Sunday, April 28, 2019

How Pipay rediscovers her ‘power’

Scene:  Celina Villoceno was crowned Mutya sa Tagbilaran 2019.  Villoceno, who represented Barangay Dao, was crowned Dr. Cecilio Putong National High School (DCPNHS)-Miss Intrams 2011.

Scene:  If plans push through, at least 100 contestants of Mister World 2019  will visit Bohol this August as part of the three-week  once-in-a-lifetime  experience, as they battle it out to discover  who should be declared the “world’s most desirable man.” The contestants will arrive in Manila on August 6 with the final taking place on August 23 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.


For the nth time, my visit to Siquijor Island last Holy Week (the best time to explore the island) was truly enchanted where magical delights beckon around every corner.

I was with Regil “Pipay” Torralba Gucor, Edward Guyano  aka Inday Charity, Helen Castano, Jerwin Jala and Michael Lawrence Castillon — the latest batch to be invited by Fiel Angeli Araoarao-Gabin and her hubby Engr. Jerome John Gabin who, we soon found out, was an Apostoles at14 and he’s serving as Saint Peter for almost 20 years.  

Tourist Regil “Pipay” Torralba Gucor explores the island province of Siquijor which is feared by many people because of the tales of kulam, paktol and gayuma and other mystical elements.  Photos by Leo Udtohan

Although Siquijor Island has been known for witchcraft, for us there’s far more to the idyllic island than meets the eyes.

Pipay’s second visit to Siquijor surprised her a lot since it is no longer the dreaded province it once was.

“It totally changed a lot—from a sleeping island to an enliven island where there are many hordes of tourists,” said Pipay.

She said, however, the island never lost its original charm.

“It is still a wonderful and magical island and the people are friendly,” she said. “If you’re looking for an island adventure with the charm of the countryside, Siquijor Island might just be the paradise you’re looking for.”

Stories about voodoo, bizarre rituals, and other supernatural things in Siquijor Island were the reasons why many Filipinos have dropped the island many times from their bucketlist.

St. Francis de Assisi Church.
But tourists who are coming to Siquijor have seen few overt signs of it.

Siquijor does, however, offer several white-sand beaches and other activities.

The island-province of Siquijor in the Central Visayas is the third smallest province in the country with only six municipalities-Larena, Enrique Villanueva, Lazi, Maria, San Juan and the capital Siquijor. It has a land area of 343.5 square km with 90,000 residents.

The island’s native name was Katugasan, after “tugas” (molave) tree that covered the place. The Spanish first called it “Isla del Fuego” (Island of Fire) due to the swarm of fireflies they found here, and later renamed it to Siquijor. 

Since it is relatively small, visitors can tour the island for 6-8 hours. You can rent a motorbike at P350 for 24 hours to enjoy the island for 48 hours.

Here are the “must-see’s” and the “must-do’s” in Siquijor:

Visita Iglesia
 Siquijor is also the home of centuries-old churches. The starting point for the tour is the St. Francis de Assisi Church in Siquijor town. It is only a walking distance from the Siquijor port. Few meters from the church, in the middle of a plaza, stands the bell tower that has served as a watch tower for the sea raiders during the Spanish colonial period.

In the town of Lazi, you can visit the San Isidro Labrador Church, one of the most outstanding cultural heritage churches in the Philippines, and the San Isidro Labrador Convent which is said to the one of the biggest and oldest convents in the Philippines.

 The Our Lady of Divine Providence in Maria town houses the statue of Santa Rita de Cascia, an Italian saint touted as the miraculous Black Maria.

Fish spa.
Water cascades, beaches
The province offers wonderful cascades. Visitors can swing like Tarzan at Cambugahay Falls in Lazi  town.  There is no entrance free and it is open until 5 p.m.  It has a multi-tiered waterfalls with clear turquoise waters. Look for the swing rope hanging on the tree and do a Tarzan jump for P20.

 Swimming lagoons are formed downstream where tourists can get a refreshing dip in the cool water.

For P50 entrance, one can enjoy and witness the hidden beauty of Lagaan Falls still in Lazi town. The beauty of its clear water awaits vacationers. Aside from trekking, swimming and jumping into the water from the edge of the falls, one could also swing from the vines.

“It’s a very nice place just like you are in paradise. It’s very hot and if you want to refresh just go to Lagaan falls. The water is so cold and very refreshing,” said Pipay.

The Lugnason Falls in Barangay Napo in San Juan town offers visitors time to swing like Tarzan and enjoy the cold water for free.

The Capilay Spring Park offers  a natural spring-fed swimming pool located in the town of San Juan. For swimming the pool, you need to pay P20.  Visitors can have a picnic, dine and swim here. Don’t forget Tating’s creamier ice cream. It can bring delight during hot and humid days!

Going up a mountain can be exhausting but not in Siquijor’s highest peak. The Mt. Bandilaan Nature Park has natural springs, hiking trails, caves, and even a butterfly sanctuary. The more spiritual might be moved to reflecting by the Stations of the Cross. Visitors can climb a tower to get a panoramic view of the island and Bohol.

Siquijor has a postcard-perfect scoop of pristine white-sand beaches that frozen your time.

Salagdoong Beach in  Barangay Olang in Maria town is famous for its cliff diving/jumping.  For P30 entrance, visitors can enjoy swimming in its pristine waters.  There are two jump-off points at Salagdoong at the height of roughly three to four storys.

“It is basically about conquering one’s fear. Fear is inevitable at first, but after you do it, you become more courageous,” said Fiel after her Salagdoong experience.

The town of San Juan has the best resorts in Siquijor. The undeveloped Paliton Public Beach in San Juan has sugar-fine, white sand that could very well match Boracay’s white-sand. Few meters from Paliton Beach is a still an unnamed “secret cove” where it offers white-sand beach with clear waters. Here, visitors can enjoy the beach without the noise of overdevelopment and the nightlife. It's a place where you can relax and enjoy the beach...and to catch beautiful sunsets.

Fish spa
The 400 year-old Balete tree in Barangay Campalanas in Lazi town is believed to be enchanted because of its eerily hanging roots and vines. Folks believe that it is home to mythical and scary creatures like agta and engkanto. But the balete has real dwellers- the doctor fish or garra rufa! 

For P10, visitors can try a new and fun alternative health and beauty treatment in Siquijor to safely and gently exfoliate the feet. The fish clean pores, remove dead skin cells and also serve as a micro massage of the feet and legs, improving blood circulation. The experience is slightly ticklish at first, but skin instantly becomes softer and smoother.

 “Oh my G-d, I was so amazed to see an old balite tree. And the fish spa, it’s so  giluk. I love it,” said Pipay.

Love potion
In spite of the long presence of Christianity, witchcraft exists in various forms on the island with Barangay  San Antonio as the center of shamanism.  It’s in a hilly part of the island with a mystical yet primitive vibe.

Siquijor is known for white-sand beaches. Photos by Leo Udtohan

For the past years, the provincial government of Siquijor tried to rebrand itself from “mystical island”  to Asia’s “healing island.” It gathered some mananambals (folk healers) who practice several styles of healing for tourism through the provincial government approved Healing Festival during Holy Week. 

But it is during Holy Week both the “white” and “black” witches make concoctions and recharge their “powers”.  Mananambals from Visayas and Mindanao visit the mountain villages of Cantabon, Punong and San Antonio to participate in a ritual called “tang-alap” (searching).

For seven Fridays, the herbalists and sorcerers roam the forests, seas, caves and cemeteries to gather medicinal herbs and roots to make amulets, charms, love potions and other concoctions. They cook their concoctions on Black Saturday to make “sumpa” (counterspell or anti-dote).  

Pipay was lucky she was allowed to “join” during the ritual-- the mixing of the “ingredients” of the “sumpa” and chopping of the herbs --at the house of one of the folk healers.  She was also taught the secrets of making the most effective “lumay” (love potion).

Pipay is trying to make some herbal potions.
“The feeling is different.  It gives you a glimpse of how these potions are made with so much reverence,” said  Pipay.

If you’re still craving a taste of Siquijor’s mystical side, ask a local to point you to a faith healer.

Local flavors
 Seafood is abundant in the area and they have lots of local seafood dishes. Fresh sea urchins (salawaki) is sold at cheaper price. Some Siquijodnons even eat this raw right by the beaches. Sea-liciously sweet! 

Some restaurants offer “sangkutsang balakasi,” a famous delicacy. This dish is made of eel stewed in vinegar and spices and coconut milk. Locals said it gives men renewed virility.

Peanut brittles and banana chips are good pasalubong items.

The  Lilibeth Pan Bisaya, the famous bakery in the province, along the national highway in Enrique Villanueva town sells baked  breads in charcoal oven. They have tortang Visaya (a spongy, sweet and oily mamon that uses tuba as leavening agent) and pan Bisaya (bread with a filling of “bucayo”).

There are woodcarving shops selling wooden statues such as “bulul” all over the island.

While Siquijor is still known for alleged witchcraft in various forms, Pipay said her "fear" vanished when she saw the island’s untouched places and felt the island’s hospitality.

The locals helped her to love the island more, she said.

One of the island’s residents is Mrs. Laura “Mommy Lou” Jumawan-Gabin, a retired school district supervisor and a former member of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA)-Siquijor, who has many good stories to tell about her province.  

“Siquijor has changed a lot.  The development will surprise you,” she said.

Even when retired, Gabin, 78, along with her family, continues to support activities and programs that preserve and promote culture, the arts and religion as integral components of tourism.

Gabin said that though it would still be the same mystical island maligned with the things associated with witchcraft, the beauty and goodness of the place and the people itself is already therapeutic. 

"Don’t be afraid. It is a home of peace loving and God-fearing people,” she said.

 “We have white beaches but no evil witches,” she added.

That’s real magick.

How to get there:
You can take a ferry from nearby Cebu City, Dumaguete in Negros Oriental or Tagbilaran City in Bohol, which are all accessible by domestic flights from Manila.

Thanks for your letters, all will be answered. Comments welcome at, follow leoudtohanINQ at Twitter /Facebook/Instagram.

At Easter, we celebrate Jesus’ victory

Our Savior has risen!

The Easter Sunday of the Lord’s Resurrection, as the greatest and most important Christian feast, is a Day of Obligation for all Christians.

The resurrection of Jesus reminds us that God makes all things new. It also reveals to all believers the deepest meaning and purpose of the Christian’s faith in the One who came to destroy death and give life to the world.

Here are some of the best known (powerful, Scripture-centered) Easter hymns that celebrate the resurrection of our Christ.

Because He lives, I can face tomorrow
Because He lives, all fear is gone
Because I know He holds the future
And life is worth the living, just because He lives
---Because He Lives

Amazing grace
How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost, but now I'm found
Was blind, but now I see
---Amazing Grace

Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine
O what a foretaste of glory divine
Heir of salvation, purchase of God
Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood
---Blessed Assurance

Christ the Lord is risen today, Alleluia! 
Earth and heaven in chorus say, Alleluia! 
Raise your joys and triumphs high, Alleluia! 
Sing, ye heavens, and earth reply, Alleluia! 
 ---Christ the Lord Is Risen Today

Great is Thy faithfulness! "Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see;
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided—
Great is Thy faithfulness,  Lord, unto me!
--- Great Is Thy Faithfulness

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Holy Week reflections and activities

This week is Holy Week – a time to remember and reflect on the events that led Jesus to the cross and to his resurrection. 

The time of Lent developed as part of the historical Christian calendar and is typically celebrated by Catholics and some mainline Protestant churches that follow a liturgical calendar.

Lent is the most appropriate time to really meditate about Jesus’ Passion.

This week, dust off your Bible and discover the words of the Lord.  There are Bible verses detailing promises and examples of God’s love and protection.

What are your favorite verses? 

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. - John 3:16

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.- Deuteronomy 31:6
Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. 1 Peter 5:6

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.- First Peter 5:7

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.- Isaiah 41:10

The Village of the Compassionate God the Father in Inabanga town offers a place for quiet, restful, meditative prayer this Holy Week. Contributed 

For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.- Jeremiah 29:11

And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.- Philippians 4:19

The Lord is good; His mercy is everlasting … -Psalm 100:5

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Hebrews 11:1

The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; and He knows those who trust in Him. -Nahum 1:7

For thou hast been a shelter for me, and a strong tower from the enemy. - Psalms 61:3

It is of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.- Lamentations 3:22-23

Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.- Proverbs 3:5-6

Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved: for thou art my praise.- Jeremiah 17:14

Evening, and morning, and at noon, will I pray, and cry aloud: and he shall hear my voice.- Psalm 55:17

Combining religion and summer vacation, the Holy Week is the best time to get that much-needed rest and offer a silent prayer.

Holy Week is going to be a busy time for Bohol province. Local and foreign tourists are surely going to flock to this island paradise for some sea, sun, sand and “solemnity.”

Bohol is a perfect place for reflection. The paradise will surely make you reflect on the things that you have to be thankful for.

Spending the Holy Week on the beach may be frowned upon by conservatives. But it is a personal choice on how one remembers the passion and suffering of Christ. Remember, it is never about a place or location.

You can have beach soul-searching in Dauis, Panglao, Anda, Loon, Ubay and Carlos P. Garcia Island. You can sit alone under a beach hut and sip fresh juice, and thank the Lord for all the blessings.

Waterfalls in Balilihan (Camugao Falls), Dimiao (Ingkumhan and Pahangog Twins), Candijay (Can-umatad Falls) offer serenity. These not only feed the soul but also rejuvenate the body.

Himuntagon Hills in Loay and Alicia Panoramic View are another jaw dropping places for meditation and reflection. Allow these postcard worthy views to bind your faith and restore your religious spirits this Holy Week.

The Lenten Procession in Baclayon is a must. During Holy Wednesday and Good Friday, the streets of this town are filled with life-size religious statues depicting key events of the Passion and Death of Christ on decorated carrozas which are solemnly paraded along the streets followed either by devotees reciting the rosary.

In Loboc and Loay towns, one can see the ritual that dramatizes the first meeting of Christ and Mary after His resurrection takes place at dawn on Easter Sunday.  It begins with two processions, where statues of Christ and Mary are carried from opposite ends of the community. The statue of Mary is covered in a black veil of mourning. Eventually, they will meet at midpoint, during which an angel (typically played by a young girl from the community) will lift the veil, ending Mary’s mourning and Holy Week celebrations.  Well, what makes it special is the world-famous Loboc Children’s Choir sings during the mass and the ritual.

Amulet hunting is also a bizarre activity. It is a folk belief that anting-anting (amulets) are especially potent if collected, made, or charged on Good Friday. In Lamanok Point in Anda town and in Kalagan in Garcia-Hernandez, some albularyo search for anting-anting in caves and forests.

The Church said Holy Week was supposed to be a time “to be with God” in silent prayer and reflection.

VRS has picked some places to make your activities meaningful.

Old churches- There are many old churches for Visita Iglesia. Although some churches in Bohol were destroyed by the strong earthquake in 2013, they still provide space for meditation and prayer during Holy Week for your spiritual journey.   There are 14 churches to visit in remembrance of the 14 Stations of the Cross. Mediate and pray at Alburquerque (Sta. Monica Parish), Anda (Sto Nino Parish), Alicia (San Joaquin),  Antequera (The Nuestra Señora del Rosario), Baclayon (The Church of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception), Balilihan (Nuestra Señora del Carmen Parish), Calape (San Vicente Ferrer), Candijay (Saint Joseph),Corella (Parish of Our Lady of the Village), Cortes (Santo Niño Parish), Dauis (Church of Our Lady of the Assumption), Dimiao (San Nicolas Tolentino Parish), Duero (Immaculate Conception), Garcia Hernandez (St. John the Baptist), Getafe (Santo Niño), Guindulman (Nuestra Señora de la Consolacion), Inabanga (San Pablo Apostol), Jagna (San Miguel Arcángel Parish), Lila (Virgin of the Holy Rosary), Loay (Santissima Trinidad Parish), Loboc (Church of San Pedro), Loon (Church of Our Lady of Light),  Maribojoc (Santa Cruz Parish),  Panglao (San Agustin Parish), Tagbilaran City (Cathedral of San José), Talibon (Most Holy Trinity), and Valencia (Santo Niño Parish).

Fatima Rosary Hill-   The shrine of the Madonna of the Miraculous Blessed Virgin Mary in barangay Buenavista in Carmen town was built sometime in the early 1940s. There is a concrete chapel, a spring and a souvenir shop. Spiritual recollection becomes more enhancing on top of this hill where one can look at the wide plains of Carmen and Sierra-Bullones. Don’t forget that it is holy and quiet. Burn a candle and pray.

San Antonio de Padua Shrine- Located in Barangay Tinibgan in Calape town, it houses the miraculous image of St. Anthony of Padua, one of the Catholic Church’s most popular saints. Saint Anthony of Padua is the patron saint of lost and stolen articles.

Village of the Compassionate God the Father- The shrine located in Barangay Fatima in Inabanga town provides a unique place for quiet, restful, meditative prayer during the remembrance of the final days before Jesus’ death and resurrection. There are life-size structures of the 14 Stations of the Cross with a big figure of the God the Father of All Mankind at the top of the hill. “When I am in doubt, troubled or feeling blessed, I always come to this place to find serenity..and for thanksgiving,” said  call center agent Gerwin Yudelmo, a frequent visitor of this pilgrimage site.

Krus Daku and the Statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Loboc – It is one of the favorite destinations of the pilgrims during the Holy Week. A huge white cross 80 feet in height is on top of the highest hill. In the next hill, one can visit the giant image of the Our Lady of Guadalupe. Here, one can view the towns of Loay and Loboc.

Virgen sa Kaluoy in Calape- The image of the Virgin is believed to be growing from an empty giant shell. From a mere obscure figure, the image now is very visible, showing the beautiful virgin with the giant shell in the background.

Shrine of San Pedro Calungsod-  A five-foot tall statue of Blessed Pedro Calungsod found in Barangay Malbog, Jagna town, is a popular pilgrimage site. The only statue dedicated to Pedro Calungsod in Bohol, tourists and pilgrims pray before the statue and leave written prayers at the foot of the statue.

Thanks for your letters, all will be answered. Comments welcome at, follow leoudtohanINQ at Twitter /Facebook.

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Will Gazini Christiana Ganados bring the next Miss U crown?

Remember Gazini Christiana Jordi Ganados? She was crowned Mutya ng Central Visayas Regional PRISAA 2017 in February 2017 and then became Miss Bohol 2017 first runner-up (representing Loon) in July 2017.

Boholana beauty Gazini Christiana
Jordi Ganados aspires for Binibining Pilipinas 2019 crown.  Miss Bohol Photo
Now, she is an official candidate (representing Cebu) in the 56th edition of the Binibining Pilipinas pageant slated for June 9, 2019 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum in Quezon City.

TAG ’89 MeetUp! 2019

For the first time in the history of Tagbilaran City, or even in Bohol Province, the graduates of a particular class, from eight (8) high schools in the city, will jointly celebrate their 30th (Pearl) grand homecoming celebrations.

From July 1 to 7, 2019, the classes of 1989 from Bohol National High School (BNHS), Bohol Institute of Technology (BIT), Bohol School of Arts and Trades (BSAT), Divine Word College of Tagbilaran (DWC-T), Holy Spirit School (HSS), Immaculate Heart of Mary Seminary (IHMS), Manga High School (MHS), and the University of Bohol (UB) will come together for the “TAG ’89 MeetUp! 2019” activities.

This is an ambitious project that entails the full support for the preparations from the coordinators of the eight (8) schools for the event to be successful, considering that many balikbayans from different parts of the world will come home just to participate in this milestone.

The group will introduce the first Tagbilaran’s Bridges-Friendship 5K Walk on July 1, 2019 starting at 4:30 a.m from the Friendship Park in Bool, Tagbilaran City, to Mansasa, then to Dauis Bridge, to Dauis Church, and back to Friendship Park and the 10K Run starting at 4:30 a.m. from the Friendship Park in Bool, Tagbilaran City, to Tagbilaran’s Rizal Park, to Dauis Church via the Causeway Bridge, and back to Friendship Park via Mansasa and Dauis Bridge that will be part of the 53rd Tagbilaran City Charter Day Anniversary activities.

Mannie Rey Amoguis of BNHS Class of 1989 is the overall chair.

On July 6, 2019, Hale will perform in the concert for a cause to be staged at the CPG Sports Complex.

Gabin is new Audio-Bohol prexy

City Government of Tagbilaran’s Fiel Angeli E. Araoarao-Gabin led the new set of officers of the Association of United Development Information Officers (Audio) – Bohol as its president for 2019-2020 who took their oath of office recently before Tagbilaran City Mayor John Geesnell Yap II, inducting officer.

Fiel Angeli Araoarao – Gabin is Audio’s new president.  
Other officers are Liezl Del Rosario (Civil Service Commission), vice-president for national government agencies (NGAs); Nicolas Sendrijas (Local Government Unit of Calape), vice-president for LGUs; Marichu Cua (Technical Education and Skills Development Authority), secretary; Elvira Bongosia (Philippine Information Agency or PIA), assistant secretary; Rosario Chatto (Bureau of Internal Revenue), treasurer; Jojeline Ruiz (LGU Trinidad), assistant treasurer; Gualberto Jaspe (LGU Pilar), auditor; Bruce Zabala (Bohol District Jail), first district Press Relations Officer (PRO); Mirasol Intong (LGU Buenavista), second district PRO; and Maria Cristina Jumao-as (LGU Jagna), third district PRO. 

The organization is under the guidance of the PIA-Bohol headed by Information Center Manager Rey Anthony Chiu.

Gabin started as Audio-Bohol secretary in 1999, then served as Audio-Bohol president from March 2003 to August 2005 and became president of the Regional Association of Development Information Officers (Radio)-7 composed of IOs from Bohol, Cebu, Negros Oriental, and Siquijor from February 2004 to August 2005.

In September 2018, she was Radio-7 convention director in the regional gathering held at Dumaluan Beach Resort in Bolod, Panglao. She was also president of the DML Montessori School, Tagbilaran City Science High School, and Bohol Child Head Start Federated Parents – Teachers Associations (FPTA).

Bohol hosts 9th PABO biennial
annual convention

Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) Undersecretary Romeo S. Momo who rose to the ranks in his 43 years of service in the department, inspired the delegates as guest of honor of the 9th biennial annual convention of the Philippine Association of Building Officials (PABO) held in a resort last week.

Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) Undersecretary Romeo Momo (seated, 4th from left) was the guest of honor during the 9th biennial annual convention of the Philippine Association of Building Officials (PABO) held in this city. Contributed Photo
He underscored the crucial role of the building officials in the implementation of infrastructures that change the developmental landscape of the country while zooming in on the real essence of public service.

According to Engr. Alan Cahiles of Lila, the national convention director, from the 800 who originally made prior confirmation, the total number of registrants reached as high as 1,200 even during the opening ceremonies who were composed of the city and municipal engineers in the Philippines headed by Engr. Ma. Virginia Rosario, city engineer of Dagupan City, Pangasinan.

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