With whale sharks. Oslob, Cebu. 23 August 2015 Photo: Fr. JBoy Ginzales SJ

In Oslob, it’s either depth or height, or maybe both.

The prospect of swimming with the butandings or whale sharks excites me. Nothing can beat being one with the huge and gentle sharks that do not include us in their diet. Whale sharks are large fishes that grow around 40 feet, weigh approximately 20 tons, and has a life span of a hundred years.

I have had a fear of sharks in the past, and I still can feel a little bit of that every time I plunge into deep water. After all, it was during my childhood in 1975 that the first movie, Jaws, was released, and the scenes were terrifying — like that of the head of a shark victim in a hole at the bottom of a boat (only to discover in media lessons that Steven Spielberg filmed it in a swimming pool).

But nothing of that sort happened.

With the Escarezes and the Ateneo High School’s delegates to the Psychological Association of the Philippines (PAP) convention, we are picked up at 4 AM in Cebu City, and travel south for approximately two hours and a half. The van is spacious and we are  able to catch on sleep before our date with the butandings.

During the trip, I have to request the driver to stop for a few minutes to take some photographs as the early morning sun rises to illuminate seascapes, towns, churches and vignettes of early Sunday activities. Here are some of the photos.

Trees and foliage frame the rising sun on our trip to Northern Cebu. 23 August 2015. Photo: Fr. Jboy Gonzales SJ

Trees and foliage frame the rising sun on our trip to Southern Cebu. 23 August 2015. Photo: Fr. Jboy Gonzales SJ

Boljoon, Cebu.

The municipal town of Boljoon, Cebu. 23 August 2015. Photo: Fr. Jboy Gonzales SJ

The municipal town of Boljoon, Cebu. 23 August 2015. Photo: Fr. Jboy Gonzales SJ

Early morning in Boljoon, Cebu. Photo: Fr. JBoy Gonzales SJ

Early morning in Boljoon, Cebu. Photo: Fr. JBoy Gonzales SJ

The Nuestra Señora del Patrocinio de Maria Parish Church (Our Lady of Patronage of Mary Parish Church), commonly known as Boljoon Church, has been declared a National Cultural Treasure by the National Museum of the Philippines and a National Historical Landmark by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines. It is also under consideration for the UNESCO World Heritage Sites of the Philippines as a member of the Baroque Churches of the Philippines . I am very glad that I stopped to take these photos; I hope to return soon for an in-depth discovery.

The old Catholic Church of Boljoon, Cebu. 23 August 2015. Photo: Fr. JBoy Gonzales SJ

The old Catholic Church of Boljoon, Cebu. 23 August 2015. Photo: Fr. JBoy Gonzales SJ

A 6AM Sunday mass, Boljoon, Cebu. Photo: Fr. Jboy Gonzales SJ

A 6 AM Sunday mass, Boljoon, Cebu. Photo: Fr. Jboy Gonzales SJ

Boljoon, Cebu

Church grounds are good to absorb some Vitamin D. Photo: Fr. Jboy Gonzales SJ

Four young boys sit on a bench on an early Sunday at their old church. Boljoon, Cebu. Photo: Fr. Jboy Gonzales SJ

Four boys sit on a bench on an early Sunday. Boljoon, Cebu. Photo: Fr. Jboy Gonzales SJ

Escuela Catolica. The sign tells us that this was an old Catholic school in the municipality of Boljoon, Cebu. Photo: Fr. Jboy Gonzales SJ

Escuela Catolica. The sign tells us that this is an old Catholic school in the municipality of Boljoon, Cebu. Photo: Fr. Jboy Gonzales SJ

A motorist passes by the Jose Rizal Monument of the Municipality of Boljoon, Cebu. 23 August 2015. Photo: Fr. JBoy Gonzales SJ

A motorist passes by the Jose Rizal Monument of the Municipality of Boljoon, Cebu. 23 August 2015. Photo: Fr. JBoy Gonzales SJ

The arc of an angel at the church entrance welcomes the morning sun rising from the sea. Boljoon, Cebu. Photo: Fr. Jboy Gonzales SJ

The arc of an angel at the church entrance welcomes the morning sun rising from the sea. Boljoon, Cebu. Photo: Fr. Jboy Gonzales SJ

1. Depth

We arrive at a quarter before 7 at a little beach resort in Tan-awan, Oslob, Cebu. Mau, our guide, is very gracious. She speaks fluent English and Visayan, but struggles a little bit with Filipino (understandably so, because Visayans have a historical aversion to Tagalog). On a table prepared for us, we are served a local breakfast of glutinous rice and slices of a whole mango, with a choice of coffee or native tablea chocolate. Once ready, we move  towards the briefing center which is already filled with tourists. I learn that whale watching activities begins at six in the morning.

At Tan-awan, Oslob, we were given an orientation at the Briefing Center before we visit the whale sharks. 23 August 2015. Photo: Fr. Jboy Gonzales SJ

At Tan-awan, Oslob, we are given an orientation at the Briefing Center before visiting the whale sharks. 23 August 2015. Photo: Fr. Jboy Gonzales SJ – That’s me fixing my aqua shoes.

These are the things I remember from the orientation:

1. The distance between you and the whale shark should not be less than 4 meters.
2. You should not wear any sun protection or lotion because it will contaminate the water. They will ask you to take a shower to remove any lotion. My advice is this: just take a brief shower whether to remove lotion and/or to acclimatise.
3. Life vests are mandatory.
4. Do not be scared if the whale shark swims toward you; just let them pass.
5. For those in boats, whale shark watching is limited to 30 minutes only.
6. Do not use your flash in taking pictures; whale sharks are sensitive to light. However, if you want your experience to be photographed or videoed, and you do not have an underwater camera, you can request the guides to take them for a fee. Our photos below have been taken by palmesito@gmail.com.

Nina, Tes, Pinky, and Paul opted to watch the butanding in the boat, while the rest of us went in the water. Oslob, Cebu. 23 August 2015. Photo: Fr. Jboy Gonzales SJ

Nina, Tes, Pinky, and Paul opted to watch the butandings in the boat, while the rest of us went into the water. Oslob, Cebu. 23 August 2015.

With numerous boats bringing you to a comfortable distance from where the butandings are, you will quickly find yourself in open sea. Check these photos.

With whale sharks. Oslob, Cebu. 23 August 2015 Photo: Fr. JBoy Ginzales SJ

With whale sharks. Oslob, Cebu. 23 August 2015

Whale sharks up close. Oslob, Cebu. 23 August 2015 Photo: Fr. JBoy Ginzales SJ

Whale sharks up close. Oslob, Cebu. 23 August 2015

A whale sharks moves graciously away. Oslob, Cebu. 23 August 2015 Photo: Fr. JBoy Ginzales SJ

A whale shark moves graciously away from me. Oslob, Cebu. 23 August 2015

Oslob, Cebu. Aaron Escarez enjoys being with a whale shark - in his father's shoes. 23 August 2015

Oslob, Cebu. Aaron Escarez enjoys being with a whale shark – in his father’s shoes. 23 August 2015

2. Height

After a sumptuous lunch of spicy native chicken soup, grilled fish and pork belly at the beach resort, we head towards Tumalog Waterfalls. A steep incline down to the foot of the falls is navigable by motorcycle or by foot. A motorcycle ride to and from the falls costs Php 50.00. Since it is advisable that you pay them upon return, the drivers will teach you how to identify your ride once you’re done enjoying the falls – they have on their shirts numbers as huge as those of basketball jerseys. Mine is 63.

Vendors sell their goodies at the entrance to Tumalog Falls. Oslob, Cebu. 23 August 2015 Photo: Fr. Jboy Gonzales SJ

Vendors sell their goodies at the entrance to Tumalog Falls. Oslob, Cebu. 23 August 2015 Photo: Fr. Jboy Gonzales SJ

Motorcycles with the drivers could bring you to Tumalog Falls for a fee. Oslob, Cebu. 23 August 2015 Photo: Fr. Jboy Gonzales SJ

Drivers of these “habal-habal” could bring you to Tumalog Falls quickly for a fee. Oslob, Cebu. 23 August 2015 Photo: Fr. Jboy Gonzales SJ

Once you are close to the area, Mother Nature will alert your senses. You will see lush bamboos and greenery framing the falls. You will hear the soothing sound of water dropping to its basin. You will feel the spray moisturizing your skin. Every single thing is wet (and so, waterproof your things).

Mist from Tumalog Falls. Oslob, Cebu. 23 August 2015 Photo: Fr. Jboy Gonzales SJ

Mist from Tumalog Falls. Oslob, Cebu. 23 August 2015 Photo: Fr. Jboy Gonzales SJ

The beauty of Tumalog Falls lies in its diaphanous curtain covering a very wide cliff. Tumalog is unique — water drops like rain on moss-covered stones. Tumalog Falls is a “horsetail waterfall” because its waters are closely in contact with the rocks; its waters do not plunge into its basin. Here are the pictures.

The sun strikes the waters of Tumalog Falls. Oslob, Cebu. 23 August 2015 Photo: Fr. Jboy Gonzales SJ

The sun strikes the waters of Tumalog Falls. Oslob, Cebu. 23 August 2015 Photo: Fr. Jboy Gonzales SJ

Tumalog Falls. Oslob, Cebu. 23 August 2015 Photo: Fr. Jboy Gonzales SJ

Tumalog Falls. Oslob, Cebu. 23 August 2015 Photo: Fr. Jboy Gonzales SJ

A couple descends the rocks of Tumalog Falls. Oslob, Cebu. 23 August 2015 Photo: Fr. Jboy Gonzales SJ

A couple descends the rocks of Tumalog Falls. Oslob, Cebu. 23 August 2015 Photo: Fr. Jboy Gonzales SJ

Tumalog Falls at noon. Oslob, Cebu. 23 August 2015 Photo: Fr. Jboy Gonzales SJ

Tumalog Falls at noon. Oslob, Cebu. 23 August 2015 Photo: Fr. Jboy Gonzales SJ

Nina, Faith and Trins of the Ateneo High School at Tumalog Falls. Oslob, Cebu. 23 August 2015 Photo: Fr. Jboy Gonzales SJ

Nina, Faith and Trins of the Ateneo High School at Tumalog Falls. Oslob, Cebu. 23 August 2015 Photo: Fr. Jboy Gonzales SJ

Water cascades over rocks at Tumalog Falls. Oslob, Cebu. 23 August 2015 Photo: Fr. Jboy Gonzales SJ

Water cascades over moss-covered rocks at Tumalog Falls. Oslob, Cebu. 23 August 2015 Photo: Fr. Jboy Gonzales SJ

Kids swim and play in the shallow basin of Tumalog Falls. 23 August 2015

Kids swim and play in the shallow basin of Tumalog Falls. 23 August 2015

At the end of your trip, you can buy some fresh coconuts from vendors like this mother who also sells some softdrinks and Filipino merienda.

A mother who sells young coconuts to tourists. Oslob, Cebu. 23 August 2015 Photo: Fr. Jboy Gonzales SJ

A mother who sells young coconuts to tourists. Oslob, Cebu. 23 August 2015 Photo: Fr. Jboy Gonzales SJ

Softdrinks and Filipino snacks like turon are displayed for tourists. Oslob, Cebu. 23 August 2015 Photo: Fr. Jboy Gonzales SJ

Softdrinks and Filipino snacks like turon are displayed for tourists. Oslob, Cebu. 23 August 2015 Photo: Fr. Jboy Gonzales SJ

But never leave Cebu without trying out their lechon or spit-roasted whole pig. You can check Zubuchon, dubbed by world-renown chef, Gordon Ramsay, as the best in the world.

Zubuchon's stall at the Cebu International Airport is a haven for those who would like to bring Cebu's lechon home. Photo: Fr. Jboy Gonzales SJ

Zubuchon’s stall at the Cebu International Airport is a haven for those who would like to bring Cebu’s lechon home. Photo: Fr. Jboy Gonzales SJ

Del Monte Pineapple Plantation, Bukidnon. Photo: Bok Pioquid

Photo Essay: The Beauty of Bukidnon

Bukidnon is a haven for photographers, especially those who like pastoral scenes, landscapes, and waterfalls. Here are reasons why.

1. Del Monte Pineapple Plantation, Camp Philips, Bukidnon.

Huge pineapple plantations mark Bukidnon's landscape. Manolo Fortich, Bukidnon. PHoto: Fr. Jboy Gonzales SJ

Huge pineapple plantations mark Bukidnon’s landscape. Manolo Fortich, Bukidnon. PHoto: Fr. Jboy Gonzales SJ

Pineapple workers on their way to work. PHoto: Fr. Jboy Gonzales SJ

Pineapple workers on their way to work. PHoto: Fr. Jboy Gonzales SJ

2. Damilag, Bukidnon

PHoto: Fr. Jboy Gonzales SJ

PHoto: Fr. Jboy Gonzales SJ

Erick Salonga provides an interesting central point in Damilag, Bukidnon. Photo: Fr. Jboy Gonzales SJ

Erick Salonga provides an interesting central point in Damilag, Bukidnon. Photo: Fr. Jboy Gonzales SJ

4. Camp Philips Soccer Field, Bukidnon

School children taking their lunch at a vast open ground in Manolo Fortich, Bukidnon. Photo: Bok Pioquid

School children taking their lunch at a vast soccer field in Camp Philips, Bukidnon. Photo: Bok Pioquid

Children taking their lunch together at the Camp Philips Soccer Field. Photo: Fr. Jboy Gonzales SJ

Children taking their lunch together at the Camp Philips Soccer Field. Photo: Fr. Jboy Gonzales SJ

Children take their lunch break at one of the benches at the Camp Philips Soccer Field. Photo: Fr. Jboy Gonzales SJ

Children take their lunch break at one of the benches of Camp Philips’ soccer field. Photo: Fr. Jboy Gonzales SJ

5. Barangay Dicklum, Manolo Fortich, Bukidnon

Two girls walk towards their school carrying flower garlands used for a Philippine cultural dance. Photo: Fr. JBoy Gonzales SJ

Two girls walk toward their school carrying flower garlands used for a Philippine cultural dance. Photo: Fr. JBoy Gonzales SJ

6. Alalum Falls, Brgy. Kisolon, Sumilao, Bukidnon

If you take the BuDa (Bukidnon-Davao) Road from Cagayan de Oro City, this waterfalls is just near the Sayre highway. Alalum Falls serves as the boundary between the municipalities of Sumilao and Impasug-ong. It is approximately 148 feet in height.

Bok and I have taken these photos on our way to Malaybalay City. Our destination is the Jesuit Retreat House in Impalambong, a few meters away from San Isidro College, a former school of the Benedicting Sisters of Tutzing.

The landmark are these colorful Gawad Kalinga houses.

Colorful Gawad Kalinga Houses in Kisolon, Bukidnon. Photo: Fr. JBoy Gonzales SJ

Colorful Gawad Kalinga Houses in Kisolon, Bukidnon. Photo: Fr. JBoy Gonzales SJ

Kisolon Falls, Bukidnon. Photo: Bok Pioquid

Alalum Falls, Bukidnon. Photo: Bok Pioquid

Waterfalls along the road to Malaybalay, Bukidnon. PHoto: Fr. Jboy Gonzales SJ

Alalum waterfalls along the road to Malaybalay, Bukidnon. PHoto: Fr. Jboy Gonzales SJ

Alalum Falls

Close-up of Alalum Falls, Sumilao, Bukidnon. Photo: Fr. Jboy Gonzales SJ

7. Atugan Bridge, Impasug-ong, Bukidnon.

The local government claims that this bridge is the highest in the country, with a depth of 64.5 meters. Whether this claim holds true today, the view of the valley below is breathtaking, especially with the rushing river that snakes through it.

Atugan Bridge, Bukidnon. PHoto: Fr. Jboy Gonzales SJ

Atugan Bridge, Bukidnon. PHoto: Fr. Jboy Gonzales SJ

The new Atugan Bridge, Bukidnon. You'll take this bridge if you're traveling from CDO to Malaybalay, Bukidnon. Photo: Bok Pioquid

The new Atugan Bridge, Bukidnon. You’ll take this bridge if you’re traveling from CDO to Malaybalay, Bukidnon. Photo: Bok Pioquid

Erick Salonga risks for the sake a great photo by Bok Pioquid at the Atugan Bridge, Bukidnon.

Erick Salonga risks his life for the sake of a great photo by Bok Pioquid at the Atugan Bridge, Bukidnon.

PHoto: Fr. Jboy Gonzales SJ

The valley below the Atugan Bridge. Photo: Fr. Jboy Gonzales SJ

DSC_0565

PHoto: Fr. Jboy Gonzales SJ

You Can Fly in Bukidnon

The experience is like flying. Whether in Dahilayan Forest Park or Kampo Juan in Manolo Fortich, Bukidnon, both anicycling and ziplining are exhilarating experiences.

Check out our photos of visiting these two adventure destinations, options for the experience of mountain ecosystems for our students.

A vendor of

A vendor of “binaki” a sweet corn cake along the rode to Dahilyan. Photo: Fr. Jboy Gonzales SJ

1. Dahilayan Forest Park, Manolo Fortich, Bukidnon.

Our trip to Dahilayan was around 1.5 hours from Cagayan de Oro City. Taking the BuDa (Bukidnon-Davao) Highway, we turned right on the Alae Junction. (To know if the Alae Junction is near, a quarantine station with a row of vendors selling sari-sari store goodies is before the junction.) From the junction, we just followed the road to Dumilag, the Del Monte Pineapple Plantation, Camp Philips’ soccer field, Mampayag and the dirt road towards Mt. Kitanglad. What was reassuring are the road signs indicating the way to Dahilayan Forest Park.

Erick Salonga and Bok Pioquid at the ticket booth. Dahilyan Forest Park. Photo: Fr. JBoy Gonzales SJ

Erick Salonga and Bok Pioquid at the ticket booth. Dahilyan Forest Park. Photo: Fr. JBoy Gonzales SJ

This is the first initiation to the ziplining. Two rides, but short in distance. Photo: Fr. JBoy Gonzales SJ

This is the first initiation to ziplining. Two rides, but short in distances. Photo: Fr. JBoy Gonzales SJ

This is the preliminary experience before the longest zipline in Dahilayan. This is Ride 1. Photo: Bok Pioquid

This is the preliminary experience before the longest zipline in Dahilayan. This is Ride 1. Photo: Bok Pioquid

Bok Pioquid to the Pine Forest. PHoto: Fr. Jboy Gonzales SJ

Bok Pioquid to the Pine Forest. PHoto: Fr. Jboy Gonzales SJ

Dahilayan's Pine Forest with Erick Salonga. Photo: Bok Pioquid

Dahilayan’s Pine Forest with Erick Salonga. Photo: Bok Pioquid

Pine Trees in Dahilayan Forest Park. PHoto: Fr. Jboy Gonzales SJ

Pine Trees in Dahilayan Forest Park. PHoto: Fr. Jboy Gonzales SJ

PHoto: Fr. Jboy Gonzales SJ

PHoto: Fr. Jboy Gonzales SJ

The last ride is Asia's longest dual zipline. PHoto: Fr. Jboy Gonzales SJ

The last ride is Asia’s longest dual zipline. PHoto: Fr. Jboy Gonzales SJ

PHoto: Fr. Jboy Gonzales SJ

PHoto: Fr. Jboy Gonzales SJ

DSC_0426

2. Kampo Juan, Brgy. Dicklum, Manolo Fortich.

The first time I came to Kampo Juan was during the pilgrimage of the Lorenzo Ruiz Filipino-Chinese parish community in 2013. The end of the pilgrimage was the Monastery of St. Clare in Malaybalay, Bukidnon.

Kampo Juan is named after Dr. Juan Acosta who developed this destination. He has planted several fruit trees and other plants in the land. His various species of plants can be enjoyed while walking leisurely around the property. But it is better if you take the long hanging bridge about 200 feet above the river.

In the second visit, I tried the Anicycle but I got nervous. Who wouldn’t?

PHoto: Fr. Jboy Gonzales SJ

PHoto: Fr. Jboy Gonzales SJ

PHoto: Fr. Jboy Gonzales SJ

PHoto: Fr. Jboy Gonzales SJ

Anicycling in Kampo Juan, Manolo Fortich, Bukidnon. Photo: Bok Pioquid

Anicycling in Kampo Juan, Manolo Fortich, Bukidnon. Photo: Bok Pioquid

Here’s a video of all these adventures plus our white water rafting in Cagayan de Oro City.

Photo: Red Rafts

You Should Go White Water Rafting

We were picked up at six in the morning. The jeep that was waiting for us had two red rafts on its roof. Seated inside the vehicle were a family of six, two couples, and an European tourist. As soon as we boarded the jeep — and picking up two more couples from their hotel — we headed towards Masterson’s Avenue , the old Lumbia airport, and the Dominorog-Camp Kabaritan Road. In Mambuaya, we turned left and headed down towards the Cagayan de Oro River.

Erick Salonga and Bok Pioquid ready for the experience. Photo: Fr. Jboy Gonzales SJ

Erick Salonga and Bok Pioquid ready for the experience. Photo: Fr. Jboy Gonzales SJ

When we arrived at the banks, there were groups of people already there. I was surprised to see the Biology and Engineering Departments of Xavier University. One of my classmates, Astrid, was the first one to recognize me. She said that they were there for research. I introduced her and her team to Erick Salonga and Bok Pioquid, my companions in this ocular inspection for the Ateneo High School’s Eco-Spiritual Pilgrimage.

Members of the Biology Department of Xavier University with Astrid, my classmate in Marine Biology. Photo: Bok Pioquid

Members of the Biology Department of Xavier University with Astrid, my classmate in Marine Biology. Photo: Bok Pioquid

What we are about to conquer: the Cagayan River.

What we are about to conquer: the Cagayan River.

Shortly before getting into our rafts, our guides instructed us to don our life jackets and helmets and taught us simple paddling techniques. White-water rafting is a paddling watersport. The guides emphasized that everyone in the boat should follow navigation commands together for a smooth ride down the river. They also gave us tips on how to avoid rocks, and how to swim in case someone falls off.

Photo: Fr. JBoy Gonzales SJ

Photo: Fr. JBoy Gonzales SJ

Our guides giving us preliminary instructions before getting into the rafts. Photo: Red Rafts

Our guides giving us preliminary instructions before getting into the rafts. Photo: Red Rafts

When we got into our boats, the guides balanced us off. All riders should be strategically placed so that those of similar weight and paddling power were opposite each other. Erick and I were placed in front, two teenagers were in the middle row, Bok was on one side, while the parents of the teenagers were at the other side (the mom was placed in the middle). And then, two guides from Red Rafts stationed themselves at the back of our raft. They would use their paddles to steer the boat like a rudder of a sailboat.

Taking off from the site. Photo: Red Rafts

Taking off from the site. Photo: Red Rafts

The white water experience was educational. Though I did not have photos of the entire adventure down the river (I decided not to bring my camera because it was not water-proof), the guides gave us snippets of knowledge about the river. For example, he showed us shells embedded on cliffs, suggesting that there was a time when Misamis Oriental was underwater. He showed us wild orchids and kingfishers. And he pointed out the water level during Sendong that changed the course of the river. What touched me was the life of the people living at the river’s edge. We passed by children on a make-shift raft of old spare tires navigating themselves toward the opposite bank of the river. They were on their way to school.

Here are the photos taken by a photographer of Red Rafts. We took the basic course: the Mambuaya-Cabula course of around 14 rapids. The photographer kayaked himself ahead of us to take these photos. By the way, white water rafting in CDO is done with other groups. I think that makes the experience safer.

Photo: Red Rafts

Our first rapids. Photo: Red Rafts

Photo: Red Rafts

Photo: Red Rafts

Photo: Red Rafts

Photo: Red Rafts

Photo: Red Rafts

Photo: Red Rafts

Here’s a video of our adventure which included our ziplining in Dahilayan Forest Park and Kampo Juan in Manolo Fortich, Bukidnon.

And look: we highly recommend this adventure.

Erick and I (and Bok Pioquid) approves of the experience for the Eco-Spiritual Pilgrimage. Photo: Bok Pioquid

Erick and I (and Bok Pioquid) approve of the experience for the Eco-Spiritual Pilgrimage. Photo: Bok Pioquid

Erick Salonga and Bok Pioquid of the Christian Service Involvement Program of Ateneo High School are soooo happy! Photo: Fr. Jboy Gonzales SJ

Amazing Agutayan Island

The return to Agutayan Island was a dream come true. The first time I visited the island was in September 2014.  Members of the Jesuit Basic Education Commission of the Philippines were brought here for environmental awareness. It was at that time that I learned about Xavier University’s Ridge-River-Reef (R3) Program that aimed to establish the connectivity of three ecosystems as well as the implications that would arise as a result of the connectivity.

The R3 program had been a collaboration of different departments of the University: Agriculture, Biology, Chemistry, Engineering, Sociology, XU-Citizen Army Training, and the Fr. McKeough Marine Center. What was amazing about this program was that it involved local and national government units as well as “indigenous” peoples’ groups. The R3 Program was therefore a convergence program, where research bridged partner communities.

The R3 Program was therefore interesting to me. I knew then that I had to come back. I thought I could visit last April 2015, but I could not. My schedule was just too tight: I came from Cabanglasan, Bukidnon for the Holy Week and planned a short trip to Agutayan before my flight to Manila. But it was easier said than done.

Four months later, God gave me back that opportunity.

Fra-and Quimpo fetched us at 6:00 AM. He said that Erick Salonga, Bok Pioquid and I had to leave early so that the sea would not be too rough for us. Fra-and Quimpo, our guide is a marine biologist, based in Xavier University.

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Here are some photos of our ocular inspection of Agutayan Island last 1 August 2015. It was in preparation for Ateneo High School’s Eco-Spiritual Pilgrimage to Cagayan de Oro City.

I hope you’ll enjoy the photos, and therefore, would make time to do something to preserve the beauty of God’s creation wherever you are: at the banks of a river, on a  mountain, or diving into the depths of the sea.

Erick Salonga and I can't wait to reach Agutayan Island. Photo: Bok Pioquid

Erick Salonga and I can’t wait to reach Agutayan Island. Photo: Bok Pioquid

With the members of the Ateneo High School faculty, I found myself back to Agutayan island with a purpose: to bring my students to experience the beauty of marine ecosystems as well as to develop their hearts to protect and preserve marine life.

We took this banca to Agutayan Island since we were just 3 passengers. Photo: Fr. Jboy Gonzales SJ

We took this banca to Agutayan Island since we were just 3 passengers. Photo: Fr. Jboy Gonzales SJ

Photo: Fr. Jboy Gonzales SJ

Photo: Fr. Jboy Gonzales SJ

The old guard house still becomes an interesting subject. Photo: Fr. Jboy Gonzales SJ

The old guard house still becomes an interesting subject. Photo: Fr. Jboy Gonzales SJ

Fra-and and Bok faces the marine sanctuary of Agutayan Island. Photo: Fr. Jboy Gonzales SJ

Fra-and and Bok face the marine sanctuary of Agutayan Island. Photo: Fr. Jboy Gonzales SJ

Photo: Fr. Jboy Gonzales SJ

Photo: Fr. Jboy Gonzales SJ

Photo: Fr. Jboy Gonzales SJ

Photo: Fr. Jboy Gonzales SJ

Photo: Fr. Jboy Gonzales SJ

Photo: Fr. Jboy Gonzales SJ

Photo: Fr. Jboy Gonzales SJ

Photo: Fr. Jboy Gonzales SJ

Now that you’ve seen the beauty of Agutayan Island, let me invite you to check these two pictures below. What do you feel?

Really? Whoever threw this at sea should burn in the fires of Gehenna. Photo: Fr. Jboy Gonzales SJ

Really? Whoever threw this at sea should burn in the fires of Gehenna. Photo: Fr. Jboy Gonzales SJ

In SY 2007-2008, the National Service Training Program (NSTP) in collaboration with the McKeough Marine Center conducted a pilot study of the Information Education Campaign (IEC) on marine conservation using NSTP students.

The students taught public schools along the coast that faced Agutayan Island to spread awareness about marine conservation. Despite their age, they also realised that they could influence communities to become stewards of their place and Agutayan Island. The success of this campaign enabled the program to become one of the 1st NSTP Green Philippines Awards’ Top Ten.

We hope that many students will be like Fra-and Quimpo (below) who picked up trash as soon as he saw items littering the white sand bar of Agutayan Island.

Sad to see trash on the island. Fra-and Quimpo gathers trash.

Sad to see trash on the island. Fra-and Quimpo gathers trash. :( Photo: Fr. JBoy Gonzales SJ

Below is the McKeough Marine Center, a research unit of Xavier University, Ateneo de Cagayan. This facility is dedicated to the sustainable management and conservation of the coastal and marine environment and resources in Northern Mindanao and its peripheries.

At Xavier University's Marine Station. Photo: Bok Pioquid

At Xavier University’s Marine Station. Photo: Bok Pioquid

Fr. McKeough Marine Station of Xavier University. Photo: Bok Pioquid

Fr. McKeough Marine Station of Xavier University. Photo: Bok Pioquid

The McKeough Marine Center is also an educational tool of Xavier University. It provides students with competencies and skills for marine research, with a sense of responsibility to the community and the environment. For example, it conserves and re-stocks giant clams (an endangered species), rehabilitates reefs through coral transplantation, has a gene-banking project for seaweeds, and a sea turtle conservation project. In addition, the MMC gives training workshops on community-based coastal resource management.

Marine biologist Fra-and Quimpo gives us a tour of the laboratory of the marine station. Photo: Fr. Jboy Gonzales SJ

Marine biologist Fra-and Quimpo gives us a tour of the laboratory of the marine station. Photo: Fr. Jboy Gonzales SJ

On a personal note, Fr. Jim McKeough SJ was a biologist. He was my mentor and my spiritual director since my days as a pre-novice residing in Haggerty Hall from 1986-89. When I returned as a Jesuit regent (1995-97) and as a young priest (2001-2003), Fr. Jim continued to be my spiritual director. The McKeough Marine Center was named in his honor. (Proud son here. :D )

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Thus, with the combined experiences of rafting Cagayan de Oro River and ziplining above Bukidnon’s forests in our Eco-Spiritual Pilgrimage to Cagayan de Oro City,  the R3 Program will enable the students to discover the correlation between these ecosystems. As a concrete example, I hope that they will not have the heart to throw garbage anywhere: because every item will indeed affect everything.

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Here are extra photos of the Jasaan Municipal Fish Port where you can rent a bigger boat to Agutayan Island.

Fishing boats, Jasaan, Misamis Oriental. Photo: Fr. Jboy Gonzales SJ

Fishing boats, Jasaan, Misamis Oriental. Photo: Fr. Jboy Gonzales SJ

A fisherman sleeps on a bench at the Jasaan Fish Port, Misamis Oriental. Photo: Fr. Jboy Gonzales SJ

A fisherman sleeps on a bench at the Jasaan Fish Port, Misamis Oriental. Photo: Fr. Jboy Gonzales SJ

Fishing boat, Jasaan, Misamis Oriental. Photo: Fr. Jboy Gonzales SJ

Fishing boat, Jasaan, Misamis Oriental. Photo: Fr. Jboy Gonzales SJ

Photo: Fr. Jboy Gonzales SJ

Nahihirapan Ka Bang Kumbinsihin Sila Na Makinig sa Iyo?

Kape't PandasalIkinukuwento ni San Lukas ang karanasan ni Hesus sa kanyang homecoming o pagbabalik sa kanyang bayan. Nagturo siya doon. Namangha’t humanga ang kanyang mga kababayan sa pamamaraan at mensahe ng kanyang mga sinasabi, nguni’t sa kahuli-hulihan, hindi Siya pinakinggan. Kaya wika ni Hesus,

“Tunay kong sinasabi sa inyo na walang propetang tinatanggap sa kanyang sariling bayan.” Luke 4:24

Hindi nakamamangha sa ating pansariling buhay ang karanasan ni Hesus. Sa ating kultura, hindi pinapasalita ng nakatatanda ang mga nakababata. Sa mga pampamilyang alitan, walang boses ang mga anak. Sasabihin nila, “Away ito ng mga magulang.” Ngunit, ang mga bata ang kailangang tanungin dahil sila ang apektado sa anumang hiwalayan o awayan.

Importante sa ating buhay na buksan ang ating mga tenga’t isipan kapag nakikinig sa mensahe ng isang nagsasalita habang iniwawasto natin ang anumang nagiging sagabal sa anumang pakikinig. Lalung-lalo na kung tama naman ang sinasabi ng nagsasalita sa atin. Ang anumang aral na makukuha sana nila kay Hesus ay hindi na nakarating sa kanilang puso dahil nagpadala sila sa anumang bias nila sa Kaniya. Ipagdasal natin ang biyaya ng tunay na pakikinig sa mensahe ng Diyos na isinasambit ng kahit sinong pinili ng Diyos na gamitin bilang Kanyang bibig.

Photo: Fr. Jboy Gonzales SJ

May Magaling Ba na Mangagaling sa Inyo?

Kape't PandasalNatural sa atin na magkaroon ng iba’t ibang paguunawa sa mga taong iba sa atin. May pagtingin tayo ukol sa mga taga-probinsya; samantalang ang mga taga-probinsya naman ay may pagtingin sa mga taga-lungsod. Sa ebanghelio ni San Juan, ganito siguro ang pagtingin ni Nataniel kay Hesus nang sinabi niya, “May magaling na bagay bang manggagaling sa Nazaret?” Ang Nazaret, mga kapatid, ay parang maliit na baryo lamang sa panahon ni Hesus.

Ngunit iba ang pagtingin ni Hesus sa atin: wala siyang pagkiling, maging sino man tayo, anuman ang ating nakaraan o pinangalingan. Para kay Hesus, ang tunay ang siyang katotoohanan. Nakikita ni Hesus hindi ang ating panlabas, kundi ang kasuluk-sulukan ng ating puso. Kaya nang nakita ni Hesus si Nataniel, sinabi ni Hesus,

“Narito ang isang tunay na Israelita na walang pagkukunwari.” John 1:47

Ito ang isa sa katangi-tanging aral na mapupulot natin ngayon. Marami sa atin ang may pagturing sa simbahan na para lamang sa mga walang bahid ng kasalanan. Ngunit sinasabi ni Hesus na hindi natin kailangan pang magkunwari sa Kanyang piling. Kilalang-kilala Niya tayo! Tanggap ng Diyos ang tunay nating pagkatao, kaya hindi kailangang magkunwari pa. Ipagdasal natin ang lakas ng loob na lumapit sa Diyos na walang pag-aalinlangan.

PHoto: Fr. Jboy Gonzales SJ

May Ideya Ka, May Ideya Ako, Tapos?

Kape't PandasalNaranasan mo ba ang mga taong ayaw magbahagi ng kanilang ideya o sarili sa anumang meeting, klase, o group study? O kaya mga kaklaseng nagtatago ng notebooks nila, dahil gusto nilang lamangan ang iba sa grades o kaya sa karangalang iginagawad ng eskuwelahan.

Mayroon akong nabasang isang talinhaga:

“May t-shirt ka, may t-shirt ako.

At tayo’t nagpalitan.

Ngayon, may t-shirt ka, may t-shirt ako.

Wala namang nagbago.

May ideya ka, may ideya ako.

At tayo’y nagpalitan.

Ngayon, dalawa na ang ideya mo, at dalawa na rin ang ideya ko.

Mas may nagbago.”

Mahalaga sa ating buhay ang pagbabahagi ng ating mga kuro-kuro ukol sa isang isyu ng sarili, sa trabaho, o sa lipunan. Wika ng maraming pilosopo, walang tao ang may orihinal na kaisipan. Laging may pinangagalingan ang ating mga kaalaman. Kung bukas tayo sa iba’t ibang ideya at ibinabahagi natin ang mga ito, maaaring matagpuan natin ang pinakamagandang solusyon sa ating mga problema. Ipagdasal natin na buksan ng Diyos ang ating puso’t isipan, upang matulungan natin ang bawat isa, hindi lamang sa paguunawa kundi sa paghahangad ng solusyon sa ating mga suliranin.

Baguio Flower. Photo: Fr. JBoy Gonzales SJ

Mamatay Ka Muna

Kape't PandasalKung palalalimin natin ang ating pagmamasid sa kapaligiran, itinuturo ng ating kalikasan ang isang katotohanang isinaad na rin ni Hesus. Ang lahat ng ating tagumpay at kaligtasan ay sanhi ng iba’t ibang uri ng kamatayan. Wika nga ni Hesus sa sulat ni San Juan:

“Tunay na tunay Kong sinasabi sa inyo, na kung ang butil ng trigo ay hindi mahulog sa lupa at mamatay, ito’y maiiwang nag-iisa; subalit kapag namatay, ito’y mamumunga nang marami.” John 12:24

Nararanasan natin itong maliliit na kamatayan sa buhay. May namamatay sa ating kaloob-looban kapag tayo ay namamaalam. May kailangang isantabi kapag pipiliin nating mag-aral kaysa magpakasasa sa kaaliwan. May kailangang isakripisyo kapag nais nating makatulong sa iba. May kailangan na pagtitiis kapag nais nating palalimin ang anumang pag-iibigan. Kamatayan ang kakabit ng anumang pagtubo’t paglago.

Hinahamon tayo muli ng Panginoon na huwag hahayaang pawiin ng anumang krus ang lahat ng ating enerhiya at gana sa ating buhay. Dahil kailangan lang nating ipako ang ating isip sa ating mga pangarap. Sa gayon, ang mga kamatayang ito ang magdadala sa ating kinabukasan. Ipagdasal natin na nawa’y magbunga ang lahat ng ating pinaghihirapan.

Passion Flower

Ang Batang Walang Kaliwang Kamay

Kape't PandasalMay mag-asawang hindi nagkakaanak. Ngunit sa labing-dalawang taong pagsasama at pagsusumamo sa Diyos, nagbuntis ang babae.

Sa kanyang panganganak, labis na nalungkot ang duktor nang makita niya ang kapansanan ang bata – wala siyang kaliwang kamay.

Inuna muna ng doktor si Mang Berto upang ibahagi sa kanya ang balita. Pagkatapos, dinala ni Mang Berto kay Aling Mila ang batang nakabalot sa puting lampin. Labis ang tuwa ng nanay, hinaplos ang ulo at hinalikan ito. Ngunit nakita ni Aling Mila ang mukha ni Mang Berto, kaya, buong hinubad ng nanay ang balot na lampin.

Pagkalipas ng ilang sandaling katahimikan, winika ni Aling Mila sa kanyang asawa, “Berto, alam ng Diyos kung kanino niya ibibigay ang bata. Alam ng Diyos kung gaano natin kailangan ang anak, at alam din Niya kung gaano tayo kailangan ng ating anak.”

Mga kapamilya, tulad ng mag-asawa na labis ang pagmamahal sa kanilang anak, gayon din ang pagmamahal ng Diyos sa atin. Sa kabila ng ating mga kapansanan, kasalanan at kakulangan sa buhay, nararanasan natin kung gaano natin kailangan ang Diyos. Ipagdasal natin na nawa’y gayahin natin ang ganitong uri ng pagmamahal.