Reflections in Bohol

Our family trip was finalized way before the 7.0+ earthquake hit Bohol. Should we push through with our vacation, especially given the post-Haiyan condition (someone’s guilt-tripping here)? We had second thoughts, but we decided that the best way to help the people there was first, to be not afraid to go there, and second, to keep their economy active. I thought I would help transform their economy (wow, big words, huh?!) even just a bit but I ended up being transformed by the experience instead.

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After our trip, I really want to know more about Bohol’s history. They said that the central municipalities of the province were never conquered by the Spaniards and hence, were never redistributed to the conquistedores, thanks to Dagohoy. The Spanish colonies were restricted only in the coastal areas. As a consequence, feudalism did not thrive; Filipinos remained the landowners.  Now I wonder, does this part of history have anything to do with the Boholanos’ genuine yet gentle spirit, as they did not have to fight for their lands all their lives? Is history the reason why people in general have a strong sense of empowerment, because they were never a slave to anybody?

Why do I say this? I had the impression that people in general are honest. For example, they would tell you if the fruits you are getting are no good, when you really could not/too challenged to tell the difference. In a normal market economy, heck, go buy it–it would mean profit for the seller sans the guilt (if at all) since the buyer chooses the goods anyway. The places we went to were also green–impressively lush forests and healthy mangroves–something unthinkable in this age when everything is/could be turned into profit. Sure, Bohol is one of the poorest provinces with almost half of the population is considered poor, income poor that is. However, only less than 1% of the people do not eat sufficiently. This means, many do not have money, but almost everyone gets to eat three times a day–so they must be doing something right, right?

The people I encountered also tried to find solutions for as long as they could–for me, this is a clear indication of empowerment. Bringing the service vehicle closer to the airport gate because my mom had difficulty walking is not usually done (or allowed). And yes, they drove my mom to the sandy beach–first time ever I and mom had experienced (and I hope it doesn’t hurt the shores). Whenever my family wanted something not in the menu, the waiter right away said they could do it without even asking their boss or the chef, and they indeed delivered. Too warm in the morning? The waiter served us breakfast in the conference room, again, without asking the boss. Yes, people at the first level of the corporate hierarchy are confident to make decisions that go beyond the set policies.

At the airport on our way home, I was amazed at how a simple staff could stand up for what she thought was fair. You see, Tagbilaran airport was not as spacious as NAIA such that passengers could only get in the waiting area according to their flight schedule. In our case, we had to wait for our turn until the flight ahead of us leaves and a lady was in charge of ensuring orderly operations. Then, a heated discussion between this lady and the aviation officers got my attention. Since I could understand their local language, I had to inquire later what was going on. The impassioned lady explained that a group of police officers (from Manila, I bet, haha!) forced their way into the departure area when they should be waiting with the rest of us. She said that if rules would not be followed consistently, then they should not be applied to anyone at all–hence, she let everyone else enter the departure area, us included. I may not agree with her solution (as it would lead to chaos) but I am so impressed with her sense of fairness and rule of law, more so with her confidence to actually raise her concern to the aviation officers and make a decision (to let us all in).

Come boarding time, when everyone rushed to the gate to embark, the crew stood her ground (pun intended) and say “no, the lady in wheelchair (my mom) will go in first.” Then came a lady with a grand entrance and two bodyguards (a member of the political elite?). She said the same thing to the her, not a bit intimidated. And yes, nobody was allowed inside the plane until mom was comfortably seated.

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People in Bohol are empowered but not combative (like me). People try to do the right things while maintaining their gentleness and peace. As I told my sister later that day, “Ako lang ang masungit sa Tagbilaran airport.” Maybe if I live there for months, their gentleness would rub off on me. Maybe if I surround myself with honest, trustworthy, simple-hearted people who respect and protect other people and their natural environment… if I surround myself with nature and (almost) everything natural… someday… one day….

Now it’s confirmed–I am attracted to peace and gentleness. Opposites attract, you know. 😉

*****

The kindness and confidence of Boholanos reminded me so much of the natives of Palawan. Good thing I blogged about my Palawan trip more than four years ago (link to my post here) and now I have to do the same with Bohol so I won’t forget. If given a chance, I would love to study these provinces from economic and social anthropology perspectives.

*****

I witnessed how life could change in minutes (even seconds perhaps).

Taken at 5:33pm

Taken at 5:33pm

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Taken at 5:36pm

Non-attachment.

Om.

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