Bohol: Communing with History and Nature

I woke up early the next morning after a tiring tour of Tagbilaran on foot. I was happy to  hear the quiet hum of the air conditioning unit rather than the honks of impatient drivers in the busy streets of Makati. It was a refreshing morning. I took a shower to get ready to tour the countryside of the famed island. 

A call from the receptionist came to inform me that the driver has arrived and we’ll be off for an early start. I took the stairs to the ground floor to meet my driver-Oscar and his white Hyundai Accent. He was fixing his car plate when I met him. He introduced himself and opened the door for me. 

Oscar made a brief introduction while we were heading out in the city proper. He told me that Tagbilaran is really a small city. I couldn’t agree more because I was able to go around the city the day before. We passed by a sort of rotunda. It’s a small circular park. It’s also called Rizal Park. The traditional colonial Spanish set up, The San Jose Cathedral is facing the park. Oscar mentioned that Saint Joseph is the city’s patron saint.

As we inch away from the center of civilization I noticed the beauty of the shoreline. Oscar was very proud to say that their shorelines are one of the most clean beaches around the country. The water’s calm and brilliantly blue and turquoise. It was a beauty!
SANDUGO



Blood Compact Site



Sandugo is a visayan word which means “one blood”. Sandugo is a blood compact between the Spanish Miguel Lopez de Legaspi and Bohol’s Datu Sikatuna in 1565 signifying the bond of friendship between the two tribes. This event in history is considered as the first treaty between the Filipinos and the Spaniards. 

“In his report to Philip II, López de Legazpi wrote:

It is observed in the following manner: one from each party draws two or three drops of blood from his own arm or breast and mixes them in the same cup, with water or wine. Then the mixture must be divided equally between two cups and neither person may depart until both cups are alike drained.”–Wikipedia


BACLAYON CHURCH

When I was scanning the map before arriving in Bohol, I thought the places were really close to each other. But when we hit the road it was different. Really, it is a countryside tour so to speak. According to Oscar, my driver cum tour guide, the church was made from coral stones and eggs whites. Would you believe that? Like how many eggs did they use? 




The church is really old and the you can see that very well in the furnitures and all that things surrounding and embellishing the church.

Trivia on the exterior: one of the supporting pillars would picture the old parish priest. Above one of the old doors is a fading imade of a mother and child. I have the photo but I will have to work on making it more clear.



Padre Pio



Padre Pio on the wall!
 Here are some of my other shots of the centuries-old church.

You could definitely tell that the church is old with the battered roof and “lumot” infested walls.
One of the oldest and still working pipe organs in the country.  According to Oscar, there’s only three in the Philippines
I wonder if the parish priest still delivers his sermon in this pulpit.
The bell tower
A pool of colors from the original stained glass windows.

LOBOC RIVER CRUISE 




I don’t like boats, but I gotta try it! Talk about a huge turtle on a green river!



Since I did not have breakfast before starting the tour, we had an early lunch. Well, brunch at around 11 in the morning. I was the first customer of the day at Rio Verde Floating Restaurant. I took some pictures while waiting for other people to join. Actually, the meals aren’t served just yet. A Korean couple came just before the food was ready. The fact that I am alone in a table good for five, I was joined by a Korean family. Then came more Koreans. A group of pinoys came as well as a japanese family and more Koreans! 

The first customer boarding
Korean father and daughter 
Contrary to the feedback I got back home about the cruise’s meal, I found them to be delicious. I had pork skewers, steamed crabs and shrimps,as well as pansit cooked in a non-traditonal way. I also tried the fish fillet. Even without the tartar sauce (which came in a bit late) it tasted good. I also had a piece of fried chicken. Their soup was good too. For dessert I had banana and a couple of slices of watermelon. 

I saw other floating restaurants stationed on the other end of the river.  I was told that that’s where food isn’t spectacular.  So if you’re in for a treat, try Rio Verde floating restaurant,  It’s under the bridge near the Loboc River delta.  

Blue sky, emerald water coo breeze and great food…
A stop to see the Ati Tribe living in the banks of the river.

Welcome to Ati Tribe


The boat’s host was amazing. Given that he has a regional accent, he is able to entertain foreign and  local guests. He sang American, some Korean, Japanese and a medley of local songs. He just didn’t know the songs by lyrics and tune but he even speaks the languages. He often go around greeting and striking conversations with the Korean and Japanese guests!

The river was emerald in the brilliant light of the sun while the shore’s lined with nipa palms. The wind was refreshing too. In fact it would entice you to take a nap (if only I can afford to take a nap). You will not smell anything slimy or stinky. I feels great to cruise the river.

OFF TO SEE THE TARSIERS

After the sumptuous meal over the river, we went to see the famed tarsiers. 


Smile!
For a shy creature,marunong syang mag project sa harap ng camera!

Nocturnal creatures disturbed by amazed spectators. They’re really small, kind of like a rat. They’ve got huge circular eyes, a furry hair and tiny fingers and a hairless tail. Tarsiers tend to be extremely shy animals. Contact with human beings (including being petted by humans) often leads to their death within a few months.

Sporting an evil grin…My precious!

CHOCOLATE HILLS


With the fear of the looming clouds over the horizon, my driver hurried to get me to Carmen Peak-the top of one of the famous chocolate hills. The viewing deck is accessible by foot at 214 steps! It’s really a good way to burn the calories gained from the sumptuous meal at Loboc.


Stairway to heaven and drama! 214 steps to the top!

The hills were not chocolatey because it’s the rainy season. Although you can see the hint of brown on the peaks of those similarly shaped mounds of coral deposits. It was cool up there especially after enduring the 214 plights of stairs.

herb-coated chocolate mounds!
The hills are alive with the sound of thunder! Yes! ang lakas ng kulog! Parang uulan any minute!
The rain made these choco mounds green.  They’re more spectacular when the sun dries up the vegetation.

MAN-MADE FOREST

Man-made forest.  Sounds like an artificial forest huh.  It’s a forest of mahogany trees stretching two kilometers between the towns of Loboc and Bilar. According to Oscar, the trees were planted by the people who constructed the road some 60 years ago.  Some materials also mentioned that the forest was an effort of the students of a certain university in Bohol.  Well, regardless of the veracity of the stories of the origin of the forest, it is nice to know that there are still people who care about our natural resources.  

Would you take a hitchhiker here?  
See how dense the forest is? ang lamig and madilim sa loob!
the roots! just the roots of these huge trees!
The green-ness of the forest is great. It’s really nice to just stay here for quite some time.  Oscar and I stayed for a couple more minutes to smell the fresh air and relax.  It’s refreshing and cool inside the forest.  The darkness somehow gives me the creeps but when you look up and see the light (more like pin lights to me), you know that it is still early outside the forest.  One thing more, it’s quiet out there! It’s nice to talk to your self and God.

BUTTERFLY GARDEN

I became a butterfly even just in a photo.

Fly like a butterfly
Then I was educated about butterflies. Mariposa is a spanish term for butterflies. More often than not, a huge moth gets to be mistaken as a butterfly. People call them mariposa when they’re actually moths. 

Other things to note about butterflies:
  • Female butterflies are the superior ones in their world. 
  • When mating, the’re on top. 
  • Mating process takes place between 6-24 hours non-stop. The guide made a joke tha he wanted to be a butterfly because of this. 
  • Female butterflies, after laying the eggs die. It is such a sad thing. 
Butterfly cocoons…you can feel them move when you touch the tip of the cocoon much like a baby pushing on mommy’s preggy tummy.
The golden cocoons yield butterflies commonly used in weddings. 

Butterfly egg (practicing macro photography for the first time)
Some friends made at the butterfly garden
I got to have butterfly cling to my nose!



Before capping the day, we made some brief stops.

Loboc Eco-tourism Park – there’s a new attraction being developed by the tourism arm of the state. It’s a counterpart of the E.A.T Danao adventure park. Since it’s new, the park only has ziplines and the cable cars for families. It’s zip-lining across two mountains and a river dividing them! Since I’m all alone I cannot find the thrill of doing it so I was contented with taking photos of the mountains.



It is not your usual cable cars.  You have to take a grip on the the handle bars! The “cars” aren’t really a glass enclosed carriage.  It is like a metal bench with straps and handles hanging on steel cables connecting two mountains!


Ship Haus – it’s a restaurant shaped like a ship. Complete with all it’s crew.  It was featured once in Rated K by Korina Sanchez.




I discovered that I love Bo’s Coffee better than Starbucks it’sonly for the hazelnut cappuccino.

If you’d like to tour Bohol, you may get in touch with Oscar of Bohol Bliss Tours at +63 905 729 5063      
The rain finally poured while we were heading home. Oscar and I just talked about life and how we are coping with the changes.  We talked about the bars and the coffee and wine.  Mahilig pala sya sa red wine.  I share some thoughts about wines and coffee on the road to Taver’s. 

Before calling it a day, I spent an hour or so buying bits and pieces as “pasalubong” at BQ Mall. I decided to have a cup of hazelnut cappuccino at Bo’s coffee while waiting for the rain to finally stop. 



Exploring Tagbilaran City



Boarding Pass: Seat 28F. Window seat pa rin 🙂



After my first leisure travel experience in Cebu last March, I have grown the habit of visiting the local budget airline sites such as that of Airphil Express, Cebu Pacific and Zest Air. The story of how I got the trip to Bohol is here.
There was tropical depression somewhere around the western region of the country on August 20.  I could not even see the sun when I punched OUT of the office to NAIA Terminal 3. It was a gloomy Saturday morning.  I took the cab (Php 140) to T3 and it only took me about 20 minutes to reach the departure bay of the airport.  It’s no longer new to me because I used the facility back in March when I went to Cebu.  More than being excited for this trip, I was early because of my desire to get a window seat.  I was looking for the check-in counter for my flight bound for Tagbilaran but could not find it.  Apparently, there were a couple more counters at the back that I missed.  Hence, I got seat 28F which was almost at the tail end of the aircraft.  As a consolation, 28F is a window seat with a clear view of the right wing. Based from my past experience with Airphil Express, boarding time is never on time.  Surprisingly, the first boarding call for my flight was a minute ahead of schedule! A sign of a good start. We landed perfectly at Tagbilaran City Airport 17 minutes ahead of schedule.  It was amazing! Manila’s gloomy mood dramatically changed to a sunny Bohol!




Boarding at NAIA T3

I am a light traveler so I did not check-in my luggage.  I only carried my Serge backpack and a camera bag for my Nikkie. I was surprised with the size of the airport.  It barely resembles one except for the big sign and the control tower.  Other than that, it looks like any other buildings.

I met the driver from Taver’s Pension House at the waiting area outside the airport.  I’ve arranged an airport transfer when I called for reservation which, by the way is free as long as it’s arranged early for them to fix their driver’s schedule.

Taver’s Pension House was, I thought, far from the city proper.  I was kind of disappointed initially. I thought I was staying in the heart of the city (their location map said so in their website).  Looking at the surrounding establishments, I didn’t think I am in a city. Since I already made my reservation and there’s no time to cancel and look for a new one, I went ahead and checked in.  I got Room #6 which is really accessible to the small reception area. I liked the set up of my room.  It was quiet and peaceful.  Just what I needed at the time. 



Standard Single Room (P 750/night)- Taver’s Pension House



The room was clean and huge (at least for someone staying alone).  It could fit another bed! Well the bed itself can accommodate two average-sized adults. The room was air conditioned while the bathroom has hot and cold running water.  It also has a 14-inch TV with cable channels. For the size of the room and what it has, I’d say Php 750 a night is well worth it.



I’m not that religious but I like the fact that there is a Bible in my room.

  

There goes the 14″ TV and the way to my private loo. ☺
Since I was pressed for time to arrange a tour of the countryside, I asked if Taver’s can arrange a tour for me the following day.  I was quoted with Php 2,500 for the entire day.  It could have been cheaper if I have someone to share the expense.  But since this trip is about mmyself, someone who doesn’t have any real experience traveling solo, I took the deal. 
I arrived early and was able to settle in my room at around 12:30 in the afternoon.  It’s too early to be retiring for the day so I went out for a walk to see the city.  The first thing I noticed was how provincial the city looked like. It didn’t have the feel of being in an urban jungle (at least for someone who has lived his last 7 years in Makati). Heading towards the center of the community, I’ve seen a number of barber shops.  Not the salon kind of shoppes. They’re the traditional barber shops where men gather around to watch the local sports channel if not having their hair cut.  I couldn’t help but wonder why these shoppes are like mushrooms growing all over the place.
Anyway, I thread the not so busy streets of Tagbilaran looking for a place to eat. I didn’t have anything since that Friday’s dinner other than the two venti cups of latte from my boss. I found myself ordering  chicken inasal at Bojol Grill at the second floor of Tagbilaran City Square Mall. It kind of looks and feels like St. Francis Square in Ortigas minus the crowd and they have fewer stores.
Bojol Grill
I came unprepared! I didn’t know any place to have lunch.  I came to Bojol Grill (It’s not a typo!) and it was obvious that lunch hour has already passed.  There were just a few diners.  There were a number of choices but I was looking for something special.  Something native or local. My tummy was already twisting and turning so I called one of the restaurant’s attendants and ordered their chicken inasal.  The menu said it is a specialty so I decided to give it a try.
Being hungry and all did not let my customer service QA mindset take a vacation.  The lady who took my order wasn’t exactly happy to be serving me.  I mean, I’m not asking her to treat me like a royalty or something. She could have at least sported a smile to make the hungry feel delighted a bit while waiting. It surely doesn’t hurt to be polite too.

The epic Chicken Inasal from Bojol Grill.   (photo taken using my low-tech camera phone)

On top of the customer service epic fail, the waiting time was like forever! The people cleaning the air conditioning unit near my table was almost done when I finally get to meet my chicken inasal. At first glance, there’s nothing special.  It looked like a chicken leg in a skewer. Then came the taste test.  And the verdict-the chicken was juicy, tender and flavorful.  They were not kidding when they said it is their specialty.  Okay, so the inasal made me forget the customer service epic failure! It was definitely a winner! Oh! Did I forget to say that it was only 60 pesos with a glass of lemon ice tea? As my reps would have said “PWEDE”!
Bohol Quality Mall
BQ Mall is it’s more popular name.  It’s right across the street from City Square Mall. I’d say this is a real mall. There was some sort of an audition thing going on at the atrium at the time so I decided to stick around and be a regular “uzi”. It was some kind of talent search. “Ramping” was used in a relatively inappropriate way as “can you do the ramping.” Ramping is defined as walking with the arms raised as if excited… I guess the idea of coining the word came from “ramp modeling” where models usually showcase whatever they’re promoting by strutting on a custom made ramp/stage.  Hence, “ramping”
Who do you expect would pass the audition but some cute and lean college dudes and some teenage half-pinays who speaks english better than those who were interviewing them.

Gelateria Milano

At the higher part of the BQ Mall, there’s a small Italian Ice Cream Parlor. I was getting tired of watching the show down at the atrium so I went upstairs.  Gelateria Milano was in my original itinerary.  I just did not expect it to be at the top of BQ Mall.
It was small with only three tables inside the shoppe and around two more al fresco. I took the seat near the window because it has a great view of the bay.  Wifi was available too.  I ordered a macchiato.  I was thinking of the macchiato like the one from Starbucks.  I was wrong.  It was served on a cute coffee cup and saucer but the flavor was really big! The aroma of real coffee.  I was told that they only serve authentic italian coffee!
Pizza Hut
For lack of place to have dinner, I opted for the usual.  I ordered bolognese with meatballs and a solo pan pizza for takeout. 
The outlet in the BQ Mall is quite nice and warm. The waiting staff is friendly and accommodating. Actually, I like the guy (Earl Josepe) who waited on my table. He’s very warm and friendly with good customer service attitude. He really made me feel like a guest.
After the hearty dinner I walked home.  It really did not feel like a dangerous city so I was confident walking my way to Taver’s. The receptionist confirmed my schedule for the tour at 9AM so I took a hot shower and slept early.
I was tired after a very active day exploring Tagbilaran City on foot.

The beginning of a great journey home

I just landed on my bed at Taver’s Pension House after a few minutes drive from Tagbilaran Airport. Room #6…I wonder why I ended up in this room. Somehow I feel at home…

I boarded Airphil Express at exactly 9:09 AM. It was cloudy with a hint of sunshine. I felt a bit cold. I felt like this trip is going to give me the horrors of traveling by myself. I did a bit of research but I am relying on my instinct for the most part.

When I boarded an Airbus Industrie A320 I was looking forward to finding my other self. I seem to have lost it for the last two months. I celebrated my natal day last July but it didn’t feel right. It felt like something was missing.

Looking back a couple of months ago when I was working on this trip, all I wanted was to continue what started as a dream realization. I longed to travel and see the sights. Along with that desire to travel was to find the free-spirited “me”.

While I was on the plane I started contemplating the reasons behind the decision to pack my bag and take a journey on my own. A part of me was looking at it as a realization of my desire to get away from everything. To get rid of my responsibilities at work, my responsibilities at home and my self. For once I don’t want to care at all. I want to be carefree and do whatever my heart desires. One part of me is screaming! It’s reason is to build character. I somehow lost my self in the middle of building everybody’s dreams…

This journey has just started. I will find my purpose, my reasons, my self…by the time this journey ends, I will find home…

The dawn of my solo backpacking…

With so much drama at work since March, my writing has been delayed.  I have a lot of things in my plate that I become too tired to strike that keyboard to tell the tales of my travels in the Queen City of the South.  Working as an analyst for a BPO company posted so much demands that I wanted to get away from it once in a while.
One Sunday morning while attempting to cram wrapping up the month of May with tons of reviews and report backlogs, my tired fingers trailed the keys to get to airphilexpress.com.  I just found myself booking a flight bound to and from Tagbilaran City, the portal to the famous land of Chocolate Hills. Well the travel period is still far from May/June so I have time to save up for expenses and research the cheapest deals.  I found the Php 569 Sunday Sale. I wasn’t that excited because I got my mom a flight to Davao for Php 464 round-trip fare.  What surprised me was the 299 fare after I played around with the dates! Plus of course those deal breaking fuel charges and other charges.  But since I was in a slump and wanted a little break I booked the flight anyway.  I ended up paying a total of Php 1,200++.  Well it’s still not bad.
Printing the e-ticket made me realize that I am traveling alone.  When I started traveling this year I was with friends.  Now I am heading to a destination on my own.  Well, my backpack, my camera my iPad and I….I am still considering my tripod.  I’m not sure how to deal with the airport authorities and regulations about bringing a tripod.  I had issues with my umbrella the last time . LOL
Anyway, I have a lot of researching to do since I will be on my own on this trip.  I am excited (that I couldn’t hide) since I hit the purchase button on Airphil Express site. At the same time I am afraid.  I am on my own on a strange land.  Strange because I haven’t been there…I am praying for good weather and a good trip…