Did you ever believe when you were a kid that Chocolate Hills are made of real chocolates? If you answer no then good for you but if you answer yes, well then welcome to the club! Even when I now know that these big brown-colored mounds are not what I thought they were, I’m happy to say that the experience of seeing them up close wasn’t any less exciting. In fact, it is one of the most breathtaking sceneries I’ve ever seen in my life. Chocolate Hills though is just one of the many things you can see in this province. Let me expound by giving you this quick guide to Bohol.
There are domestic flights from Manila to Bohol offered by the Philippine Airlines (PAL), Cebu Pacific, and Air Asia-Zest. Travel time takes about 1 hour and 15 minutes. Another option is to travel by sea, there are trips offered by WG & A Superferry, Negros Navigation, and Sulpicio Lines. Travel times takes 25 hours.
In my case, I flew there through PAL with my officemates. We arrived safely in Bohol on a Friday afternoon despite my baseless fear that we wouldn’t due to the constant rattling that the plane endured from air turbulence. It was my first time to fly through PAL and it came with snacks. I realized my expectations were a bit too high because I was sorely disappointed that the snacks in question is a cheese-flavored Skyflakes. For drinks we had a choice of water or coffee; I wanted the latter, but since the plane was busy hitting the clouds, I was afraid I’d spill it all over myself.
Our group checked in at La Roca Hotel, about 10 minutes away from the airport. The hotel is big but old and could definitely use some serious maintenance work. I was assigned to share a room with two others. The first room didn’t have a working shower so we were moved to a much bigger room. What it lacked in maintenance it more than made up for with the staff. They were accommodating and did their best to make our stay comfortable as much as they could. [Read: Review of Bohol La Roca Hotel]
Points of Interest
The primary reason for the trip is the CSR activity of our company with the Habitat for Humanity. My officemate, Daryll and I though, decided to extend our stay for an opportunity to explore the province. The following are some of the places that we discovered in Bohol. [Read: Rebuild Bohol Project]
When we travel it’s a given we prioritize the most popular tourist spots, but I highly encourage that you go around and check out the town like a local. This is what we did in Tagbilaran City. In our aimless wandering, we were able to discover the Bohol Rizal Park, the Port of Tagbilaran, Tagbilaran Public Market, the Capitol Building of Bohol Province, among others.
Blood Compact Shrine
The Sandugo (Visayan word meaning “one blood”) or Blood Compact Shrine can be found in Bo-ol. The shrine marks the site where the blood compact ceremony happened between Miguel López de Legazpi of Spain and Datu Sikatuna, the chieftain of Bohol in 1565. The historical site is now of one of the most popular spots in Tagbilaran.
Bilar Man-Made Forest
On the road we passed through the most beautiful forest I’ve ever seen, the Bilar Man-Made Forest that stretched up to 2 kilometers of mahogany trees. The trees are so tall the leaves form a canopy over the road. It was so amazing I ordered our driver to pull over so we could go out and take pictures.
In the town of Carmen, we climbed over 200 steps to appreciate the grandiosity of the dome/cone-shaped limestone formations of the famed Chocolate Hills. The mounds that look like chocolate kisses stretch as far as the eyes can see, boy it was a sight to behold. I took the time to appreciate the view that used to be just a picture on textbooks or postcards.
Philippine Tarsier Sanctuary
The tarsier, which is the smallest primate in the world can be found in Bohol. Despite knowing that they are of miniature size, I was still amazed at just how small they are when I finally saw them in the flesh at the Philippine Tarsier Sanctuary. This little guy in the photo below was taking a nap when I approached it. The other tourists satisfied themselves taking its picture despite it slumbering state. I, on the other hand, wanted it wide awake so I came up and said, “Hey!” Remarkably, the little guy opened its eyes and turned its head on me.
Sapatan Twin Hanging Bridge
To the residents, the twins are just a mean of passage over the river; to the tourists like me, it’s a beautiful curious thing. The bridge is made of bamboo and though it looks sturdy, the shaking it makes when you walk over it is vertigo inducing.
Bohol Python and Wildlife
In Bohol Python and Wildlife, I had to swallow my fear in exchange for a photo op with a huge albino snake. The main attraction in the place is the remains of Prony, a 27-foot python who used to be the biggest in captivity. Prony died in 2013 for reasons unknown.
Loboc is known for its old and beautiful Loboc Church, the Loboc Children’s Choir, and Loboc River Cruise. We passed up the cruise as we deemed it too expensive and instead, had our lunch in a nearby eatery. We also checked out the old Loboc Church that is currently being restored due to the destruction it suffered after the 2013 earthquake.
The lazy afternoon, we spent relaxing in the white-sand beach of Alona. The shore bedecked by bars, restaurants, and other establishments and the fine white sand would remind you of Boracay. It was a perfect ending for a day of discovering the beautiful province.
Where to Eat
There are many good places to eat in Bohol, some of which are the following:
One of the most aesthetically pleasing cafes I’ve been is the The Buzz Cafe in Panglao. It also has another branch in the Island City Mall in Tagbilaran.
Garden Cafe is a western-themed restaurant and cafe in Tagbilaran. It has deaf and mute people for a staff. When you go to this place try the Quater Pounder. I’m sure you will love it.
There is a chicken-themed restaurant in Bohol and it’s called, Payag. Aside from the good food, you will also love the chicken decors scattered about the place.
Sugba (grilled), tula (tinola), and kilaw (raw food marinated in vinegar) are some of the native signature dishes in Bohol. You can try all these at STK Foodhaus. I recommend that you try their Tuna Kinilaw, it was delicious.
But what I think made this trip memorable is the fact that in Bohol I tried to go beyond the duty of a tourist. There, I helped build a house with fellow Henkel employees, walked the streets of Tagbilaran in search for street food, had noodles in a hole-in-a-wall goto place, chatted up the tricycle drivers, watched 3D animated film for only 150 bucks in Island City Mall, chased the pigeons in the plaza, learned a little bit of sign language in a restaurant with deaf and mute staff, and contemplated about betting in the lottery whenever I saw the lotto stands.
I found that the Boholanos are friendly and would go out their way to help. Never did I encounter rudeness or hostility, and even when they struggled to speak in Tagalog, they did their best to communicate. Upon arrival, I saw the sign in the arc of Tagbilaran city that says, “City of Friendship.” I’m happy to say that it is indeed a city of friendly people. It’s exactly the reason I felt safe to roam the city.
What about you, have you been to Bohol? If you have any recommended activities, food, and places to visit in Bohol, please let us know in the comment.