A Series of Fortunate Events

Boljoon, Cebu, the Philippines

March 5, 2011

On the Banks of Boljoon

Who needs plans when you can have surprises?

With no agenda for the afternoon in Cebu City, road trip buddy Ki and I decide to hop on a southbound Ceres bus. As is my wont, I get a shuteye as the bus cruises out of the city. I open my eyes momentarily, barely catching a glimpse of the famous Carcar rotunda. Hours later, I fully awaken to the enchanting blue of Bohol Strait glistening in the sunlight. The bus is now tracing the coastline of Cebu Island. But we can see the end of the sunny afternoon further south. A compact column of clouds blurs the horizon. It is dumping rain on Bohol, the island next door.

The highway gradually zigzags. One side shows the expanse of water lapping the shore, the other the jagged wall of limestone cliffs. Hard to believe that the gentle kisses of the sea have sculpted the rocky mountainside into a looming fortress. As the bus negotiates the last hairpin turn, the graceful outline of a cove emerges dramatically. It is a crescent-shaped cove embraced by the panorama of the postcard pretty town of Boljoon.

Ceres to Boljoon
Boljoon in the Rain
Brooding in Boljoon (Photography by Ki)

The bus deposits us in front of the church. Within minutes, the distant rain, the blur over Bohol we saw moments ago, suddenly closes in. A volley of raindrops envelops the town with a delicate mantle of haze. The column of clouds is now upon us. We scamper to the rectory beside the church for shelter.

We only have this afternoon to see Boljoon and we are presently shanghaied by the rain. But in this generally arid island, rain is a blessing, not an unnecessary inconvenience. True enough, the rain brings in the true son of Boljoon through the door. Lindzey Romero in his yellow t-shirt rushes in like a burst of sunshine through the clouds.

Lindzey A. Romero, President of Boljoon Heritage Foundation, Inc.
Ki and Lindzey

Lindzey talks about his hometown passionately. I’m curious how Boljoon (pronounced bol-ho-on) got its cute name. He says the name is derived from the Cebuano word bulho, which he says has two meanings. The dual definition corresponds to two natural features of the town.

First, it may mean a “rocky bluff,” a steep cliff jutting out to sea. This promontory called Ili Rock conceals the cove from the open sea like a natural fortress. Curiously, other sources give an opposite meaning of the word: the depression around the headland. It is said that during pre-colonial times, a tribal community sought refuge in this rugged terrain from marauding Moros from the south.

Lindzey animatedly demonstrates the wide-eyed, mouth-agape expression of surprise after one wheels around Ili Rock and unexpectedly discovers this hidden cove. Bulho, he says, may even describe this sudden turn. It’s an I-know-right moment; it happened exactly that way on the Ceres bus.

Ili Rock in Boljoon
Ili and Me

Second,  it could mean “springs of water.” This narrow concave strip between steep mountains and the crystal sea is blessed with numerous water spouts. Life-giving fresh water has been gushing out of the ground for centuries here. No wonder a pre-historic community, its remains still in the process of archaeological excavation, and a colonial-era Spanish settlement thrived in this cove.

As we explore the town after the rain, Ki and I bump into one such spring, called Baño sa Poblacion. It is a source of potable water, but nowadays townspeople use it mainly as a kind of laundrette. It is now paved and marked with a sign. The water from underground is refreshingly cold, probably because Cebu is not a volcanic island. A woman washing her laundry graciously allows us to take photos of what is probably her mundane daily routine.

Baño sa Poblacion
Sunny Boljoon after the Rain
Boljoon Boat (Photography by Ki)

It is this series of surprises that makes our fortuitous trip to Boljoon a happy accident. The view from the bend in Ili Rock, the rain that sets an impromptu parley with Lindzey, the stroll that leads us to a spring – all these surprising turns of events (bulho, if you will) make for a wonderful afternoon in Boljoon.

54 thoughts on “A Series of Fortunate Events

  1. I had such a stellar comment in mind when i clicked on this. Then someone told me “It took me seconds to love you” and that kind of blew everything away.

    I’m sorry 🙂

  2. I’m guessing, that’s my event for now. By the way you look great in the pic, so does your friend 🙂

    The island is very reminiscent of a greener Uluru in Aussie, I’ve never been but it reminded me of the shape.

    Cute capture too of the local scene in the Bano 😛

    1. …but it took you years to forget, Pandelicious? 🙂

      I imagine Uluru to be a lot bigger than Ili, but what do I know – haven’t been Down Under. But yeah, they’re the same shape.

      Hey, my friend would be tickled pink to read your compliment. Haha!

    1. Thanks Jim and Claire! Oh, not just on the way, Claire. Boljoon itself is postcard cuteness. I just couldn’t capture the enchanting view, given my limited photographic skills. It should look a lot better in your shots. Take a break from your beach-bumming and go town-traipsing. 🙂

  3. I’m glad that you planned that day without a plan. Surprises are the treasure of a spot-on traveller. This place looks quite beautiful and the myriad of colours is just wonderful. Population seems quite sparse in your place. In India, there are people everywhere, you know. It is quite exasperating. Have you ever been to India, Age?

    And the guy in that yellow tee has the most amazing smile 🙂

    Joy always,

    1. Actually our population is just a few babies away from 100 million. For a small archipelago, that’s like sardines packed in a small can. But as in any developing country, a big slice of the population is crammed in urban areas. I suppose Manila can be like any Indian megapolis.

      India is in my bucket list! I’ll get there soon. I can feel it in my bones. 🙂

      Which leads me to Lindzey, the heartthrob in this post. Suffice it to say that that’s the smile of Filipino hospitality. 🙂


  4. It looks like such a beautiful town! I love the meaning of the name. It is always interesting how a town got it´s name. You guys are so lucky to be visiting all these beaches. Now I really, really miss the ocean and all its beauty!

    1. True, place name etymology can provide context to one’s travel experience. Now I wonder how Argentina got its name.

    1. And just like that, I feel that my efforts have paid off. I have the same sentiments looking at your photos, Ian.

    1. Do visit this lovely little town with a long history. Oh, and I hope I can have your eye for photography! When I go sightseeing, I just see a view but you see art. Mutual admiration club na ito. 🙂

  5. very nice post and I agree with Gael, theres something about the way you write 🙂

    Ok talaga minsan pg-un-planned ang lakad 🙂

  6. One more place in Cebu added to my list. The last time I went to Cebu, I got to explore Carcar. Other than that, while I frequent Cebu, I’ve never really been outside Metro Cebu.

    Oh and I like your baseball shirt! 🙂

    1. Lloydie, there’s so much more to Cebu than the city. Carcar was a good start. Further south is Boljoon. Visit next time.

      And thanks for the shirt love, but it’s not a baseball shirt. Just a Penshoppe shirt worth P400. 🙂

  7. I love the rock near the church! You can really tell that you’re already in Boljoon because of that.

    We had a field trip during college for our Hist17 subject and the church was our last stop. My classmate and I wanted to take a dip in the water but I didn’t bring extra clothes. I tried my best to look for an ‘ukay2x’ shop just so I could jump in the sea. Unfortunately I was unsuccessful after searching through a couple of houses. I scrapped the idea altogether as jumping in the water in underpants would’ve gotten too much attention from our classmates. And we’d end up uncomfortable during the ride back to the city; unless I could’ve gone commando. haha

    1. Wow, how long ago was that? Maybe it was just the season kasi there was hardly a beach to speak of. Puno ng algae-laden rocks.

      Sarap naman ng History class nyo. May field trip! Oh, and yeah, good thinking – kung nag-swimming ka in your briefs, you’d be the talk of your class for all college reunions to come. Haha!

      Anyway, you should’ve gone to the palengke. Meron naman dry goods section. I bought a cap there kasi after umulan, sobrang maaraw naman.

    1. Let fate be your tour guide. 🙂 Cebu lends itself to this sort of unplanned traveling cuz the island is longish – not too complicated to go around in.

    1. I’m amazed how Boljoon has been off the beaten path for so long, even for Cebuanos. It’s so quaint and lovely – certainly one of my favorite little towns. I even have a song for it: “O little town of Boljoon, how still we see thee lie….” 😀

  8. thanks to this post … now i know the proper pronounciation of BOJOON .. i was reading it J as J .. Bo-joon .. lol .. and thats how a friend pronounce it when she was telling me about the place .. lol .. ok added to my next trip to cebu (out of the city series) .. 🙂

    1. I know – Bol-joon sounds cuter than Bol-ho-on. I also call it Bol-joon as a term of endearment. 🙂 But the town is even cuter than its name. Don’t miss it next time you’re in Cebu!

  9. Cebu are blessed with so many beautiful places and I’m sure this is one of it. I would like to see this place also maybe drop by next year after my Bacolod trip. Thanks for sharing =)

  10. Lindzey seems to be an odd name for a guy. Anyway, I read it as Bol-JUNE and I thought that it was some island in Korea, if not for the word “Cebu” next to it. Lol! I particularly like the bus shot, it’s very nice.

  11. it’s looks a very interesting palce to visit.. really… because I must admit it, if serenity is what I am looking for, there are so many places Philippines offers…

  12. I been to Cebu a couple of times but have not really explored it much outside the City Limits. Boljoon seems to be a nice place to go. I love beaches/coves with hilly or mountainous surrondings. It makes it more scenic!

  13. i just recently passed by the area … opppsss always passing by the area whenever i visit cebu … what on earth i haven’t got the time to drop for a moment in this place… thanks for sharing ..

  14. Hehe.. The name seems peculiar as it is found sa Philippines, but still, the meaning behind the word still gets the first impression.

    And, seeing the beauty of the area, it seems that it deserves its strange but meaningful and nice name. 😀

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