Memories of Bohol and the 1990 Killer Quake

Who ate my chocolate hills?

Who ate my chocolate hill?

It was one of those unplanned trips in 2011 when me and family went to Bohol for a visit. We stayed in my husband’s grandfather’s house in Getafe which is one and a half hours from Tagbilaran City.

My husband’s grandfather’s house is big and is located in a family compound. The source of water is limited to a well that is at least one kilometer from the old man’s house so water is a luxury in that area. Cellphone signal for Smart subscriber is poor and most of the people at the compound is using Globe. The air is so fresh and clean but humidity is high so my hair easily gets sticky. The beaches in Talibon are not yet well-developed but the place is well-maintained so I have no problem with that. The biggest bonus is the luxury of eating fresh prawns everyday at half the price in Manila!

Oh, Bohol, I fell in love with you the moment I set foot on you on February 2011! Everybody seemed to be happy and welcoming. It would break my heart to see you ruined if we happen to be given a chance to be back there in 2014. Last Tuesday, an officemate informed me about the earthquake and when I saw the damage through the internet, I checked on my sister-in-law in Cebu if they were safe. (Yes, they were!)

So far, the earthquake that traumatized me was the 1990 killer quake that hit Central and Northen Luzon. I was alone in the house when I felt the tremor. The first thing that came to my mind was my parents and my brother’s safety. The two-week class suspension then gave me the opportunity to watch all kinds of news about the damage in Baguio, Cabanatuan and Dagupan.

I can still remember how a young teenage student, whose lower body was trapped under the rubbles, died two days after a brief TV interview. (Talk about the LIVE coverage, huh!) Baguio, a famous tourist destination in the Philippines, was a total wreck! (They managed to bounce back fast; there little traces of the earthquake when I went there in 1994)

The earthquakes that I experienced in Baguio where more of vertical movements so I didn’t find it alarming at all. But experts said that a vertical movement is more damaging than a horizontal one just like what happened in 1990.

It’s saddening to lose the centuries-old churches in Bohol which are considered to be tourist attraction because of their historical value. There are roads to repair and citizens to be financially assisted, too. Sagbayan and Carmen, two of Bohol’s tourist destinations are affected so income from tourism is not reliable at this point.

Baguio was quick to recover because tourism was not just its main source of income. They have well-established universities like University of Baguio, Baguio Colleges Foundation (University of the Cordillera) and Saint Louis University so the place is highly commercial with the influx of students from local and abroad. They have large companies like Texas Instruments and Moog. Aside from the city government’s budget, the likelihood of faster restoration is high for high-profile places.

The same cannot be said about Bohol where tourism, fishing and agriculture is the main source of livelihood. I hope that donations will reach the affected citizens on time. Yes, Bohol and Cebu can rise again.

Serenading Bohol

It’s love month once again and love is in the air so let me be a little romantic on this post.

When my husband told me two weeks ago that he needed to go to his home province (Bohol) to visit his ailing grandfather, I did not ask how long he would be away from home because I knew that family visits could mean overstaying. Two days after that, he asked me to join him on the trip. Being a working mother, I told him that I could only be away from February 3-6; I needed to be back in the office by February 7. Then, he thought it would be nice to bring with us the kids. The initial plan was, he would be bringing some goods with him to Bohol via roro and I and the kids would fly to Tagbilaran two days after his roro trip. In the end, we decided to fly together as a family.

I was expecting a problem with Cebu Pacific but to my relief, everything went fine from my phone booking to our flight to Tagbilaran. The flight attendants were not only good-looking but they were friendly as well.

We left Manila at 10:50 AM and reached Tagbilaran at 12:20 AM. It was quite cloudy that day so I didn’t see any view from the airplane’s window except large clouds that looked like cotton candies. Adi was fascinated by the clouds; you should have seen how big his eyes were!

From the airport, we headed to the nearest mall and looked for a place to eat. The crews at Jollibee were very friendly, I forgot that I was tired.

From the mall, we headed to Talibon where Miel’s grandfather is staying. Ah, Bohol! The greeneries, the seas, the people—they were all captivating. No wonder a Boholano captured my heart.

Tagbilaran to Talibon took us two hours to travel by GT Van. Fare is 200 pesos per passenger. We stayed at his grandfather’s house and for the first time, I met the rest of his relatives.

His grandfather was sleeping when we arrived. Miel woke him up and I gave them the much needed privacy for them to bond after ten years of separation.

Their place was provincial. The lifestyle was simple yet pleasurable. Kids were inside our grandfather’s house. They were looking at Adi and Chang. I exchanged pleasantries with Miel’s aunts though I could not understand some of the Cebuano words that they said.

I went outside for a brief inspection of the surroundings. The air was very clean. It smelled of freshly cut grass.

Friday morning, we went to Sagbayan Peak for half an hour. It was similar to sight-seeing in Baguio. It didn’t excite me at all. But yes, the landscape was awesome. My kids enjoyed the picture-taking.

We decided to have lunch in Loboc River. Most of the tourists were foreigners. The fee per person is 400 pesos. We were six in the group. We brought along his two uncles and a driver. I learned that Visayan foods are simple to prepare than Tagalog foods. But I missed the salty flavor. They were not fond of fish sauce (patis) there. The only thing that impressed me were the native cakes, sweet watermelons and salad. The Loboc River is green and quiet. There were two groups of entertainers at the riverside. The waterfalls were not really tall but they were eyecatching. After the one-hour trip, we bought some souvenirs at the shop and headed to Carmen where the Chocolate Hills are located.

Yeah, it’s probably a hundred steps to reach the peak of the view deck. There were at least 500 hills around. They looked like giant turtles in my eyes. Hahaha.

Saturday afternoon, we went to Barracuda Resort in Talibon. Would you believe that the entrance fee was only 20 pesos? Wow! What a way to relax! I got scared and excited at the sight of the beach. I have never seen such a large body of water surrounding me! It was a different experience there. Fishes and crabs everywhere; the place was still unexploited.

What I like in Bohol is its less expensive lifestyle. The people were even honest. A kilo of shrimps that would cost me 380 pesos in Manila costed only 200 pesos in Bohol. I never experienced that food tripping in expensive Sabang (Puerto Galera).

We visited his maternal grandmother on Sunday. The reunion between grandson and grandma was heartbreaking.

Am I missing the simple yet pleasurable life in Bohol? Yes. Bataan will always be in my heart. Now I found another place that I consider HOME.