May 23, 2017

Bohol the Jewel of the Philippines

"Bohol, the Jewel of the Philippines"

It's been almost 9 years when we first visited the province of Bohol. The place is somewhat special nothing grimly but sweet memories and funny experiences. It is here we founded the idea of having a written travel journal for all our upcoming trips. Experiences like  a vehicle breakdown in the middle of nowhere while on tour, we helped and scooped some water in the nearby stream but with no avail. The tour operator ended up bringing a new car in to continue our tour. Another was stopping in a Tarsier Sanctuary along the road where you could view the endemic Tarsier up-close like a foot r less with no barriers.  Those are just the few of the best experiences we have during our first visit and luckily last January 2017 we set foot again after spending Sinulog Festival in Cebu.

There are two options to get to Bohol, you can either catch a flight from  major hubs like Manila or Cebu to Tagbilaran or you catch one of the two high speed ferries in Cebu's Pier 1 that caters Cebu- Tagbilaran route. Supercat which is operated by Aboitiz cost around Php 500.00 per way, less expensive and less bumpy than Oceanjet's Php 800.00 fare.

Tuklasera Tips:

  • If you hate long lines and crowded spaces at Piers, avoid going to Bohol before and after Sinulog Festival.
  • For day tour visits, It's imperative to catch the first ferry to Bohol if you want to include Panglao in your itinerary. Getting to Chocolate hills alone in Carmen will take an hour or more per way.

SPANISH INFLUENCE
The Spanish invaded and took control in the late 1500s until the late 19th century. Spanish influence is written all over Bohol, as evidenced in city names such as Alburquerque and Buena Vista. The Americans took over Bohol after the conclusion of the Spanish-American War.  Then the Japanese came in and took control until the Americans liberated Bohol during World War II.

That Bohol comes from the word "Bo'ol," which refers to the name of a place (the place thought of as the site of the Sikatuna-Legazpi blood compact)

WHAT HAPPEN DURING THE 1500's?

On March 16, 1565, Legazpi accompanied by Fray Andres de Urdaneta and so crew members landed on the shores of Bohol, but they were given a hostile welcome by the Boholanos, who mistook them as Portuguese who had come to plunder and kill. With the help of his Malay pilot, Legazpi was able to explain to Datu Sikatuna of Bohol and Datu Sigala of Loboc that they were not Portuguese and that they had come to offer peace. Thus, a blood compact was done in order to seal their friendship and establish amicable bonds between the two parties. At present, the compact made between Sikatuna and Legazpi is celebrated and commemorated annually and called the Sandugo Festival in Bohol. It involves a reenactment of the blood compact, a religious mass and parade on the streets and the search for the Miss Bohol beauty pageant.

DO YOU KNOW THAT SANDUGO FESTIVAL IS A MONTH  LONG CELEBRATION. BOHOLANOS FIESTA CULTURE IS INDEED SERIOUS.



GETTING AROUND THE ISLAND
According to our friend who operates inland tours in Bohol, there are over 15 tour operators and still counting with 3-5 van units each. Tour packages starts at Php 5,000 per van with driver including  Panglao Island. Hassle-free packages can be arrange by a trusted Travel Agency by clicking the link http://www.philippinestravelpackage.com/bohol/ . They offer a wide range of destinations and packages to choose from.

A THOUSAND HUMPS TO COUNT
From Tagbilaran port, our tour van picked us around 8:00 am and make our way to see the Chocolate Hills, a famous tourist attraction in Bohol. The scenic ride will take you to the coastal road down to the breathtaking view of Bilar's  man-made forest. It's a reforestation project to replace trees lost from widespread kaingin (slash-and-burn farming) in Bohol. Nowadays, the man-made forest is considered a side attraction in Carmen, Bohol.



An hour later,  we arrived in the Chocolate Hills Complex in Carmen. A staircase of few hundred steps leads to the viewing platform. Before, there's a staircase that loops in the back of the hill and converges with the main staircase in the viewing platform. According to our tour driver, the staircase was badly damage by the strong earthquake last 2013. Quite funny because it took us 30 min of stair-climbing to the viewing platform. Well worth the effort, tiring but rewarding experience. The Chocolate Hills earn their name when the grass on the hills turns from green to brown during dry season. They also often dubbed as "Giant Kisses" that resembles that of a  Chocolate kisses made by Hershey. Entrance fee is pegged at  Php 50.00. There are several restaurants and  shops where you could eat or buy some souvenirs at a reasonable price.



BRING ON THE MUD!
If you want some wheel-spinning fun, mud-splashing fun, you can rent Quads and ATV's in Buenos Aires. The rates are quite expensive but for the experience we give it a try. We rented 6 QUADS and signed a waiver stating that the company is not liable for any accidents during the experience. The briefing only lasted for like 10 minutes on how to use the vehicles, safety etc. It was a great experience but not that interesting. I think the Php 450.00 (30 min) is enough because for me the hills are all the same.

GRAHAM ATV & BUG RENTAL
Different Packages and Rates:

Three Sisters Hill - 30 min
Eight Sisteres Hill - 1 Hour

ATV – Php 450 – 30 minutes; Php 850 – 1 hour
Buggy- Php 850 – 30 minutes; Php 1500 -1 hour
Php 250/per head –Back ride of ATV

Tuklasera Tips:
  • Bring some extra clothes
  • Sunscreen is a must
  • Wear sunglasses to avoid squinting in the sun while driving



EAT WHILE YOU CRUISE IN PINOY MADE CATAMARAN

No Bohol trip is not complete without experiencing Loboc River Cruise. We were the one of the last few groups to board the floating restaurant because we spent a lot of time in Chocolate Hills. Cruising along the river, you get to see how locals lived and sometimes you will get to see kids doing cannonball jumps. A wide selection of Filipino dishes- Skewered Barbecues, Kinilaw, Buttered Chicken, Grilled Tuna, Steamed Crabs, fruits and Filipino delicacies.  In certain part of the river, the floating restaurant stopped by a floating platform just off the riverbank where a group of kids dance and perform a series of songs for the visitors.

Prices
P350.00 – River Cruise and Lunch
P100.00 – Maintenance, Safety and Security Charges
P450/pax

Children:
0-3 years old – free without drinks
4-8 years old – 50% with drinks
9-11 years old – P250.00
12 years old and above – P350.00

THEY CALL IT " THE LITTLE BORACAY OF BOHOL"

Bohol is not only about Chocolate Hills, Tarsiers and heritage sights, they are also known for its white sand beaches and caves. Panglao's Alona beach is dubbed as Little Boracay of Bohol and started to gain traction as a top travel beach destination in the Philippines.
Alona's sand is as fine as Boracay but when it comes to serenity, Panglao's Alona beach is widely applauded. The island is also one of the 17 areas featured in Travel + Leisure's "Best Secret Beaches on Earth" feature, which is part of the magazine's March 2012 issue
alongside with Palawan and Boracay.

OFF THE BEATEN PATH:
  • Bohol has over 1,400 caves and there are still some that are not discovered yet. The latest cave attraction in Bohol is Cabagnow Cave Pool in Anda - a natural deep blue cave pool that is gaining popularity for adventure seekers.
  • Another must do in Anda is to experience the white sand of Quinale Beach. A long stretch of white sand with clear waters and a sandy bed.

DO A GAZING GAME WITH THE TARSIER
There are two Tarsier Sanctuaries where you can view them in the wild. This nocturnal primates have large eyes than their brain and the largest of all the mammals. Talking about flexibility, Tarsiers can rotate their head 360 degrees without moving their body. Nine years ago, we visited a souvenir shop in Corella and they had a viewing area with six Tarsiers where you could view them up-close. This is the most depressing part, for a certain fee you can take a picture with the tarsier where the handler will gently grab the Tarsier and put it in your arm. They are nocturnal primates and grabbing them during the day or just by grabbing them will physically stress them out.

Today, the Philippine Tarsier Foundation is doubling their effort to save the remaining Tarsiers in the wild. We visited the Tarsier sanctuary in Corella, it's a free environment  and enclosed  to keep the predators like cats away. The entrance fee is P60 pesos per person. With that you get a guided tour inside the Tarsier sleeping site where the tarsiers rest during the day.


    BACLAYON CHURCH: A CULTURAL TREASURE
    Our final stop ends at Baclayon church -  one of the oldest churches in Bohol that dates back in 1724. It is made of coral stones but had been partially damage from the most recent earthquake last 2013. Aside from the centuries old Baclayon Church, the Baclayon Museum boast some artifacts that dates back hundreds of years ago. A small entrance fee of Php 25.00 for rehabilitation and maintenance costs. Sadly we were not allowed to take pictures inside because camera flashes which emit intense light, are believed to hurt delicate objects. Thirty minutes later, we left Baclayon and head to Tagbilaran port to catch the last ferry to Cebu.



    What makes Bohol special?
    Back in our  hotel room in Cebu, I  was asking myself  with that question and  I realized that Bohol has everything, pack in one place: from white beaches to cave pools, landscape, food, heritage sites and endemic species. But what makes it more special are the Boholanos welcoming attitude and hospitality. Do you know that during fiesta,  95 percent of Boholanos will be bringing a friend. Coming home without a friend is a taboo as it will make one appear to be an unfriendly person who knows no other person in this world. For instance, Mang Jhonny - a personal friend of mine and the  owner of the commuter van we rented during our tour who always find time to check our whereabouts and if we are doing ok. That's what makes Bohol special and different from other Philippine destinations.
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