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 – Dumaguete, my second home

As I start my travel series, I’d like to begin with my happy places in my home country, the Philippines. Home to over 7,600 islands, there is so much to discover.

The charm of this City of Gentle people is felt as soon as you step into the city. You’re welcomed by century-old acacia trees surrounding the Silliman University campus, the university beside the sea, touted as one of the 50 most beautiful Christian College and University campuses in the world and the only one from the Philippines and only 2 in Asia that entered the list  (http://www.christianuniversitiesonline.org). I call it my second home because it was from this esteemed university that I finished my Psychology degree and it is in this beautiful campus that I spent my wonderful four years as a dormitory resident for 2 years and in a boarding house (in the next 2) which is also considered part of the campus because of its proximity to it.

The Silliman Church at the heart of the University with century-old acacia trees surrounding it speaks of what the Christian Values the university stands for.

Whenever I visit the city (which I do a couple of times a year both for work purposes and for personal reasons; my sister and her family live here), I always ask the driver to pass through the highway by the seaside. It just gives me such a warm feeling. In most of my visits, I always choose to stay in hotels by the boulevard which is also lined-up by century-old acacia trees. An early morning run that starts and ends at the boulevard is my regular routine and I would always cap my run with the best hydration treat – fresh buko (young coconut) juice from a regular peddler who goes to the same spot at the boulevard. Rizal Boulevard is one of the busiest in the country both in the morning with joggers, walkers, Zumba work-out all happening at the same time and in late afternoons when the boulevard converts into a street food park selling squid balls, balut, tocino and tempura (that’s why it’s called “tempurahan”).

The Rizal Boulevard is a beauty to behold.

There is so much this beautiful city can offer with so many options of good food that are at student price. My friends who visit with me from Manila are always amazed whenever they see the bill after a hearty meal. My favourites are Bistro Sansrival, Kri, Esturya, Tinto’s, Lantaw and Mamia. Their food are so good at very fair prices. Get a glass of wine to complete your fine dining experience! But for sure, it’s the company of friends and the stories of everyday life plus the endless laughter that make every meal a beautiful moment to cherish.

What is most exciting with Dumaguete is the fact that you do not need to travel long to see more beautiful places. Just 30 minutes away is Twin Lakes Balinsasayao Natural Park – a picture of serenity with exotic plant-life surrounding it. Driving to this natural park always leaves me awed with breathtaking views of the ocean, the mountains and plant-life that Mother Nature endowed it with.  I am so fortunate that I can visit this place anytime as my best friend built their retirement home in the area. Their home will be a subject of another story but it is one place that truly inspires me. Whenever I feel I need to get-away from the stresses of daily life, I could retreat to her beautiful place and be renewed! The unencumbered view of Tañon Strait and watching the sunrise and sunsets are simply magical they take my tensions away!

Just another hour drive is the Manjuyod Sandbar which is referred to as the Maldives of the Philippines. The short boat ride to the sandbar in the middle of the sea is a treat in itself as the boatman brings you to where the dolphins are. The times we went there, throngs of them showed up to the thrill of my teenage daughter and her cousins! We brought marinated fish and chicken which our boatmen cooked for us while docked at the sandbar. Locals also offer various seafoods like prawns, squid and sea urchins to add to our lunch table. Just writing about this experience makes me want to go back again…soon!

On the other side of Dumaguete are various tourist spots as well. Just less than an hour away is Valencia with equally beautiful sceneries. Pulangbato (red stone) Falls is known for its healing  waters due to sulfur deposits. Casaroro Waterfalls is another place for the adventurous. There are many resorts in the area and for those who want to commune with nature, Forest Camp will surely be a delight. Its cool pools with water flowing from the mountains (there’s even a river with a hanging bridge) and lush greenery make it perfect as a get-away place. There are other activities for those who want some adrenaline rush or get a massage in one of their well-appointed massage rooms.

Oh I can go on and on with so much more this happy place offers and since I cannot get enough of it, I have started to make plans to build my retirement home there too. And you guessed it right…not too far from my best friend’s place so we can exchange food creations and I can teach her simple yoga routines while I devour her most-sought after Negrense fare. 

Make sure you bring home some sansrival and budbud kabog this city is famous for.