Travel Four: Bohol

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For BOHOL ITINERARY, click here.

We often get something different than what we usually anticipate. Either an outcome that might amuse us or else betray our expectation. Nevertheless, anything that comes and goes should be accepted with the greatest understanding. When we see things with an open mind, it will be easy to keep our judgments inside our head. Anyway, let me just tell you another story of our travel.

After a few seconds of groping, Rej managed to get the jug from the deepest part of her bag. This was to help lessen the weight of our shared baggage. ‘Are you going to drink that here, miss?’ asked the guy behind the check-in counter. We were confused if he meant that no water is allowed inside or he was just asking out of curiosity. ‘No, sir.‘ she replied. ‘Very well, so you’re going to drink that at Tagbilaran?‘, he followed. Being always the bashful one, she replied, ‘I guess so…yes.’ It was awkward, but there was something funny about that conversation (as most of awkward exchange of words with Rej) which made all of us snicker.

The flight took an hour and a half before touching down to the city of friendship. We jumped in quickly to our rented van. The plan was to stay for two days and three nights, visiting all the tourist spots around Bohol. We told our driver to go ahead to the first destination and set the hotel to be our halting-place after we maximize the day’s touring hours. Since we arrived late noon, he suggested we take our lunch at Bohol Bee Farm, where they specially offer only organic food.

A fully loaded organic meal for lunch!
A fully loaded organic meal for lunch!

The cafeteria shared an edge from a cliff. Overlooking the sea behind it with the sun glaring down straight to the tables and chairs. It took a little while before the food were served. We had some photo op and then we all sit down our chairs and started cramming down our superbly tasty grubs. We even tasted for the first time some flowers we never thought were edible. The people at the diner said all flowers could be eaten, as long as the bees don’t avoid it, said the bees could tell when a flower has poison and when it’s alright to chew it down. We started the Bee Farm tour as soon as we were done eating and having some peek at their souvenir shop. Just a mouthful of facts concerning the current environment went on, stuff about the plants, the flowers, and about the bees, of course.

Minutes later we walked along stalls of island souvenirs and delicious-looking fruit shakes. The Hinagdanan cave awaited at the end of a short walk. Climbing down the stairs was the first step before being amazed by the gorgeous arrangement inside. A crystal clear lagoon rest below awesome stalactites. The warmth of the damp cave makes it a perfect match for a cold swim. Our tour guide seldom hit on hilarious punchlines at almost every step of the way. He also showed some tricks for the camera and a night mode effect since there was just a little light in the cave. This was the first amazing experience we had since we stepped down the plane, the bees was fun but this was at some point extraordinary, but we hadn’t had the chance of taking a dip in the lagoon. A couple of bohol tees and refreshing fruit shakes came right after the entertaining tour.

Just below the entrance of the cave. Light begins to fade inward.
Swallow birds fly swiftly in and out the cave. ‘Keep your mouths closed, you might swallow birds.’, says the tour guide.

The sun was almost down when we reached San Agustin Church, its huge doors wasn’t open for some inner viewing but the park and the facade was pleasant enough for a good photoshoot. Even though Bohol encountered a devastating phenomenon, it’s a thankful thought not all their historic churches were damaged, this one in particular. As we moved on and finally take the rest of the day to our hotel, we realized that Bohol was not a place for an abundance of free drinking water. Even the hotel did not have service water. As we looked for a place to buy a light meal for the night to calm our tummies, we noticed every shop has their own shelves, solely for display of for-sale drinking water. We decided to take a gallon and share it among our group for the rest of the travel. We enjoyed a cup of noodles at the hotel while trying to figure out our way of playing The Resistance, a supposed to be thrilling card game.

Around San Agustin Church.
Around San Agustin Church.

There’s nothing better than filling yourself up with a healthy breakfast before heading out on a surely wonderful day. We began by taking a stop at the Blood Compact site. History told us this was where the Spanish sealed friendship with the Boholanos. Perhaps it’s where they based their claim as the City of Friendship. We rode straight by Dauis church, one that was damaged by the 2013 7.2 magnitude earthquake. Then we drove on by the Baclayon Church ruins. At that time a reconstruction was taking place, just a few shots and then we moved on. The preserved remains of Prony, the largest captivated python in the Philippines, was placed at the Python Sanctuary. It’s also a mini zoo. A sleeping reptile of the same species was available for a close-up picture taking. It was pretty terrifying. Our luncheon took place at the tourist attraction Loboc River. A buffet service on a cruise that lasted an hour long along with a live band and a dance presentation by the locals. We saw a cable car crossing high between the mountains that surrounded the river. There was a church along the way, too, also damaged by the earthquake, torn in half to be precise. About the food they’re serving for the tourists, honestly it was not the best buffet they can give you. But it was alright. I just thought in the future they might serve something that will take that tour in a different level. But by any means, a filled up tummy is a filled up tummy…but, still.

Say hi to the camera!
Say hi to the camera! Loboc River Cruise

Thankfully, the succeeding places sweetened the pot of our so far somehow unsatisfying day tour. In our opinion anyway, or it might have been the depressing look of the churches. So, later midday we arrived at the Tarsier Conservation Area. A dozen tarsiers slept separately on branches that stretched through the small forest. A few were awake, we were told to be careful when approaching them and to avoid positioning our cameras too close. They’re pretty suicidal, apparently this thing applies to all primates. These little creatures are extinct, and they are bred here to help safeguard their future.

Smaller than the palm of your hand. This one is wide awake.
Smaller than the palm of your hand. This one is wide awake.

Along the way to our next destination, we stopped on the road to take some pleasant time at Bohol’s man-made forest. During the World War II, refugees burned an entire forest to start a new community. Then over fifty years ago, the government started a two-kilometer tree planting project. The road is now being decorated by mahoganies that stood beautifully tall and mighty. I noticed we were the only people who parked down the road and no other car nor people were there. We stayed observant for rushing vehicles. Feeling thirsty, we grabbed our gallon of water, pass it along and moved on to our next destination. ‘Does somebody need some pampering?’, my friend called out. Men wearing spa-like uniforms stood by the entrance of the Butterfly Gardens. It was funnier when they actually offered for one. The tour inside the garden started with a presentation of preserved bugs and beetles and walking sticks. Followed by colorful caterpillars, which we tried to carefully not freak out while it crawled around our hands, and ending with a display of numerous kinds of framed moths and monarchs. A few of the butterflies flew gracefully around the whole premise. There was also a photo-shooting area where the you would be captured as one with butterfly wings. The afternoon was still young by the time we left went on our last target.

Let 'em crawl right on your face!
Let ’em crawl right on your face!

An absolutely stunning view, a world wonder and truly one of nature’s masterpiece. Bohol’s pride, the Chocolate Hills was declared as a world heritage site just a few years ago. Scientifically speaking, the hills were formed by a million-year process of something called conical karst topography. That doesn’t sound interesting, what will catch your ears are the famous legends to why it became such a marvel. One talks about two giants on a feud. ‘Twas said they kept throwing rocks and sand and mud at each other, eventually they got tired, became friends, forgot the mess, and boom, the hills. Another was about a giant carabao who plagued a town. To get rid of it, the people prepared mountains of spoiled food. The carabao then ate it, got an awful diarrhea, and pooped out all his gluttonies in an apparently harmonious and consistent arrangement. My favorite one talks about a lover who was a giant fatty. He fell in love with a beautiful girl, decided to take on a strict diet, and pooped all his fats away. The excretion dried out and became the hills. He got fit and handsome and finally captured the girl’s heart. If this method does not pull off in real life, I have no idea what would.

Reaching the viewing peak began with a hundred leg-breaking steps, concluding that everyone on top only consisted of the young and able. We tried to enjoy the climb by singing our throats out with Katy Perry’s Thinking of You. It doesn’t really make sense, blame the LSS. The whole horizon was magnificent, the hills stretched out as far as our eyes could see. I remembered when I was a kid, and I’ve only seen this through history books, I thought they were as small as half a story building. I couldn’t have been more wrong. They stood for up to 50 feet and they spread for more than a thousand. We left the area with our cameras full off selfies and 360° videos.

Every step of the way to the top.
Every step of the way to the top.

It was early dusk when we reached the hotel. We decided to walk along alona beach and help ourselves look for a place to have dinner. Quite a number of stalls offering different pleasantries faced the shore. Bar, grill and restaurants, souvenir shops, and diving boutiques. The night gathered fast and the whole beach came alive with disco lights, party sounds, and a whole lot of people. We settled at a restaurant called… I can’t really remember. They had white linens for mantles and a lot of choices for grilled entrees. It was fine although the service was not that satisfying. Going back to our lodge, we spent a slow walk accompanied by stories regarding that day and hoping the last would be as much exciting or better yet more memorable than the breaking one. We enjoyed some hours of that night by swimming in the pool. Lastly, Rose and I went up the rooftop and admired the starry night sky.

Surely we could have saved some snacks for the morning boat trip, but we failed to anticipate the long ride to Balicasag island. The staff gave each of us a sandwich to carry on. Naturally, that didn’t suffice. We also experienced a bit of difficulty looking out for the dolphins on the way to the island, we waited for a good show but nothing came up. Perhaps too much noise from the boats pushed them away. It was an indeed disappointing start for that day.

Another boat ride was expected on the way to the snorkeling spot. Gladly, we took our pleasure at splashing on to the water and feeding wide variety of fishes. Good thing there was an available bread for sale upon arriving at the island. There was a lot of people, too. We spent a little more than an hour before going back and heading our way to our last trip of the day.

It's kind of terrifying to stand at the edge and look beynod the deep chasm.
It’s kind of terrifying to stand at the edge and look beyond the deep chasm.

There was not a single cloud up the sky, and the heat was so intense it burned. Anyhow, we managed to walk (and run) by the long shore and take a short trip at the virgin island. Being owned by the government, it served as a shrine for Padre Pio of Pietrelcina (the featured image above). There was a small snack bar behind a painting gallery at the middle of the island. Surprisingly, the snacks did not come with a specific cost. Rather, tourists could pay at whatever charitable amount they mind to give. We offered a considerably fair donation and enjoyed a few local snacks such as turon, maruya, puto, etc. During beach travels like this one, we always make time for creating a group shot with us lined up on the shore and our backs turned at the camera. Despite the scorching heatwave, we placed ourselves dramatically and posed. The idea of leaving the island came up just right before a huge group of tourists showed up.

May the odds be ever in your favor! Run like your life depends on it.
May the odds be ever in your favor! Run like your life depends on it.

The travesty of packing up is our usual phenomenon before departing. A bunch of new stuff crammed in a bag or two. These consist a handful of souvenirs, stinky wet clothes, and things which were regrettably brought along. All of these scrambling our heads with anxiety. Where to put this, where to toss that. This is a reason why it is highly recommended to book an evening flight, so there would be no worries about being late or spending too much time in a certain tourist spot. The unreasonable panicking passed and we boarded on one piece. Regardless of anything disappointing or unexpected, another travel ended with satisfaction, every hour spent at Bohol was definitely worth it.

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