Published: November 3rd 2011November 3rd 2011
Bohol is a province in Central Visayas located between Cebu and Leyte and to its south is the island of Mindanao. Because of its location, Bohol is shielded from typhoons and heavy rains. Here is an account of my recent trip to the tenth largest island in the Philippines.
To get from Manila to Bohol, we made a stopover first in Cebu. The airfare to Cebu was cheaper than to Tagbilaran when we booked the flight and the additional 745-peso ferry ride made the total fare almost the same. It was a longer route but we wanted to ride the ferry.
From Cebu International Airport, we took a taxi to Cebu pier. There were people outside the airport offering a 475-peso-fixed-rate or a 70-peso-flagdown-3.50-per-kilometer taxi to the pier. But there are normal metered taxis just outside the airport. The flagdown for the normal taxis is 40 pesos and it just costs around 160 pesos to the port.
We took the Supercat Ferry to Bohol which costs 745 pesos for business class and 545 for tourist class. We bought the business class tickets, because at 6:30 am, there were no more available tourist class seats for the 8:30 trip.
(For those who are staying longer in cebu, you can reserve tickets in supercat's website
but you you have to get the tickets 3 days prior to departure date.)
We reached Tagbilaran port at around 11am. From there, we took a taxi to Alona beach in Panglao island. Taxis from Tagbilaran to Panglao island charge double the metered fare because they won't have any passengers going back to Tagbilaran. The taxi drivers were asking for 500 pesos but we haggled and got the ride for 450.
In Panglao island, we took the central road (I'm not sure if the name is correct but this is the road that goes at the center of Panglao). This road is under construction in preparation for an international airport in Panglao. Once this international airport is opened, the Tagbilaran airport will be closed down. I guess it is only logical since a lot of tourists come to Panglao for its beaches.
Then we arrived at Alona Grove, which is of course, in Alona beach. The beach is named after Alona Alegre who was a popular actress in 1980's and Philip Salvador's sister. According to tales, the beach was once called Tawala
Seaside but then Alona Alegre shot a movie there running naked. The local guys around the beach gathered, crying out, "Let's go see Alona." Since then everything there started to be named Alona.
We initially had no itinerary for the afternoon except beach bumming. But we decided on a mini Panglao island tour which includes the Hinagdanan Cave and the Bohol Bee Farm (the deciding factor was the bee farm because we wanted to eat dinner there.) Since it is hard to get around Panglao island, we rented a habal-habal or a motorcycle for 500 pesos to take us to the cave and the farm.
First stop was the Hinagdanan cave. At the cave, there is a 20-peso entrance fee that covers the tour inside. The tour guides, who says "miraculous" and "spectacular" an awful lot, said that the Hinagdanan cave is named as such because a stairway was built as entrance to the cave. Previously, it was named talon cave which was the previous way of entering the cave. I don't know if he was serious or not. Inside the cave there is a pretty large pool where one can swim because it's not stagnant as it
flows to the sea.
After buying some souvenirs in the shops outside the cave, we then proceeded to Bohol Bee Farm. There is a 60-peso tour where the tour guide discusses how the farm grows and produces organic products and delicacies. They offer a wide variety of organic foods like organic ice cream, organic garden salad, seafood pizza, etc. all of which are surprisingly delicious especially the salad which has some flowers and even the part of the coconut that is made into a bunot (coconut husk). Bohol Bee Farm also offers rooms, farm activities and Bohol tour packages. For more details click here
After dinner at the bee farm, we went back to Alona Grove to sleep early. We were going to wake up early the next day for the Bohol countryside tour after all.
At 7AM the next day, we were on our way to Tagbilaran. Kuya Daboy was to be our tour guide for the day.
Our first destination for the day was the blood compact site. Although it is not the real site where the blood compact took place, the site holds the monument created by the national artist Napoleon Abueva. This
is where tourists go to see Abueva's rendition of what took place on March 16, 1565. When Miguel Lopez de Legazpi reached Bohol, he learned that there was hostility against Portuguese raiders who killed or enslaved many of the inhabitants in Visayas. Legazpi explained Data Sikatuna of Bool and Datu Sigala of Loboc that he had come in peace and not to plunder or kill. Convinced of Legazpi's sincerity, the Datu Sikatuna performed a blood compact with Legazpi. (This event is celebrated in Bohol every June during the Sandugo or "One Blood" Festival.) Three days later, Datu Sigala and Legazpi performed the same ceremony.
Attending mass at the Baclayon Church was our next agenda. We wanted to catch the 8AM mass but it was in boholano. Nevertheless, it was good to have gone to Bohol's oldest church. There is an old convent next to the church which houses a small museum of religious relics. These old relics date back to the 16th century.
After that we went to the tarsier conservatory in the town of Corella. There are only a few successful tarsier conservatories in the world and this is one of them. Developed by the Philippines Tarsier
Foundation (PTFI), the Tarsier Research and Development Center serves as a tourist center and research center for tarsiers. Tarsiers are nocturnal animals so shaking the trees to wake them up is forbidden. I could only imagine how painful it is for them to open their eyes during daytime. Tarsiers can turn their heads 180 degrees in each direction, maybe because they are extremely shy animals, they can look away when they feel shy. This is probably also the reason why they can jump up to 10 feet high, to get away as far as possible from those who want to get close.
Then, we went to see some butterflies. There are some interesting facts that the tour guide told us. Butterflies close their wings up when resting while moths lay their wings flat. Butterflies also tend to have colorful wings while moths have dull ones. Also, moths are nocturnal while butterflies aren't. Male butterflies have more colorful wings to attract their mate while female butterflies usually larger. The tour guide also showed us 'gay' butterflies which have different-sized wings (one wing is female and one wing is male) but these butterflies very rarely get born and live only a
few days since it cannot fly properly.
We stopped over at the man-made forest on our way to the Chocolate Hills. The man-made forest, which is 800 hectares of mahogany trees, was planted by boholanos in the 1960's. The forest is famous for the uniform height of the trees and its orderly structure.
And then, the Chocolate Hills, Bohol's most popular tourist destination. And one of Philippines most popular as well. These more than a thousand hills are made of limestones that is why trees don't grow on the hills. According to the plaque at the observation deck, about 2 million years ago most of Bohol was below a shallow sea and most of the sea shore was covered with coral reefs. These reefs surfaced as time passed. The hills had been carved out from the relatively thin layers of coral and shell fragments. I guess the story about a giant who cried over his beloved isn't true after all.
After the Chocolate Hills, we asked Mang Daboy if we could go to the hanging bridge. We spent around 10 minutes going back and forth the hanging bridges. There was really not much to it but just
the thrill that you could fall and die any time the bridge suddenly collapsed (an exaggeration of course).
Then, it was time for lunch at the Loboc river cruise. It was a relaxing one-hour ride through Loboc river while having lunch. We arrived there at around 12:30 PM but most of the cruises were already full. Fortunately, we were able to find a cruise with some slots left or else we would wait for an hour. It was not bad. The food was just OK but it was the experience we were aiming for. As with all the cruises, there was a live performer but he sang mostly old songs, the ones my father used to listen to on Sundays (thus i was familiar with most of the songs). At the end of the river, there was a hut where children danced while the older ones played instruments and sang. It was fun. You can even sit or dance with them as if you are part of the group. After a short stop at the hut, the boat headed back to port of the cruise.
We intended to go back to the beach but our tour guide suggested
we go to a minizoo after lunch. This is not the one where you can see Prony the python but Kuya Daboy said this one is better because you can see more animals like ostriches, monkeys, rabbits, iguanas, flying lemur and other pythons smaller than Prony. We were not too thrilled too see a big big python anyway so we decided to go there.
The rest of the day was just resting by the beach, relaxing, bumming.
For our third day, it was dolphin watching and island hopping. I was expecting to just go there in the middle of the sea and the dolphins would just swim and jump by for an hour or so but it was basically dolphin hunting since the dolphins seemed to not want to be seen. The boatman goes round and round the sea hunting for dolphins and we were lucky to have a glimpse of their tails (they don't jump as high as I was hoping so). For that i researched a little about dolphins, here goes. Dolphins live in groups and very sociable even with humans. They also tend to be playful. Some scientists believe that they swim with humans to
play with them. Dolphins don't actually jump out of the water but they propel themselves to the surface of the water because they can only stay up to 15 minutes under water. Dolphins are fast swimmers. They can swim 5 to 12 kilometers an hour. That explains why they are so elusive. So why aren't they "jumping" when we were there? Who knows? Maybe they just weren't in the mood.
After dolphin hunting, we went to Balicasag island. The corral reef there is magnificent. I could snorkel there all day (and that is not an exaggeration). The diversity of marine life there was just as exciting. An underwater casing for my camera would have been worth the dslr-like price (if i had money). But enough with the if only's. After, snorkeling, we had lunch at the island. We bought dalagang bukid (Yellow Tail Fusilier) to be fried and squid to be made into calamares.
After lunch, we went to Virgin Island. The island is very small with a narrow patch of land that you can walk on. As you walk on the sand, there are also a lot of vendors who sell fresh buko juice, sea urchin, etc.
I should say it was a very relaxing walk.
We headed back to Alona beach afterwards. It was time for some swimming, strolling and picture-taking at the Alona beach. We would be flying back to Manila in the morning and it was time to relax and have some fun.
There are more photos below