Thursday, October 29, 2009

Exploring Bohol and its 6 pillars of tourism

by N. Auditor

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.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Experience Jeepney Tours: Spa and Shopping Spree

Shopping in the Philippines is definitely a must among balikbayans and tourists. In Metro Manila alone, the choices at tiangges, or flea markets, is just endless. On this week's travel segment with Balitang America, Mango Tours and Jeepney Tours, along with Ginger Conejero, take you to two of the best places to go bargain shopping in Metro Manila--Market! Market! and Greenhills Shopping Center.



Market! Market! in Taguig is a one-stop shop for everything that you need to buy. This huge complex houses a mall, open market, food court/carinderia and a bargain shopping center. It's a great place to buy pasalubongs, with its wide array of products that are native to almost every part of the country such as Ilocos, Baguio, Cebu and Bacolod, to name some.

At Greenhills Shopping Center in San Juan, you'll find yourself overwhelmed with the amount of products found in this complex. Home to over 1,000 stores, Greenhills is considered to be a mecca for bargain shoppers. In here, you'll find clothes, shoes, bags, jewelry and cellphones offered at affordable prices, but with great quality. It's pearl market is a favorite among balikbayans; in here you'll find several stalls selling authentic pearls that come from the Philippine seas.

Also featured in this travel segment is Kamayan Restaurant, a popular Filipino buffet restaurant. At around P335 per head, you can indulge yourself with all-time Filipino favorites such as kare-kare, lechon de leche and a whole lot more.

To book this Spa and Shopping Spree tour or to inquire about the other city tours that we offer, check our website for our listings or call us as 1-866-2-MANILA to speak with a travel representative.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Amorita Resort's self-contained paradise

by N. Auditor

Our 2-night stay at Amorita Resort (Panglao Island, Bohol) truly exceeded our expectations and made us wish that we stayed a little longer.

Amorita, Spanish for "little love", is definitely included in our list of the most charming resorts we've seen this year. Amorita is located on the most beautiful stretch of white sand on Panglao Island, Alona Beach, which was named after Alona Alegre, a popular Filipino actress in the 60s when she shot a movie scene at the same spot with Filipino actor and cultural icon Fernando Poe, Jr.


Being within the private compounds of Amorita Resort made us feel safe and gave us the impression that we had this little piece of tropical paradise all to ourselves.

Housed within Amorita Resort's complex are spacious villas--six ocean villas situated on the edge of a cliff with a magnificent view of the ocean, and eight garden villas located in the center of a compound, each with its own lush garden. All villas are equipped with private sun decks and plunge pools for guests to cool off after a long day under the sun.


A two-storey structure found in the midst of its sprawling gardens houses Amorita's 20 spacious deluxe rooms, all equipped with two queen-sized beds each, and a balcony overlooking the lush garden and resort grounds below.


Tropical and environment-friendly living are themes that are consistent throughout the resort: from the earth color scheme of its walls, the various indigenous ornaments found around the resort, the furniture (made especially by Filipino craftsmen), the rainfall-type showers and the relaxed feeling of consistently being in open space.


Amorita's staff will make sure that you are well taken care of, as shown to us during our visit. From the time you are picked up at the airport until the time that you leave the resort, you will truly feel the warmth of Filipino hospitality. The staff at the front desk always made sure to remind us of things as simple as our spa appointment for the next day (the same girl who checked us in would go so far as to walk to where we were--usually at Saffron Restaurant--for these simple but helpful reminders).

The staff at Saffron Restaurant would also engage you in interesting conversations by lending some facts about the island and the resort (and yes, this definitely includes some showbiz and politics gossip, which are always hot topics in this country). They would always keep an eye out on you from a distance, in case there is anything else that you need while you enjoy your scrumptious seafood dinner.

Saffron Restaurant serves a wide array of delectable Filipino, Spanish and American cuisine. It is also a widely known fact among tour guides that although there are several resorts on the island that are more luxurious and much, much more expensive, their VIPs and guests would still come all the way to Saffron Restaurant to satisfy their culinary cravings.


The restaurant is open-spaced, lending its diners a breathtaking view of the sunset. This, along with its antique wooden tables, armoires, driftwood tables and furniture made by internationally-recognized craftsmen, contribute to an all-tropical ambiance. Topping it all off is an infinity pool located by the cliff where one can relax and enjoy the sunset at the end of a satisfying day in Panglao Island.


For bookings and inquiries on our Bohol Island Vacation Packages, you may contact Mango Tours through its 24/7 US toll-free number 1-866-2-MANILA. To know more about our vacation packages and inclusions, visit our website at www.mangotours.com.