Monday, April 21, 2008

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Bohol



Can't say enough good things about Bohol. It's hard to ignore its natural beauty, colonial history, lush tropical landscape, uncrowded beaches, all packaged in rustic simplicity. In short, this island will not remain below the radar screen for much longer.

It was wise to hire a guide who drove us to the places we wanted to see. The roads to touristic spots were well paved and traveling was comfortable in the airconditioned Combi. From Tagbilaran City we went inland to gape at the Chocolate Hills. On the way we stopped at the monument of the historic blood compact between the Spaniard, Miguel Lopez de Legaspi and local leader, Datu Sikatuna. So much for pacts of friendship! History can attest to that.

The man made mahogany forest is the work of one leader, a former Governor of Bohol, who cared enough about his province and his people to initiate the planting of mahogany trees covering an area that spans 2 kilometers. It's taken 40 years for these trees to mature and the area is protected from logging.

Forging the hanging bamboo bridge is a little scary because it sways with the slightest movement. I tried to walk on the bridge but turned back after a few feet. Locals though are sure footed and have no qualms about the river below.

It's hard to resist the palm sized tarsiers who seem to have a smile on their faces even when they are taking a nap. It was a feat to take any photos at all with so many people surrounding the wide eyed tarsiers. Touching them is a no no. They are too delicate.

Just before sunset we walked along one of Panglao Island's empty stretch of white sand beaches. It was the perfect way to toast the quiet beauty of Bohol.

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Saturday, April 12, 2008

Welcome Home!


My thoughtful cousin sent me an email that said, "Welcome home!". This reminded me of the welcome I received at San Francisco airport from Customs examiners. I was randomly picked from hundreds of passengers who arrived from Tokyo earlier this week. My one small suitcase was carefully checked as well as my handbag and handcarry. I hadn't really bought anything while abroad except 2 almerez that my Mom and sister asked me to bring. I didn't know how to translate almerez into English but one of the examiners knew what I was describing with my hands. I was pounding my right hand against a make believe stone bowl. He said it's a mortar and pestle. I had a difficult time finding these as my sister asked for a white marble almerez, the best of which come from the island of Romblon. Luckily my resourceful tricycle driver found them in the market. He had to go back and look for another one as the first store had only one in stock. Problem is these weigh a ton and my luggage seemed ready to tip at any moment.

Back to the search. What I find most annoying with these searches is how items in my carefully packed suitcase are pulled out and I can't put them back neatly or at all. The zipper usually won't close anymore because everything is hastily repacked. No matter. Home is a short drive away.

Welcome home! Where is home? I recently read a book written by an Irish woman who devoted a chapter on "Home is where my toothbrush is". But I have a toothbrush in my car, my travel bag and in each of my two homes. When I was working, I had one in my desk drawer. Yet I didn't think the workplace was home. It's not that simple.

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Photo by Rosario Charie Albar

Breakthrough

In Iloilo recently, we had the opportunity to check out Breakthrough in the neighborhood of Villa. Breakthrough is a restaurant on the beach with a view of Guimaras Island (which is famous for its sweet mangos). While the sand is a pearly grey, the beach is as inviting as that of Boracay's White Beach. No crowds and quite clean. We ate our lunch in one of the palapas rather than in the main restaurant hall. It was relaxing to sit there and watch the calm sea.

We ordered sizzling crab, fish sinigang, prawns, seaweed gel, and pinakbet. My friends loved the seaweed and ordered more to take home. I enjoyed the sizzling crab though it wasn't really sizzling. We washed it all down with a mango shake. This is our favorite drink, especially on a hot day. Is there ever a day when it's not hot in the islands?

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Photos by Rosario Charie Albar

Saturday, April 05, 2008

The Gift of a Tree

We went to the wake of a young relative who died recently. What moved me most was the gift of seedling palm trees the family gave to guests who cared to plant them. I took one and planted it the very next day.

There was a card with this inscription attached to the tree:
"It matters that the world knows
that we continue to celebrate the gift of life.
If you wish, bring this palm tree seedling
home with you and take the first steps
in the journey of a new life."

What a wonderful way to remember loved ones who've passed away. These trees will live on for many years to come and continue the cycle of life.