I’m not originally from Bohol – it’s my wife’s family on her mother’s side, the Falcons, who are from Tubigon, on the province’s western coast. In 2005, Amel and I wanted to eliminate the stress and pollution from the lives of our four children, Angin, Araw and the twins Ulap and Ulan. I guess we made the right choice: Within an hour of arriving in Bohol that year, Araw’s perennially clogged nose cleared up. Our youngest son, Langit, was later born in Tagbilaran. Now he’s 12, and the twins are 20.
What I love about this place are the peace and quiet, the views, the sea, the hills and the soothing sounds of birds and crickets. The sky here is a distinct shade of blue, the sunsets are always beautiful, the sea is calm – you’d need a typhoon to get surfing grade waves here.
I went to the Philippine High School for the Arts in Mount Makiling, Laguna, and studied fine arts at the University of the Philippines, where I met my wife.
After I graduated, a friend invited me to join Ilustrador Ng Kabataan, a group of children’s book illustrators, and that’s how my career started. I got into illustrating for children, and later I began designing books. It was for Lory Tan and his family’s publishing company, Bookmark, that I designed my first book from cover to cover, a twin set of Soledad Lacson-Locsin’s translations of national hero José Rizal’s novels – Noli Me Tángere and El Filibusterismo. I’ve worked on about 120 books since then, some of which have been recognized by the National Book Development Board and the Manila Critics Circle, among others.
The move to Tagbilaran has been good for us all. My kids watched me make art as they grew up, so they are all artists now as well. Although our pace of life remains fast sometimes because I’m still tied to my work in Manila – I fly there once a month to meet with clients and printers – there’s still time for my family. In the last two years, I’ve also gone around the country to teach public school teachers and young people about book design and illustration.
Recently, I’ve been working on oil-and-canvas paintings inspired by Philippine history. I’m preparing for a group show this year and an eventual solo show next year at the Eskinita Art Farm in Tanauan, Batangas.
In my spare time, I like to cycle. Before things got so busy, I used to bike around the island for hours, along the coast or up the hills to find a place to rest, meditate and soak in nature. People still come to Bohol for its natural beauty, and the attractions are close to each other, so you can do a lot in one day. Bohol is economically smaller than its neighboring provinces, so there’s less business – but there are always new restaurants, buildings and malls.
We were pretty shaken by the 7.2-magnitude earthquake of 2013 that damaged many old churches, most of which have been restored. Except for a few houses and the ruins of old bridges, there’s little evidence of the destruction left. To us, there’s no place like Bohol. Even on our occasional vacations in Manila, we look forward to returning home – when it’s time to leave (and even if they had fun during their trip), my children always say, “At last, we’re going back to the green.”
I start the day with an early breakfast at Tamper Coffee & Brunch, where I bring some work to do. The coffee is good, and the servings are hearty enough for two people – my wife, Amel, and I can split the tocino (sweet cured pork, a popular Filipino breakfast dish), which comes with two eggs and a lot of rice. P Del Rosario St corner Carlos P Garcia East Ave, Poblacion, Tagbilaran
Next, I visit the Philippine Tarsier and Wildlife Sanctuary in the nearby municipality of Corella. This is not a touristy operation; it’s run by the Philippine Tarsier Foundation, Inc, and the animals can be observed in their natural habitat. There’s over a hundred of them in this area spanning 167 hectares. It’s low-impact, and very respectful of this little primate species that has made Bohol famous. Tarsier Sanctuary Rd, Corella
I drop in at the National Museum Bohol, housed in a historic building constructed in 1860 that used to be the Provincial Capitol, and was damaged in the October 2013 earthquake. It was restored and reopened in 2018, and now includes exhibitions on the reconstruction work that has been done on Bohol’s historic properties. Carlos P Garcia Ave, Tagbilaran email@example.com