September 7, 2015

Bohol for First-Timers

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In Photos: Chocolate hills, Loboc river, Man made Forest, Bohol Bee Farm, Balicasag, Virgin Island

That's exactly what our shirts would read after stepping out of the plane when we got back. The closest thing to our last family getaway was on my birthday last year in Coron and unfortunately my dear papa wasn't there. This time, we were more than complete as both Lara and Jed had joined us. People go to Boracay to party on Labor Day, Siargao to surf, Batanes for picture-perfect scenes, but aside from being home to the Tarsiers and the Chocolate Hills, Bohol's natural charm makes for the perfect family getaway.

Bohol remains to be one of the top-ranking tourist destinations in the Philippines. As a coastal region, it boasts pristine beaches that could parallel those of Boracay and Palawan. It's abundant with marine life and is like its neighbor Cebu, is a haven for seafood lovers. It's flocked by both local and foreign travelers for its accessibility and affordability -- one of the reasons why it's been on our bucket list since, well, forever. This long overdue trip had given me time for ample research and knowledge on what's worth going to in Bohol and my high standards and practical self rounded down the list to these listed below:

chocolate hills and tarsiers
But of course, there's nothing like traditional old tourist favorites that aren't quite like anything in the world. A trip to Bohol isn't complete without dropping by this famous geographical spectacle and the cute little creatures that take the form of a baby Bat-Rat (with annoyingly big eyes). This we did not dare miss. But I must say there's nothing miss-able about the Chocolate Hills once you see it. I found this sad attempt at tourism just plain tacky and overrated. The steep climb isn't even worth the tableto  of a view deck, perfectly cramped for photo bombing. And what can I say about the Tarsiers? They look better in photos. 

twi-like forest
Going through various sites online, a city tour would include a stop to the manmade Mahogany forest that was both mystical and refreshing. I won't spoil it for you by telling you the amazing story behind it. You'll learn that from every tour guide in town and perhaps even the drivers of your rented vehicles. This was absolutely the best part of the city tour for me. 

cruisin' through the sound waves of loboc river
The Loboc river is one of the various destinations where you can sit and dine in a floating restaurant whist admiring the rural life of Bohol via river cruise. Don't expect it to be anything close to a cruise ship, though! You'll be dining on a makeshift floatation device that is kept afloat by two tiny boats. The scenery itself is worth your time but it felt quite brief and anti-climactic. Don't save your appetite for the buffet either. It's nothing close to excellent. Keep earplugs handy in case you have low tolerance for off-key musicians. The trip would've been a whole lot enjoyable if we had the natural sounds of the environment as background music. 

bohol bee-less farm
Situated in the island of Panglao is a quaint little property that is a paradise for health junkies. From organic produce to natural building materials, this place exudes overwhelming love for the earth and sustainability. The place itself utilizes environment-friendly materials and was strategically designed to be a cozy, artistic haven overlooking a gorgeous ocean view. I'm a huge fan of artistic interiors and open spaces and I felt that I could stay there forever. We didn't get to try the food, though. We were pressed for time but we didn't leave without getting the famous ice cream. We tried all the flavors, but being the best seller that it is, Malunggay won my heart!

P.S. They don't have bees anymore. Again, that's for you to find out. 

pawikans of balicasag
Aside from the thrill of watching dolphins play around your boat, snorkeling in Balicasag is often what comprises an island-hopping adventure. I just came form Coron so my standards are way up there when it comes to judging coral reefs and abundance of marine life but Balicasag Island boasts a Pawikan sanctuary that absolutely won me over. Our first stop was the reef and when our guide asked if we were willing to pay an additional 100 pesos t see the turtles, we answered unanimously, "Fuck yeah! "There's nothing like the joy and spectacle of seeing a Pawikan in the wild and seeing a huge one up close was a dream come true. I'm 200% sure you'd enjoy this too. 

Walking along Alona beach reminded me of the countless times I had went bar and restaurant hopping in Station 2 of Boracay. It has the same vibe, scenery-wise and crowd-wise. We went here see what Bohol has to offer our Palate but we ended up quite disappointed with the expat benchmark for prices. It's a pretty good place to watch the sunset with a bottle of beer in your hand. And just for kicks, our brief moment in Alona was one of the most eventful parts of our trip. I'll save that for another post, though. 

uni. uni. uni.
OMG. This was probably what we loved most. My family is a sucker for fresh, straight out of the water sea urchin. You know how expensive they sell them for in Manila, right? But because it's a delicacy in most coastal provinces in our country, they were everywhere and would cost almost just as how much you're willing to pay the fisherman. Downside is that they were everywhere when we  'd get into the water but in this situation, happy tummy wins over safety! Or not. 

bluewater panglao
Ok, shameless plug right here but our trip wouldn't have been sublime if not for the comforts and luxury of our wonderful resort. It was the perfect complement to our adventurous spirits and classy taste. I highly recommend it. Find out why I love it so much in this article.