The beauty in simplicity…Bohol!

This place exudes warmth and you feel that the moment you land in the new Panglao International Airport. The endless trees on one side and the ocean on the other welcome you like family embracing you after a long absence.

I love the simplicity of Bohol and yes, it’s one of my happy places here in my home country, the Philippines. Bohol, for me, affirms that there really is beauty in simplicity. It’s less crowded white beaches, many options of beautiful resorts (but not the sprawling types that tend to be intimidating), the island hopping with little coves of super fine white sand, the butterfly and firefly gardens, the bee farm, the tarsier sanctuary, the historic churches, the Chocolate Hills (the country’s 3rd National Geological Monument), the man-made forest, the caves, waterfalls, the relaxing Loboc River cruise…the list is long and that means, you will not run out of activities to do. The variety of things to do gives both the adventurous and those who prefer just to get away from the busy city life so many to choose from. Dining places offering good food also abound at prices that are budget-friendly. Just like the place, the Boholanos, in general are simple. They have that aura in them that’s warm and welcoming; that makes you feel you’re home.

Bohol is also a historical destination. The Blood Compact Shrine is one monument that tells of the first international treaty of friendship between Spain and the Philippines. The massive churches that abound in Bohol with almost each of its 47 towns having one is another interesting story. (Trivia: Do you know that these churches are products of forced labor brought about by a revolt in the 1620s?) Read more about this here: https://www.bohol-philippines.com/bohol-church.html

I brought my family there a few years ago as a gift to my mother whose wish is to celebrate her birthday with us siblings and her beloved “apos” (grandchildren). I love gifting my loved ones with travels rather than with material things as experience is more lasting and leaves wonderful memories. (Too bad, my other sister Anne and her family is based in Abu Dhabi and could not join us.)

Two years ago, an epic reunion happened in this idyllic place. This time with my childhood best friends. Friends I made when we were still innocent of the world as we started being friends when we were 5 or 6 years old being neighbors, church mates and classmates.

You don’t have to have anything in common with people you’ve known since you were five. With old friends, you’ve got your whole life in common.

~Lyle Lovett

It was a reunion I thought could not happen as we are spread across the globe – Lanny is based in New York; Vivien in Los Angeles, Lyncie in Toronto, Marylene in Cebu, Jeany in our hometown in Cotabato and myself in Manila. But it did! Thanks to the wedding of Vivien’s beautiful daughter to a charming young man whose family hails from Bohol. We all said yes and ended as principal sponsors of such a lovely and meaningful wedding celebration in an islet of a beautiful resort in Panglao.

Our reunion is very, very meaningful to all of us as it was the first time for us to get together as a group after 35 years! The first and “only” time we are complete because we lost one recently. Our dear Marylene went up to a better place less than two months ago. We could have been together for our second reunion last May in Dumaguete but Covid-19 got in the way. Bohol will forever be etched in our hearts as a place where we had the best bonding times.

The first and only time we are complete because our dear Marylene went up to a better place. (Maybe, she was saying goodbye in this picture?)

When I go to Bohol again (and for sure, will go there again and again), it will be nostalgic and that makes Bohol a much more special “happy place” for me.

What’s a “happy place”?

“Everyone has a happy place, the scene that comes into view when you close your eyes and let your mind transport you to the dot on the globe where life is cozy, safe, warm.”

Author: Sarah Jio

There are places that simply give us joy. It is hard to describe but we feel it. It gives us a sense of peace. It’s like an escape. It’s when you say “I can live here.”

A happy place may also pertain to a person. Someone who makes you feel at home, accepted and loved. Someone who makes you smile no matter how hard your day is. This can be your spouse or partner, your parent, your own child or a best friend.

I have several happy places and when life becomes too fast and heavy, I retreat to these places and every time, they always give me that dose of magic!

Practical Motherhood Tips

Nanayis the Filipino word for mother. Although, many use “Mommy”, “Mama” or “Mamang, there’s still a lot who call their moms “Nanay.” This article is part of a published book entitled Nanay Knows Best which is a compilation of 35 beautiful stories curated by Ms. Janice Senorin-Dela Cruz which I am privileged to be part of.

This book is dedicated to all mothers which started as a series of interviews featured on facebook which became an e-book and turned into this book due to popular demand.

“Motherhood is a wonderful blessing. Imagine being able to impact the next generations by doing our role in the best way we can.”

~Bing

When I got married at 35, I prayed to God to bless me with even just one child. He answered my prayer and gave me just one (we actually we wanted two; that’s why you have to be careful what you ask for!). I gave birth to my daughter, Venezia Ysabelle or Venice after 30 hours of labor! Yes, 30 hours! But the pain I felt during those long hours of labor was erased instantly when I heard her first cry and saw her in my husband’s arms, who was in the delivery room to witness this amazing sight!

It’s been said that children arrive without a manual or guide on what to do. So, with a firstborn child, it can be daunting. I asked myself, how can I make sure that my child turns out to be a good person? I bought a good number of books and read up on how to raise a child, but it was never enough. Then, I remembered what I learned from my parents: “Train a child in the way he should go; even when he is old, he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6) This was my parents’ way of bringing us up and I thought, I should do the same! Bringing her to Sunday School was such a big help in inculcating good values. Values Formation was one of our primary considerations in the choice of school for her early education.

I also remembered my pediatrician’s advice to observe my child closely to know what her interests are and then support these interests. With that in mind, I enrolled her in voice lessons, ballet classes and baking classes. I also supported her in her sports activities – never forcing her to do what she doesn’t want. Now, she is the Team Captain of her school’s Girl’s Basketball Varsity; she sings and dances very well and is a young entrepreneur baking cookies and earning quite well from it that she now has her own investment account.

I really believe that if we expose our kids to opportunities where they can develop their talents, we give them more choices in life. Venice also excels in academics as an honor student and I think, has a well-rounded personality. Looking at how she has turned out at 17 now, I feel blessed and grateful.

With my Psychology background, I know that modelling plays a key role in child development. As Venice was growing up, being a model to her was challenging but I did my best. I wanted her to learn proper time management as I believe that quality family time includes quantity as well. As a working mom, with a very hectic schedule and numerous targets to deliver, I needed to balance my day to ensure I get to spend quality time with my family. My work also required me to travel and be away a lot during the weekdays. I made a commitment that I will be at home during weekends and be present at her school activities. I will never compromise our family time.

“Me time” is also something I value, which I would like my child to learn. We also need to give time and attention to ourselves. We should know what recharges our energy. For me, reading a book at my favourite nook in the house, going to the salon on Sundays, and having a good massage are ways I recharge myself for another gruelling work week ahead. Taking care of ourselves lifts our spirits and when we feel good, it shows in how we relate with our family and other people.

I am a staunch advocate of healthy lifestyle that includes eating well and having regular exercise. I want to enjoy a quality retirement and I know that I cannot possibly have that if I do not keep myself healthy. I do yoga at home and I run long distances. I have also influenced my family to run so we would participate in runs both here and abroad like Singapore, Cambodia and Vietnam, which are good bonding times for us.

I find it amazing to have something that we enjoy doing together. When we travel every year, we explore the new place by running early in the morning when the neighbourhood is still quiet.

I was training to participate in the Boston Marathon this year, and though it got cancelled due to the pandemic, I am still looking forward to participating next year. I think what I find truly wonderful about running is the fact that it allows me to engage in social advocacies as well. For my participation in the Boston Marathon, for example, I was able to raise close to P800,000 Philippine Pesos (more than $17,000) for the construction of 15 houses for a homeless Muslim community in my hometown in Midsayap, Cotabato. (As of this writing, the village still needs 14 more houses and it is my prayer that these families in-waiting will have their homes soon.) https://m.facebook.com/glad1project/

My fundraising campaign for my supposed to-be participation in the Boston Marathon 2020 made possible the construction of 15 houses in Glad 1 Village located in Midsayap, North Cotabato.

As a parent, I fervently pray for Venice to learn the value of generosity. I always tell her that not everyone is given the comforts of life that we are enjoying. We should be a channel of blessings to others. When you are given the ability and opportunity to be generous, make sure you make the most out of it as not everyone has the chance to share their time and resources.

Financial Planning is also important to achieve a quality lifestyle. One of the best decisions we made as parents was to set-up a college education fund for Venice when she turned one year old . After 15 years, our policies have matured and provided available funds for her college education . It also gave us the ability to save and invest more for our retirement. I have been in the financial services sector for more than 30 years and I am a firm believer that financial literacy begins at home.

As a Filipino parent, I really hope that I am able to contribute to the plight of the Filipinos by helping improve the financial literacy of the next generations. I believe if we, as parents, teach money management at home, we will have future generations of families who are better prepared, more secure and can enjoy financial freedom.

Here are 5 tips that I would like to share to improve the money behaviour of our children:

1. Start them early – discuss investment or savings principles in simple terms; open a bank account with cash gifts they get during birthdays, etc.

2. Make them understand the difference between saving and investing.

3. Make them understand the difference between wants versus needs.

4. Make financial principles relevant – for example, take them to get groceries with you and make them compare prices to learn value of money; and

5. Lead by example – live the principles; discuss your plans and aspirations for the future and show them how you are saving up or investing to achieve them.

Motherhood is a wonderful blessing. Imagine being able to impact the next generations by doing our role in the best way we can. If we show and demonstrate to our children how much they are loved and how much they feel secure in our love, then they’ll grow up to be confident individuals ready to love and care for others.

“Let us remember always that the mother is a child’s first teacher and a mother’s heart is the child’s first classroom.”

~Henry Ward Beecher