Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Bohol: Allure of Natural Beauty

When you speak of the beauty of a place, only one kind of beauty that comes to my mind to fully explained it in a short but suitable description and that is "natural beauty." That kind of beauty may be describe to either every untouched and unexplored places or islands in the Philippines but Bohol's natural beauty is uniquely enchanting, captivating and alluring. Bohol is a tropical haven of natural beauty blooming in natural wonders like no other. It is a little paradise bountiful of natural wonders ideal for nature trips and adventures that waits to be discovered. It is truly blessed by nature with a beauty that simply allures everyone.

I spent my birthday here and had a blast of the best and finest of natural beauty of Bohol. This trip is one milestone I won't forget. It is on my birthday that I decided to celebrate it with my one great passion in life - travel. I want to try a different thing on my special day and decided not to do-away with usual parties or indulging in happy hour. I want to make it memorable and do something that will let experience the best of life. It was my first time to travel on my birthday and it was my first time to visit Bohol. And to add up to this milestone, I rode Philippine Airlines who is also celebrating its birthday on that day! Asia's first airline, PAL soars 70 years on that unforgettable day. That day was a full blast of Bohol experience. I truly enjoy the best of life by doing it with my passion of travel on that day. This is a great way to celebrate life because travel is to have an experience of a lifetime!
I had a pleasant flight! Happy Birthday PAL!
PR175 from Manila at Tagbilaran Airport
Bohol is an island lies southeast from Cebu Island and southwest of Leyte Island in Central Visayas region. This oval-shaped island is the tenth largest of the Philippine archipelago. Another gem of the Visayas, Bohol is a tropical haven of natural beauty. The coastline of the island is skimmed by gentle coves and white sand beaches. Bohol is not as internationally famous as nearby Boracay, but is well-known locally as a paradise for divers and snorkelers.(Source) The island's name comes from bool, a tree specie on the island so honored because the Blood Compact of 1565 was signed under its shade.

Before we arrive in Tagbilaran, we already had pre-arranged tours with Kuya George Norono (0918-3858084/0920-80221714) whom my mom's last year Bohol visit tour service guide. We have been delay for 15 minutes in the air due to arrival traffic in Tagbilaran airport. Later, I learned that only one plane can disembark arrival passengers at a time as the arrival area of Tagbilaran airport can only accommodate one arrival flight at a time and only two planes can land at the airport at the same time due to limited aircraft space. Tagbilaran Airport is small but there are four commercial planes flying to the airport. Personally, I think it demands a bigger and spacious airport to serve Bohol province. And with the surge of arrival of tourists in the island being one of the main destination in the country, I think a major improvement, spacing or bigger airport facility is needed for Tagbilaran Airport.

Travel is an experience of lifetime!
Tagbilaran is the capital of Bohol and the main point of entry to the island, including nearby Panglao Island. It is known as "City of Friendship" being the city was the seat of the first international treaty of peace and unity between the native king Datu Sikatuna, and Spanish conquistador, Miguel López de Legazpi, on March 16, 1565 through a blood compact alliance known today by many Filipinos as the Sandugo. A historical marker now stands on the very spot where Sikatuna and Legaspi perpetrated that famous blood compact. (Source) The city’s name originates from "tibilan" meaning curtain and "tagubila-an" meaning hide. (Source) There is not much for a tourist in the city, other than food, rest and shopping, but once you leave the city. there is much in Bohol to see and do.

Kuya George fetched us at the airport when we arrived. He was warm and friendly. And helpful in taking pictures! =) And it was also the time to start our countryside tour of Bohol. It was like a field trip where we stop to each point of interests in each municipality of the province via van. For your information, some place of interests has entrance fees. It depends but mostly ranges from 10-15PHP per visitor. Kuya George was also helpful in informing us about the places that we are visiting. He also helped us arranged our island hopping activity for the next day. The trip will end with our check-in at an accommodation in Panglao Island in the afternoon.

The City of Friendship
The first and nearest itinerary of our Bohol countryside trip was the Sandugo Monument at Tagbilaran City. The Sandugo or Blood compact monument is a marker and reenactment of blood compact, performed in Bohol between the Spanish explorer Miguel López de Legazpi and Datu Sikatuna the chieftain of Bohol on March 16, 1565, to seal their friendship as part of the tribal tradition. This is considered as the first treaty of friendship between the Spaniards and Filipinos. It marked the start of Spanish-Filipino friendship in the island and legend reason why Tagbilaran is dubbed as "The City of Friendship."

Sandugo or Blood Compact Monument
Scenic coastal view around the Sandugo marker
There's nothing much to do in the monument area except for souvenir photos but there is a viewing area where you can admire the lining coastal areas of the island, sea views and the famed Balicasag Island.

After that, we embarked on a 15 minute drive and reach the municipality of Baclayon to see the famous Baclayon Church or the Church of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception. Baclayon Church is one of the oldest church in the Philippines. It is one of the best preserved Jesuit build churches in the region, although in the 19th century, the Augustinian Recollects added a modern facade and a number of stone buildings that now surround the church. A walk inside the church is like stepping into a past history particularly to Spanish colony times of the country. I felt the atmosphere of Spanish times while sightseeing inside the church and its historic relics. The church was completed in 1727 and made of coral stones from the sea cemented by white of million eggs together.

Baclayon Church also known as Church of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception
The most magazine photographed part of Baclayon Church - its magnificent altar.
Outside facade of the century-old Baclayon Chruch.
I did not missed to have a glimpse of the church's most photogt wasraphed part - its brightly lit and colorful altar. Of course, I did take souvenir photos but I off my flash because the place is so solemn even we are the only ones who is visiting the church that day. I am amazed how they preserved this century old church and maintain the beauty of its colorful altar. There's also a museum within the facades of the church for a fee of 25PHP. Before we exited Baclayon Church, I made a moment to pray and thank for the past good years I had in my life and for this wonderful trip I had on my special day.
Prony is sleeping
In our third stop, we went to Alburquerque to visit Prony, one of the oldest and biggest known python kept in captivity. It was almost lunchtime when we arrive there so I didn't bother go inside the cage to see and have a photo with the snake even it is sleeping at that time and strong encouragement from my travel-mates. I don't want to be the "lunch" on my birthday! Hanging outside by the cage, you''ll notice a "Victoria Secret-style" lingerie proudly on display that was made of Prony's shed skin. She also just celebrate her 14th birthday during our visit. According to infos, Prony is named after Sofronio Salibay who found the python and kept it. While Prony is the star of the mini-zoo, visitors can also appreciate the other faunas kept in the area like colorful birds, eagles, uwak (crows) and kagwang or Philippine flying lemur which is first time I saw this creature. I do hope they develop the place or expand it into a mini-zoo so visitors we'll see a lot in the place aside from the famous and biggest python, Prony.

The CUTE tarsier!
The Philippine Tarsier (Tarsius syrichta or Carlito syrichta) is endemic in Bohol.
The EVIL Tarsier...
Our next stop is a real and one-of-a-kind animal encounter. It's time to meet the famous Tarsiers of Bohol. I can't recall the place or municipality of the sanctuary but the place was made for visitors who wants to have an authentic animal encounter of Tarsier. The best word to describe these endemic primates of Bohol is that they are extremely cute! They're just small about 4 to 6 inches and almost just a size of your palm. The tarsiers that we encounter were bore and looks sleepy. It is because they are nocturnal animals who mostly are sluggish, lazy and sleeping at day but jumps and active at night. Tarsiers are sensitive to flashes of camera and to human touching it so no flash for souvenir pictures and no holding of the animal for visitors.

The Philippine Tarsier (Tarsius syrichta or Carlito syrichta), known locally as the Maumag in Cebuano/Visayan and Mamag in Luzon, is an endangered species of tarsier endemic to the Philippines. Once protected by the humid rainforests and mist-shrouded hills, these mysterious primates struggle to survive as their home is cleared for crop growing and poaching. Corella is the best place in to spot a tarsier in the wild. This is where the Philippine Tarsier Foundation has hectares of sanctuary for the endemic tarsiers and serves as a research center to populate these world's smallest known primates.

Tarsiers are one of the world's smallest primate.
EVIL Tarsier... no, they're eyes are just sleepy that's why it gives an evil-like look. They are nocturnal animals.
Sino ang tunay na Tarsier!?
It was perfect lunchtime when we arrive to our next destination - Loboc. Loboc is 24 km away from Tagbilaran City and known for its floating restaurants along the scenic and winding Loay-Loboc River cruise. It is also home of the famous Loboc Children's Choir. The location of the floating restaurants is at Loboc Tourism Complex. There are so many visitors that day probably because it was lunchtime.

The beauty of Loboc River.
Lunch by the cruise while serenaded by local songs.
Interaction with the locals of Loboc.
Lush greenery.
Everyone is invited to try a local dance like Tinikling.
We boarded the floating restaurant and sailed in Loboc River while serve with buffet of Filipino cuisines and serenaded by romantics songs of the staffs. I particularly love the Adobo dish served in the buffet. It was tasty and delicious. And while enjoying a sumptuous meal on a cruise and listening to the beautiful songs, you are also greeted by the greenery scenic views around the river. The lush greens of trees and plants along the river bank with the calm flow of river water is a tranquil sight. Your eyes are also greeted with scenic mountain views of the province that guarantees you a serene feeling and stress-free mind. The end of a river is a small group of waterfalls in which the cruise will turnaround. But we returned to station we stopped to a mid-station where locals of Loboc greeted us in another serenade of local songs and invited visitors to join in local dance like Tinikling, where my uncle fascinated to joined the revelry. Upon return to the docking station, the staff serenaded us with an unforgettable Everly Brother's Bye Bye Love until we deboard the floating restaurant. It was a remarkable experience. At Loboc Tourism Complex, one can also explore the nearby museum and historical church around aside from the numerous souvenir establishments around the complex. Island Souvenir t-shirt branch shop here is highly recommended.

Bilar's man-made forest of Mahogany.
Enroute to Carmen, we passed Bilar and saw the Man-made forest. These stretch of Mahogany trees gives a shade from strong sunlight and promotes cool breeze of air in its surrounding. Running our vehicle through it, is quite dark because of the tall trees shade and it kinda gives you a fantasy and creepy feeling that a dinosaur from Jurrasic Park movie might suddenly appear! Preserving this forests of Bohol is a true testament to being a haven of natural beauty. No wonder Bohol was awarded with International Organization Standard (ISO) 14001 rating for ecology and environment in 2001.
So chocolaty it melts in my hands and not my mouth!
The most prominent hill in the viewing area.
The viewing deck and the dangerous viewing deck below the open railing.
A trip to Carmen is quite a long journey. It is barely an hour from Loboc and farther than Tagbilaran City. Along the road you'll be greeted by numerous rice paddies and different scenic views of the province. But the trip is worth it. We travel to Carmen to see Bohol's famous tourist destination, the Chocolate Hills! To get a great view of the hills one must endure a hundred plus steps on a viewing hill which is also one of the hills developed into a viewing site. I thought I wouldn't have a chance to see these hills and ruin our countryside tour because it rained for a long time when we arrive at Carmen. We waited long until the rain stops. I thought there's a storm because at some point, raindrops are thick and hard. But in a miracle way, the sun shines up again! So I do the hike on the hundred plus steps onward to the viewtop of the hill site. And there they are... numerous mounds of Chocolate Hills in bountiful amount that greets your eyesight. There were so many visitors at that day, taking pictures are the edge of the hill site view. But there's a site where you can have closer view of the hills which I dare not to go just for picture souvenirs. I found it dangerous as it placed beyond the open guarded metal railings of the view site and is on the edge of the hill. I remember, today is my special day and I don't want to celebrate it shortly.

The hills, which look like giant mole hill, are considered unusual geological formation that consists of at least 1,268 individual mounds that are scattered throughout the municipalities of Carmen, Batuan, and Sagbayan. The hills range from 30 to 50 meters high and are covered in green grass, which turns to brown during the dry season, making them look like chocolate mounds. This natural sight is a must-see in Bohol. It is a marvelous work of nature that any visitor will wonder and marvel to its beauty. A natural beauty at its finest! I highly recommend to visit these hills. It is so chocolaty that is melts in your eyes and not in your mouth!

We love the Chocolate Hills!
The must-see place of interest in Bohol - the famous Chocolate Hills.
Another option of viewing the hills is in the municipality of Sagbayan.
After our hike, it rained hard again until we depart Carmen and enroute again to the Man-made forests. The rain was also the reason why we miss a souvenir shot in Bilar's man-made forest and a visit to Butterfly Garden. It rained until we reached the Hanging Bridge, our last itinerary of the day. The rainfall slows for a while but it did not stop us to cross this bridge but in a major challenge! It was swinging and slippery wet! To add up to the challenge we have to cross the bridge while holding an umbrella in one one and holding the guided steels on the other. And don't used to look down as aside from being shaky, the rush of the water river below is nauseating!

Hanging Bridge at Loboc.
The tarsiers are also souvenirs?!
The Hanging Bridge is a foot bridge composed of bamboos and hardened steels which was initially used by locals to cross the river going to the Barangay on the other side of the main road. The Hanging Bridge hangs about 25 meters above the river. It was only later I learned that the bridge is located in upper part of Loboc River of Barangay Tigbao and the river is still Loboc River. We really intend to cross the bridge as we were advised by a Nun guide we met along the tour that souvenirs are cheap here. The end of the bridge are shops full of souvenir items. They are truly cheap here compare to other places with souvenir shops especially on sold t-shirts and the fame Peanut Kisses - a sweet threat made of peanuts and egg-white cookies. There were also a lot foreign tourists visiting the shops and crossed the bridge who mostly try the grilled "Saba" (kind of banana) why made me think it must be foreign for them. The return was a major challenge again and its harder because this time we are carrying pasalulongs! The rain is quite moderately falling this time but we barely survive the challenge. Thank God!

Stunning sunlight while enroute to Panglao Island.
Dinner by the beach.
My dinner birthday at Alona Beach.
Kuya George, drove us now to Panglao Island to check our accommodation. Panglao Island is an island connected to Bohol main island via bridge and is 30 minutes away from capital, Tagbilaran. The island is home of the pristine white sand beaches of Bohol, famous dive spots, islets and coral reefs that makes it a top tourist destination in Bohol province and in our country. We choose Paragayo Resort (Alona Beach, Barangay Tawala, Panglao Island, Bohol, 6340, Philippines | Phone Number: (63-38) 502 9172) to stay since it is one of the convenient resorts within distance to Alona Beach. Panglao Island has various beaches with accommodations cater to fit each visitors' taste. Other fame beaches in Panglao with resort accommodations were Bolod and Doljo Beaches. I find Alona Beach popular. We end the night by exploring the night life in Alona Beach and had a seafood dinner at Coco Vida Restaurant by the beach.

The dream of turning Bohol into a world-renowned destination is no longer so far-fetch with its National Geographic-like encounter of its unspoiled rivers, fantastic geological formation like Chocolate Hills, animal encounters with the endemic tarsiers, period churches, man-made forests in Bilar, majestic marine biodiversity and beautiful beaches like Alona beach. It made the province a complete package of nature and adventure trip in one destination. I also have to commend the friendliness of Boholanos. They are smiling, warmth and engaging. Truly living up to the dubbed "City of Friendship." I do hope Bohol continuous to preserve its natural sights as it lures visitors and fortunes to the province. I had a blast of Bohol in one day! It was total immersion to its natural beauty. A distinct beauty that can only be found in the haven of natural beauty of Bohol. A beauty that will surely allure anyone. Visit this sanctuary of alluring beauty and experience natural beauty like no other.

Bohol: Allure of Natural Beauty is the first part of my Bohol: Allure of Natural Beauty series in which I share my travel story to Bohol that happened last March 15-17 on my birthday week. This trip is memorable as this is the first time I traveled and celebrated my birthday out of home. It is one birthday that I won't forget. I was able to do my passion in life on my special day. It was a fulfilling day full of milestone. And I appreciate that it happened in Bohol. Travel let me have an experience of a lifetime. It was a great way to celebrate LIFE!

You might also be interested in reading the other parts of Bohol: Allure of Natural Beauty.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Travel is an experience of a lifetime

Travel let me experience the best of life can offer. I don't only appreciate the places I am visiting or the sights I am seeing but it let me appreciate life at most through discovery of having a positive outlook in life at all times and embracing the different sides of it - good and bad, ups and downs, beauty and ugliness... The happiness, satisfaction and enjoyment I get from this passion is something that money can't buy or equal. And no experience of life can equal the lifetime opportunity to see the beauty of our country or the rest the world through traveling. It is also a good way to learn the realities of life, the cultures that surrounds our community and nation and the rich heritage of our country.

So on my special day last March 15, I celebrate it by doing one of my great passions in life - travel. It was one of the best milestones I did in my life! I never enjoyed life to the fullest by doing it! Destination... Bohol. And its just a day of milestones - it was my first time in Bohol and first time to travel in my birthday. And to add up, I rode Philippine Airlines who is also celebrating its birthday on that day! PAL soars 70 years on that unforgettable day. I had an experience of a lifetime in the tropical haven of natural beauty of Bohol. I'll tell more about this trip on my future posts. I truly enjoy the best of life by doing it with my passion of travel. This is a great way to celebrate life because travel is to have an experience of a lifetime!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Trip na Trip: Ang travel show ng bayan

One of the best travel show or perhaps the best local travel show in local television is ABS-CBN Channel 2's Trip na Trip. The award-winning travel show aims to promote the local tourism of the country and the provinces' tourist sights, accommodation, cuisine, things to do, must-try, must-see, etc. that every traveler needs to know in visiting a destination. This travel show promises a thrilling, exciting and fun-filled series of journeys and adventures in every Philippine destination it covers. Hosted by Katherine de Castro, and former Big Brother Housemates, Jason Gainza, Franzen Fajardo and Kian Kazemi, it is currently airing its 15th season!

Trip na Trip is technically shown every Friday midnight but the show is really aired every Saturday at 1:00am for an hour airing. It is produced by ABS-CBN News and Current Affairs and Bayan Productions, Inc.

Boracay episode

Trip na Trip is known to cover not the just the famed destinations and provinces of the country but also uncover the other provinces of the country that either has a tourism potential or slowly gaining a popularity in the local tourism for promotion and for travelers to further explore that province. This is what I like in this travel show, each of the provinces' wonder is highlighted and out-of-the-track place or provinces is explored. Watching Trip na Trip also makes me learn that there's something worth to see or must-try in other non-fame tourists destination of our country. I also liked the fact that they also show the affordable accommodations in each destination they featured. If the show happened to showcase the same destination in its episode, they try to inject something new and fresh to that province by featuring new things to try, see and stay in that destination. All of their travel tips in each destination and episode are useful!

The travel show has a huge follower especially overseas as ABS-CBN has a global airing network. I think its one of the longest local travel show airing in the local TV whereas its other rival local travel show has already defunct. Trip na Trip started airing in 2006. I can't imagine it has been airing for 5 years already and I still watch it! I am one of its avid-watchers and followers. This is one travel show recommended for travel-lovers, the only best travel show ng bayan, Trip na Trip!!!

Trip na Trip has a Facebook page. Fans may like the page here.
Here are some of the clips of its episodes via You Tube.

Capiz episode

Negros Oriental episode

Friday, March 04, 2011

Shades of Summer

You know that its perfect summer time when you feel the urge to use sunglasses or shades to cover your eyes from the hot rays of the sun and wave of warm air brought by the weather. Summer is the time of the year when the sun is so high that the heat wave we feel is double than what we normally experience in an ordinary day. Days are hotter in these times. This is the time that we also feel the urge to escape to a place where we just want to relax, rest and play. And beach is the number one place that comes to our mind when we think of a place to escape this summer. Don't you agree? As Summer 2011 starts, expect travelers and vacationers flock the beaches again as this heat of summer is the perfect time to savor it. This shot was taken last summer in Matabungkay, Lian, Batangas where my travel mates choose to swim in the pool where I choose to relax and found these "shades of summer" as a good memory to remember that wonderful summer.

More about my Summer 2010 here.
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