Tuesday, October 15, 2013


The world continues to be our teacher even while we are back in the United States.  Yesterday, the Philippines were struck with a destructive and devastating 7.2 earthquake.  The epicenter was on a small island we visited last June.  Bohol Island is a place well known for its cute Yoda like tarsier primates and “Chocolate Hills” landscapes.  While we appreciated the natural diversity and the landscapes, it was the people who moved our hearts and won our affection.  We stayed for almost a week at the family owned, small Loboc River Resort.  Some of our favorite experiences with locals emerged from that time.  Rather than adhere to all of the normal tourist trails, we spent time walking through small villages along the gorgeous green river and attending the local band and choir practices.  As we walked, locals would come out of houses to wave at us, greet us, and laugh with us, not at us, at the sight of two tourists walking the back roads rarely traveled.

The people there were generous beyond our greatest hopes, welcoming us into their lives.  We learned how prominent community members mortgaged their businesses to send the choir kids to international competitions and buy instruments for the now internationally recognized youth band.  Filipinos like Zynn and her family believed in investing in the youth of their community as well as opening an ecotourist resort and providing jobs for local villagers.  They were thoughtful about sustainability as they carefully negotiated the challenges and benefits of tourism.  The place was so special we suggested it to our favorite Canadian traveling family, and they arrived there yesterday……just in time for the earthquake.

The resort was heavily damaged.  The heart of the small town was ripped out as their incredible 400 year old Catholic church constructed of local fossilized coral blocks came tumbling down.  People died as structures, including hospitals, crumbled.  The roads buckled and bridges shattered.  The island is so isolated that ferries and planes could not initially reach those in need due to the catastrophic damage.  Fortunately, our Canadian friends and the people we met survived.  But everything is forever changed.  The very businesses put up for collateral to fund the opportunities for their local youth are those no longer standing.  We have no idea what happens next.  The entire island was “shutdown.”

Disasters are always more personal when we are familiar with a place and the people who are in the middle of the event.  For us, not only is that true, but we are abashed as we consider critical needs in the world while observing the current political insanity of our own countrymen and women.  We watch our political leaders reenact the high school game of “chicken” on a global scale.  They are oblivious, or so it seems, to the danger and devastation of “shutdown.”    In a world trying to stabilize its economic future, where individuals such as those on the IslSand of Bohol are trying to realize small gains in the quality of life for their children, our political immaturity is frightening.  Travel is enriching, but it is also sobering.   If one message was driven home every day, it was the reality of how disparate opportunities for advancement and an improved life are based on the one simple fact of where a person is born.  We have so much individual and collective potential in this nation, yet we cannot help wonder how historians will view the fall 2013.  We suspect that historians will recognize that the humility, resilience, and generosity of the Filipino people helped them recover from a tragic and unavoidable natural disaster as they sought to “re-open” their community and economy.  We cannot help but wonder what historians will say about what the people of the United States wrought upon themselves despite our enormous privilege and potential. 
Images are of a talented young man playing for us from the Loboc Youth Band, the now destroyed Loboc River Resort, and the 17 Century Loboc church before and after the quake.  Posted in Gunnison, Colorado.

For those wanting to assist the Filipinos as they recover from this tragedy, we encourage three things.  First, consider  donation to the Red Cross in the Philippines.  Second, consider going to the  Visayas Islands, including a visit to Bohol Island, on a future vacation.  Tourism is their life blood and they will need your resources to recover.  Finally, when they rebuild the Loboc River Resort, and they will, consider staying with the special family described in the post.  You can read about their progress at http://www.lobocriverresort.com/

1 comment:

  1. Dear Jess and Sally, Both "shutdowns" are heartbreaking. Thank you for your empathic account of your visit and the aftermath of the earthquake. Our country needs an "earthquake" of another sort: one to awaken the "adolescent" and self-serving politicians who are destroying our democracy. I follow your travels and your blog with great interest, humility, and admiration.