The lead star of the Visayan-language film Panaghoy sa Suba (The Call of the River) got me at the opening credits. With apologies to actor-director Cesar Montano, the languid Loboc River stole every scene it was in. But before the film’s release at the end of 2004, I had already seen its titular star up close and personal during a trip to Bohol.
What’s a cross between a marmoset (a furry monkey so tiny it can fit in the cup of your hand) and a gremlin (that 80’s movie critter with huge protruding eyes, long bony fingers, pointy ears, and upturned lips)? Throw in a good measure of Yoda and you’ve got the cute mascot of the province of Bohol – the tarsier.
The tarsier, endemic to Bohol and its neighboring islands in the Philippines, is among the smallest primates in the world. It is known to do a Linda Blair in The Exorcist – a 360-degree head rotation, minus the vomit. Like a gremlin, it is nocturnal and highly sensitive to light. Exposure to the noontime sun can be fatal. But unlike a gremlin that multiplies asexually when wet, the tarsier is very fragile. Exposed in the open during a thunderstorm without any leaf cover, the tarsier can die from pellets of raindrops.