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An Open Letter from an Ex-Beauty Queen

I am writing this letter with sadness, knowing you don’t seem to recognize the sacrifice I’m doing for you.

I am Maria Cristina. Never mind my surname, I don’t deserve it anymore. I come all the way from Lake Lanao in Marawi City, freely laughing, gracefully dancing, and gleefully singing my way down the long and winding Agus River, the only outlet of Mindanao’s biggest (and the Philippines second) body of freshwater. Reaching Iligan City, I made a spectacular drop. Wow, marvelous and exciting!

You used to stand gazing at me in amazement, awestruck, obviously mesmerized by the splendor and the beauty of my fall. I was simply majestic and, no doubt, you adored me so! By the way you’ve been scattering my pictures throughout the world, and from the many people who traveled far and wide just to see me as a breathtaking tourist attraction, I was undoubtedly your pride.

Until my mother, the Philippines, called me for service. She was serious this time. She was ill. She was disillusioned. My brother, the Nuclear Power Plant in Bataan for whom she spent an enormous amount of her meager wealth, was a failure. I was made to understand that I have to help my ailing mother by taking over the responsibility my brother, the Nuclear Power Plant, had given up. They call it the indigenous means of power supply – hydro-electricity.

Father Government, who used to pamper me with pictures, tourists and poetry, then came to me with another brother, the National Power Corporation. We now had to work together. It was such an ordeal and I had not much choice.
Work and responsibility! I was conditioned to believe I was created to please and not to serve. But there is no complaining with Father Government. His word is Law. The next thing I knew I was speeding down a new passage. Agus River had been re-routed to hasten my flow.

I am now made to scramble down in various unglamorous falls over rough and ugly structures. My once leisurely journey and glamorous entrance to Iligan Bay is now being controlled and regulated by a dam, with turbines rolling in synchronized screams and guffaws of what used to be a gentle melody on its riverbed. To top it all, my riverside playmates, the soft earth and the lush vegetation that used to hug and caress me alongside as I pass by got trapped behind walls called dikes. My life was never the same again!

From far away I heard the feeble sobs of my dear sisters, the rice fields, fishponds and watershed around Lake Lanao. Some unscrupulous people have been denuding the forests nearby indiscriminately, destroying the watershed in the process, and causing the rice fields and fishponds to dry up. They need me, I know. I am their natural and most vital necessity for survival. Poor little sisters! Without help the nation’s pride in its abundance of rice and fresh water produce (milkfish, tilapia, carps, prawns) will soon be wounded.

And then Father Government introduced my other brothers, the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). NIA and DENR will see the rice fields, the fishponds, and the watershed and take care of them. I hope they would! My sisters’ plight is breaking my heart! They have a noble purpose to serve, too, much nobler than mine.

Right now I am sad. I miss a lot … my beautiful, leisurely and exciting journey from Lake Lanao through the natural winding route of the Agus River; the soft earth alongside and lush vegetation clinging about; the gentle riverbed and the lulling melody of the wind; and my oh-so-marvelous fall! I am now a waterfall and a tourist attraction by appointment, you know? The Tourism Office has got to request for approval from the National Power Corporation for me to do my majestic and amazing drop. It’s unfortunate, but without proper control and vigilance, Mindanao’s power supply is at stake!
I long for the fun, the freedom, the glamour, the beauty that I used to have. They are all gone now. I have to accept I was meant for greater things, a nobler mission.

So, here I am, my careless laughter transformed into a tireless motion. I used to be so proud of my fame and splendor. Now the dignity of service has taken that place in my heart and my whole being. I left my throne as a beauty queen to serve mankind. I power the economy for my people’s sustenance and my nation’s progress.
At the moment I am dreaming: That all of us will work as one for love of Mother Philippines, because she’s the only one we have. To her we must dedicate our services with utmost worth and devotion.

And I plead in my every heartbeat. For I so love you all that I gave up my throne, my freedom, my beauty and my happiness in favor of your need, please help me. My obsession is to spread my power and extend my services to as far and as long as I can. Please conserve energy. Father Government has already set the measures for energy conservation. Your only role is to follow them. Please do not just think about this. Act on this, now.

With all my love,

Maria Cristina (Waterfalls)
Iligan City, Lanao del Norte
Mindanao, Philippines


Ruth Beedle's picture

So beautiful. So sad.


This is an exquisite piece of poetry and prose combined. I am alternatively achingly sad and stingingly mad that so much beauty would be capped and managed and traded and harnessed. A water fall by appointment. That's heart breaking.

I pray that the need of the people and the need of the beauty and freedom of the land can somehow cohabitate peacefully.

Your writing is lush as the river once is and still is in your heart's eye.

Thank you.


Emie Zozobrado's picture

Yes, it's unfortunate!

Ruth, it's real sad. Civilization, modernization, progress ... however we call it, cost so much! Sometimes, the price is not right!

Emie Zozobrado

AchiengNas's picture

Great poem!

Love for nature is as good as love for self beauty. If we all treated nature like we treate ourselves, everything would be beautiful.

It is time to encourage each one of us in WP to plant a tree, atleast one a month, I mean those who have the opportunity to do so. Five a month is better though. Imagine how much we will have contributed to nature as world pulse community!

Thanks for the poem Emie!

I believe everybody has the potential to live a better life. Given the Opportunity, Education and Motivation ANYONE can become someone admirable. Nobody is a NOBODY, everybody is SOMEBODY.

Emie Zozobrado's picture

That's should be done!

Yes, Beatrice ... we need to protect nature so it can protect us. It's a little late now, but all the more we need to double our efforts. Do you know that last year we had just planted hundreds and thousands of trees as a government project? Less than a week later they were all washed out by enormous floods when super typhoon Ondoy struck Metro Manila and its neighboring areas! And yes, we are planting all over again .... but now we have a 3-month extension of the rainy season! Climate change is real and it's high time we all act on it!

Emie Zozobrado

Hi, Emie:

Such a contradiction -- your delightful, playful puzzle for the readers at the beginning....shifting to the dastardly, disastrous epic of the destruction of the natural resources.


You have taken the voice of your gorgeous River, shown her Essence to us as a selfless gift to humanity, that we have raped and destroyed, yet her motives and soul remain pure.

At least, that is what I read on my first day in delight of your developing craft.

Blessings to you and Maria Christina (what a name! combination christ and maria....),


Speaking my Peace

Emie Zozobrado's picture

Thanks a lot, Anna!

Hi Anna!

Nice of you to drop a much-appreciated comment! Yes, Anna ... it's real unfortunate that we have to give up something so beautiful in favor of "progress". It is said that the Philippines is a beggar sitting in gold. And yes, of course, beggars can never be choosers. We purchase our fuel at very high costs that hurt our dwindling economy as a third world country so bad, so we need to resort to indigenous means to be a bit self-sufficient in some ways. That's how prostituted my own homeland has become! Without the hydro-electric power generated by Maria Cristina Falls, more than half of the island of Mindanao would be powerless!!!

Emie Zozobrado

Airyn Lentija's picture

i am awed!

Dear Nanay Emie,

Brilliantly delivered! You are an inspiration.

Love you and God bless.

Airyn Lentija-Sloan

Emie Zozobrado's picture

Thanks so much, Airyn!

Hi Airyn! So there you are again, always there! Thanks for taking the time to comment, girl! I am right here ...

Emie Zozobrado

aimeeknight's picture

I am speechless Emie! This is

I am speechless Emie! This is beautiful, beautiful, beautiful!!!

"One shoe can change a life" ~ Cinderella

Emie Zozobrado's picture

Thanks so much Aimee!

Wow, sister! Thanks for dropping such amazing and awe-inspiring comments! It's an old piece I wrote back then, when I didn't even know I would be working in the corporate giant that has reduced the marvelous tourist attraction into a waterfall by appointment! I'm working on the Module 1 assignment for now and I guess I would be posting old pieces I have kept for so long, just to keep my WP account alive all the time ...

Emie Zozobrado

Nusrat Ara's picture

Dear Emie, Great! What a way

Dear Emie,

Great! What a way to put. It couldn't have be done better. You have so wonderfully put the beauty and plight of the river, given it a body and soul and of course a VOICE! Keep it up.

Keep writing.



Emie Zozobrado's picture

Thanks a lot, Nusrat!

Oh yes, sister! It's real sad that because the voice of the environment can only be translated in the effects of its destruction, here we are, confronting the consequences ... like climate change!

Thanks for the appreciation, Nusrat! All the best ...

Emie Zozobrado

Nyoro's picture


Emie, you are a gifted Orator. I was transfixed as I journed with during your hey days and now. Your cry is real, everywhere in the world - let us conserve our Natural Resources.
Keep it up and all the best.


Emie Zozobrado's picture

Thanks a lot, Nyoro!

Yes, sister ... the destruction of our environment is real! And there is no one to blame but mankind ... all of us, for what we have done, for what we have failed to do! Thanks for standing by me ... we are here and we will surely make a difference, for our children, for our children's children ...

Emie Zozobrado

Laura Golakeh's picture



"Our time has finally come"

Emie Zozobrado's picture

Thanks so much, Laura!

Thank you, sister! I used to work with the hydro-electric power ... so I've seen much of my "beauty queen".... All the best ...

Emie Zozobrado

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