Chocolate Hills Revisited

Two thumbs up for “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.” Not only did I enjoy the movie, but it took me back to another time and place in my own life: 1975 and Bohol Island of the Philippines–home of those Chocolate Mountains I wrote about a couple of weeks ago.

When I wrote that post, I had a vague memory of having visited the Chocolate Hills of the Philippines, but had nothing to verify it. (The notebook from my Far East days is buried in a box somewhere in the garage.) Last night, however, I found a folder of old letters and articles, and there it was.

Thirty-seven years ago the place I stayed in claimed to be “The Best Hotel in Butuan City.” Call me Mrs. Ainslie (You know who I mean if you’ve seen the movie), but I cannot imagine it ever was or ever could be as exotic as the Marigold in its worst days.

I was on a writing assignment and my trip to Butuan City had taken several days thanks to detours, cancelled flights, mudslides and flooded runways. I arrived tired and sweaty, and while I appreciated a cool shower, I soon discovered  I was sharing a room with a large population of various creepy creatures.
Unable to sleep amongst the lizards, roaches and mice, by 3 a.m. I moved to the hotel lobby, which proved to offer no better place to rest. A sign proudly displayed on the wall declared this as “The Best Hotel in Butuan City.” I was not convinced. With my feet propped against my suitcase, I watched squirrel-sized rats chase each other across the reception desk and right under the nose of a night clerk reading a newspaper.
It’s no wonder my recollection of those marvelous natural wonders, the Chocolate Mountains, pales in comparison to my memory of the place I stayed.

If I can believe the information I find on the Internet, Butuan may have some exotic hotels to offer visitors today–unless like the Marigold, the pictures have been photo-shopped and the owners have only visions of  future luxury and leisure. I love the line by the young Marigold Hotel owner, often repeated to his guests: “It will all be good in the end; if it is not good, then it is not the end.”

As Carlos and I exited the theater yesterday afternoon with all the others who had taken advantage of their senior citizen discount for the matinee, I could not help but respond when I overheard the usher  comment that she had not seen the movie yet.

“Oh, you are too young to understand it anyway,” I said.

“I’m 21,” she responded defiantly.

I kindly held my ground with a smile. “That’s what I said, honey. You are too young to understand.”

We left the young woman standing there somewhat bewildered if not entirely irritated by my remarks. I turned to Carlos and laughed.

“She didn’t get it, did she?”

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