It's easy to see how Bohol is considered one of the most popular vacation spots in the Philippines. Its diverse 6 Pillars of Tourism makes Bohol a favorite among Filipinos, local and abroad, and foreign tourists as well. During our 3-day stay in Bohol, we were lucky to avail of the tour guide services of Ms. Flor Barberan (mobile no. 0926-9720852), who made our most memorable tour ever a reality.
The moment that we boarded the tour van, Ms. Flor gave us a brief summary of the island's history--the origin of the name Bohol (it had something to do with the island having a lot of caves), the many old Spanish churches scattered all over the province, the anti-Spanish revolt led by Francisco Dagohoy, and other interesting tidbits about the province.
We were first brought to the Tarsier Preservation Center, where a group of tarsiers were held in captivity, sleeping in the trees. Efforts are being put into taking better care of the tarsiers, since they are now endangered species. As of this year, there are only around 500 of these nocturnal creatures left in the whole world. Tourists who come to Bohol and aren't aware of this fact are strongly advised not to touch them, and to refrain from using the flash on their cameras to avoid trauma on the part of the tarsiers.
Next, we headed to the Loboc River Cruise to have lunch on a floating restaurant--a makeshift barge with an entire dining area solidly planted on two motor bancas for stability, as shown in the photo. A delicious Filipino buffet was already waiting for us when we got there. For somebody who doesn't eat much in the first place, I found myself going back to the buffet for seconds.
Bohol's provincial government was doing a really good job in protecting the environment despite its booming tourism industry. This was a relief, because I've seen a lot of beautiful places in the country, only to be disappointed with the way their local/provincial governments continue to exploit its resources instead of preserve them. I can name quite a handful, but I'll save my environmentalist rant for another day.
We floated down Loboc River, whose waters and surrounding ecosystems were immaculately clean and teeming with life. The end of the trip was marked by a backdrop of waterfalls and to the side near the river bank, a group of locals who will dazzle cruise passengers with their folk songs and dance.
After the Loboc River Cruise, we drove 45 minutes North towards the municipality of Carmen, where one can marvel at the Chocolate Hills from a viewing deck. On our way there, we passed winding roads through Bohol's man-made forest, a dense foliage of tall Mahogany trees that stretched to 2-kilometers. According to Ms. Flor, these Mahogany trees, a vision of the provincial government way back in the 60s, were planted in order to prevent landslides on this steep part of the mountain.
At the municipality of Carmen, we were awed by the sight of the world-famous Chocolate Hills. I'm pretty sure that every single Filipino has seen these geographical wonders in elementary text books or postcards, but being able to see them with one's own eyes is truly a unique experience in itself. From the viewing deck, these brown and green cone-shaped hills are scattered across the entire land as far as your eyes can see. There are 1,776 of these hills, which are said to be made of coral stones and shell deposits.
We saved our last stop for Baclayon Church, the Philippines' second oldest church. Constructed some 400 years ago by Spanish friars and monks, the heavy coral stones that make up this gargantuan structure are held together by egg whites.
The interior of the Baclayon Church is even more awe-inspiring, with its high ceilings covered with fresco paintings made by Ray Francia back in 1916. Despite being a favorite among tourists, silence inside the chapel is strictly enforced. A very modest dress code is also implemented, where women wearing shorts or sleeveless shirts are handed green strips of cloth to cover themselves with.
This old Spanish Church is still 90% original, with the remaining un-original 10% being a sturdier roofing to avoid leaks during the rainy season. The funds that are used to preserve Baclayon Church comes from a fee that is paid to enter its museum, which is located on the second floor. This museum contains various religious relics that date back 100 to 400 years ago such as priests' elaborate robes, church records filled with elegant handwritings, ornate goblets and chalices and of course, antique religious statues.
Our countryside tour around Bohol was great and culturally satisfying, if there's such a thing. This is the type of destination where you can engage yourself in a variety of activities, both adventurous and cultural. Ms. Flor Barberan also mentioned dolphin watching tours, as well as spelunking and hiking activities, but we'll save that for our next return to this beautiful island.
To inquire or book a vacation in Bohol, check out our package tours or call 1-866-2-MANILA to speak with a travel representative.