IN PHOTOS: Bohol on film a month before Typhoon Odette

Juju Baluyot
IN PHOTOS: Bohol on film a month before Typhoon Odette
Check out these snaps of life in Bohol before disaster hit, taken with a Minolta Hi-Matic AF film camera

MANILA, Philippines – On December 16, Typhoon Odette (Rai) hit many parts of the Visayas and Mindanao, and Bohol recorded the most fatalities, 108, as of December 27. Many Bol-anons spent Christmas in their damaged homes – many roofless – while some no longer had any piece of their homes left at all.

For someone who left Bohol after a month-long temporary stay on the island, and just a few days before the typhoon hit, I feel both extremely grateful and sorry: grateful that I had missed Odette, sorry that I had left my neighbors and friends in Panglao to brave the hard blows. I know this may sound stupid, but I wished I could have been there to help Tita Tessie, who owned the store near the house I lived in; or Ate Mariebel, the barbecue vendor; or Nita, my neighbor who had a six-month-old baby. I cannot imagine their fright during that nightmare of a typhoon.

During my temporary stay in Bohol, I met some local village people in Loboc, too, who had shared with me that the last natural calamity to have damaged their town was in 2013, and that they had a hard time bouncing back. “We already lost our biggest income source – tourism – because of the pandemic. So now, we rely more on agriculture,” they told me in Filipino. “If another strong typhoon comes, our farms would be destroyed and we would lose our last few income sources already. We would be left with nothing.”

Little did we know that just a month after that conversation, Odette would strike their quiet town and the rest of the island with hard blows again.

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I now see a lot of photos showing the damaged Bohol. While I know that we need these to inform the world of the current situation there, these are not the sights that I want to remember of Bohol. Bohol does not deserve this. No place deserves this.

Luckily, I managed to take some snaps of life in Bohol using my film camera, a Minolta Hi-Matic AF, during my stay:

PLOW. Kap Jun, a village chieftain in Loboc, is also a farmer. He shared with me that since they lost their tourism income because of the pandemic, more locals went on to farming. Photo by Juju Baluyot.

BUS. Every time I rode these tiny, rickety buses, it seemed like I was the only non-local. I thought that most tourists there would rather ride a private service car because, honestly, they were more available than the public rides. If you wanted to ride a bus or a jeep, you would have to wait for around 30 minutes on the roadside. Photo by Juju Baluyot.

MY BOHOL. My view while in a Panglao-bound public jeepney in a terminal in Tagbilaran City: other passengers, mostly locals, patiently waiting to hear the jeep’s motor come to life already. Photo by Juju Baluyot.

CALF. Little boys are already groomed to become farmers. Here, Janjan is riding a calf heading to the nearby rice field. Photo by Juju Baluyot.

RIVER. For a long time, the Loboc River was one of the most popular tourist destinations in Bohol. During my visit, however, the boats were just parked on the side; Kap Jun also told me that some owners had sold their boats already. Photo by Juju Baluyot.

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RUSTY. All of the buses that I saw on the island looked like this: rickety and rusty. Nonetheless, I enjoyed riding these buses every time I needed to go to the bank in the city (around 20 kilometers away). These are cheaper, anyway. Photo by Juju Baluyot.

FIGHT. The local village people that I met in Loboc taught me the basics of cockfighting, too. I lost ₱200 in a bet, happily. Photo by Juju Baluyot.

ABOARD. Public transportation, particularly in Panglao, is not easily available, making them more expensive compared to those in other provinces I have gone to. An average tricycle ride may cost you from as low as ₱100 to as high as ₱300, depending of course on where you are going or how obvious it is that you are a tourist. Photo by Juju Baluyot.

HOME. My temporary ‘home’ for three days during my stay in Loboc. The owners were the ones who introduced me to Kap Jun and the local village people, most of whom were farmers. This showed me the Bol-anon trait of really giving praise and gratitude to the people who provide our food. Photo by Juju Baluyot.

CHAPEL. This chapel, according to the locals, used to be their evacuation center during the previous strong typhoons. But now, they said it could no longer be one because the area is easily flooded already. I wonder where they evacuated during Typhoon Odette’s wrath? Photo by Juju Baluyot.

It is so amazing that, in the Philippines, relief operations are quick to happen right after a typhoon. The Philippine Gift of Life Foundation, for instance, has already raised ₱767,927 as of December 28. They pack relief bags that contain rice, canned goods, noodles, and hygiene kits that have already been distributed to approximately more than 5,000 individuals from badly-hit towns like Loon, Calape, Getafe, Inabanga, San Miguel, and Talibon.

Interested donors may send their cash donations to Mara Ruiz (account name), 9479185678 (account number, BPI) as they plan to reach more towns in the coming weeks. –