Friday, March 7, 2008

A Bol-anon World

On a post in this blog titled "Bol-anon" which happened to be about the enterprising natives of the island of Bohol in the Visayas whose indomitable entrepreneurial spirit has made a distinct and valuable contribution to the history and development of Lianga as a town in this part of Mindanao, I recently saw a comment sent by Jerry Sisican, a Filipino expatriate currently working in the United Kingdom and who blogs about all things Bol-anon in his blog, "Bohol On My Mind"(

Jerry tells us in his blog that he is of Bol-anon or Boholano stock and actually grew up and went to school in Bohol. He is even married to a Boholana. One obviously cannot get more Bol-anon than that.

It might interest Jerry to know that my maternal grandmother was a native of Kudtong, Candijay also in Bohol whose family resettled in Surigao del Sur during the early years of the last century. She later got married to a farmer and found a new home in what is now the municipality of Bayabas. Until her untimely death in the early 1980's, she remained fiercely proud of her Bol-anon heritage, maintained close contact and ties with relatives back in her native province and made it a point to regularly visit her birthplace whenever she could.

My Lola Dingding represented the best qualities of the Bol-anon. She was deeply religious yet her Catholicism transcended more than mere adherence and blind obedience to religious dogma. Her's was a faith that sprung naturally and instinctively from the heart and flowed out from a warm, generous and forgiving nature that saw giving aid and assistance in time of need to both acquaintances and strangers alike not as obligatory actions imposed by religion but as acts born of compassion and an unshakable belief in the fundamental goodness of all men.

She was also was extremely hardworking. Like most of the local Bol-anons, she opened a general merchandise store which she operated successfully for many years. She managed to do that while at the same time helping her husband manage their landholdings and raise six children, one of whom became my mother. She was also a major influence on the lives of her grandchildren and her extended family and in her later years became the matriarch of her own clan.

No small task for a frail-looking, soft spoken, extremely petite woman who, despite being less than five feet in height, possessed a driving, get-it-done personality that made her seem larger than life. She eventually lived to see her children and grandchildren thrive and prosper by following and sticking to the values of her Bol-anon upbringing. One son even became a prominent doctor and politician and ended up a congressman and provincial governor of her adopted province.

Looking back now I have realized that much of the personal qualities we have always been told by our elders as essential to success in life like thrift, religious faith, industry, love and devotion to family, generosity, honesty and personal integrity are the same qualities most Bol-anons as a people take to heart and place great premium on. This is the reason why most of them, wherever they go, whether here or anywhere else in the world, always do well and become esteemed and valued members of their adopted communities.

Part of me will always be Bol-anon because of Lola Dingding and that is something I will always be proud of. My memories of her are also warm memories redolent of the unforgettable impressions, smells, sounds and sights of the Bohol I had visited occasionally over the years and the magnificent people that inhabit that island province. Magnificent people whose subdued yet magnificent lives have touched the lives of so many others practically everywhere.

By the way, Jerry says he knows somebody surnamed Mercado in Lianga. He might be tickled pink to know that I do know the Mercado family and their family and ours have been friends for years.

It is wonderful and heartwarming to confirm once again an amazing yet undeniable fact, that for those who are Bol-anon in one way or the other, vast distances count for nothing and that it's indeed a small, small world out there.

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