Now, we didn’t really go to Bohol just because. It was actually an almost year-long decision since there are so many good places to visit in the Philippines. After all, we have around 7,000 island and you can only focus on one per visit. 🙂
We narrowed it down to Palawan, Boracay, and Bohol. However, while we all agreed that Palawan is probably the best bet, it is also the least safe, at least when travelling with foreigners. We had to take into account we have an American and a Welsh travelling with us so that makes us easy target. Boracay, while it has arguably the best stretch of powdery white sand this side of the planet, is just that – a beach. There isn’t much to do there but island hop, swim and party til dawn. So, that left us with Bohol.
We originally planned on making our own itinerary but saved ourselves the trouble by booking the Countryside Tour with the resort. I think it cost us only Php 3,000 for the entire day (exclusive of entrance fees and meals) so with six of us, that is only Php 500 for the day.
After a one-hour forty-five minute drive from the resort, we got to our first stop – Chocolate Hills. Now, I’m not a “hill” person. I personally prefer water and forests to land formations but the view was superb. And everywhere you look, there was only green! I wanted to close my eyes and just tune out for an hour or so but there were many tourist and it would have looked weird. Hehehe.
Next was the man-made forest, a two-km stretch of mostly mahogany trees. What is notable here is that the trees are uniform in height and the drop in temperature is noticeable. It also makes for good photo-op. I wanted to pretend like I was a diwata or something.
We also went to the hanging bridge which was quite fun although my friend probably would say otherwise . Hehehe.
Since it was almost lunchtime, Mang Nito took us to Loboc River where we were to have our lunch aboard one of the motorized boats while cruising the river for a minimal fee of Php 300. This is probably my 2nd favorite activity while in Bohol. Something about the calm, green waters soothes me. And if the view of the Chocolate Hills was awe-inspiring, then this sent me straight to heaven. I particularly loved the cove near the singing/dancing Bohol natives near the end of our trip, as well as the streams/mini-waterfalls.
Kids hanging onto our boats while cruising down Loboc river
My lunch buffet (I enjoyed the clam soup with lots of ginger!)
There is an old church – Loboc Church built in 1602 by the Jesuits – along the river but we didn’t go there anymore since we still had around seven sights to go. This is the oldest church in Bohol also the base of the award-winning Loboc Children’s Choir. Too bad we missed it; I’ll make sure to go there next time when I visit Bohol with Ipe.
Next on our itinerary was the tarsier. I knew they were the smallest primates but I never imagined they were so small they could fit in my palm! By this time, my batteries were nearly exhausted so I was only able to take a couple of shots from my cellphone (Note to tourists: tarsiers are extremely sensitive to light, so turn off your flash).
After that, we went to the Clarin Ancestral House. The Clarins were an old political family, with two patriarchs serving as senators. The house, of typical colonial arhictecture, was a two-storey structure with formal and informal dining rooms, master’s and childrens’ bedroom, receiving area and an old-fashioned batalan (you know – the sink/dishwashing area of provincial houses, made of bamboo slats and having the requisite clay jar or tapayan). It was huge and I could tell they were a really rich family back then, although the house is now in dire need of repair. I wish the government would spare some to maintain this old house. Too bad my camera conked out by this time and I had to resort to my cellphone.
I’m a sucker for old structures so I was really glad we were able to go to the Church of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception (Baclayon Church), built by the Jesuits in the 17th century. I suddenly realized that all of the popular, beautiful, old churches in the country were built by the Jesuits (according to Ipe, they build the most number anyway, followed by the Dominicans. Although the churches built by the latter are not as famous).
The church comes with a grand altar and pulpit as well as a collection of old statues and icons, one thought to have been given by Queen Catherine of Aragon (for those not familiar, she’s the first wife of King Henry, the woman he left for Anne Boleyn).
A funny thing happened here – since we were in a tourist spot, I was wearing a short, sleeveless dress. I didn’t know the dress code was strictly implemented at Baclayon until a manang at the entrance proceeded to wrap me in a baro’t saya!!!
Our last stop for the day was the Blood Compact site -where Sikatuna and Miguel Lopez de Legaspi entered a pact of friendship, the latter assuring the former that the Spaniards, unlike the Portuguese, come in peace and not to hurt/enslave the natives.
We actually had a stopover at a local store selling Bohol products. However, I didn’t really buy much as their stuff was too expensive. Imagine a shirt selling for Php 500 which I can get for Php 150 outside their store?
There are lots of other attractions to visit in Bohol – Hinagdanan Cave, Sikatuna National Park, many old churches, waterfalls. Oh well, that only means there should be a second Bohol adventure. 🙂
Up next… Day 3 where we spend the day out in the sun.