My father is a true-blue Boholano, and for quite some time, he had always been vocal that the whole family should spend vacation in his place of origin.
Barely two weeks after my arrival from Old Dominion, I was pretty much excited of this family bonding. I had to say goodbye to my long, curly locks and say hello to my new short hair. Honestly, I anticipated a warm climate once we set foot in Bohol, so I had my hair cut short. Thank heavens, I forecasted it right! Otherwise, I would've brooded over my not-so-nice haircut and hair color.
We took the Zest Air morning flight, but the flight got delayed for an hour so we arrived in Tagbilaran past lunch time. The excited bunch showed a lot of potential of being camwhores in the island. Once we got off from the plane, my camera clicked right away! (laugh)
Looking back, my childhood summer vacations were religiously spent in our clan's ancentral house (Papa's paternal side) in Loay. There were days though that Papa would allow us to stay in Lila where his maternal relatives mostly reside. Summer time is very synonymous to the word fiesta in Bohol, and I could still remember my great-grandparents sitting in the front porch where the fiesta well-wishers, relatives or not, do the obligatory "mano po" or "amen" (for Cebuano-speaking people) before they proceed to "attack" the cholesterol-laden dishes on the table.
Clarin's ancestral house
Our ancestral house had a major overhaul a decade ago. From a pre-war house made of wood, it has changed into a modern bungalow inspired by some Western magazines. It's certainly not the same, but the memories of yesteryears never fail to overwhelm us just the same. The house is situated right across the Clarin's ancestral house (photo above), a heritage site as declared by the National Historical Institute. If you look at the picture more closely, you'll see a red-roofed house beside it. Yes, that's our clan's ancestral house. Seriously, the pre-war version of the house is a lot similar to the Clarin's. Sigh. I was surprised to learn that the ground floor of the Clarin's house has spawned a homey cafe - Cafe Olegario.
After admiring the antique beauty of Clarin's, I urged the young group, composed of my siblings, Popo and Nikki, my sister-in-law Sheryl, my cousin San-san and her daughter Jesan, to walk to Loay Boulevard. This concrete pathway fronting the blue-green sea absolutely reminds me so much of my childhood! I love the sea breeze wafting through my face while watching the local fisherfolks doing, er, uhm, - I really do not know- with their boats.
It's very apparent that the whole town is tidying up for the fiesta on Sunday. Colorful flags hang in every lamp post, and info ads containing the usual ingredients of a Pinoy fiesta (beauty pageant, liga, battle of the bands, disco-ala-barrio style etc.) can be seen in every corner. The town fiesta, which falls on no clear date, hence, movable, is celebrated in honor of the Santisima Trinidad. Geez, I better get this info right; otherwise, my elders, who are tad religious - you know, part of that admirable specie of children of God who never, ever missed a Sunday mass or a church activity during their lifetime, will be mad at me. LOL!
After dinner, we sat on the wooden benches in the town plaza, just a few steps away from the house. My folks told us to wake up early for the countryside tour the next day. If I remember it vividly, it was a starry, starry night. I considered that starlit evening full of promise that the next day would be a good day for the much-anticipated tour. Nappy-time in beddy-bye land it is!
Chillaxin' in the plaza
The next day, June 6, proved to be a good day to embark on a countryside tour of Bohol. My uncle arranged an Urvan for the tour, and the driver-cum-tour-guide turned out to be a distant relative, hence, we're almost guaranteed that we're in good hands.
Our first stop is spent at a wildlife conservation area for tarsiers in Loboc. Dubbed as the world's smallest primate, the tarsier is so cute you want to stuff it right away on your pocket and take it home as a pet. The caretakers were kind enough that they allowed us to hold the tiny primates in our hand and take pictures of them as well. However, I learned later on that holding these animals during photo ops is a major no-no. Pardonez-moi.
Eyes wide open
Our second stop is the Hanging Bridge in Sevilla. Call me O.A. but crossing this bamboo bridge made me hold on for dear life! The bridge can only accomodate ten persons all at once, so imagine it swaying right to left, or left to right, whenever a person walks through it. My sister was the bravest of us all as she managed to cross up to the farthest end of the bridge. Reason for her eagerness to cross the bridge up to the end? To buy fresh buko from a Bohol native waiting at the opposite point for tourists. Nyeh!
Of course, a Bohol countryside tour won't be complete without visiting the signature tourist attraction of the province --- the Chocolate Hills in Carmen. As half-Boholano, I sincerely hope that the beauty of these Hershey's Kisses-shaped hills will be preserved for the next generation.
Loco over choco
1... 2... 3... jump!
We also went to Sagbayan Peak, a mountain resort which provides an unobstructed view of the Chocolate Hills.
Love team for all seasons
It was quite a long drive from Sagbayan to Panglao. As agreed upon by the "feeling turista" bunch, our last stop would be Panglao beach. One will never actually make a big deal out of the long drive, you know (as Pacman puts it), the seemingly never-ending idea of being seated in the van, which will obviously won't allow you to stretch as you like it, since the scenery itself is awesome. As an urbanite, I always long to see the trees and anything foliage. Bohol didn't fail me on that aspect.
We passed by the man-made forest in Bilar. The sight of the tall mahogany trees was more than enough to take away one's stress.
The family that poses together, stays forever.
Then lunch time came, and that was a foolproof signal to go cruisin' and munchin' in Loboc River, which reminded me of Cesar Montano's "Panaghoy sa Suba" a few years back.
Apart from its peaceful and emerald-green waters, Loboc River continues to charm tourists by way of its friendly residents. The staff of the river cruise always sees to it that every guest feels at home while on board. An acoustic guitar-totting man serenades the guests with lively folk songs. Before reaching the Busay falls, more like halfway of the river, the boat will come to a halt and allow tourists to witness the folk dances (tinikling etc.) of the Loboc residents. Right there and then, I was amazed that they were so accomodating to even allow us to dance with them and to hold their ukeleles.
Banca-let in Loboc
Pretty far view of Busay Falls
The emerald-green Loboc River
We left Loboc river with happy faces, except for Mama, who had expected an all-seafood lunch buffet in the river cruise. Darn! We also made a quick stop in the town of Albur (short for Alburquerque), where the famous Prony, the biggest python in captivity, can be found. Many had qualms getting inside the python's cage, but I dared. Truth to tell, I was so freakin' nervous the whole time. One interesting thing about Prony's caretakers is that they managed to "recycle" Prony's skin and transformed it to an underwear thingie. Snakeskin undies, anyone?
Prony, the biggest python in captivity
As we all know, Bohol is also famous for its old churches, dating back to the Spanish colonial regime. The Baclayon Church is known for being the oldest Jesuit church in the country. This church is always part of every faithful Catholic's list during Holy Week's Visita Iglesia in the province.
After an almost whole day of countryside tour, there's no better way to soothe our tired bodies than spending it at the beach. Known for its crystal-clear blue waters and white sand, Panglao beach was really worth the wait! It's been ages that I haven't set foot in a nice beach, so I was really happy! There's really something about rubbing your tired soles in the sand and just letting the mini-waves brush your thighs. Okay, if the waves will splash beyond my thighs, I'd probably go back running to the shore. LOL! That's how scaredy-cat I am when it comes to waters. For somebody who never, ever really learned how to swim, there's really no telling how deep the waters could become.
Life's a beach in Panglao
We spent the night at Dumaluan Beach Resort, and, if my memory serves me right, I was so happy that, finally, after many years, our family (save for my two brothers) had the chance to go on vacation. I couldn't be more happier than seeing my folks' satisfied faces during breakfast. See the proof below.
Breakfast by the beach