By Fr. Roy Cimagala

THIS PIECE is inspired by Michael Franks’ light and breezy samba song, Down in Brazil, where, you know.

“It takes a day to walk a mile / Time just stands still / And when the people you meet look at you / they smile.”

The big exception is that Bohol does not conjure some dreamy images of good life and fantasy, especially of petty amorous adventures and sugary infatuations. It does not bewilder you in this way.

It brings you to the real, unvarnished world of its natural and pristine charms that come in sharp transparency. But it also shows all its local warts and cracks quite plainly. It seems unafraid and unashamed to expose itself as it really is.

I just had a blast recently of being asked to spend a week there. The reason was to teach Canon Law-that’s right, Canon Law-to a group of young and enterprising men who, coming from different parts of the country, have decided to hold a seminar in that southern island.

That reason alone already gives me infinite excitement. Imagine, teaching a highly specialized and cerebral subject in a rural setting, reinforcing my belief that subjects like Canon Law can actually be learned anywhere.

It’s like living out the Latin motto: “Per aspera ad astra” (from the rustic to the stars), the ordinary prose of humble circumstances turned into beautiful verses of human greatness.

Besides, the class was given to men in different fields of earthly affairs-business, politics, academe, etc. They are taking seriously their faith and their duties both in the Church and in the world. This always fascinates me no end.

But all this has to take a back seat to the fact that Bohol is my place of birth and childhood. There I’m no tourist, visitor or stranger. Going there is going home. Spending time there is like returning to the past and to the roots.

You would understand if there I find the coconut trees swaying more beautifully, the wind blowing more refreshingly, the people more of my own with whom I could easily identify myself, etc.

It was nice to see the roads, still dusty though they may be, full of children with happy faces, completely simple and guileless. It gave me the impression life abounded quite naturally there and was swimming in rich potentials.

I’ve heard the province has become a favorite tourist destination of both locals and foreigners. As a kid, I already dreamt of when others would discover our beaches with the white, fine sand, our chocolate hills, our tarsiers.

I enjoyed them tremendously, and spontaneously thought it was a good idea, a supreme act of generosity to share these treasures with as many people as possible. I’m happy to note this dream is becoming real.

But there’s one thing that I most emphatically recommend. This is to visit churches, and even more, to spend some time there. Many churches are truly and effortlessly beautiful. And they smell a great deal of history.

If you really want to know the soul of the province or the character of the people, look for it in the churches. There you will see the instant and miniature portrait of the ethos of the place.

There is strong and living faith, in spite of the usual human frailties. Piety seems to be an inborn trait. And this, not only among the women, but also among the men; not only among the old ones, but also among the young ones.

I did some of my prayers seated in a corner of some churches I visited. Praying was made easy for me by just observing people coming in and out. Oh, how they prayed, showing practically their true colors before the Blessed Sacrament and the religious images.

Their actuations simply spoke that there is a caring God. If they could only remain like this forever, I prayed, even if their conditions become better or worse!

Down in Bohol, in dear old Bohol, I think you stand to get your faith reinvigorated if you know what to really see.