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Friday, February 5, 2010

Tourist in My Own Hometown, Bohol

I was given the privilege to stay away from the hurly burly of the city life for awhile and have a five-day vacation in my hometown: Bohol. My goal was simply to wind down and spend time with family. My mom's was to shelter me from the cruel storms that were possibly going to wreak havoc in  Metro Manila those days. God, however had a different agenda.

It was to be an extra special vacation for me this time, having a special friend of mine coming. On the first day of our tour, we passed by historical sites such as the Blood Compact Shrine which commemorates the blood shedding of Datu Sikatuna and Miguel Lopez de Legazpi, one of the country’s oldest churches: Baclayon Church and Bilar’s man-made forest.

Next stop is Loboc River. We were out for a river cruise on a floating restaurant, complete with festive singing of traditional Filipino music and seafood buffet. It was not the food though that excited me, but the sight of the river, and the lush nature that surrounded us. Children were swimming just along the riverbank. A woman was  washing clothes. A man was fishing. We were looking at all these and the great, blue sky above us. 

Just about half a mile from there was the site of the world’s smallest primate: The Tarsiers, one of the most sensitive to camera flash (they will go blind if you take a picture of them with flash) and yet one of the most photographed species in the world. They are as tiny as a fist. They look at you as if you are a fan… and just one of thousands that visit them in a year. They have eyes that seem to say, “Don’t be too cheesy at the sight of me.” The way they eat can make you laugh. They eyes grow larger as they push the food down after chewing, looking as if they are choking.

Our next stop: Chocolate Hills, a stretch of about 1,000 hershey’s-chocolate-looking hills that make you ask a lot of questions such as: how in the world were they formed? Why Bohol of all places? And why did God make them in the first place? The hotness and the view overcame our desire for answers so we just took pictures. There were a thousand of them and yet we could only see a few of them and whoever owns Hershey’s might never even get to see them.

On our way home, we dropped by to see “Prony,” one of the longest pythons in captivity, weighing about 300 kg and stretching to 23 feet. I realized I was not ophidiophobic after being a few inches away from her. The thought that she was sleeping encouraged me and the fact that other people have gotten near her without ending up being IN her.

We stayed for the night in one of the beach resorts of Panglao, the island in Bohol famous for white sand beaches. Since we were tired from the tour that day, we dozed off after spending some time at the beach watching and listening to sea waves.

The next day, we took an early trip (6 AM) on a motor boat to go dolphin watching, snorkeling and staying at another island. The dolphin watching was a challenge, I wondered if it’s like that the whole year. My brother described it as looking for a needle in a stack of hay. After many minutes of wishing to see them, I prayed for us to do so. And as if God took pity on us and summoned the dolphins, after a couple of minutes, a pod glided simultaneously along the waves just a few feet away from us, I had to do away with the picture taking and just enjoy that wonderful sight. I have seen dolphins in an aquarium in Busan, Korea but it was different seeing wild ones.

Then off for some snorkeling. Because of the low tide, we were snorkeling in seawater that was waist-deep. Despite my nearsightedness, I was able to see fish of different shapes and colors. They were blue ones that looked like blue disco lights, yellow ones like those you see in fish movies. Our guide brought me to the edge of what I call “the abyss” (if you have seen the movie, you will understand) where you could see nothing but darkness. Not even a hint of life. If there had been no guide with me, I would have freaked out- with memories of Jaws, Titanic and Lake Placid movies flashing in my schema. I wanted to scream in a mix of excitement, fear and awe but I had goggles on and I had to breathe with my mouth, otherwise I would have sucked in jellyfish saliva. After about ten minutes of staying underwater, I felt dizzy I had to let our guide take me to the shore. I had to face the possibility of feeling envious of my companions who snorkeled like there was no tomorrow. After I was relieved of nausea, they arrived shortly with personal testimonies of their snorkeling experience, which went on even until we arrived at the resort, our house and even in Manila. Adjectives used were great, huge, colorful, scary, amazing, fun; or to make it more accurate: ang saya, nakakatuwa, grabe, ang ganda. My brother said the serious-looking fish scared him, while the happy-looking ones like “nemo’s” and “dories” made him smile underwater. My friend did not know she was seeing a barracuda until my sister told her. I wondered if she was right, though. With all those nouns and adjectives, facial expressions, laughter and all, I could only imagine how amazing they really were and what my dizziness cost me. We all had one thing in common, though: we all feared the “abyss”.

On our way home, we dropped by Bohol Bee Farm, one of my favorite places in the world. It is a restaurant, a bee farm, a place for weaving, and a resort, all in one place. What I like best there besides the panoramic view of the sea at the restaurant cliff is the food. One of the best. Dining there is like experiencing an acquaintance party of your taste buds and the different flavors in the world that big-eaters like me will not feel guilty feasting on. Malunggay and Ginger-flavored ice cream. Squash, carrot and corn muffins. Corn Coffee. Lemon Grass Tea. Tarsier-shaped chocolate. Being toured around the farm for just P20 inspires you to care for the environment more. All those trivias about bees make you feel as if the world would stop turning without them. Leaving the place meant setting off from tranquility and as far as I am concerned, good, healthy food.

In one of my very laid back moments at the beach with the sea in front of me and the cool wind blowing my face, I could only thank God for giving me the chance to see and experience glimpses of His creation. I know that there are many beautiful places in the world, but I was already happy having been to just a few of them. The whole experience to me was a sensory manifestation of God’s magnificence, beauty and mystery. I could see it in the glide of the dolphins, heard it in the roar of the sea waves, smelled it in the mint leaf at Beefarm and tasted it in the ginger-flavored ice cream. What ultimately amazes me though is not what I have experienced but the thought that there is more to experience, I haven’t seen it all and that I never will, even if it means becoming rich like Bill Gates.

1 comment:

  1. Miss you Jill!
    When are we going to spend quality time in Bohol?