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!

My happy places at home: Refreshing Tagaytay

When I want to feel refreshed, I go to Tagaytay. Just a little over an hour drive from our home in Manila and you’re in a place that’s like no other – “an island (Vulcan Point) within a lake (Crater Lake), on an island (Volcano Island) within a lake (Taal Lake) on an island (Luzon Island)~www.worldwanderings.net. Yes, it’s really that and that is why it’s a place like no other!

It’s cool breeze and amazing view; it’s beautiful hotels and quaint cafes and the wide selection of dining places with real good food make it a perfect place for a staycation. If you want to be pampered, there’s also a lot of spas that offer wonderful massage and wellness services. You won’t run out of choices and there’s always a new place to check out every time. Thus, my kind of place for these reasons and more.

Exactly 2 years ago, I brought my childhood best friend, Marylene here. She was living in Cebu and it was a perfect time for a little get-away. It was a birthday gift I gave her and her sweet daughter Mekailah, who just turned 18.

We trekked to the main crater (it was the first time for all of us) and as we walked 45 minutes (one way) with our guide, stopping here and there for group photos, sweat flowed and the scorching heat of the sun would tempt anyone to take the easy way by riding a horse but we carried on on foot and when we started feeling the sulfur steam on our feet, we know we were near. The sight of the main crater is so captivating that my 15-year old daughter requested to do the same on her birthday along with her best friends.

As I write this, I am actually here in Tagaytay having a full view of the Taal Lake and Volcano because after being “quarantined” for almost 8 months due to the pandemic, I just need to feel refreshed and so as travel between cities is now permitted, the first place I thought of is Tagaytay! The other reason I wanted to be here at this time is to commemorate Marylene’s birthday. She passed away exactly a month ago and while I know she is in a better place now, I still feel the pain of losing my childhood best friend of 50 years and coming here on her birthday is like celebrating it again with her.

“Coming here on her birthday is like celebrating it again with her.”

Whenever I come to Tagaytay for a staycation, I always stay in hotels that have a view of one of the Philippines’ wonders, the Taal Volcano and the Taal Lake. Looking at such picturesque creation brings me to a place of serenity and gives me so much peace.

It’s so ironic because this little volcano is active and when it erupted on January 12 this year, it spewed ashes and covered several towns; destroying homes, livelihood to the point of making some areas uninhabitable and desolate.~https://www.rappler.com/newsbreak/iq/timeline-taal-volcano-eruption-2020

Thanks God it is quiet again for now and it is my prayer that it will stay like this for a very long time. Waking up to the amazing view of the Taal Lake restores my soul. I gave in to its invitation to do my usual quiet time followed by an hour of yoga and as I flex my muscles and do mindful breathing with nature at its finest in front of me, I know that I have achieved my purpose of coming here – to be refreshed!