Singing Bee in Bohol

After mounting his first solo exhibit at the Ayala Museum recently, Cesar Montano is devoting most of his time in Bohol.

If you don’t know it yet, the actor traces his roots in Baclayon, a coastal town in the now famous group of islands called Bohol. He was born a Manhilot, which was changed to Montano for better recall when he became an actor. What remains of his good old days as a Boholano is his nickname— Buboy.

Last weekend we flew to Tagbilaran to see how he is gearing up for the big day next year. As all of us know by now, he is the Liberal Party’s chairman in the province and the candidate for governor.

It’s not campaign period yet, so Buboy is very careful not to offend the incumbent and known political families in the province. The municipal government of Baclayon with the help of Buboy organized a fun run—five km long— around the poblacion of Baclayon, two days before the town fiesta (on Dec. 8, feast of the Immaculate Conception, the patron saint of the town).

Cesar and wife Sunshine joined all the other runners from the town and after which municipal officials gave a pep talk to the participants, the townsfolk that converged at the back of the municipal building.

Breakfast of dried fish, native sausages, fried egg, and garlic rice and native rice cake with sliced mangoes went well with hot native chocolate, after which Buboy joined us for a brief chat.

Part of the fun run was sponsored by Mega Sardines, the brand he endorses, and that was why there was some kind of a product sampling at the end of the run.

Montano said, “We don’t want to be accused of premature campaigning, so everything that we do here is not political. I am not in the forefront of this activity. If you see, I am just one of the runners. “

Yet, the mere fact that he is Cesar Montano and his wife is Sunshine Cruz was reason enough for a group of entertainment writers flocking to the town of Baclayon to cover the event.

Buboy looked happy to see friends from Manila, and he volunteered to give them a tour of the province to see why he has chosen to come back after years in Manila as an actor.

“There’s peace of mind when I’m here. The pace of life here is laid back, and there’s so many things one can do here… there’s the beach in Panglao Island, island hopping, and many more.”

The actor said that he spends more time in Baclayon now than in Manila. “That is because I have a foundation here that aims to help fellow Boholanos… it is named after a movie I directed…Panaghoy.”

The foundation serves as the arm doing grassroots work for Buboy’s shot at the province’s gubernatorial post in next year’s elections. He was once a senatorial candidate, but it was a hurried decision, he said. “This time, I think I’m ready to plunge deeper into politics… well, local politics.

Quick tour of Bohol

After lunch, we were given a quick tour of Bohol and the historical towns that many tourists are looking at these days. We went to see tarsiers on our way to the Chocolate Hills. I had a quick foot massage from two blind men at the stop where tourists can take photos of the famous hills. Then we were off to Loboc town for dinner, and a cruise later with Cesar and Sunshine. The river, I noticed, had been lit up due to stories about supra natural beings in the area. We stopped at a barge where residents have discovered they could make a living performing for the passengers of the cruise boats. It was a short ride, but exhilarating in our appreciation of a river still unspoiled by developments, so unlike the rivers in Luzon island.

I remember the cruise on the Yellow River in Shanghai. The only difference is that we didn’t look at buildings lit for the visitors, but we were face to face with the beauty of nature.

Cesar said, “We can still do a lot for the tourism here, but it has be done in harmony with nature and the people.”

Churches and beaches

Bohol’s tourism is hinged on two things: culture and leisure. The main island of Bohol offers centuries-old churches built by the Spaniards. Though most of them need to be restored (attention: National Historical Institute), the spirit of the Spanish times are no doubt very much within the structures. The Baclayon Catholic church, for example, should be a case study for Philippine church restorers (if we have any). Although its coral stones are still very much intact, we see the imprints of the passing of the hands of time in many of its elements. The adjoining building, which has been turned into a museum, is in a state of degradation, it can collapse anytime if no structural engineer would volunteer to keep it up. The same goes with the other churches which facades and rooftops have already been altered by renovation (not restoration).

This is a suggestion to Buboy should he win the elections: hire restoration consultants from Italy, France, or Spain so that churches in Bohol could be brought back to their original state. It can cost a lot of money, but there are foundations all over the world waiting to finance worthwhile projects in art and architecture, they only need to be convinced.

On the one hand, the stretch of white-sand beaches in Panglao Island now connected by two land bridges to Bohol Island should give Boracay a run for its tourists. Already, resorts on island are anticipating an influx of visitors in the coming Holy Week. The good thing here is there is controlled development… therefore we didn’t see congestion on the shorelines of the island. Panglao is also home to a bee farm that produces some of the finest honeys in the country. The bee farm also produces exotic fruit ice-cream (also available in one of two malls in Tagbilaran City), and other organic products (bakery and preserved fruits and spreads… like malunggay spreads). It has a coffee shop and huts where visitors can stay overnight or even longer.

First time

Many of the members of the media had seen Bohol for the first time, including myself. I sure would like to be back there and hope I’d see some positive developments in the tourism program of the province.

While it is admirable that many Boholanos are so proud of the province’s history and its heritage, I’d like to say that preservation should be coupled with development to cope with the growing population. Cesar Montano, should he want to leave an imprint in that province forever, should strive to make Bohol a model of development without sacrificing the heritage of its people.

Encuentro star

Felix Roco, actor Bembol Roco’s twin son (the other is Dominic) is now the toast of the indie movement. He was with director Pepe Diokno (who is a senior at the College of Mass Communication, the school of my college days) at the Venice Film Festival where Encuentro was screened.

Lex, as he is known among his close friends, said he hope he would have the opportunity again to be in an international film festival.

I asked how he feels that his mother network (GMA Network Inc.) seems to be ignoring his by now acknowledged talent, the young man politely said, “I respect GMA-7’s decision when it comes to my career.”

Lex is currently seen in Daisy Siete, produced by Sex Bomb founder Joy Cancio, and aired after Eat Bulaga on GMA-7.

His fans and people who believe in his talent are greatly disappointed!

by Isah V. Red

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