Charmed on islands, spellbound in water
TAGBILARAN CITY — Bohol’s charm lies in its culture, heritage and rich natural resources. Attractions are aplenty that visitors will need days to fully appreciate how this province in Central Visayas has been blessed with unique spots and warm people.
But a sampling of Bohol’s best can be packed in 48 hours.
For two days, tourists can visit the Chocolate Hills, interact with a tarsier, experience calm in a manmade forest, forget time while frolicking on the island’s white sand beaches, and more.
There are two ways to explore Bohol—hire a van or go around the island on a motorcycle. But whichever way one chooses to go, or by whatever means, always start the tour in the capital city of Tagbilaran, specifically at St. Joseph the Worker Cathedral.
Built in 1595, the cathedral has retained its Baroque and Neoclassical features despite having undergone several renovations.
Tourists can also explore Spanish and American colonial houses and the Tagbilaran wharf, or visit the house of the late President Carlos P. Garcia, the country’s eighth President, right in the heart of the city.
About a five-minute drive away, in Bool district, is the Sandugo Blood Compact monument, one of the historic spots on the island. It was here where an alliance was sealed between Datu Sikatuna and Spanish explorer Miguel Lopez de Legazpi on March 6, 1565.
Moving north, tourists can stop at Immaculate Conception Parish Church in Baclayon town, which was among the heritage churches damaged by the 7.2-magnitude earthquake in 2013.
Proceed to Loay town to visit the Clarin ancestral home. Built in 1844, it was the only wooden house that survived the burning of Bohol in 1901.
While in Loay, watch local bolo makers turn slabs of metal into tools and weapons the traditional way, without the aid of machines.
Downtime can be spent in Loboc town, the “music capital of Bohol,” and home of the world-famous Loboc Children’s Choir.
If they come on a Sunday, tourists will have a chance to hear the choir’s angelic voices during Mass.
For P450, visitors can enjoy a buffet lunch at the Loboc floating restaurant, featuring an hourlong river cruise that skirts around small waterfalls. Singers and folk dancers entertain them during the cruise.
After Loboc, visitors can commune with nature and spend quiet time at a manmade forest between Loboc and Bilar towns.
They can also drop by Sevilla town and cross a footbridge that’s not for the fainthearted. Made of woven bamboo slats and steel, Sipatan Twin Hanging Bridge is suspended over a river 25 meters (82 feet) below.
In Bilar town, tourists can marvel at the life stages of a butterfly, a science refresher inside Simply Butterflies Conservation Center.
Nature lovers can go bird watching or feed the long-tailed macaques inside Rajah Sikatuna National Park in Barangay Riverside.
After a long walk, they can take a dip in nearby Logarita and Duangon springs. They can also proceed to the tarsier conservation area, where they get to see the world’s smallest primate (entrance fee of P60 for regular visitors and P50 for seniors and students).
A visit to Bohol is not complete without seeing the postcard-pretty Chocolate Hills composed of 1,268 cone-shaped hills. During the dry months, the hills look like mounds of chocolates as grasses wilt and turn brown.
To get a good view of the hills, tourists can choose from among three places: Chocolate Hills Complex and Chocolate Hills Adventure Park in Carmen town, and Sagbayan Peak in Sagbayan town.
For dinner, sample organic food at Bohol Bee Farm in Dauis town.
Beaches, dive spots
Tourists can spend the next day at the beaches of Panglao Island and Dauis for swimming and water sports.
A must-try attraction is the recently discovered school of sardines in Panglao.
The sardines, locally known as “malangsi,” were found in the waters off Barangay Tangnan and have been attracting bigger species of fish like thresher sharks and mackerel.
For island hopping, go to the islands of Balicasag, Virgin and Pamilacan, which are close to Panglao.
Balicasag Island is one of the top diving and snorkeling destinations in the country, featuring thriving reefs and drop-off (underwater wall) up to 60 meters deep.
Virgin Island, an uninhabited islet, features a string of white sand beaches and sandbars.
Pods of dolphins can be seen in the waters off Pamilacan Island, which also hosts a Spanish watchtower and a fish sanctuary.
The towns of Loon (Cabilao Island), Bien Unido, Anda and President Carlos P. Garcia, formerly known as Pitogo) also have waters rich in marine life.
In Danao town, tourists may try the Extreme Adventure Tour at Danao Adventure Park featuring a zipline, all-terrain vehicles, rock climbing and caving adventures. The park also offers river kayaking and river trekking.
For P15, visitors can go up Laguna mountain in Barangay Concepcion to savor a view of fog-covered mountains.
There are other spots worth visiting, such as the white sand beach in Anda town, the watch tower in Maribojoc town, Inang-angan stairway in Loon town, the flying foxes on Cabgan Island in Tubigon town, and St. Nicholas Tolentino Church and Ermita Ruins (a wall of tombs arranged like a honeycomb) in Dimiao town.
But save these sites for a longer, unhurried visit to Bohol.
Day 1 (Bohol countryside)
Tour duration: 8 hours
Sandugo/Blood Compact site
Bolo-making in Loay
Loboc River cruise
Day 2 (Island hopping)
Wake-up call: 5:30 a.m.
Tour duration: 5 to 8 hours
Dolphin watching and island hopping: Pamilacan, Balicasag and Virgin islands
Snorkeling (Balicasag Island)
Swimming (Virgin Island)
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