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“Welcome to Bohol” the sign says upon landing in Tagbilaran airport. I found myself joining yet another media test drive with Honda Cars Philippines, Inc. for the newly launched Honda City.
The onset of the summer months bring hot and humid weather, more evident as the intense heat of direct sunlight pierce your skin and sweat slowly crept on the insides of your shirt. Fortunately, it was rather cloudy when we landed; but the photographer instinct in me wished it was rather radiantly sunny.
Bohol, world famous for its Chocolate Hills, is an island province in the Central Visayas region of the Philippines. It comprises of the Bohol mainland plus 75 surrounding minor islands of which the Panglao Island is the biggest. It is also the home province of Pres. Carlos P. Garcia, the 4th Philippine president, who was born in Talibon, Bohol.
Our start of the tour was the Clarin Ancestral House. Built in 1840, this typical Filipino-Spanish stone house was the residence of Don Aniceto Velez, former governor of Bohol and his son Jose Butalid Clarin, former president of the Senate. Declared by the National Historical Institute as a heritage site, the Clarin House is now converted into a museum that displays a wide range of antiquities dating back to the Spanish and American period. The ground floor, turned into a café called Café Olegario, serves native Boholano delicacies such as rice cakes, hot chocolates, and yams.
Endemic to Bohol are the tarsiers, so called because of the large tarsal bones on their legs that enable them to leap from branch to branch. Tarsiers are sometimes referred to as the smallest primate in the world. These nocturnal creatures have been living for nearly 45 million years with almost no changes except in size. Tarsiers have the ability to rotate their heads almost 180 degrees in either direction, their eyes are as big as the entire brain, they feed mostly on insects and small vertebrates and is considered as one of the endangered species.
There are four main rivers that run through Bohol, of which, the most famous is the Loboc River because of it cruise. Floating restaurants supported by wooden boats offer tourists a cruise complete with mouth-watering buffet of fresh catch and native cuisines; and as you slowly boat down-river (and back) in its emerald waters, one gets to be serenaded with folk songs and old melodies. There is even a floating stage where you get to ‘swing it’ with the locals.
The first international treaty of friendship between two people of different races was held in Bohol through a blood compact and is celebrated every year as the Sandugo festival. On March 16, 1565, Spanish explorer Miguel Lopez de Legaspi and Datu Sikatuna of Bohol each believed to have made a cut on their left arms with a dagger and sprinkled their blood into a cup filled with wine, which they both drank in honor of their friendship and brotherhood. This was 44 years after Magellan was killed in the island of Mactan, Cebu. A commemorative shrine was build in Barangay Bool, Tagbilaran City, although after further research, the actual site was found to be that in Barangay Hinawanan, Loay, about 17km away. Today, the Order of Sikatuna is a presidential decoration conferred to exiting diplomats who had served in the Philippines with distinction.
Being an island province, Bohol is dotted with numerous beaches. Most well known is Alona Beach in the island of Panglao, just opposite the provincial capital of Tagbilaran City. Alona Beach is blessed with fine powdery sands that rivaled that of Boracay, its waters are calm, the beach is clean, and numerous first class resorts abound.
Nestled atop a seaside cliff is the classy Amorita Resort where we stayed. The resort offers first class amenities and various accommodations ranging from the high-end Ocean View Villas to deluxe rooms. A well manicured garden encircles the resort, with the sundeck and infinity pool offering a panoramic view of the Bohol Sea and that of the neighboring islands. Sunrise bathes the beach with splendor and the golden colors of sunset are equally breathtaking.
The drive to the Chocolate Hills the following day was one of comfort and spectacle. As we cruised along the southern portion of Bohol’s coastal towns, splendid seascapes and old colonial churches greeted us along the way. Arriving in the municipality of Carmen, at the heart of Bohol just before lunch, the majestic Chocolate Hills finally came in sight.
These unusual geological formations in Bohol are composed of around 1,268 nearly perfect symmetrical cone-shape mounds of close similar size. The hills are covered in green grass that eventually turns to brown during the dry summer season, hence the name. They were formed by the uplift of coral deposits and the action of rain water and erosion over geologic time. The official count for the number of hills is 1,776 and they are scattered throughout the towns of Carmen, Batuan, and Sagbayan with the highest concentration in Carmen.
Bohol certainly doesn’t run out of attractions. Being one of the early islands colonized under the crown of Spain, its numerous Catholic churches attest to the rich past heritage. There are also several caves in Bohol for which the Hinagdanan and the Kamira caves are the most popular and easy to reach. Water falls and spring such as the Mag-aso falls, the Can-umantad falls, and the Tontonan falls provided Bohol with another form of inland attractions. For divers, Balicasag and Pamilacan islands are teeming with large pelagic fishes and cascading coral walls; they are considered as two of the best dive spots in the country. Furthermore, the waters surrounding Pamilacan Island is also frequented by numerous species of marine mammals, a sure site for dolphin and whale watching.
All VRs taken on March 2-3, 2009. Thanks to Honda Cars Philippines for another successful media test-drive. Portions of text from wikipedia.org and bohol-philippines.com. The author can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org