The rest of the world may have a recession, but Bohol seems to be booming. There are many tourists here, and several years ago I wondered if ecotourism would really be successful here. Well, it has been.
The island is beautiful with the Chocolate Hills, the tarsier, the Luboc River, caves, waterfalls, and the white sand beaches. The Calope family is great fun, and the area where they live is beautiful. I stay with Clar and her husband Jun Jun. Jun Jun is a seaman, and this is the first time I have met him. He has been all over the world, and although he gets to be home for only a short time each year, he seems to be an old friend. Every running with all of Sterling's nieces and nephews. They call me Lolo Zeus, and we take turns racing up a hill along with several of the dogs that live nearby. By the end of thirty minutes I am soaking wet with the humidity (called Egang here).
Our big expedition is to the dagat (ocean), and I rent a jeepney so all the kids can come along. The beach is wonderful with beautiful white sand, and I spend my time pulling the nieces and nephews through the waves (bawad I think is the word). Between the time I am in the water getting a sunburn, I practice juggling five balls and accompanying a blind singer. We play my favorite song Anak which I have been practicing at the karaoke places in Bontoc. It is fun juggling for people here, and I have taught many kids and adults how to. But the most fun is making up juggling games. I also practice seeing if I can play the music that goes with the ice cream vendor. Ha ha.
Sterling has a four month old son who has an American passport, but she is still trying to get an American visa to visit her husband in Massachusetts. Before I leave we meet an American who has been living here for thirty years since he was in the Peace Corps. He tells everyone that Bohol is paradise, but admits he has to go back to New York City every year to make money. Johnny tells me that his two girls are about two grade levels ahead of American kids in math and science, but he believes that the Philippine education focuses too much on memorizing rather than problem solving and critical thinking. But he loves the way his girls have been socialized here. He thinks the Philippines is a much harder place for boys to grow up. I have, in fact, noticed that the high school students I teach are more often girls, and boys are much more often sitting in the back rows.
I leave Bohol feeling sad to have to leave. The airport seems lonely without the many Calopes. I remember Sterling's mother saying to me two years ago about her family, "Always smiling, always happy."
In the waiting room there is a trio of three blind singers with guitars. At first I am not expecting much, but the first song is good, and some of us start clapping. Before long the lead singer has gotten our attention and more of us make our way to the donation box. It is announced that the plane will be late, but I don't mind because now people are singing along with the trio. I have noticed how much Filipinos like melodies, and when the singers start with American Pie, there is music filling the room both from the trio and the people crammed in the waiting room singing along. When the plane finally arrives, I am wishing it would have taken longer.