Lo and Bohol!

Trip Start Jan 31, 2006
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Trip End Feb 03, 2008


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Flag of Philippines  ,
Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The Island of Bohol. There's nothing like it.

Excitement rose as we were headed for Bohol. A lot of people raved about the place and I couldn't wait to see what the fuss was all about. Beforehand, I booked a 2N/3D stay at the Alona KEW Resort in Alona Beach, Panglao Island and getting to Bohol, I used up my expiring miles with Philippine Airlines (www.philippineairlines.com) wherein I ended up just paying for taxes (more or less P3,000 roundtrip, not bad). 
PAL's flight schedule toTagbilaran (the capital of Bohol) suited the private guided tour that Alona Kew offers to their patrons. As arranged, we were met by Gary (the guide cum driver) at the airport. After an exchange of a few pleasantries, Gary began to showcase the highlights of Bohol Island to us.

A special welcome from local girls at the airport.

First stop was the Baclayon Church (Nuestra Senora de la  Imaculada Concepcion) - known as the second oldest church built in the Philippines after San Agustin in Intramuros. Baclayon prides itself for its coral stones and eggwhite for its foundation and walls, as used during those days. The structure looked sturdy, considering its age as it is the oldest church ever erected outside Manila by Jesuits. Today, a museum and a school are attached to the church. Cruising along the national highway, the guide started pointing left and right and slowed down infront of a house that looked like it was recently built. Within the fence of the property stood a humongous tree; the circumference of the trunk was incredibly. I don't remember seeing any tree like it in the Philippines. Gary said it was a century-old tree and that there are stories about it. We were told not to look at it directly as it had possessed some dark magic and that people actually die if they took notice of the tree. Funny how a German national bought the property around the "enchanted" tree. But these are folktales. Come on, the German guy even takes care of that tree! I wonder if locals are afraid of him now. Gary would not let us take pictures of it for fear that we might invite bad luck among us - and for compliance, we didn't.

The Blood Compact Shrine. A marker, an exhibition of how the artist pictured the Blood Compact happened between Miguel Lopez de Legazpi (Spanish explorer) and Datu Sikatuna. The location of this shrine has a really good view of the sea. Calm and blue. Only to find out that the real Blood Compact transpired aboard a ship docked nearby. Not on land. Hahaha! It still symbolized the agreement between the Philippines and Spain. A treaty on friendship. The Manmade forest. A spooky highway if you ask me. Surrounded by skyscraping trees planted during an LGU drive. A forest and jungle combined. Beautiful. I said spooky because I don't think I want to pass there at night time. No pathlights. Who knows who you bump into there. Reminds me of Balete Drive in New Manila and all the horrid stories around it. The Tarsier Info Center and the Loboc Rover lunch cruise.

Gary promised us a good tarsier experience. We know that the cute little primates are endangered but not yet extinct. Intently listening to Gary's tarsier expertise. Whoa I learned a lot! From its mating calls, to the ultra short mating period, the scent that the female tarsier leaves, to its suicidal tendencies. Cute, funny little creatures. Green with envy.

After takings pictures with the tarsiers, we waited to board those noisy rafts along the  banks of Loboc River. Floating restaurants as they call them, provided a lunch buffet for us and other tourists (mostly Koreans) with a spread of grilled seafood and fish. While loud music was playing. Then the raft started to glide its winding way downstream. The time we were there, the river's water did not seem to be as emerald as we were told. According to the locals, it had just rained previously and that mountain water flowed into the river. The cruise was very relaxing as it showed the mountainous backdrop of Loboc. Green green green everywhere. A little further you will see young boys, diving into the river from atop the tall coconut trees. Showing off their skills to the tourists aboard the rafts. Then we reached Busay Falls where mountain water meets the river. 

A man with strong teeth welcomed us in the hanging bridge and souvenir center along the stretch of Loboc River. 
This is what he does for a living. He shows-off his skill by husking dried coconuts with teeth. He's been featured many times on local TV and won several talent contests already. What he does is, he jumps into his position as soon as he sees tourists come his way. Then he picks out his coconut from the pile next to him and starts husking furiously as if he was being timed. From there he offers his tin can out for donations.  What an interesting occupation. He must a be a regular visitor to his dentist.  I wish he had a sign saying "do not try this at home" just for safety. Then we were led to the hanging bridge made of bamboo. It hangs over the Loboc River. Quite scary. You'll never know how sturdy it is anyway.

The famous Chocolate Hills was the next destination. We were enlightened by Gary when he said that the hills are proof that eons ago the Philippine Archipelago was really submerged. A strong quake shaped the islands and islets into their present formation today. Gary said that the whole island of Bohol was known to be underwater. In fact, the composition of the Chocolate Hills is of corals and not dirt. He said that at a certain era (precolonial, I suppose), the island of Bohol did not even exist.

Alona Beach, Panglao Island

Finally the beach. Ooh white sand and crystal blue water.

Lined with restos, bars and resorts, Alona Beach is a fun place. Nightlife and good food.  Each evening the bars & restos set up their alfresco dining on the sand so guests can relax and unwind near the water. Every kind of indigenous fish and sea food are served grilled. During daytime, various tours are offered to visitors of the island. An early boatride to Pamilacan Island, for some whale and dolphin watching or a visit to Balicasag Island, a marine sanctuary and one of the top dive spots in the Philippines. We opted for the snorkeling in Balicasag Island.  
A truly enchanting island. shallow corals near the island and a sudden drop in depth. You can practically scale the wall of the island. As the sunlight hits it, the undersea wall sparkles like bright multi-colored gems. Nothing like it at all.  Then you begin to notice that the water is a bit cold and it gets pretty dark where you don't see the seabed anymore. That's when you think of the abyss. What's more in store down there or will you encounter what the locals talk about as the giant. We were told of the a gigantic creature living within the vicinity of Balicasag as its guardian. We were even warned not to laugh about it because the locals said they have records to prove this creature exists. Whatever this mystical creature is, I hope it does a good job preserving the island and the reef.
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