IF not for the pandemic, Bohol should have been sinking this month.
It is jokingly said Bohol is “sinking” during May because the population of the island during this month is multiplied twice, thrice, or even four times.
Known as a reverse exodus or “balikbarrios”, once the first of May strikes, people from abroad, from Manila, and even nearby provinces begin flocking back to their small barrios of Bohol.
It was fiesta time twenty-five years ago, or May 1996, when I first visited my family’s hometown in Matabao, Tubigon in Bohol.
Like in other Philippine provinces, a fiesta is a hallmark of Bohol.
The word fiesta is a Spanish term for the festivity to honor their patron saints, a telltale sign that the celebration was heavily influenced by the Spaniards as a Catholic country.
The dates of fiestas in Bohol vary from town to town yet most of the feast days fall on the month of May, earning it the name the “Fiesta Month”.
Characterized by an abundance of food and merriment, not a single day will pass without a fiesta somewhere on the island.
Visitors can enjoy the month-long revelry by hopping from town to town and to the barangays and participate in religious processions, live brass bands, street dancing, and fireworks.
It is that time of the year when old folks seem to have mastered the art of putting out most of their earnings for the year.
“Nagpapasalamat kami sa Ginoo kay sa panahon sa pista nagkakita ang tanan mga kaigsoonan ug kaparetehan,” elders will say in the Visayan vernacular, meaning that they are thankful to God that close family ties remain in the island of Bohol as each town still has its way of attracting people to go home to celebrate the fiesta season.
There are some who say that the bigger number of balikbarrios is considered as an indication that more are becoming well-off.
The larger the arrival means that more have been able to save money for their vacation.
Joining the procession in honor of the barrio’s patron saint is to fulfill their promise of thanking him for bringing them back to where they really came from.
For three consecutive nights, the plaza is usually converted into an entertainment area primarily aimed to raise funds for development projects.
In 1996, I witnessed one evening where middle-aged women held plastic cups for the ap dance, a ballroom dancing event wherein the woman who accumulates the largest amount of money in her cup from those eager to dance will be declared the “queen of the night.”
Fiesta proper is a whole day of house-hopping for eating, drinking, and dancing the ap in each residence as rice cakes, kinilaw na pusit and fish, ube and many local delicacies are laid on the table.
Every home becomes an “open house” for everyone as there is no need for an invitation. One can just grab his plate and join the guests.
A day after the celebration, the balikbarrios normally proceed to explore the more exciting side of Bohol.
The Gorecho clan is blessed to hail from a province known for its famous icons – Chocolate Hills, the amusing tarsiers, the amazing beaches of Panglao island, the sumptuous lunch along Loboc River, and the dolphins of Balicasag, Pamalican, and Cabilao islands..
The province prides itself on its beach resorts, a brochure even stressed that “all of them are gorgeous.” It has 151 kilometers of coastline skimmed by lovely coves and clean white sand beaches.
With an aggregate land area of 4,117.3 square kilometers, the terrain of Bohol is rolling and hilly as the island’s interior is generally flat although it is dotted by 1,268 mounds of the same shape – popularly known as the Chocolate Hills – throughout the towns of Carmen, Batuan and Sagbayan.
My surname is “GORECHO”, a clan that originated from Barrio Matabao in Tubigon, Bohol. However, I was not born nor raised in the province.
A surname that is not found in the Claveria Decree (Catalogo Alfabetico de Apellidos) when “Indios” were forced to change the surnames during the Spanish era as a means of population control, or a zoning scheme to determine your place of origin.
It is perhaps a Spanish surname from the rebel tribe moors of Galicia, Spain.
I am currently doing extensive research on the Gorecho family tree.
At present, I already traced eight generations that originated from the matrimonial bondage of Isidro Gorecho and Tomasa Cristobal.
It’s interesting to note that surnames seem to re-appear in other lines signifying intermarriage between not-so-distant relatives, a typical occurrence in the provincial setup.
The pandemic may have muted the pageantry, but Boholanos are hoping that the island will sink again next year.
Kule is the monicker of Philippine Collegian, the official student publication of UP Diliman. Atty. Dennis R. Gorecho heads the seafarers’ division of the Sapalo Velez Bundang Bulilan law offices. For comments, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 09175025808 or 09088665786