Even from the aerial view, one can hypothesize that Bohol is on its final approach. It’s obviously because of the famous “chocolate hills “that were protruding on the earth’s flat surface. But during my visit, they were “green hills” …. still a breathtaking sight to behold. Good feedbacks were given to me prior to my trip to the famed 2nd best place in the Philippines 2002.
Bohol – meaning “many holes” – is a laid-back town with very narrow streets and odd-looking tricycles with religious verses painted at its back. The houses were old but very quaint and clean. Great old churches with amazing architecture and rich history. People were nice, thrifty, shy and honest. This is a place with a very low crime rate. Tradition is deeply rooted. Good family values are inherent and overt. God is the centre of the town’s heart.
1. Via direct flight to Tagbilaran City
2. Via Cebu flight then a 1 ½ hour Supercat ride to Tagbilaran Pier
WHERE TO STAY
1. Panglao Island Beach Resort – separated from the mainland by a bridge and mangrove. Twenty five minutes away from the city proper. A paradise with white sands, thatched roof huts, island gazebo in the middle of the sea, wonderfully constructed pool and a natural motif found in every aspect of the resort. World class, private and expensive! Two thumbs up.
2. Bohol Tropics – voted as the cleanest resort in Bohol. Favorite venue of conventions. Located in the city yet able to capture the natural beauty of the island. Festive and modern.
3. Bohol Beach Club – long beach front with colorful flags swaying with the tangy breeze of the cerulean sea. For family vacations and summer escapades. Tall palm trees abound. Divers’ haven.
4. Metrocenter Hotel – In the heart of the city. Small and neat. Good food. Nice staff. Sister resort of Panglao.
5. Bohol Plaza Hotel – At the peak of Bohol Island. Perfect view of the whole metropolis.
PLACES TO VISIT
1. CHOCOLATE HILLS – The sleepy town of Carmen is an hour ride from the city. There are 1268 limestone hills in Bohol. It was a product of the uplifting of the coral deposits combined with the action of rainwater and erosion. Awesome view from the top but you have to climb 200 steps of concrete stairs to catch a glimpse of God’s showcase of beauty. Green during the wet season and brown during summer.
2. TARSIER ENCOUNTER – Cute, sweet and cuddly little monkeys with the saddest eyes I’ve ever seen. Life span of 20 years. Nocturnal. Feeds on crickets. Tends to commit suicide should someone bring him away from his habitat. Our very own version of the Australian koala. At the back of my head, I really think they should be left in the forest – where they rightfully belong.
3. MAN-MADE FOREST – a project of the late President Diosdado Macapagal. These are Mahogany Trees lining the way to the renowned chocolate hills. Looming high and proud, full of scary tales as well.
4. BLOOD COMPACT SHRINE – Made in honour of the Treaty of Friendship and Alliance between Capt. Gen. Miguel Lopez de Legazpi and Datu Sikatuna when the Spaniards fleet anchored along the shore in March 1565.
5. BACLAYON CHURCH – established by the Jesuits in the 1600s and finished by the year 1717. Old rumbling house of prayer with a vivid Christian history. To this date, many statues were stolen from the famous gilded altar. Visit Baclayon Museum at the back.
6. PANGLAO ISLAND BEACHES – bask in the sunbeams amidst turquoise waters with the white sand at your feet. Great dive sites.
7. HINAGDANAN CAVES – Entrance Fee: Php 20.00 Humid and dark. A wide array of stalactites and stalagmites with a mini lagoon with crystal blue waters. No bats during the day. Found near the Panglao Island Beach Resort.
1. Bring your swimsuits. Missing Panglao’s beaches is one great mistake.
2. Prepare for a bumpy and zigzag one-hour drive to Chocolate Hills.
3. Hold the tarsier – cutest & softest creature I’ve seen and cuddled.
4. Visit old churches. See the past laurels and immerse yourself in man’s great works of arts.
5. Wear comfy slip-ons and cotton shirts. Too many places to visit in a day.
6. If you’re not used in climbing high places, stretch your muscles before attempting to tread the 200-step stairs or end up with a 3-day muscle pain.
7. Grilled Quitong (Metrocenter Restaurant), Clam Soup & Spicy Scallops (Mira Villa) – try it and discover these absolute delights to the palate
8. Calamay, peanut kisses, peanut stars, baskets, abaca / nipa bags – pasalubong galore
True to its image, Bohol is a great summer getaway for all ages. There are myriads of activities that an adventurer can do here. What somehow moved me is the fact that there are still places with people earning a living honestly. Strong manifestations of intense faith in the Lord and a lifestyle of simplicity and humility can be felt. Good old customs are practiced. It is a place where the beauty of nature and beauty of the soul merged.