In a close encounter with the smallest monkey in the world, one of Bohol’s attractions, you feel like you see forever in its round, penetrating eyes
Say hello, not goodbye, to the tarsier
FUNFARE - Ricky Lo (The Philippine Star) - June 23, 2020 - 12:00am

I see the whole world in the eyes of the tarsier, so round and so penetrating with a certain sadness in it, and a hint of urgency that if you as much as try to touch it, the cute creature will vanish into thin air. Those eyes speak volumes. They seem to reflect the indecipherable state of the world. You can see forever in those eyes.

I don’t know about other people but that’s how I feel every time I come close to the tarsier, the first time was years ago and the last was in October last year when my close Boholano friends Boy Echavez and Raoul Tidalgo invited me to an energy-recharging weekend in Tagbilaran City. I guess you, too, will be sad to learn that the tarsier is in danger of extinction like the Tamaraw and the Philippine Eagle. Thankfully, funds are in order for their preservation.

Dinner with (back row, from left) Ivy Castillion, Flaesmann, Raoul Tidalgo, Melody Kampton and Your Funfarer; and seated (also from left) Balilihan town Mayor Pureza Veloso-Chatto and husband Bohol Rep. Edgar Chatto and Boy Echavez.

“The tarsiers are taken care of by a foundation at a conservation center,” Bohol Rep. Edgar Chatto previously told us over dinner at the sprawling Sunside Resort owned and managed by Peter Flaeshmann, a German retiree who has chosen Bohol as his home. “Of course, Bohol has more to offer tourists and not just the tarsier.” (Trivia: The Philippine tarsier is the smallest monkey in the world, found only in Bohol.)

Well, there are the Chocolate Hills, the many old churches (some still bear traces of the big earthquake that hit the province in 2013), the Loboc River Cruise, the Bee Farm owned and run by Vicky Wallace, and many others.

And there are the beaches, one of which is Alona Beach named after the late Alona Alegre. According to the story, years ago, Fernando Poe Jr. filmed several scenes of his starrer Esteban on a beach with no name but famous for its white sands even if there were no hotels around it. When people trooped to watch the shoot and asked where they were going, they would answer, “Doon sa beach para tingnan si Alona.” The name stuck and the place became known as Alona Beach. (Suggestion: In honor of the dear departed actress, the owner should have an Alona Alegre statuette and place it at the entrance to welcome guests.).

Seaside Resort owner Peter Flaeshmann, a German retiree who fell in love with Bohol.
Photos by Ricky Lo

If and when the government eases protocols and resumes domestic tourism (said to be the Department of Tourism’s priority), Bohol will surely be at the top of the local destinations.

Rep. Chatto is upbeat about the prospects especially after the opening in mid-2019 of the new airport in Panglao that is comparable to other international airports.

“It has opened a great opportunity of bringing in more tourists,” assured Chatto. “The new airport has a 2.5-kilometer runway compared to 1.7 in the old airport.”

Bohol is a favorite location for filmmaking. Aside from FPJ’s Esteban, the movie titled Lagablab sa Maribojoc was also shot in the province. Director Maryo J. delos Reyes (who owned a vacation house in Tagbi) filmed a movie there, and so did Bohol native Cesar Montano (Panaghoy sa Suba, which he produced, directed and starred in). Marilou Diaz-Abaya also tapped Bohol as set for her movie Muro-Ami starring Cesar with a newbie named Rebecca Lusterio, an island girl selling seashells discovered on the set (who went on to win a Best Supporting actress award).

“We will continue to boost Bohol as a filmmaking destination,” added Chatto (who might enter into a filmmaking partnership with the Film Development Council of the Philippines/FDCP).

Tagbi also boasts of restaurants that offer all kinds of cuisine (name it, they have it), including Lantaw restaurant owned and managed by Bohol Chronicle publisher Peter Dejaresco who hosted lunch for our group. That’s where we bumped into Sonia Malasarte-Roco who told us that she’s originally from Bohol.

Bohol Chronicle publisher Peter Dejaresco with Sonia Malasarte-Roco at his own Lantaw restaurant.

And did you know that Bohol is the favorite retirement place for foreigners, one of them the earlier mentioned Peter Flaeshmann, who stayed in Bohol for good after taking a vacation and fell in love with the place? Flaeshmann, 58, is a “lucky divorcee” (his words, with no children) who has found a new love in a pretty Boholana who helps him run the Seaside Resort that occupies a 6,000-square-meter lot housing (aside from a restaurant) a conference hall and 32 studio rooms).

“I love this place,” said Flaeshmann. “I’m here to stay.”

Anyway, when you happen to be in Tagbi, don’t forget to say hello, not goodbye, to the tarsier.

(E-mail reactions at rickylophilstar@gmail.com. For more updates, photos and videos, visit www.philstar.com/funfare or follow me on Instagram @therealrickylo.)

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