Monday, September 21, 2009

Travel Kuwento: Bohol August 21-23, 2009

At the start of August, I already asked Leo where we will celebrate our second wedding anniversary. Last year, we went to Subic and this year, I want to go somewhere else again. I can't remember how we arrived with Bohol but I can recall that there was not much discussion involved. We somehow just agreed with Bohol.

We next settled with the date. We initially wanted it during the long weekend of our anniversary. But since I had finals, we moved it a week earlier which happens to be another long weekend.

As we only had two weeks until our agreed date, I rushed everything. I booked online and we got Cebu Pacific this time around. We also found a nice resort as recommended by my online friends.

The reason why we chose Cebu Pacific other than it's price, is that it leaves Manila a tad later than PAL giving us more time to get to the airport (via Skyway!). Also, I wanted to see NAIA III.

I woke up all excited as I've really been looking forward to this trip. I was a bit sad too as we'll be leaving Basti behind (my in-laws though, took him to Tagaytay). We arrived at NAIA III two hours before our flight. I expected the worse and I was surprised by the cleanliness of the airport and how it can really rival airports from other countries. I do hope that the government settle whatever they would need to settle so they can fully operate the airport. It beats NAIA I hands down!

We had breakfast at one of the airport kiosks (food choices are definitely better than NAIA I) and patiently waited for our flight. It didn't take long though but we were diverted to another gate as the flight before us was delayed.

Flight to Bohol only took one hour and a half. I was again pleasantly surprised by the plane. It's clean and the interior looks new--like the PAL plane that I rode going to Singapore last year. Our photo was taken by our window-seat seatmate who kindly offered to do so.

As we were not seated by the window, I was not able to take a good photo of Bohol from up in the air. I assume though that it looks exactly like in the map. The airport is surrounded by hills and trees, typically provincial Philippines.

We requested for an airport transfer and we were happy to see that the driver from our resort--Alona Tropical--was there at the gate. He took us to a Toyota Vios and after loading our luggage, drove out of the airport and on the way to Panglao Island. I asked if we'll be taking a bangka ride going to the island and he mentioned, much to my relief, that there's a short bridge connecting both islands eliminating the need for a boat ride.

Seeing the coast was such a welcome sight. The water was so inviting and so clear! You could really see your feet underneath the water and it feels like you're swimming in a pool! This was the view from the restaurant at our resort. The beach is just FABULOUS!!!Makes you want to jump right in...and here's another unobstructed view.

We opted not to go anywhere on our first day and just stayed at the resort. We (or rather, I), swam in the beach in the afternoon and we even tried out their pool (it's SO deep as they also use it for teaching people on how to dive). We also explored the stretch of beach and found other resorts where you can have lunch/dinner, which we did that night.

As discussed with our tour guide/driver, we wanted to do the land tour thing on the 2nd day. I only have two things that I wanted to see in my must-see list--the must acclaimed Chocolate Hills and the indigenous Tarsier. We set out at 8AM and started off to Chocolate Hills which was an hour's ride from the resort.

We first stopped at the Sandugo sight (which was a replica of the "agreement" made by the locals with the Spaniards). Unfortunately, there were too many tourists waiting for their turn with the statues so we only took a few pictures.

Though I lacked sleep, I was excited in seeing the sights that I barely noticed my tiredness. The tourguide/driver was also full of trivia and tidbits about the towns and landmarks that we passed. I'm very impressed with him and I assume that the rest of the guides are the same as well. Whoever trained them did a damn good job and I commend them for their effort and success.

My first glimpse of the famed Chocolate Hills was full of awe. Apparently, the hills fan through 3 or 4 towns and I asked the driver to stop so I can have a picture with the first few hills. The small hill at the background is indeed a chocolate hill. The bigger ones though are further into the island's interior--which we'll be seeing later on.

Finally, we got to the base of the viewing deck and the climb towards the viewing deck was definitely worth the climb (200+ step!). The view is absolutely magnificent and marvelous! There were hills as far as the eye can see! You would really wonder how these hills came to be and they would really look like little chocolate kisses come summer when the hot summer sun turns the grass covering the hills into brown.

After probably an hour at the place (we had ice cream at the base of the viewing deck), the driver returned for us and we traced our route back to the resort. Stopping at places of interest for us. Oh, another interesting thing to note, the restroom there has aircon inside! People wanted to stay inside the restroom because it was SO hot outside. Me included. Hehe.

Our first stop back was the butterfly farm. I felt it was no different than the other butterfly farms in the Luzon island but it was the first time that I held a live caterpillar and let a butterfly rest on my hair. Seeing the insects flutter about the garden was also very relaxing and I somehow got over my fear of them. There's an urban legend that if a butterfly wing touches your eye, you'll get blind. Apparently, there's no truth in that--according to our guide.

After the butterfly farm, we finally got to a place that lets you view the tarsiers and like other tourists, I was able to get a shot with the famous mammal. Apparently, there are a lot of tarsier farms in the area and we were brought to this one. We're not allowed to touch the little guys so I tried to get as close as I can without bothering them. This was the best shot that we got.

Another thing I love about Bohol was the churches. We visited two of them and both of them are quite ancient. If I'm not mistaken, they were built way back during the Spanish era. I also learned a bit of trivia. This church is the second oldest church in Bohol. According to Wikipedia, it was originally built in 1602, but soon reduced to ashes. The bell tower of Loboc is about 100 meters from the church.

We also visited another church, the Baclayon church. This church was initially built in 1596 and located near the coastline. Next to the church is the old convent (which we also visited) which also houses a small museum with centuries-old religious relics, artifacts and other antiquities, dating back to the 16th century. Here I am posing outside the church.

After the churches, we had lunch at one of the boats cruising the Loboc River. While having lunch, we had a local singer serenading us with local songs (and even Japanese songs for the tourists). This shot was taken towards the end of the cruise and I felt so calm and peaceful while looking through it again. There's really something about the sea can calm a person (I think there's a psychological test somewhere on how you look at the sea).

The cruise took around 30 minutes to an hour, I think. We stopped by a "settlement" where local people dressed up in tribes gear entertained us with their drums and dance. Other than that, it's just seeing the palm trees along the river and enjoying the music, food and view. Really something that a Bohol visitor should experience.

We got back at the resort at around late afternoon and I could feel myself coming down with something. Apparently, I caught a cold because of the abrupt change in weather (it was hot outside and after sight-seeing, we would take shelter inside the car where the aircon was on at full blast).


We were at the Tagbilaran airport right on time. Unfortunately, I was nursing a cold and I tell you from experience that it's so difficult to fly with a clogged nose. I was so miserable throughout the whole flight even the cold medicine that I took could not knock me out.

Anyway, the Bohol trip was the best local trip that we've had so far. That island is so beautiful and there are still a lot of things that we were not able to see. I'm looking forward to going back and hopefully, we can bring our brood along.

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