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Published: December 26th 2008
My niece Suzette teased me about my blogging only about my foreign travels, never on my local trips. Gave that a thought, and decided I should have really done some. Not so much for myself, but more for those who may wish to check out some of our local sites. Frankly, I enjoyed these trips around our islands just as much as I enjoyed my foreign travels. Perhaps I only felt compelled to write about my travel adventures when they last longer than 4 nights, never for shorter adventures. But I am changing all that now. So here goes...........
From Manila to Tagbilaran, Bohol
I actually meant to bring my other niece Mayette for this trip, but she's busy. So, Suzette got lucky. Started our adventure with a mid-morning flight via Philippine Air Lines from Manila to Tagbilaran, Bohol. An uneventful flight of an hour and a half or so. The small Tagbilaran airport certainly demands improvement since the province attracted more tourists to check out the Chocolate Hills, tarsiers, Baclayon Church, a few colonial houses, and the beaches of Panglao.
Small and seemingly chaotic, we actually did not have any problem retrieving our bags and driving
out of the small airport for our next destination - Panglao Island Nature Hotel.
Panglao Island Nature Hotel
Our resort hotel welcomed us with a refreshing juice from squeezed dalandan (local oranges)
and a couple of guitar-strumming singers. As soon as we checked in, we glimpsed a very beautiful beach beyond the swimming pools surrounding the reception hut/lounge. The infinity pool promised to provide a relaxing afternoon under the sun. It was exciting to find a small manmade island just beyond the beach area where some dinners are served. We were told we will enjoy one of our dinners in that tiny island.
From the reception area, we rode a small golf buggy to take us to our cottage where we would spend the next 4 days. The forest cottage is not very far . We could have walked. Even with our bags. Nice and roomy. The first item I check is always, always the bathroom and toilet. I was not disappointed. They could have put another room there. The walk in closet was a pleasant change. There was even a jacuzzi! The 2 beds promised that Suzette and I will not be breathing
and snoring next to each other. We also found a good sized balcony though there was not a view except passing buggies bound for next door cottages. The basket of fruits included my favorite mangoes. I was happy with that.
After a walk around the resort, we headed for one of the 3 restaurants in the resort. We strongly recommend Bohol's famous yam soup
. It has the texture of a pumpkin soup, but this local version won't disappoint. My first time to try it. They don't serve this back in Manila. Yummy yam! The other dishes served are fairly standard hotel food. I will not rave about it. You'd have your standard barbecue, breaded fish, green salad, etc. It fills up , but won't sate, if you know what I mean.
Bohol Bee Farm, Baclayon Church and Museum, Loboc Museum, River Cruise, Chocolate Hills, Tarsiers
We spent the next day the best way any tourist can. Started off the day with breakfast in Bohol Bee Farm.
We were served organic Chef's salad, homemade jams and marmalades, pates and cheese spread, home-baked pumpkin bread and other pastries. They even have their own coffee made from corn!
Eggs, local sausages called longganizas, meat loaf, various fruits, etc. After that hearty breakfast, a guide gave us a short tour cum lecture on how bees make honey, what plants went to our breakfast salad, the different flowers and plants around the area. There was even a small store where one can buy their homemade jams , cheese spreads, honey, local biscuits, and native bags. I got a couple of bags.
From the Bee Farm, we drove towards Baclayon Church and Museum.
I have seen this church some years back when the province has yet to make a mark on the tourism map. There have been some improvements, but my heart tells me the local government can do a lot more. Tourism in the area has vastly improved. Perhaps ten fold if not more. It's easy to guess that. My niece Suzette is making her first visit and I can tell she is impressed with our colonial history. Having grown up in the city, she has had not much exposure to vestiges of our Spanish heritage. The churches she goes to are all of modern architecture, unless she goes to Intramuros or a few other selected churches whenever
she's invited to weddings. But our everyday church is a modern church. Baclayon gives us a glimpse of how it was in olden times. It helped that our guide prepared us by citing the story of the Spanish Expedition led by Miguel Lopez de Legazpi and Datu Sikatuna's Blood Compact in the island of Bohol
. Now, let me explain a few things here. Datu Sikatuna is a local chieftain in Bohol. The Blood Compact is a ritual where both leaders seal their friendship by shedding a few drops of blood from their arms (i suppose they have to make neat cuts first...) , mix in some wine, and drink them. Sounds very primitive to me, but that is what history books tell us. Mind you, that "friendship" allowed the Spaniards to overstay by a good 400 years. Must be one effective Treaty of Friendship if you ask me.
Back to Baclayon Church and Museum. This ancient church claims to be the oldest church in the whole of the Philippines. Some may argue and say that the oldest church is San Agustin Church in Intramuros. Well, that is the oldest STONE church in the country. From the looks of
it, there are still some renovations going on within the church compound. Let us hope the complex will have more improvements by my next visit. My only frustration is hearing the sad news that the church experienced burglaries in the past, and that the Museum is now missing some precious items of antiquity. My say on this? There would not be burglars if there are no buyers.
From the Church, we had a short drive to the Loboc Museum
which sits right by the Loboc River, exactly where the terminal is for the Loboc River Cruise.
The wide wide seaworthy vessel looks more like a big nipa hut with bamboo flooring floating down this green river. Lunch was served while cruising Loboc River, complete with a singing duo who would gladly oblige guests with their favorite songs. Again, I did not find the food all that impressive but I like the idea of having lunch while river cruising. Along the river, one gets a glimpse of provincial life. Native huts, children playing and swimming by the river edge, wooden outposts that serve as hangouts for idle men and women enjoying a good chat. The whole concept is
just so relaxing. At river's end, there was even a band of young girls singing kundimans (local songs of old) to the delight of foreign tourists. Their songs brought cheer to our hearts.
Having enjoyed a relaxing cruise down the river , we then proceeded to check out the tarsiers.
Big eyed mini-monkeys with eyes bigger than their brains. The smallest monkey in the world is an attraction here in Bohol. Many foreign and local tourists took snapshots of these cuties who must have been stressed out with all those flash photography (despite the signage) and noisy crowd. Suzette had a couple of shots to show off to her son and daughter. From here, we then trooped to the Chocolate Hills
. We were told that there are better views of the hills in a farther town in Carmen, Bohol. Tired that we were, we settled for the nearest viewpoint. This view though can be had only after climbing a hundred steps . But the vista did not disappoint. Rolling down the landscape were the Chocolate Hills, now not so chocolate-ty but more greenish. I recall having climbed the same steps the last time I visited Bohol. Was it
age creeping up on me, or did they actually add more steps to the stairs? Kidding aside, it was not a steep and long climb. Very manageable, really.
Coming back to the hotel, we hit the showers right away to drain away the sweat from the sweltering heat, and all that dust and grime from a whole day of touring. We also had our perfect dinner in that tiny manmade island which was made up by the hotel for a luau dinner. They set up torches to light up our dinner , and they had tiny boats ready to ferry us from shore to the island. I thoroughly enjoyed our dinner of crabs, prawns, grilled pork bellies and chicken, seagrapes salad called lato, green mango with bagoong (shrimp paste), various fruits. Wine flowed. And the singing began. It was a natural consequence, one may observe. And it was also our cue to stand up and leave. Better back in the room, than feel obliged to sing. The night was magical and we decided to walk back from shore to our forest cottage. The resort is really not big. I may say it is a good size. There was
a good breeze and I was happy to walk back to our cottage. It was also just the perfect time to try out the hotel's famous spa. Suzette had her body massage at exactly 11 in the evening. Don't ask me how she found her way back to our cottage by midnight after that treatment. What I know is that I'm pretty sure she drooled in her sleep.
The following morning could have been another adventure but the weather did not cooperate. Our dolphin watching boat adventure was cancelled at the last minute because of stormy weather. Balicasag island
promised a lot, but I guess we can't have it all. We spent the whole day in the resort. My niece checked out some of the caves around with newfound friends. By nightfall, we had a simple dinner before deciding to seek adventure. This time, we ventured out for yet another boat ride along Loboc river to check out the fireflies! We were along the river for a good hour, no fireflies. Just mosquitoes, and so much darkness. We almost gave up by the time the fireflies decided to make an appearance. So beautiful. One tree looked like a
lighted Christmas tree in mid-summer. How magical! And that's the second time I used that word here.
The following day is the day we take our flight back to Manila. There was enough time to hear mass at the nearby Dauis Church,
another ancient church. After mass, we had a chance to check out the plaza behind the church. Then back to Panglao Island Nature Resort to pack our bags and get ready for our flight. It was a weekend well spent.
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