SOMEONE ELSE’S WINDOWS: Bohol is in the heart

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews / 16 Oct) – Since last year I have been planning to go on vacation in Bohol. I’m not simply eager to view the world-famed Chocolate Hills and enjoy the beach in Panglao; I want to trace my roots there. Tuesday’s quake that destroyed its heritage churches which are actually layers of the island’s rich culture and history served like an eerie reminder of this personal vow to visit at least once the birthplace of my ancestors.

My maternal grandfather hailed from Garcia Hernandez, a town between Valencia and Jagna municipalities. He was one of several Boholanos who migrated to Buenavista, a coastal town in the then undivided Agusan province many years before World War II broke out in the Pacific. An industrious farmer, he eked out a living for his family by tilling logged-over areas in a village called Talo-ao and raising carabaos, hogs and chickens.

Back in my childhood days Bohol was a distant world. It wasn’t a known tourist destination then. Aside from the Chocolate Hills and its distinct dialects the only things I heard about the island were the jokes about the supposed naiveté of its people, stories that actually border on racial slur except that Boholanos don’t belong to another race.

Deep inside, however, I have always worn my Boholano ancestry as a badge of honor. I would always think of Francisco Dagohoy and his resistance to Spanish rule that lasted over 80 years. Some would say this piece of our history explains why the island is sometimes lightheartedly called Bohol Republic, and that a visit there requires a visa.

Yet no matter what it takes going to Bohol will always mean more than flying to any foreign country. For me it will be like coming home on behalf of my grandfather. Our neighbors in Buenavista said I inherited his knack for cracking jokes deadpan. I don’t know. He died when I was six, and I can’t even exactly recall how he looked like. The only fond memory I have of him was being carried on his shoulders across his rice fields. The last time I saw him was rather sad – I saw him die from cardiac arrest before me and some neighbors.

I wonder if his relatives in Garcia Hernandez have kept track of Lolo’s own descendants after he left his birthplace to find better life in Mindanao. The present generations of his clan may no longer be able to locate his name in the labyrinth of family lines which may have been blurred by time. Except for his surname – my middle name – maybe I will just be a whisper, soon forgotten after the enthusiastic hellos of first encounters.

But I’m sure Boholanos don’t treat their kin that way. Why, they can be hospitable even to complete strangers. Indeed, I’m looking forward to meeting at least some of them.

I also wish to see the now ruined old churches all over the island, and I hope they’re already restored to their original form by the time I set foot there. Of course, riding down Loboc River and listening to the town’s famous children’s choir should complete the journey.

Sing “Lagkaw” for me please. (MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. H. Marcos C. Mordeno can be reached at hmcmordeno@gmail.com.)

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