Lucky are they who got to spend the past lockdown months in places they hold dear in their hearts. Or new places where they could discover new thrills and skills.
My son Robby and his wife Maxene have been stranded the past five months in Bali, where they took two courses for yoga teachers. Bali is wonderful, a serene and inspiring place for yoga devotees and vegans. But if they had a choice, I am sure they would opt to be stranded in Boracay, where they got married two years ago. Or idyllic El Nido in Palawan, which they love, or — going closer to home — The Farm in San Benito, Lipa, where they enjoy therapeutic massages and healthy cuisine.
We asked three couples: Where in the Philippines would it be more fun to spend lockdown?
Here are their choices.
Benedict and Candy Sison: Bohol, to see God's wonders
Benedict Sison is a citizen of the world. Before he took over as CEO and country manager of Sun Life Philippines, he was posted for 15 years in five countries. This enabled him and his wife, Candy Jeturian-Sison, to see many places with a keen eye for culture and history.
But still, if he and Candy could choose a place where they would get to spend lockdown, Bohol in the Philippines would be the top choice.
“For the past 100 days, I have been locked down at our BGC condo unit. To help keep my sanity intact I have been starting my day by jogging in place within our small balcony (as the condo gym is currently padlocked). Initially, it was a struggle and I would log in only 3,000 steps a day. But there are days when I am able to register over 30,000 steps — that’s like walking a stretch of over 10 miles in one day,” says Benedict.
“Jogging in place or accomplishing my daily morning steps would surely be more fun in Bohol, especially along its white beaches while the sun rises beautifully. There is something about sun and water that calms one’s anxieties and makes everything seem okay. That scenery alone would do wonders in lifting one’s spirits and assuring us that the sun always rises and that a bright new day is coming.”
Benedict, who entered the Divine Word Seminary in Tagaytay for two years before studying in UP and the University of California, points out: “The Chocolate Hills and those big-eyed tarsiers, to me, are all a great reminder of the beauty and vastness of God’s creation.
“Just looking at them makes one realize that God, Who created all these wonders, is in control of everything, even this pandemic. One other thing we’d love to do is go on that lunch cruise along Loboc River and really enjoy the outdoors, sunbathe along its white beaches, play in its waterfalls and explore its caves.”
Finally, the Sisons say that the Boholaño hospitality of doing everything with a smile will give one a big dose of sunshine and make one forget that we are in lockdown.
Sonny and Tootsy Angara: Baler, to seek shelter under the Millennium Tree
Aurora is the natural choice of Sonny Angara, now in his seventh year as senator, and who also served as congressman of Aurora for nine years.
It would be a wonderful place to be stranded in a lockdown with his beloved wife, Tootsy Echauz-Angara, cluster head of sales for ABS-CBN.
“It would have to be our hometown, Baler, Aurora,” says Tootsy. “To us, Baler means family. We regret we had to mark the second anniversary of the passing of my father-in-law, Senator Edgardo J. Angara, last May in absentia. We could have paid our respects before his grave — of course, eating his favorite suman, and drinking fresh buko juice.”
Sonny says, “In itself, Baler is a beautiful place, with many natural vistas to see, like Sabang Beach, Ditumabo Falls, Dicasalarin Cove, or the huge Balete Tree in Maria Aurora, also called the Millennium Tree.
“Before the pandemic, Baler was already a booming tourist destination, especially among surfers and watersports lovers. But even non-surfers have been enjoying sites like the Baler Museum, which features one of the presidential cars of President Manuel Quezon; the ancestral home of his wife, Doña Aurora Aragon-Quezon; the Church of Baler, where we celebrate Philippine-Spanish Friendship Day each year; or Ermita Hill, which provides a view of Baler Bay, and the Dimadimalangat and Aniao islets.”
The Angaras say they can’t wait to return to Baler after so many months of being in lockdown. “We heard that new eateries have been sprouting up around the town, so we look forward to exploring and seeing how things have been developing despite the pandemic.”
Serge and Bettina Osmeña: Davao, to discover new dishes
The Osmeñas would say Pearl Farm in Davao, hands down!
Even if Serge Osmeña, three-term Senator, hails from Cebu, and Bettina Lopez-Osmeña considers Iloilo her home province.
Bettina says: “The Floirendos have been my friends since grade school and I know that they would take good care of us royally. I chose Pearl Farm because we have lots of friends in Davao. If we get bored on the island we can go visit our friends in the city.”
Serge says that, for nature tripping, Davao is tops. “You have both the mountains and the sea at your disposal. I love to go fishing so we could go fishing and snorkeling, our kids could go scuba diving. If we need a change of scenery, we could go hiking in the mountains as a family. My children are all adventurous nature trippers.”
“During the pandemic, everybody went on pause — except for me and a handful,” says Bettina, who is a food entrepreneur. “We have never stayed home so much in our lives, though I was working very hard from home. We got to try new dishes during the lockdown, which ended up in my store. And if we get caught in a lockdown in Davao, it would be an ideal place to try and learn new dishes.”
Serge and Bettina say the pandemic taught them good lessons, like appreciating what matters most. Bettina reflects: “I believe that God brought this upon us. China was the starting point for some divine reason. It was a time for deep reflection, meditation and connecting with the universe, which I hardly had time to do pre-COVID-19. It also made us realize how fragile life is. We lost some friends during this period and it made my family love each other more and enjoy each other’s company!”