On days when the world churns too crazily for my liking and I find myself teetering too precariously on the edge of sanity, I find a quiet corner, close my eyes and take myself to Bohol.
Boracay is a dance-dance-revo machine, with a loud, in-your-face brashness that grabs you by the gut. Bohol is the plaintive strums of a solitary guitar on a quiet afternoon. Laidback is an obvious adjective. Bewitching, entrancing, are other adjectives that come to mind.
We went there in August of this year to attend the wedding of Anik, a friend of mine. Grateful for the promo fare of Cebu Pacific (how do you argue against P2,000 tickets each, round trip?), we packed our bags and hied off to the island destination whose tourism potential has only recently been discovered. It was our first time to ride Terminal 3 and we were impressed at how big and world-class it was compared to the NAIA domestic airport or even to the Centennial airport.
If staying in Bohol for only three days, it is imperative that one maximize his or her stay. A good idea I picked up from reading online forums and travel blogs is that you must hire a tour guide prior to getting to Bohol so that he picks you up straight from the airport and you can go directly on your tour before checking in the resort or hotel at the end of the day. Mang Jun came in highly recommended in the online discussions, and his contact number was made available online (09176905627), so I fired off a text message to him and he responded right away.
The Bohol Countryside Tour is a standard package that doesn’t vary much, but that doesn’t detract from its charm. First time visitors will be awestruck at the sight of the Chocolate Hills (said to be the handiwork of underwater volcanoes millions of years ago) and the pristine beauty of the Loboc River as the river boat rows lazily down it.
The tour then took us to the man-made forest in Bilar, and we passed through a breezy stretch of road with mahogany trees standing proud and erect on both sides. Close to that was the hanging bridge which you had to cross to take you to the hut where the Coconut man lives. When visitors come, he regales them with an impromptu demonstration of his skill of tearing open a coconut using only his teeth.
We also got to see the old churches of Bohol, most notably the Baclayon Church which is one of the oldest churches in the Philippines and made out of coral blocks taken straight from the sea. The church houses a fascinating museums with religious artifacts from centuries ago, when the Spanish first invaded the Philippines and sought to Christianize our natives. Sikatuna, as we have learned from our history books, is a Boholano Chief who entered into a blood compact or Sanduguan with Miguel Lopez de Legazpi. This heralded the start of Catholicism in the Philippines. It is of little wonder that the Boholanons are a prayerful and happy lot.
After our tour, we were brought directly to our resort in Panglao, the Alona Tropical Resort. It was only in Bohol that we learned that Alona Beach was named after Alona Allegre, the bold star who traipsed around naked in that solitary theretofore-unnamed stretch of white sand. Alona Tropical Resort is one of many resorts on the Alona beachfront. We chose it because it was reasonably-priced and came with good reviews. Our room was cozy and simple, with a king-sized bed and a large bathroom. It was only a few steps away from the glistening white sand of the beach.
Party animals used to the throbbing beat of Boracay might find the Alona beach lifestyle to be boring and staid. There are only a handful of bars playing music and providing entertainment. For those who seek to escape the noise of Manila and hanker for some old-fashioned peace and quiet by the sea, the shore line of Panglao is perfect. There is nothing quite like walking hand in hand down the strip of sand under the cover of night and hearing only the sound of the crashing waves. Dinner at the resort is almost always a candlelit affair, with the invariably friendly Boholano service attendant waiting unobtrusively and politely to take your order.
Be sure to have breakfast in Bohol Bee Farm. It was a ten-minute bumpy ride from our resort but worth every bump and bukol. They serve hearty and delicious concoctions and winner fruit shakes. We had a gigantic mango waffle, fish steak, honey-cured ham and a mango-banana milkshake, with corn coffee (the best!) and complimentary bread served with malunggay pate. The Farm sits on top of a cliff and overlooks the ocean.
I have other Cebu Pacific destinations lined up over the next few months (all of which were procured at promo rates). My family and I are going to Macau over the Christmas break. Jonas, Clang and I are taking advantage of the P500 fares to go to CamSur in January. And come February, it’s our Coron adventure.
Someday though, I hope to find my way back to idyllic, beautiful Bohol — the land of majestic hills that change color as the earth changes its moods, where the ocean is crystal clear at daytime and hauntingly black at night, where old churches exist not only as remnants of history but as testaments of a living and breathing faith, and where the River Loboc bubbles as merrily as the people who live alongside it.