(Intermission: On top of the bucket list of interesting people to meet: Lea Salonga. I'm proclaiming it now because we can never tell. By my power of positive-thinking, she will visit Butuan someday. I know it is more feasible if I just fly to Manila, watch her concert and find a way to shake her hand. Again, we can never tell. Ha! )The Tour Paula was taking down notes on what sites to visit. There was a museum kiosk, a touch-screen monitor that lists down cultural and historical sites to visit in the city. “This kiosk is the only one in the country”, the museum staff proudly said. It was decided that we visit the Balanghai Shrine and Bood Ecopark that afternoon. Some info I am retrieving from my sometimes-unreliable memory bank (I suggest that you do your own research. It is an interesting read.):
Balanghai Shrine is the archaeological site where the balanghai boats were excavated. Before the Spaniards came, our ancestors were already trading with our Asian neighbors. That is why we have Chinese wares excavated from different sites in Butuan, carbon-dated centuries before the Spaniards came. In an article I read from a school paper here (I think), the title was “In the beginning, there was no Philippines but there was Butuan. “
Bood Promontory Eco-park is a site where there is a commemorative statue of Magellan and his men celebrating the first mass in the Philippines and the supposed site where a large cross was planted. Butuan claims that the first mass in the Philippines was held in Masao. Magellan landed in Masao, not Limasawa. My father told me that when an American historian wrote about the history of the Philippines, he used Pigafetta’s notes which says that they landed in place called Masaua. The historian wrote in his footnote, “Probably Limasawa”. Filipino historians adapted the footnote as truth. Butuanon historians claim that Pigafetta’s account contain the latitude, longitude of the site points to Masao. Add to the proof that trade already existed in Butuan courtesy of the Balanghai. Masao was clearly a thriving port. Despite several proofs, the National Historical Institute still declared Limasawa as the site of the first mass while Butuan still insists it is Masao.
Word for the day: Promontory a : a high point of land or rock projecting into a body of water b : a prominent mass of land overlooking or projecting into a lowland (Source: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/promontory)Now back to our tour: We rode the Route4 jeepney to Libertad . We were told to stop at Chooks to Go ( not to eat. Sorry, Lea. hehe plugging.) and look for the motorized trisikad parked near it. We reached the destination in just a few minutes. Paula and Charlie were genuinely interested in seeing what was displayed-parts of the balanghai that was excavated in the area. The Balanghai Shrine is located in an area where some of the excavation was done. At the back of the structure, one can see a large puddle ( or lake?) that was formed on the depression where the boats were dug up. Several camera clicks later, I hailed a passing motorized trisikad and asked Manong driver if he could take us to the riverbank for us to cross the river towards the Bood Promontory Ecopark. Manong agreed to wait for us while we roam the promontory. I visited this place last year and we used the boat with a roof and katig (outrigger). This time around no roof, no katig- imagine two trunks of trees that were carved into a boat and fused together. I heard Charlie asked the boatman what tree was used. “Lauan,” he replied. I slowly and carefully took my seat. I am not a swimmer. Going overboard was not an option. I liked the boat ride. Mt. Mayapay can be seen from this area. It felt like I am in the middle of nowhere yet I was still in the city. Paula and Charlie’s experience may have a little more substance (compared to mine) for they can identify birds in the area. While we were on the promontory, Paula saw a rainbow. (A rainbow is said to be God’s promise not send the great floods. With this sight, I say a little prayer for the people in Davao.) The First-Timer One of my suggestions of sites to visit is the new zipline adventure park in Bonbon. It was not a priority since Paula and Charlie have already tried zipline in some other place. However, Manong can drive us to Bonbon. We might as well tick it off the checklist. I have been to Bonbon on different occasions- fiesta, invitation by friends, company team-building and company sales exposure but I went in the village area where people live. The mountainous area is new to me. When we asked for directions on how to get to Delta Discovery Park, the suggestion was to ride a motorcycle (habal-habal). Before we left to ride the habal-habal, Manong asked me: “Igsoon ni Rica Peralejo?” (Is she Rica Peralejo’s sister?) Me to Paula: Paula, nagtatanong si Manong kung kapatid ka ni Rica? (Manong is asking if you are Rica’s sister. ) Paula smiled at Manong: Opo. (Yes.) Me: Si Manong updated. ( Like me!) I wonder at what point did he realize who was one of his passengers. Maybe some of the people we met knew but were not brave enough to ask the question. So why the title? It was the first time for me to ride a motorcycle with a stranger for a driver. If I could avoid riding, I would. There were a few times before that I had no choice but to ride in one with my cousin driving it. Ha! But, Paula and Charlie were game. ( I think it was not their first habal-habal ride.) So, bring it on! HAHA! The first thing that came to mind was, “Why are we not wearing helmets?” Scary thought. Purged it by observing the milieu: admiring the view, frowning at the areas that are being flattened yet wishing I have a small house on a hill. We arrived at the site unscathed. Unfortunately, the zipline closes at 5pm. It was already 5:30pm. We had no choice but to go back to the city and call it a day. The Phobia Paula and Charlie had not eaten a decent meal during their vacation. Both are vegetarians so the options for food are limited in this carnivorous country. I can not even think of a restaurant in the city with a variety of vegetable dishes. The vegetarian restaurant near our place is closed on Saturdays for the owners are Seventh-Day Adventists. The only restaurant I am familiar with the menu is Narra and it is in Libertad. So, Narra it is. I just assumed they can cook anything with the vegetables they have. (Side story: Narra is an old resto in the city. When I was young, we celebrated milestones in Narra: birthdays, weddings. After I took the Pisay exam, my father brought me there as a reward even if we were not sure I passed. I felt special. Incidentally, the previous owners also owned the old Narra hotel and the compound where the replica of the Balanghai is currently docked.) Paula and Charlie ordered omelet, four seasons (sauteed veggies), garlic rice, pineapple juice and coke. I ordered coke. (Oops, I forgot to pay for my coke. Embarrassing! Paula and Charlie, I owe you!) We sat in the open area in the restaurant. We were chatting and towards the end of the meal, Charlie said, “Uy, may palaka!” (There is a frog.) Being animal lovers, this is a welcome sight for them. Paula said, “Cute!”. No choice, I have to confess, “Ay, takot ako diyan.” (I am afraid of that.) I was keeping my cool because I might start to panic. Good thing that they were true-blue animal lovers. They did not try to scare me. They told me not to look. It seemed like there were two frogs in an area behind me. When I am with family and I see a frog far away, I start to go crazy and tell everyone there is a frog. I turn into a crazy, panicky and OA (over-acting) me looking at my surroundings for other sightings. Of all the animals, I am most afraid of frogs. Although I am afraid of other reptiles and amphibians, I am okay as long as they are at a distance. I am afraid of frogs even on pictures and on TV. When asked why, I always say it is because they are ugly. (kat, sabi ng frog, “pwe! di ka rin naman kagandahan!” ) Haay, I will never find my prince this way. We rode the Route2 jeep: me going home while Paula and Charlie to Gaisano because they will ride the tricycle there to get to their hotel. I bid them goodbye. Whattaday! But wait, there’s more! I am sounding like an infomercial. Their flight was scheduled at 2pm the next day. They planned to visit the Balaghai replica, do the Agusan river cruise, visit the Banza church ruins and visit the laksoy (local wine) maker in Babag. They could visit all this sites faster in a private vehicle. I thought of my cousin’s vehicle but when I called him, he had previously committed to drive his friends to the beach on Sunday morning. Wrong timing. I wanted to go with them again via public transportation but I was not sure if I can make it. I was supposed to go to mass with my aunt. We attended mass at 6:30am. We were home before 8am. As much as I would like to invite myself again to tag along, I messaged Paula that I could not go because I was waiting for something. I just told her to text me if ever they need directions on how to get there. (
"You have brains in your head. Your feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose." - Dr. SeussI thought of the two people I met this weekend. I smiled and thought of my future travel plans. “Caramoan, see you in September!” *