One of my resolutions this year was to see more of the Philippines. Palawan was at the top of my list followed by Batanes and then Sagada. I don’t know why I didn’t consider places outside the Luzon group of islands. I guess it never crossed my mind that there would be great things to see in Visayas and Mindanao. Fortunately, fate intervened in the guise of a friend’s wedding and last week I found myself on my first domestic flight to Bohol.
Bohol is the tenth largest island of the Philippines and it has 75 minor surrounding islands including Panglao, which is famous for its diving locations. I only discovered this when I got there but even I, who has never been to many diving spots, think that Panglao Island deserves its popularity. The sea was clear and inviting and the fine, white sand was the perfect carpet for a walk.
One thing I did know about Bohol before I got there were the Chocolate Hills, named as such because they turn brown during the dry season when their grass dry up. There are 1,776 hills but I couldn’t appreciate that huge number when I was there because it was cloudy and a light mist hid the farther hills from sight. I still loved the view though.
One other thing I loved were the tarsiers. Although guests can only walk through a very limited space within the conservation area, it was enough because there isn’t really a lot to do when you’re looking at nocturnal, 6-inch animals hiding under the cover of leaves. I and my friends were lucky to find one that was moving around and it was so adorable.
To get to the conservation area and the hills, we had to hire a chauffeur to drive us around and I think the 2,100 PHP ($44) we paid between the seven of us was worth it. But the time it took to go and come back to Panglao Island, where we were staying, took around two hours, which was very tiring after our flight. Public transportation isn’t Bohol’s strongest suit and hiring a chauffeur every day isn’t practical so on our second day of touring, we decided to visit the attractions on Panglao Island. Our first stop was Bohol Bee Farm.
We were supposed to have lunch there because we heard good things about their restaurant but someone bought us free lunch at the resort so we only had room in our stomach for their famous ice cream. I bought a scoop each of malunggay (moringa) and salted honey based on a friend’s recommendation and the free tasting.
I liked malunggay because it didn’t taste at all like the vegetable and it actually reminded me of a Philippine snack called turon, a deep-fried banana roll. Salted honey was also good but it was a little too sweet for me. Their other flavors include avocado, which I also liked because I love avocado, ube (purple yam), which was just okay, spicy ginger, which was interesting but a little too ginger-y for me, and durian, which was a little too pungent for me.
We had our ice cream on a wooden balcony right by the ocean, where we just lounged for about an hour. I actually wanted to take the tour around the farm but my friends weren’t up to it so I was a little disappointed. But we all wanted to buy stuff from the souvenir shop where I bought wild honey, organic vegetable chips, and some peanut snacks.
We took a tricycle to our next and last destination: Hinagdanan Cave. The name comes from the Filipino word hagdan, which means stairs. The small cave was apparently discovered when a tree fell during a storm, revealing a hole under it. The farmer who owned the land found the hole and steps leading downwards into the cave. The original stairs aren’t there anymore but the hole is still there.
The cave was humid and hot but it was nice enough (I’ve never been to many caves) and the underground lake looked clear. My friend who took a dip said it was a little salty but she liked it nonetheless. The tour guides were super funny and friendly too and they know their smartphones very well.
I stayed four nights in Bohol to see what I’ve seen, but I think that I would’ve been able to see more if I didn’t spend too much time at the resort. I guess this just means that I should go back and I really don’t mind because it is a beautiful place with beautiful people and I’m glad that fate allowed me to discover it.
Chocolate Hills: 50 PHP ($1)
Tarsier Conservation Area: 50 PHP ($1)
Bohol Bee Farm: Free
Hinagdanan Cave: 15 PHP