Getting to Know Bohol

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Before this trip, I had a tourist’s image of Bohol. Chocolate Hills. Tarsiers. Stunning beaches. It’s typical behavior, something everyone does – to compress an island, turn it into bullet points or sparse paragraphs in a guide book.

But I’ve heard so much about it and I was yearning to know what I’ve been missing out on all these years. So when I flew there recently, I was determined to visit the “must-sees,” the popular destinations featured on posters and videos. Which was what we did for the most part. It was tiring but fun, and I was especially proud to have finally laid eyes on the famous Chocolate hills (when I was young, I had seen a replica in Nayong Pilipino and stupidly mistook it for the real thing).

Interestingly enough, it was the quiet places that I found more enjoyable. And it was during the quiet spaces in between the mad rush from one item on the itinerary to another that I got to know a different side of Bohol.

It is the Chocolate Hills, the tarsiers, the old churches, and the white sand beaches; but it’s also many other amazing things. It’s the pier where students gather after school to watch the sun set behind a range of mountains. It’s an open-air dining area with one side lined with stalls serving delicious grilled food and cold beer. Bohol is the woman sweeping the sands of a beachside resort, who let me rest on a hammock and amused me with her life story. It’s the man breaking open sea urchin and offering different “flavors” of fresh uni. It’s an ancestral home along the highway where women gather dressed in Baro’t saya, fanning themselves with pamaypays as they sing and celebrate an early Pinoy Christmas. And it’s a graceful and passionate lady, the leader of a community association in Baclayon that desires to protect and preserve not only the ancestral homes but the history and traditions that come with them.

(My favorite image of Bohol, though, is an old couple in a small home behind a church that churns out the best broas I’ve ever tasted.)
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I do not claim to know Bohol any better than its other visitors. If anything, I know but a quarter of a speck of the whole place. There is still so much to see, so many more experiences to live through in this fascinating island; I only hope for the opportunity to go back to explore both the populated and quiet places – for they exist side by side and serve to complement each other – soon.

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