The rainfall that was repressed during our first day in Cagayan was now letting on. Dark clouds loomed overhead and followed us like vultures waiting to pounce. Everything was bleak and the air was heavy with the smell of ozone. But despite the less than cheerful weather, we put on our best smiles and bucked up.
Our custom Lakbay Norte Victory Liner bus shuddered to a stop and, with a noticeable soreness to my tushy, I woke. From the window, I saw that the weather had turned bleary. We’d been traveling for 12 hours, spanning the length of Nueva Ecija all the way to Cagayan. To here, in the municipality of Tuguegarao.
After shaking off sleep from our eyes and a round of pandiculation, one by one, my companions and I disembarked. It was past 7AM but it felt like the sun got lazy and was taking its time to get up. A light drizzle was underway and wisps of morning fog blurred the edges of things. There was a dullness to the scene, almost like it was painted with watercolor.
Albay has a special place in my childhood. I have fun memories of many summers spent in Albay. My mom hails in Daraga and we would visit her home often. No matter how long the drive, it’s always the majestic Mayon, the imposing Daraga Church and enjoyable time with cousins and siblings. My last visit though was drenched in tears like the heavy rain that poured upon us the day we said goodbye to my dearest lola (grandma). I was close to her. Relatives always say I’m her favorite apo (grandson). That was more than a decade ago. When an photo assignment from InFlight came recently, I thought I guess it’s time to come back. Not only to retrace the steps of my youth but to re-discover Albay.
Bohol is one of those places that so far have continued to amaze. Even if I have been to the island more than five times already, there are still areas for me that I have yet to explore. Yes, the 2013 earthquake may have sent a number of our heritage in crumbles but the good news many of the natural wonders are still intact. My recent visit to Bohol sent me about 100km east of Tagbilaran City to visit the small and charming coastal town of Anda to be dazzled by their fine white sand Quinale Beach. And I have thought I have already seen the best of Bohol already.
It took us two trips to fully inspect and really appreciate this marvellous Jimenez Church particularly named San Juan Bautista Church. The day before, we passed by this church in haste after a tour of Oroquieta City. It was late afternoon and the church was closed. I wasn’t satisfied seeing just the faced. My fellow travel blogger, Apple of Sole Searching Sole had the same sentiments that we should get back here the next morning. It was a good decision lest we’ll miss one of the most beautiful and well preserved in the island of Mindanao.
It may probably the first thing you’ll see upon approaching Culion Island. The red-colored walls of La Immaculada Concepcion Church is eye-catching from afar. It stands on a hill overlooking the sea and part of the town. It’s an even beautiful church up close and right beside it is Hotel Maya and a light house with war cannons pointing to the open sea. Since its nearby where we are staying, it’s easy to just visit this neighbor of a church and admire its wonderful details.
There are two sides in every story, and for an island like Culion, that held the stigma of the long-gone leprosy, there’s the view from the people who lived in the island and those who look upon it from the outside like me. I have this lingering fascination and curiosity with Culion Island that beheld me ever since I’ve heard about it. I wanted delve deeper and see for myself, hear for myself the stories of struggles, perseverance, hope and healing. I know there’s a lot more to Culion Island than what people perceive of it, so I made sure when I returned to Coron, I made a trip to this island used to be known as the “Island of the living dead” and “Island of no return”.