Tagbilaran; The jump off point for visitors wishing to visit the popular chocolate hills and the incredibly cute Tarsiers in a nearby sanctuary. Tagbilaran is the main port town on the island of Bohol. From Malapascua we travelled back to Cebu city, stayed a few nights (in order to extend our 30 day visa) and then caught a 2 hr ferry from Cebu port across to Tagbilaran, Bohol. We arrived in Tagbilaran with the usual touts and taxi drivers asking "where are you going?" "Tarsiers?" "Chocolate hills?" "Panglao?" We politely declined all offers and made our way into the main town in search of our hostel 0.8miles away.
As we walked we could not help but notice there was a distinct lack of jeepneys and cars on the road. Instead it was polluted by tricycles; more than we thought were required for the small town. On the back of every tricycle was a small quote from the bible such as 'God is good' or 'I wait patiently for god to save me'. This made a pleasant change from names like 'Chick Carrier' emblazoned on the sides of others we had seen elsewhere in the Philippines. However we later came
to understand that this was mandatory, enforced by the city government. Without these bible quotations the tricycle drivers risk being fined or having their licences revoked. Religion is clearly taken very seriously here.
Despite the guide books disregarding this town as somewhere you only stay if you really really needed to, P quite liked the atmosphere it had.We did find our food options a little limited, more so for P who had cut meat out of her diet. The mall is pretty small compared to other towns we have visited so we made the decision to treat ourselves to a 2 person meal deal at the local pizza hut. Haha. Like we said we love local culture and food. On a serious note however, towns and cities here in the Philippines are littered with an abundance of fast food eateries and so it is not at all far fetched to say these types of greasy foods are a daily staple for many.
The next day we hopped on a local bus (60pesos) to the famous chocolate hills located a couple hours outside of Tagbilaran. These hills, apparently the only hills of their type in such quantity,
are brown and like their name reflect a chocolatey colour with a particular likeness of hershes kisses. The chocolate colour supposedly is more prominent during the summer months but the previous hurricane has unfortunately left them a bit faded.
We were not really blown away by the hills considering the the journey necessary to get here and it didn't really compare to other vistas we've seen already so we did not really stick around too long. After taking some quick obligatory 'we've been here' pictures we set off on our journey back down and hopped on the first bus going back to Tagbilaran. This bus was completely different to the comfortable air conditioned bus airing films on the way to the chocolate hills. Instead we were on a cramped local bus with straight metal backed seats and huge bags of rice underneath us, with the windows wide open to keep everyone cool. We got as comfortable as humanly possible at the back of the bus with Chris resting himself on a rice bag, nestled leg to leg with the guy beside him. This bus cost the same as the bus getting here even though the standards were completely
different. Strange but we were not bothered enough to despite it.
We could have visited the Tarsier sanctuary on the same day as visiting the chocolate hills but as we left out after lunch for the hills alone this left us with little time for both, and so we ended up going to see the Tarsiers the following morning.
We caught a jeepeny easily enough to the sanctuary but as it was Sunday, transport is not as frequent so we had to make sure we returned to the bus stop by 11am (or we would have to wait another 3 hrs for the next bus). The Tarsier sanctuary is one of a few that actually care for Tarsiers responsibly. Other so called Tarsier centres here usually keep the naturally solitary animals in cages with other Tarsiers. Being emotionally delicate animals they have a tendency to commit suicide by holding their breath when put in highly stressful situations and so being placed so close to others when they naturally live in isolation can be very stressful for them. With our guide we quietly crept through the sanctuary in search of some Tarsiers. Apparently there are 10 in
the confines of the forested area here but the guides could only spot 3 that morning. Most end up crawling high up into the trees seeking shade as they are naturally nocturnal animals and so seek sleep during the day.
During the 10 minute tour, our guide was able to point out the 3 tarsiers all barely visible as they clung on half asleep to a tree branch using the large leaves as shade. They were unbelievably small for a primate with their huge eyes and large human like hands. Soo cute.
Afterwards we made our journey onwards to an undiscovered kind of island that had been recommended to us earlier in the trip.
One observation we would like to share here about our time in Tagbilaran and the Philippines in general is the Jeepney bus system that we were completely fascinated by. Let us explain how it works (for those unfamiliar with the Philippines popular source of transport). At the start of their journey these Jeepney buses generally wait for as many passengers as possible at their base while the driver (or conductor) tries to increase custom by shouting the name of its
destination to all passers by. We find this somewhat useless like the numerous tricycle offers; if people are going to that destination they would by their own accord seek it out and not change their mind from someone calling it out aloud. I guess for them its worth a try.
All Jeepney's generally have their destinations in the front window in an unofficial fashion often scribbled in pen on a piece of card. Sometimes the destination name is incorporated into the colourful and dramatic design work on the outside. We rather liked this touch. When you enter the tin cladded Jeepney there are 2 rows of benches facing each other. The preference is to sit near the door, which can be annoying if you enter later on in the specific route, as you have to squeeze through the smallest gap in the middle, past boney knees on either side to get further onto the bus. The ceilings are also low so you have to do this completely bent over. Nice I know. The worse thing however is when you think the bus cannot get any more full and it stops to let someone else on. You can see
Onboard an jeepney
waiting for it to fill up
the annoyance on peoples faces as this new passenger may choose to sit next to you, being almost sat on you as they squeeze their bum down trying to create somewhat of an impossible space. Haha we love the impossibleness of these journeys and the fact that this could never happen back home.
Rather than have bus stops, people will stand at the road side and the bus will stop at most road sides. Shortly after getting on, in a random un-orderly manner, people will shout the name of the place they are going to and will pass their money to the front, all the way to the driver. If you are closest to the driver this will be your job to collect it, pass it to the driver and pass any change back. We happily took on these roles a few times as we participated in this system that was so new to us.
We loved the fact that this system works on trust and honesty as you are expected to pay at some point throughout the journey. Also we understand the drivers are very good at totalling up the number of people (with people
getting off and on all the time) so they generally know if someone does not pay. This must be difficult as passengers enter the bus from the back and as soon as they enter the bus drives off again. Plus the driver collects the fare and provides change whilst driving; often at a fast speed whilst weaving in and out of traffic. No doubt these drivers are incredibly skilled and it takes way more than the ability to drive to become as efficient as these guys.
Another observation was that the journeys on Jeepney buses are very cheap. In general you pay around 8 pesos for your journey that can be anywhere from 5 minutes to half an hour long, sometimes more. Thats 12 english pence!! Incredibly cheap Transportation.
Malapasca to cebu. Reverse of previous blog.
Cebu to Bohol. A 2 hour Ferry costing us 500peso.
Tasier and Choclate hills; both accessible by Jeepney from the main bus terminal (next to ICM mall). Accomodation
Cebu; le village. 725pesos for 2 dorm beds
Tagbilaran; Nisa Travellers lodge 600pesos for a double with breakfast.
Tot: 2.596s; Tpl: 0.088s; cc: 12; qc: 49; dbt: 0.1047s; 2; m:saturn w:www (22.214.171.124); sld: 1;
; mem: 1.4mb