Bohol’s an unforgettable tourist haven. The air is fresh and clean, a contrast to the constant smog permeating Manila air. The waves in Alona Beach a soothing cacophony to lull frazzled nerves. The lush, ever-present greenery, a sight for sore eyes for people used to facing computer screens almost everyday. It’s a refuge for the tired soul, a place to rest and recuperate – one I highly recommend.
My friends and I went there September 2016, alight on a plane with promotional tickets. Roundtrip airfare from Manila to Bohol typically costs Php6,000+ [via Cebu Pacific Airlines], not including meals, name changes, and baggage allowance. However, as luck would have it, we got promo tickets that cost as cheap as Php1,183 per person. It was a blessing we took advantage of.
We arrived at Tagbilaran, Bohol 2pm after an hour and thirty minutes flight. Since we didn’t have a place booked for a two-night stay, we asked our transport (Kuya tricycle driver I forgot the name of) to take us to a nearby transient house. He took us to Douglas Pension house, a cute, cozy set of apartments less than one kilometer away from Tagbilaran proper. Pictures of the place are seen in their website, along with other information: http://douglaspensionhouse.com/
After settling down, we freshened up and went to the bayan, Tagbilaran proper, to scout the place and buy necessities. Our first stop was at St. Joseph Cathedral, a massive, unfinished structure at the heart of the city. We stayed for a while, as there was an ongoing mass.
St. Joseph Cathedral, exterior
St. Joseph Cathedral, interior
The second day was quite packed; we had to leave 7am for a countryside tour that featured several tourist spots in Bohol. The first we went to was the Blood Compact Shrine, a monument in Tagbilaran featuring the first treaty of friendship between the Spaniards and Filipinos.
Next, we went to Baclayon Church and Museum, a rundown structure at the works (most of the Churches in Bohol are under renovation when we went there, oddly enough), followed by the Python Sanctuary in Alburquerque, Bohol. Never a fan of snakes, I did not really enjoy this part of the trip.
Next, our tricycle driver drove us to Loboc River, one capitalized by the municipality; they created a floating buffet restaurant that cruised throughout the river, with a short interlude (in the middle of the cruise) featuring Loboc women performing their native dance. You simply have to pay Php450 pesos to enjoy the food and cruise. Honestly, while the food is not that delicious, the slow, peaceful cruise more than made up for the experience.
One of the floating restaurants
View of Loboc River
Next is the hanging bridge – a man-made wooden structure suspended over a small river. Those looking for an adrenaline rush, even short and quick, can get their kicks here.
My most favorite part of this tour would be our stop at the Manmade Forest. This terrain found in Loboc houses densely planted tall mahogany trees, so tall it seems to be reaching for the sky. The feeling inside the forest is also magnificent – the cool breeze brought on by the abundance of trees a respite for the hot climate outside it. Taking a picture of the place does not come without difficulties; you have to wait and make sure no vehicles cross the road before you pose or click!
Our next stop is the butterfly garden, a sanctuary for living and preserved butterflies and other insects.
One of the butterflies in the garden.
Finally, we arrived at the sweet spot: the majestic Chocolate Hills. These small mountains covered in grass-colored limestone change their colors to brown during the dry season, hence the name. Seeing these hills in their beauty require you to climb 220 steps (correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe we counted each stair to get to the top), which was a hurdle I consider worth going through just to experience the most prided tourist spot of Bohol.
The countryside tour is quite tiring, really, so it would be best to allocate one day of your trip to it. I’m certainly glad we did it; otherwise it wouldn’t be such a fun experience.
Having exhausted Tagbilaran and the municipalities close to it, we packed our bags to head for Panglao Island to see Alona beach. Before that though, we went to our reserved resort, Cliffside, to leave our bags.
We reserved Cliffside resort in Agoda, as my friend thought it was a beautiful place to stay at. True enough, it was also another gem of our trip. Here are some pictures:
We paid Php2100+ for an overnight stay for three, which may be a little expensive compared to the transient houses in Panglao Island, but well worth it, as the place has a great view of the sea. You’ll suffer a bit with the rocky road on the way to the place, but the suffering is light when you get to reach this paradise.
After securing our spot at the resort, we made our way to Alona Beach through a fifteen-minute tricycle ride. We had to have reception call for a tricycle as the place is really far from the main road.
Alona Beach was not as beautiful as we expected, I admit. Pictures online showed us almost white sand with little to no garbage, but when we went there, the beachside was littered with dry seaweed. It was also difficult to enjoy the view as we were bombarded with offers of island tours almost every five minutes.
Giving in to one of the offers, we rented a boat to go to two islands, Balicasag and Virgin. Virgin Island, true to its name, was difficult to traverse as it only presents itself during low tide, and while we were lucky enough to go there during such time, our boat operator still had to row us into the island, slowly, to avoid destroying the sea life.
There’s not much to see in Virgin Island – it is simply a short stretch of land in the middle of the sea. Disappointed, we went to Balicasag next, thinking it would be an island we can finally enjoy swimming at or taking pictures.
A portion of the Virgin Island
Again, we were wrong; the island has a beachside mostly covered with small rocks instead of fine sand. Not to mention guests actually weren’t allowed to be there unless they paid a fine for their stay – a detail our boat operators did not have the decency to share.
Small rocks on the beach side, making it tricky to take a dip
Frustrated, we decided to go back to Alona Beach. By the time we went back, it was late in the afternoon and we were starving. Alona Beach has a string of restaurants, ranging from the cheap and serviceable to the lavish and expensive. Since this was a budget-trip, we went for the former and ordered it to go, bought alcohol, and went back to Cliffside to relax and drink our tiredness away.
Early morning at Cliffside is marvelous; the air is fresh and cold as we were right next to the sea, the place is quiet, and it is the perfect avenue (according to my two friends) to take pictures.
Cliffside offers diving lessons; this is a snapshot of the way down to one of their boats, which they use as transport to reach diving spots.
Overview of the sea from Cliffside
Me, braving my way to the sea.
We had breakfast, chilled for a bit, and slept a few more hours before we started packing our bags to head for Tagbilaran airport. The flight was at 2pm, and we arrived there half past 12nn to wait for our flight.
Despite the hiccups, this Bohol trip was actually quite good. We were able to relax and enjoy some of the beauty Bohol has to offer. As someone quite iffy when it comes to travel (one small problem and my mood is foul for the entire trip), this was surprisingly pleasant. One thing is for sure: if life has you too overwhelmed, you can certainly find your haven in Bohol. That, I guarantee.