To go or not to go? That is the question. But I think this view already says it all.
The premise of our Bohol trip last year was shadowed with indecision after the region was hit by an earthquake two months before. But with what seems a fair horizon upon observation, we set out to settle for a few days on a small island off the capital city where we’ve never been before.
There was no itinerary for the most part. Tourist spots were not really recommended on the aftermath which I didn’t really mind. In pure summer form, it was typically just a beach holiday, booking ourselves in Amarela resort.
On a bright Monday around noon, we arrived in Tagbilaran, cruising down the main avenue empty of traffic due to the local election. Our driver mentioned that they don’t have an SM mall yet and I inwardly thought that perhaps it could be a good thing for a little longer. A map was spread out before me tracking our progress out of habit.
Our van crossed a long bridge connecting Panglao and we stopped by Daius church, or what’s left of it. A sad reminder that this trip isn’t without its little reflection and little surviving stories. I didn’t even bother taking a photograph, what would it serve anyway? But the locals are slowly getting back to their feet after a massive shock and that crunched funeral sedan parked out front of the fallen church is but a reminder that in tragedy, some things remain ironic. Life is chock full of irony, indeed.
This trip was somewhat tinged with consciousness, a holiday sprinkled with sharp awareness of struggle. Instead of feeling melancholic, I took it as a journey filled with hope of lent strength and support.
As the van maneuvered over winding country roads flanked by overgrown grasses and abandoned countryside, I tucked the map inside my bag surrendering to spontaneity. That and because I got half lost following the route. The island isn’t quite tractable and the map didn’t even pretend to. Panglao still retained its pastoral charms.
The road skirted the strip of beaches and I knew we were close. We reached a settlement of beach properties before the van turned into a wide open wooden gate. Then, there’s a profusion of blossoms, trellis and native woodwork around. I found myself overwhelmed except only to say if there’s a more tasteful abode that clutched my heart, this would be it.
It is a place of rustic art and design nestled on a slope dotted with palm trees with the beach sprawled below. Here and there are overgrown bougainvilleas, scattered pink lilies and crawling vines flowing off the balcony and stairs. Carved wooden sculptures and latticework accented the main house with several local paintings hanging on the walls. I read somewhere that the owners of the resort were art collectors and it showed.
The Boholanos very much support the local artisans and resources, that’s one thing I noticed obviously. From the latticework to the wall paintings to artsy furniture, there is the indomitable stamp of their proud region. I could almost make out one or two artists’ familiar forms and styles on a few pieces (the scattered lizards and the carved wooden sunburst detail) .
If the place didn’t charm me enough, there’s one or two things that would knock me off my socks. They have a library and a museum! Oh yeah, books, art, beach…it’s enough of a holiday for me.
I spent the days on a corner sofa at the second floor library reading Libba Bray’s A Great and Terrible Beauty, photographing trodden flowers on the grassy path, sketching shrubs and clinging vines for the first time on travel, lounging on a chaise by the beach staring at the sunset and playing ping-pong with my sister (which we play so badly with balls ricocheting across the room since we are more used to badminton).
It was her birthday trip, actually. If you noticed on my other posts, a few of my travels with her coincides with the last quarter of the year. This is because, unknowingly, it has a become routine, getting away to celebrate.
On mornings, I get a cup of their native hot chocolate (which local name I now forgot) and an idea of tasting local hot chocolates wherever I go sprang to mind. I must say breakfast is always a favorite time for us. Serve us wheat bread, jam and marmalade and a tall glass of fruit juice and we will be on our merry way.
One day, for lunch, we were driven to the nearby popular Bohol Bee Farm, which uses organic farming for a healthy menu and creates delicious products for locals and tourists alike. The quaint place has a rambling dining place facing the sea and wooden steps enables one to climb down the rocky beach.
When the our salad arrived, there was a scatter of petals among the greenery (a first taste for us) but I know they are all edible flowers. We also ordered unique-flavored ice cream (a specialty as well) for desert and on the way out, stopped by their souvenir shop to buy a couple jars of honey and pesto spread. By the entrance hall, there was an artsy nook that claimed my attention and I stepped into the space gazing at paintings on easels done by local artists.
On one part of the wall hung a bunch of colorful accessories with elaborate ethnic design. A string of wound necklaces displayed mirroring colors of birthstones. The styles were out of the usual ones I see on tiangges that I found myself standing beside it contemplating and admiring the iridescent shade of peridots, so different from emeralds, as if there’s a glinting fire inside it. I am not so much fond of green (and didn’t care much for my birthstone unless it is sardonyx cause I like its shifting shades) but I surprised myself in succumbing to it eventually. I bought a necklace and wore it for the rest of the holiday.
During late nights, my sister and I would curl on our beds watching rented movies (even though we’ve watched that hilarious film for the nth time). I guess even in the middle of travel with the notion to always try something new, some things can remain the same. For there would be moments when going out of our familiar ways (ordering pasta and margherita pizza) may turn out not quite as expected (that too salty pizza I ordered from the resort restaurant that I didn’t enjoy) but it only allows us to learn from it (go back later on and order a different pizza and keep that native hot chocolate cups coming) and to keep thinking the good times trumped up the bland ones.
Every time I open our room door, I am confronted with crawling leafy vines on the walkway and off to the glass doors of our balcony, the leaning tangle of bougainvilleas. It is this sense of abandon and rough edginess that enthralls me on the place (and echoed my love for Rococo style), that genuine freedom to let spaces grow on its own without rigid formality and polish. It is this kind of charm that I continue to seek on my travels and partly the reason, if I can help it, I avoid the tourist route (maybe someday I could glimpse the Chocolate Hills on someone else’s backyard hill and not on the official view point).
For now, my memories of Bohol are like uneven brushstrokes, light and heavy. There’s the three blind old men singing folk songs on a corner of the departure lounge with their guitars; listening to a dark ironic story about the driver of that sedan in Daius church during the earthquake (who was saved by a cigarette!) which is now becoming infamous; the little discount given to me by that artsy nook seller on my birthstone necklace; seeing my first Chinook copter landing on the airstrip loaded with military soldiers; being awed by a pre-Spanish theme paintings at the Amarela gallery; and sketching flowers and shrubs.
Perhaps next time, I will find myself in the heart of the city.