They call this place the ‘heart of the islands’. Growing up, it has always been known to me as the island where tiny monkeys lived and where you can buy their native delicacy called ‘Kalamay‘ – a sweet sticky paste made of coconut milk, brown sugar, and ground glutinous rice packaged in coconut shells. It’s probably because whenever friends or family visit the island, the Kalamay seems to be the first thing to bring back home.
Anyway, I had the privilege of taking a two-day trip to Bohol this week (with special permission to leave from work by my employer, of course!) and did a personal tour of the famous spots in this quaint treasure of an island. This trip was done by land; that is, we decided to bring the car to cross the sea on a barge. We opted for this so we could familiarize ourselves with the island should we decide to go back again (and I’m certain we will!). Tip: if you wish to bring your own vehicle, take a trip enroute to Tubigon Port for half of the cost instead of taking a trip heading to Tagbilaran Port. Fare: P1700.00 one way for vehicle, P270.00/pax and driver is free.
Bohol may be a small island but one that is brimming with popular tourist sites and evident with rich Spanish history. You can try covering the entire island in one day but there will be little surprises that you might miss here and there so I would suggest extending your stay just a day or two. So here, I’ll be highlighting some of the places you can visit while in Bohol based on our mini trip. Of course, you can be creative with your own itinerary but just in case you need some reference, you can just read this one out. I will, of course, also include pictures as well as a map guide (via Google Maps) to help you through with navigation.
No. 1: Blood Compact Monument
This is where we based the starting point of our trip upon arriving at Tubigon Port. Now, this historical site is located in the city of Bohol, Tagbilaran just along J.P Inting Street so it is very accessible if you are within the area. The monument signifies the ancient ritual in the Philippines where contracting parties would cut their wrists and pour their blood into a cup filled with wine that indicates a seal of friendship or peace treaty. Read full background here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sandugo. So, while you’re there, take a moment to appreciate the story behind the historic scenario; and of course, take lots of pictures too!
No. 2: Baclayon Church
Contrary to what people rumored this heritage building to have succumbed to ruins after the 2013 earthquake, this church actually still stands magnificently. Of course, there are portions of the building that are slightly damaged though, but not the rubble it was said to be. This is one of the few popular Jesuit churches in Bohol and one of the oldest in the Philippines and in Asia. It is made out of coral stones, with the whites of countless eggs used to cement them together (Source: http://www.gmanetwork.com). You can take a short tour inside their vicinity where you can find preserved artifacts or just remain outside and admire and document its historical facade.
Fee: P50.00/pax for tour around the church premises
No. 3: Bilar Man-Made Forest
Yes, you read it right: a Man-Made Forest! We made a stop here on the way to the famous Chocolate Hills. This place is located within the border of Bilar and Loboc towns, passing through a hilly, winding road. You will actually know you’ve entered the forest because you will notice the surroundings start to darken a little even on broad daylight. If you ask me, it’s like entering a horror movie scene where you get lost before getting inevitably kidnapped. Anyway, the place is definitely picture-worthy because of the towering mahogany trees. You can read more about its beginnings here: Bilar Man-Made Forest.
No. 4: Bilar Eco Park
This site is just located within the man-made forest as you pass through. However, it is here you can learn more about how the forest conservation started and why it was created in the first place. Boardwalks are also built here for you to appreciate the beauty of the forest (and to take more pictures as well!).
No. 5: Chocolate Hills
This is actually one of the many attractions that made Bohol famous. This site holds a cluster of unusually shaped hills that is located right in the middle of the island and what gave them their name is when during the dry season, the grass covering each hill turns brown, thus Chocolate Hills. In 2008, this famous spot in Bohol has been dubbed as one of the ‘Seven Wonders of the World.’ There is also a legend behind the story of these hills which until now still remains a mystery. You can read full story here: http://www.chocolatehills.net/.
No. 6: Bohol Tarsier Sanctuary
From Chocolate Hills, we headed down to the Tarsier sanctuary as it is an attraction not to be missed! The sanctuary was built to protect these endangered animals and they are known to be the smallest primate in the world. These creatures are nocturnal so when we visited to see them and took pictures, they were hiding out under small trees sleeping. Nonetheless, it was a lovely sight to see.
No. 7: Xzootic Animal Park
We decided to make a side trip here before heading back to the city. The park is located in Loay, and is just along the road so it’s impossible not to miss it on the way back. Here, you can opt to see the Pythons or visit their butterfly sanctuary. It’s almost as if Bohol has literary everything every nature lover wants! Anyway, we opted to check out the Pythons only (and even held one – a tamed one, of course!) and we found there are actually different types in the wild. We stayed there until nightfall before finally deciding to head back.
Fee: P45.00/pax for Butterfly Sanctuary and P45.00/pax for Python
No. 8: Hinagdanan Cave, Panglao
This was one in our list of places to visit the following day before taking the last boat trip to Cebu. Getting there was easy enough as you can take the main road going to Dauis, Panglao which is an island in Bohol that you can cross through a bridge. This cave is said to have been discovered sometime in the 16th century and served as a hideout during World War 2. The cave is naturally lighted and surrounded by stalagmites with a lagoon at the center that goes down to about 12-feet deep. What made the whole trip interesting was how entertaining the local guide was; and I mean really entertaining!
No. 9: Alona Beach, Alona, Panglao
Panglao is one attraction in Bohol that’s known for its beautiful beaches. This island is a go-to place for tourists who are into water sports and adventures. There are myriad of water activities to achieve like snorkeling, diving or just sit by the shore to admire the clear blue water’s sparkle reflected from the sun. We made a stop here at one of the many beaches in Panglao to take in the sights and soak up a little sun as well. Along the shoreline are busy vendors selling various snacks and drinks.
No. 10: Bohol Bee Farm, Panglao
This tourist attraction was recently opened to encourage locals to practice organic farming. From their ice-cream shop to their bakery and their restaurants, everything in this place screams fresh. Most of the ingredients they use come from their gardens as well as the honey produced are from the bees that they kept. Visiting this place is a treat for anyone who’s healthy conscious. There is also an area where they hire locals making various handicrafts as a means of livelihood. You can just drop by the place for free, or book a specialized tour around the area and to know how it started.
This short trip certainly taught me a lot of things and made me appreciate God’s creations more – to be a lot more aware that the world needs to be in balanced harmony, that both humans and creatures need each other one way or another in order to survive. One unfortunate incident in this trip was the unexpected rain. Nevertheless, it certainly didn’t dampen the adventurous spirit in me (a hat came in handy!). Bohol is a wonder in so many ways. They certainly kept their word as being one of the best tourist destination in the Philippines. There are probably a lot more nature adventures I will be making soon, but this is one of the many few that I will cherish.
To more adventures,