
Forty-five-year-old Bernaldo Alsa, who tends a piece of land in Timoga where two springs flow, runs the biggest among the three known “clothesline” business in Timoga.
For 12 years he has been earning around P60 every Saturday or Sunday “when people are the most numerous here,” he explained.
Most of the people who wash clothes here arrive at 8 or 9 a.m. and leave at 4 or 5 p.m. They begin hanging the clothes immediately after they have been washed, so one can start seeing the clotheslines filling up before lunch time. And this is when the folks start eating their packed lunches, then they break out the trusty bottle of local gin or rhum to warm their water-cooled bodies.
But behind all this seemingly harmless and fun-filled Iliganon activity lies a hidden question that has to be addressed, that is, the safety or cleanliness of the water, particularly the one that flows to the big stream and out to the sea.
Since the big stream flows under a bridge connecting the national highway, it becomes a recipient of the water in the canals running beside the road. Those who do their laundry at the mouth of the stream then take a bath in the beach are the most at risk.
This fact probably explains why Alsa’s business enjoys the biggest patronage in Timoga. Unlike the others, Alsa’s water comes or flows directly out of the rocks on the hill.
A Timoga resident, Bebe Gabaya, a 27 year-old housewife says those people do not know how dirty the water at the mouth of the stream was because they are not from Timoga.
“I do my washing using tap water because I know that the water flowing out of the six resorts which join that stream include those from their toilet and bath rooms,” she said.
According to Lita Calunsag, 42, who runs the other “clothesline” business at the inner part of the stream located on the other side of the bridge, said that they had warned the people not to wash clothes at the mouth of the stream because the water was dirty.
Calunsag said that her warnings have gone unheeded because the people who wash clothes there think that “water that is as cool and crystal-clear as the water in Timoga can never be dirty.”
And indeed, one could see the people washing clothes at the mouth of the stream were apparently unaware of or oblivious to the danger.
They were too busy enjoying the cool and clear albeit, unclean stream water because those in the swimming pools in the resorts just across the road were too expensive for them.
Besides, everyone knows taking a basket of clothes and a bar of laundry soap into a swimming pool in any of the resorts could get one arrested. (Rex G. Ortega)
[Rex Godinez Ortega. Article written for Mindanews.com, 2001]