By: Jax, Chiu Man Lung
Bohol is safe
It was a raining night. Brian1 came to Abby’s2 room with his laptop. “Movie night.” Abby invited me. Six boys laid on a double bed, waiting for Brian turning on his laptop. He had downloaded the movie “13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi” in town and wanted to share with friends in the village. The movie was about ISIS militants attacking the US consulate in Libya. We watched it in a serious mode since the theme was pretty tense and violent.
“Hey, Jax, is there ISIS in Hong Kong?” Abby wondered.
“No. It’s safe.” I shook my head. “Is Bohol safe from ISIS?”
“Of course. Don’t worry. Bohol is far away from Marawi. You know, Maute and Abu Sayyaf groups in Marawi support ISIS. That’s why our government has started a war against them. Actually they speak different language from us, people would know and be alert if they came.” Aaron3 explained. I nodded my head.
Truly, I’ve never felt unsafe in the island although safety concern is the most important issue in the trip. Everybody here looks kind and friendly, especially villagers in Tubud Mar. The only dangerous moment is that Michael4, a 13-year-old skinny kid, drove Anchit5 and me (two adults together weighted for over 350 pounds) to the church with his mum’s motorcycle in a speed of 70 km/h. Just kidding, he has very good driving skills.
Not to mention ISIS, the downtown area, Jagna market, where I spent most of my time in the trip, also made me at ease during travelling. Admittedly, the traffic there seemed in a mess due to overcrowding and the lack of traffic lights. Indeed, it’s not difficult to figure out that there is a hidden order to avoid jams and accidents. Cars and motors always slowdown in the crowd and stop to let pedestrians cross the road first. Horns keep sounding when they pass by you to make you alert even you are not crossing.
So far I haven’t seen any road accidents here. In contrast, road accidents are common in Hong Kong. Hong Kong people are fast paced and grumpy. That’s why they video record every moment on the road. You won’t see this in Jagna.
Praying before having meals
Before having meals at home, I made a cross, handed together, and listened to my host families praying although I am an atheist. I didn’t speak because they were praying in Bisaya. Yes, it is easy to realize that they are Catholic. Anchit also followed this though he is a Hindu.
In the house, religious decorations are everywhere, crosses, pictures of saint and little statues. Their religion reminds me of the history of Spanish colonial period. Catholicism, which came along with the Spanish, has influenced the Filipino a lot, in both cultural and spiritual aspects. Scenes of F. Sionil Jose’s novel, “DUSK”, keep popping up in my mind.
When it comes to Catholicism, mass on Sunday is an important event. On the first Sunday in Bohol, Myrna’s6 whole families asked Anchit and me to go to the church with them. “I don’t have pants.” I saw that they were wearing pants. They told us it would be fine to wear shorts. Michael drove us to the church with a motorcycle. (This is the dangerous but exciting moment I just told you.)
Probably the church is the most beautiful building in town. Yellowish white walls, blue windows, and domes with crosses characterize its Rome-styled architecture. Two men wearing shorts were obviously foreigners. People stared at us in a kind way because our skin colours and appearances stood out from the masses. As respect, we didn’t go inside to sit down though Abby said that it was fine for our dress. We stood at the front door of the church and listened to clergyman’s speech. The hall is huge. In a rough estimation, over eight hundred people were sitting quietly and focusing on the stage.
It was my first time to “attend” the mass, luckily a nice one. Apart from a historical remark, religion is supporting their mind, as well as the country.
Summer has gone
It was a hot and humid night. We sat down for the TV after dinner. A flying ant landed on my leg. I looked at the floor and saw that over 30 flying ants were crawling and shaking their wings. “Heavy rain is coming soon.” Myrna closed the main door to avoid incoming flying ants. She explained that raining season started from June.
“When is the summer then?” I wondered. I thought it was summer now because it was as hot as in Hong Kong.
“You are lucky. Summer is just gone. It is normally from March to early of June. That’s why kids are having summer vacation now. They are going back to school next week. So, bring your umbrella every day.” Myrna reminded me.
When travelling closer to the equator, hotness is inevitable. I checked on my phone to see how hot it usually is in Philippines’ summer. The number 37 (degree Celsius) made me shocked and I understood the luck Myrna told me. In June, the night was cool because of rains with strong wind. Sometimes I had to cover myself with a blanket in the early morning, let alone turning off the fan. However, sunshine in daytime still made me melt even though I was in a sporty vest all the time. I got sunburnt on the second day in Jagna. I looked reddish brown after dead skin peeled off, like a snake. Houses here are made in bamboo and wood, which is an excellent heat insulator. Local people’s genetics work so well in south-east region. Their brown skin protects them from sunburnt and they rarely get mosquitos bites without any insects-repellent. When I went out for work every day, I sprayed sunscreen thoroughly on my arms and neck. Myrna always laughed and told me that the sun was not friendly to people from Hong Kong. She also told me local people’s blood was not as sweet as mine for mosquitos. Myrna was humorous. Truly, I saw their arms and legs skin is so smooth that there is no any marks or scars by bug bites. But mine looks like the galaxy with uncountable dots.
Kids is having fun all the time
Kean7, Myrna’s youngest son, was running out from the kitchen and his elder sister, Angel8, was chasing him. Kean’s upper lip was covered by red sauce. His little white vest also had a red stain. They were laughing loudly and chasing around me. Myrna yelled at them in Bisaya. Kean laid down on a chair with Angel sat beside him. They kept laughing and looked so happy.
“Are you two playing with ketchup in the kitchen?” I asked Angel because Kean hadn’t learned English yet.
“No, Jax. It’s blood. Kean got his nose hurt.” Myrna put a wet towel on Kean’s forehead, and rubbed his nose with tissue.
The scene was hilarious. Normally a 6-year-old boy would cry if he saw blood coming from his nose. This was an extreme case. In fact, I did see that Myrna’s four kids were so happy every day, every moment. Two youngers played together around the clock. Two elders sometimes worked on school stuff and housework, sometimes stick with friends in the village, playing basketball, watching movie on the TV, or hanging around.
Compared to Hong Kong kids, kids in Jagna have better childhood. They have no tutorial schools after compulsory school, no homework till midnight, and don’t have to learn three languages or two musical instruments during vacation. Instead, they stay in groups all the time, doing sports they like or learning English from American songs and Hollywood movies. Therefore, they have very strong social skills. Seldom are they shy to strangers like us, despite a language barrier.
In contrast, parents in Hong Kong pose so much limitation on children, who are forced to do a lot of things they don’t like, just for the sake of getting a seat in a so-called prestigious school. The rival between parents forms a vicious circle. Their kids succumb to tones of work and stress. Probably they won’t remember what they learned in a lesson of African drums (Djembe) when they grow up. If I were a kid from Bohol, I would remember how I jumped into the sea from a cliff when I was just six (Kean did this a lot). My father told me a lot about his childhood, like how he stole others’ hanging fruits by climbing trees in the farmland and hunted wild pigs with a simple wood stick. This was because he was born and raised in a mediocre village in mainland China.
From NBA to American music
It was the fourth game in the payoff of the American basketball top league (NBA). There were nine teens and kids sitting in Myrna’s house for the live of the match. Some were supporting Cavalier while some were Warrior’s fan. Abby shouted seriously whenever the ball hit the basket because he didn’t want his favourite team to lose the championship after a result of 4-0.
The game turned white hot in the fourth quarter. “Come on Curry.” Myrna yelled. This was my first time seeing a housewife having a NBA fever. Basketball is so big in Philippines that every boy in the village are addicted to basketball. The basketball court was rarely quiet during the daytime, except rainy days. On the day to Dimiao waterfall, Aaron and Abby refused to come with me because a local basketball match was held at the same time. Nearly all boys went to the game so that those who went to the waterfall were mainly girls.
It’s easy to see other American cultural products besides NBA. Kean always sang American’s pop songs although he hadn’t learned so much English in school yet. This was because Abby and her friends always played these pop songs with their phones. Hollywood movies were also their favourite. Sometimes, I saw Angel and Ashley watching American drama on the TV when boys were not home.
This is another historical remark. The close tie with the USA breeds religion freedom in Philippines. Apart from the traditional national region mentioned before, there are also many different Christian churches in Philippine islands. Free education and second national language, English, are also inherited from the USA. Sometimes, history is not a pile of tedious texts from books, but a lively picture around you.
- Brian: Abby’s best friend
- Abby: Myrna’s nephew
- Aaron: Myrna’s eldest son
- Michael: Myrna’s nephew
- Anchit: my roommate
- Myrna: my host
- Kean: Myrna’s youngest son
- Angel: Myrna’s youngest daughter