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Sunday, January 24, 2016

When I was young, our grandparents would tell us that how we usher in the New Year would define how the rest of our year would turn out. So for 2016, we welcomed it with a weekend escapade in beautiful Bohol with the hope of many weekends of fun, adventure and traveling. It was also my first time in Bohol so I hope 2016 would also be a year of many firsts.

The flight to the City of Friendship

We booked an early morning flight via AirAsia. It was our first time to use this carrier, so we were praying hard for a smooth and problem-free flight. Notwithstanding the cramped legroom of the seats, it was a smooth flight with no delay. We left NAIA Terminal 4 at exactly 7:25 AM and arrived in Tagbilaran City Airport at 8:15 AM. The hotel driver from Ocean Suites, our accommodation in Bohol, was already at the airport waiting to fetch us.


Tagbilaran Airport
Welcome to Bohol!
Tagbilaran City is also known as The City of Friendship

Seeing the Best of Bohol's Eco-Tourism Sites

After checking-in at Ocean Suites, we had breakfast in Azure, its signature restaurant. It was a very simple buffet breakfast of garlic fried rice, sausages, omelets, danggit, pancakes, cereals, fruits, slices of bread and bacon. There was overflowing coffee and orange juice. After filling our tummies, we deposited our luggage and freshened up quickly for our first day of roaming around Bohol. We rented a van for 8 hours (Php2,500), ample enough for touring some of the best and well-known eco-tourism sites that Bohol has to offer.

Chocolate Hills
Carmen, Bohol

The majestic Chocolate Hills of Bohol
Our first stop was Chocolate Hills in Carmen town, probably Bohol's most iconic natural site. Travel time from Ocean Suites to the Chocolate Hills was around 40 minutes of continuous drive through winding roads. A sharp right from the main highway led us to a secondary road leading to the viewing deck to get a panoramic vista of Chocolate Hills. Here, we were asked to pay a Php50 entrance fee. 

On the way to Carmen town, we got to see a lot of antique houses, a testament to the rich heritage of Bohol
Antique house

Another old house

We also passed by Loboc Church (San Pedro Apostol Parish Church), one of the old churches severely damaged by the 2013 earthquake.
Loboc Church

The Chocolate Hills as seen from the viewing deck, looked majestic and stunning. All in all, Bohol has 1773 hills but the actual Chocolate Hills, those mounds overgrown with grass instead of trees, is around 1200++. These formations are made of limestone which were formed when the island of Bohol was underwater eons ago. Tectonics and the receding ocean brought this massive limestone deposit above water, the elements shaped the landscape into what it is today.
We had to climb 200+ steps to get to the viewing deck
The iconic Chocolate Hills of Bohol

The Chocolate Hills were green when we visited

On the way down from the viewing deck
Souvenir shot with Don, Maan and Milan Ramos, and Myene
Habitat Bohol
Bilar, Bohol

From the Chocolate Hills, we drove back and proceeded to Bohol Habitat (entrance fee: Php45), a butterfly sanctuary. It was a small patch of space filled with different plants that serve as home to the butterflies that are bred here. A guide showed us around and gave a talk on the breeding habits of butterflies. Preserved butterflies and insects are also on display. Here, you can also have creative photos of you taken with butterfly wings. 

Habitat Bohol
Entrance fee and reminders


Giant butterflies
Butterfly wings!

Bohol Man-made Forest
Loay Interior Road, Loboc, Bohol

We made a brief stopover at the man-made mahogany forest which is a reforestation project that began in the late 1940s. The area was deforested because of the slash and burn farming practice of the locals. The slopes were planted with mahogany to deter erosion and flooding which became a problem before the project was commenced.

The densely forested used to be barren because of slash-and-burn farming, locally known as kaingin
Beside giant trees

Tall trees
Loboc River Cruise

One of the unique activities being promoted by Bohol's Tourism Office was the Loboc River Cruise and Lunch. It was a one-and-a-half ride through Loboc River on board a floating restaurant. Entrance fee is Php450 for adults, inclusive of a buffet lunch. The food was ordinary, in fact it needs vast improvement, but the river tour was really worth it. The sight of the blue green water, the cool and fresh air, the lush foliage along the riverbanks all made for a relaxing tour. At the end of the tour, be prepared to be entertained by the folk dance performance of local children.

Loboc River Cruise rates

On the way to the floating restaurant

Lunch is served
Native salad
Fried Chicken
Macaroni salad, kropek, dilis and seaweed salad
Pancit Canton
Steamed crabs
Brewed iced tea

Dessert of native cakes and fruits


Enjoying lunch

Enjoying the relaxing scenery

Beautiful Loboc River

Lush foliage along the river banks
Clean, clear and turquoise blue

Children performing folk dances

Baclayon Church
Baclayon, Bohol

We passed by the neo-classical Baclayon Church (Parish of the Immaculate Conception), one of the heritage churches that crumbled during the 2013 7.2 magnitude earthquake that ravaged Bohol. Although restoration was ongoing, it was disheartening to see such a beautiful church in that state. There was also a Museum, housed inside the Church's old convent, but we did not visit it anymore.

The church marker

Pile of cobblestones

Ongoing restoration

The Museum

Loboc Church's facade

The belfry
From Baclayon Church, we drove to the city proper and bought peanut kisses and calamay, a local rice cake packed inside coconut shells, for pasalubong at DQ mall. After which, we were at Ocean Suites' Azure Restaurant for a sumptuous dinner and some drinks.


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