Monday, October 10, 2011

Bedazzling Bohol

"The deserts have become pasture land, the hills are clothed with gladness, the meadows covered with flocks, the valleys decked with grain - they shout and sing for joy."
Psalm 65:13-14

Before I visit one place, I research on it, ask around and then finally draft my itinerary. I'm not the kind of person who would rely on tour guides, I prefer to walk around with the locals.

Bohol is one of the places that our Creator worked overtime, giving it  perfection in every way.

Loboc River Cruise.
Loboc river is 30 minutes away from Tagbilaran. It is usually visited by tourists because of its famed floating restaurants. It will cost you about Php 300.00 for the boat ride with the buffet lunch. On the other hand, Loboc is also home to Loboc Children's Choir - the three time National Champion of the National Music Competitions for the Young Artists. If you are lucky, you will hear the children practice at the Loboc church near the river.

Chocolate Hills.
No, they are not hills made of chocolates (this is not Willy Wonka's hills), these are just hills. During summer time or dry season, the hills would change its color from green to perfect chocolate color brown like the famous chocolate that everybody knows. It is such a joy to look at thousands of chocolate hills especially if you are very fond of chocolates - like me.
Man Made Forest.
 The best example of Boholanos' love to their God-given treasure is this forest. Once upon a time, logging was Bohol's main industry. But when this part of Bohol was already barren, the local government required each Boholanos to plant trees of Mahogany. Lo and behold, the fruit of their labor is now income generating.

Butterfly Farm.
I'm not a fan of such exhibits but this particular butterfly farm caught my attention. I may be well educated and all, but I never knew that butterflies' life span is too short. They are the perfectly living by the latin phrase "Carpe Diem". 

Hanging Bridge.
This is seldom part of a tour but I would suggest this everyone. There is nothing much to see but an old and mighty 20 meters hanging bridge above Loboc river. Bohol can be the perfect picture of the past and the present. The picture above is an old hanging bridge and the other is a state of the art water vendo. Insert a Php 1 coin, grab a cup and voila! A cold refreshing water will be available.

The most interesting part of my Bohol visit second to the Chocolate Hills. Tarsiers measure between 8 to 16 cm only. Despite their size, these cute nocturnal animals can spin their head 180 degrees and can jump to as high as 16 ft. Small but terrible huh!

Monkeys and Lemurs.
Aside from the tarsiers, the monkeys and the lemurs are also Bohol's resident animals. The tarsiers, monkeys and lemurs used to freely stroll around Bohol's forests. But over time, they have become a rarity.

Baclayon Church.
This is the second oldest church in the Philippines. This church has its own museum which contains religious artifacts and relics from the spanish era. You can see several statues of Christ, Virgin Mary and the saints. There are also original music sheets made from sheep skin and the songs are in Latin.

Baclayon church is a manifestation of the Spanish past of our country. The church took 10 years to be completed out of corals and egg whites. The exterior of the church looks plain but the interior showcases the extravagance style of Friars.

Just one of my obsessions. The church's window and candle stand.

Blood Compact Site.
The spot where Datu Sikatuna and Miguel Lopez de Legazpi entered a pact of friendship.

Our Lady of the Assumption - Dauis.
The center of Bohol's  Marian pilgrimage. The main attention in this church is Mama Mary's well which is believed to have a healing power. The church is located a few meters away from Panglao but the water in the well is absolutely fresh.

The zip line at EAT Danao (hyperlink) is literally suicidal. As you slide along the cable from one mountain to the other, you will be greeted by the river below which will emphasize the how far you are from the ground and how close you are to heavens.

Francisco Dagohoy.
One of the monuments by the great Boholano hero.

A local favorite in Bohol. The cheap satisfying chicken inasal will make you want to be in Bohol everyday. Even after I went home, I would imagine the aroma while entering the restaurant and the taste of the inasal that haunts me until now.

Bohol Bee Farm.
One of Bohol's livelihood farms. They serve they best organic food around town. You know what else they serve best? Malunggay ice cream. When I first heard of it I imagined a cold sweet leafy taste. But I was wrong. To prove that it was the opposite of what i imagined, I had three rounds of malunggay ice cream.

Amarela Resort.
The yellow boutique resort along Panglao.

We were treated grandiosely in this homey resort.

This resort shows off Bohol's local art and culture. The owners choose to showcase their own collection from Bohol of course. Even the food they serve manifests their loyalty to Bohol.

The designer and owner of this resort has really took into consideration the resort's location and maximized its resources. Altough I am in Panglao, I didn't feel like I was. It felt like I was in another side of the world staying in of of the most expensive hotels of the world.
There are two side of panglao in this picture. Left side a shot from the beach and the right side is a shot from the water. Whatever side it is, Panglao is one of the beaches that Philippines can boast about.

Bohol has a lot to offer thier visitors. May it be man-made or  natural, Boholanos has made it clear that they are proud of what they have. They will continue to nurture and protect their hometown just like what their ancestors Datu Sikatuna and Francisco Dagohoy.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Cruising Caramoan Islands

"You have given Him dominion over the works of your hands; You have put all things under His feet - the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, and all that swim the paths of the ocean."
Psalm 8:7,9

I'm a survivor. Early 2008, the Survivor franchise of France - Koh Lanta, shot its 8th season in one of the islands in Caramoan Peninsula. 

While checking out my shoots, take into consideration that the entire collection is a product of my ever reliable point and shoot.

Hear me when I say that you wouldn't be needing a high end camera while touring the Caramoan Peninsula. The Man up there has already made the scenery awesome to stand on its own beauty.

Sabitang Laya.
The limestone on the islets and other formations scattered along the peninsula will surely be your numero uno subject all throughout.

Sabitang Laya.
 Our boatman brought us to our first stop, the main island where Koh Lanta filmed. The island has its own secret packets courtesy of the limestone.

Sabitang Laya.
This island was bigger compared to the others and has more limestone formations. We didn't go beyond and explored inside the island. Our boatman said that it was forbidden because some of survivor's things are still there.

Have you ever used the word unique to describe a beach/island? This particular island is composed of two limestone and in between is its sandbar. If you look closely in the pictures, you will see its uniqueness and then tell me what you think.

Caramoan peninsula will continuously surprise you with its consistent beautiful beaches. Every single beach that I laid my feet into was powdery and cool.

This particular island took away most of my time. It just made me fall in love with God's creation. The limestone, blue sky with a touch of white clouds, powdery sand and pristine water just took away my senses. Believe me, this photo is a product of a point and shoot camera.

The islands named as Guta de Leche by Dutch explorers. When the Spaniards came, it was renamed to Carahan. Now it is called Caramoan Islands. It was not on the main list of travelers until 2008. It was Koh Lanta that painted Caramoan in the Philippines' map. Thanks to the French! But whatever they may have contributed, we still owe it to God for blessing us this beauteous peninsula.

As I was sailing along the peninsula of Caramoan, it made me think why it stands out. I could think of four main point: the sand, the limestone, the water and its coconut trees. It's natural to see coconut trees around any island but not like these. They stand tall and proud reaching the skies.

Gota Village resort is the only high end resort you will see in Caramoan. It will steal around PHP 3,000 out of your wallets. The place is great, no doubt about that. The main resort is situated in a cove with a cave on its own. Climbed up on and you will see its whole surrounding. The cottages are circularly aligned which is very visible when you are in the main receiving area. Over all, the resort cannot be at par with other high end resort. Food is average (you won't have any option but to eat in their restaurant since food is not allowed), accommodation is too expensive for the accommodation's simplicity. Then again, a night in Gota Village resort is worth your while.

Honongan. The beach front private villas in this island are still owned by Gota Village resort. Back when I visited in 2008, they villas are still under construction. Now, from what I heard, it is already fully operational. According to the caretaker that I talked to, the villas are made for the guests wanting stay at Gota Village resort when the main resort is full of Survivor staff and casts.

For my annual visit back home for the Penafrancia Festival, I taught of extending my visit to Caramoan. From Naga, I travelled by van to Sabang port. I spent the night at the inn located steps away from the port. By 5:00 AM, the first boat arrived and our 2 hour ride to the other side (Forgive me but it was years ago). When we got off the boat, we rode a tricycle that brought us to another port where we rented a boat bought food for lunch and snack. This is a DIY tour so we rely mostly with our boatman slash tour guide.

The tour started at 9:00 AM and ended at around 4:00 PM. Our last destination was Gota Village resort. We opted to stay for the night.

All white sand beaches have always been dubbed as the next Boracay. For crying out loud! Please stop saying that. Nothing can compare to what Boracay is today. It is unique in its own way. Caramoan will never be the next Boracay because it will always be the Caramoan Islands, the secret destination of weary travelers looking for serenity.