I would like to share with you my article, published in ABS-CBN's StarStudio Magazine
Japan Edition January 2009 issue. It's about a sentimental journey I recently made with my kids. I don't know if we are allowed to post photos, or if we are, I forgot how to post photos, so for the visual part of this article, just check out my flickr photostream at http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/page5/Bohol: Charms of Time on Hold
Benigno D. Tutor, Jr.
No travel can be as â€œmovingâ€, literally and figuratively, as a journey back to oneâ€™s childhood roots. I told my three children, who were born and spent most of their growing years in Japan and have only recently relocated to the Philippines, that I know how it feels to pine for oneâ€™s umbilical bonds.
A recent business trip to the Philippines gave me and my kids the fortuitous occasion to revisit my boyhood vistas and share with them every itinerant soulâ€™s homing instinct. Jagna was only incidental to our travel plan, as this was the only route available from Cagayan de Oro for us to make it to my sonâ€™s soccer game in Tagbilaran that Sunday.
As our ship glided past Camiguin and edged towards Jagna, scenes of my boyhood escapades 40 years ago loomed larger and larger against the emerging background of Boholâ€™s jagged deep-green skyline. Unlike waters in Cebu and Cagayan de Oro, Jagnaâ€™s waters remained deep blue even at the refurbished port. The pier was spanking clean and well-maintained, smelling only of windswept salt. I was only six when I left this laidback town, but the layout of the streets is still etched vividly in my mind. Hailing a motorela, I told the cab driver to take us around the town. Except for the paved streets, more painted buildings and new structures, the landscape was basically unchanged from four decades ago. Our first stop was the 17th century San Miguel Archangel Parish Church, adjoining the Colegio de la Medalla Milagrosa at the town center where my mother finished her AB English and I attended kindergarten school. Back to our rented ride, I instructed the driver to turn left to the Jagna Central School, which was close to where we lived. Among the old structures still stood the mango and mabolo trees where my sister and I sneaked to for the first pick of fallen ripe fruits in the morning. I also retraced our footways to the highlands where we picked wild lomboy fruits. It took us only about 30 minutes to make a round of the town, which was refreshingly un-touristy. Surprisingly, my heart lingered longest in Jagna during this trip.
The following day, we took the beaten path to Boholâ€™s most famous landmarkâ€”the Chocolate Hills. Life on the Cebu-side coastline of Bohol was apparently more upbeat. My wife arranged for us to visit the Sagbayan Peak, the latest viewing deck of this world-famous 50-hectare sprawl of 1,268 haycock-shaped hills that symbolizes Bohol. Opened only five years ago thanks to the dauntless entrepreneurial spirit of Mayor Jimmy Torrefranca, this mountaintop resort and recreation center is now one of the tourism landmarks of Bohol. On a cloudless day, the mountaintop cafÃ© and restaurant provides a clear view not only of the hills but also of Cebu City across the strait. During the peak Christmas and summer seasons when the weather is fine, visitors stay up to midnight for the feast of city lights on the horizon. The 5-hectare complex straddles three peaks which not only give a vantage point for the surrounding terrain but also houses the Butterfly Dome, Tarsier Sanctuary, and the latest facilities called the Kidsâ€™ Town and the Water Park. Catering mainly to families and children, Operations Manager Myrna Torrefranca has gathered familiar stone replicas of Duffy Duck, Bugs Bunny, Lola, Marilyn Monroe, Donald Duck, Pizza Man, Snow White and 7 Dwarfs, Lion King, Tiger and dinosaurs. According to Myrna, who cut short an engagement to show us around, next in the resortâ€™s master plan are accommodation facilities, which will make Sagbayan Peak an all-in-one destination.
Our last stop was the traditional viewing deck in Carmen, passing through a rough interior road. All roads in Bohol lead to Carmen, as hordes of tourists from all over the world flock to this town located at the very heart of this island for the best position to scan this natural masterpiece. Apparently, the viewing facility has been upgraded to world-class standards, with a restaurant, swimming pool, activity center, an air-conditioned toilet and well-manicured landscape. To get the best view of this rolling geological marvel, one has to climb some 200 steps. At the top, one cannot but feel that the side stops to Boholâ€™s ancient historical edifices are merely a mild foretaste to this agelessly divine monument.