THE BEST thing about the International Travel Fair was not the promotions that were offered. Rather, it is having an aunt who bought discounted hotel vouchers at the ITF and invited your mother, who in turn asked you to tag along—never mind that you only got the call three hours before the boat departs for Bohol.
It’s been a while since I’ve stayed overnight in Bohol, much less three days and two nights, so I was pretty excited once I stopped myself from worrying about the responsibilities I abruptly left behind in Cebu.
My mother and I, along with my Tita Inday and Tito Ariel, boarded OceanJet just a few minutes before the 1 p.m. scheduled departure. We got the open air accommodations thinking we would be enjoying some fresh and cool sea breeze. Two hours later, we were sweating profusely because the top deck of the boat was half-enclosed by transparent windows.
It was a relief to see the port of Tagbilaran with its waters in a shade of green that looked so clean and refreshing. Our hosts, Tita Naida and Tito Jun, were waiting at the terminal and gave us the vouchers for South Palms Resort in Panglao. They left when we boarded the resort’s shuttle. They would be joining us later after they finish the things they needed to do at their project site.
On the way to the resort, we asked the staff about Bohol’s Sandugo festival. The driver said we missed the highlight of the festival—Bangga sa
Kuradang ug Subli sa Sandugo (street dancing)—by a day. Sandugo, he said, is a festival celebrating friendship between Bohol and Spain.
Upon entering South Palms Resort, we were impressed by their mini manmade forest. The rooms were very modern with comfortable beds and high quality sheets. But it was the bidet and the three-ply bathroom tissue that made me smile and think, yes, I’m in good hands.
We had an early dinner by the beach. When our hosts arrived at the resort, it was just in time for the cultural dance presentations. The performers gave a very enthusiastic rendition of our native dances complete with real glasses, a couple of which fell and shattered on the ground.
We woke up early Sunday morning invigorated and eager to attack the breakfast buffet. After a heavy brunch, we went to St. Joseph the Worker Cathedral to attend Mass. Before the Mass ended, my mother whispered to ask if I knew that you can make three wishes when it is your first time to enter a church. Uh… I hope my idol lives for a thousand years?
Next stop was Bohol’s Island City Mall where we were able to catch the tail end of the Sandugo Trade Expo. One of the popular stalls was probably Chocobao, which sells carabao milk ice cream at P20. I was standing around looking at the available flavors when, lo and behold, my Tita Inday suddenly appeared by my side and bought me an ice cream cone. Yehey! She’s like the ice cream fairy to this 39-year old kid.
When in Bohol, it is always a must to bring home some calamay, a sticky, sweet delicacy made of coconut milk, brown sugar and ground glutinous rice. The Jagna Calamay Makers Cooperative offers three flavors: original, ube and ginger. I conned my mother into buying me the calamay with ginger. I left the Trade Expo feeling very positive. Filipinos are really creative, innovative and hardworking. We just need to help each other to succeed.
Tita Naida and Tito Jun brought us to their project site in Cortes. They are contracted to build what could be the largest biogas reactor in the province at 25 meters in diameter. A mechanical engineer, Tito Jun explained how the fecal waste of 4,200 pigs from a nearby piggery would be converted to 3 megawatts of energy.
At the moment, the pigs’ fecal waste is dumped into a lagoon releasing harmful methane gas directly into the atmosphere. The smell of the pigs’ waste has prompted residents to complain. The biogas is expected to greatly reduce this smell and put the piggery’s carbon emissions at zero.
Early dinner was at the Bohol Bee Farm. I had hinted quite heavily to my aunts that I’ve always wanted to go to the Bohol Bee Farm, having learned so much about it on the Internet. We arrived just in time for the last scheduled farm tour, the highlight of which was, of course, the bees. Our tour guide, 28-year old Miguel Amizola, explained that their bees were not the kind that attack people. They generally just keep to themselves unless they get hurt in the process of people taking pictures with them.
Amizola said that except for the queen bee, which can live up to five years, the drone and the worker bees have a very limited life span. Worker bees are females and they do basically everything that needs to be done in the colony. The drones are males who just eat and sleep all day long. Hmm… seems like I’ve heard this story before from a cleaning lady who takes on various odd jobs to send her kids to school while her husband stays at home and tends to their goats. Tending goats can be, you know, such a hard job.
The day is not yet over. We headed over to Alona Beach, which is Bohol’s mini version of Boracay. I’ve never been to Boracay, but I understand it is a stretch of powdery white sand beach with lots of entertainment spots. I was fascinated by the fire dance performance by a couple of young guys, clicking away at my cellphone camera to get the perfect shot. After about three dozen blurry shots, I was frustrated. I stopped because my mother and Tita Naida had been texting me to meet them at one of the resorts for drinks. I didn’t know I got left behind.
We had fruit shakes, hot tea and some pineapple slices near the farthest end of the beach. We listened to some live music courtesy of a family of talented singers. While Alona Beach is nice for a brief visit, it is too crowded for me.
On our last day in Bohol, I persuaded my mother to ride on a kayak with me. She expressed apprehension because she doesn’t know how to swim. I assured her we would stay within waist-deep waters and life jackets are provided by the resort. She seemed to enjoy our very brief paddle exercise. On the way back to our room, we met my Tita Inday who also wanted to ride a kayak. I eagerly accompanied her wanting to take another turn in water.
My mother and I opted to leave the resort before the check-out time because I needed to head back to Cebu early. We took the tourist class accommodations this time, and it was blessedly cool. I fell asleep on the boat and woke up as we approached the pier. Had it not been for all the pasalubongs I carried with me, the weekend seemed like a wonderful dream.