Bohol Island

Trip Start Apr 16, 2012
Trip End Apr 25, 2012

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Flag of Philippines  , Central Visayas,
Tuesday, April 24, 2012

I had a wonderful final day in the Philippines today, which I spent exploring Bohol Island on a private tour I booked through my resort.

Got an early start this morning, waking up at 7:15 and ate breakfast at Oasis Resort. Finished packing, checked out, and met my driver, Ferdinand. We set out at 8:16 in his silver Hyundai Accent, driving across Panglao Island and across the bridge to Bohol Island.

Our first stop was the Blood Compact Site just outside the provincial capital of Tagbilaran. This site is where local chieftain Rajah Sikatuna and Spanish explorer Miguel Lopez de Legazpi concluded an early round of Philippine/Spanish hostilities in 1565 by signing a compact in blood. Every July, Boholanos gather for the Sandugo ("one blood") festival to re-enact the ceremony. Eight minutes later, we stopped  to see the Baclayon Church, which is the oldest stone church in the Philippines, dating to 1595.

From Baclayon, it was nearly an hour's drive into Bohol’s interior to visit the Chocolate Hills – 1,268 mounds at a height of up to 130 feet that were formed from deposits of coral and limestone sculpted by centuries of erosion. They got their name because during the dry season, the scrub vegetation that covers the hills turns brown, making the hills look like endless rows of giant chocolate drops. Ferdinand dropped me off at the Chocolate Hills Complex at 10:00 and I took 35 minutes to explore the area, including climbing the 213 steps up one of the mounds to a viewpoint.

Next stop was the Simply Butterflies Conservation Center, where I joined a tour that included holding two caterpillars in my hand and having a butterfly placed on my nose for a photo.

Ferdinand then drove me to Loboc to board Riverwatch Floating Restaurant for a 68-minute cruise along the Loboc River. A lunch buffet was served on the boat and in addition to the pretty scenery along the river, we stopped at a dock where a group of children sang and performed. I sat at a table with a family of three from Manila, parents on vacation with their daughter. I had a great conversation with the wife, who used to work as a flight attendant for Cathay Pacific. She explained that April and May are the summer holiday months for school, so this is a popular month for Filipinos to vacation. And that would also explain why all these kids were not in school and performing along the riverbank!

We returned to Loboc at 1:00. Ferdinand then drove me to the final stop of the tour – the tarsier sanctuary. Tarsiers are the world’s smallest primate – native to Bohol and a few other islands of the Philippines and Indonesia. Tarsiers top out at 6 inches in height and are known for their giant eyes (which are proportionately 150 times greater than a human eye) and their ability to swivel their heads around a complete 180 degrees. I joined a group of six people and a guide let us out into the forest to point out four tarsiers. The guide explained the tarsiers are nocturnal, so they are usually snoozing in the trees during the days. Each morning, the guides set out to locate some tarsiers to show that day’s visitors – a chore that can take up to three hours since the creatures are so tiny and difficult to spot. But fortunately they don’t usually move during the day, so the guides can keep bringing groups back to the same trees throughout the day after they’ve been located in the morning.

From the tarsier sanctuary near Corella, it was a short drive west to Tagbilaran. We made a short stop at the main plaza so I could take a few photographs of the provincial capitol and the church, then we drove through the city to the airport, which is right on the north end of town. Ferdinand dropped me off at TAG at 2:36 p.m., beginning my six-flight, 44-hour journey home.

I had a great first trip to the Philippines. It was much too short for the long distances involved in getting here and back, but I made the most of the five days I had in the country and saw quite a bit. This is definitely a nation I hope to visit again sometime.
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