Saturday, June 1, 2013

Bolting out to Bohol (Part 2)

Bewitching. That’s probably the best adjective that comes close to describing Bohol as I’ve seen and experienced it through the years. Though I have to travel far and wide—by land, air and sea—to get there, bolting out of my place to get to this island is always worth it all. Geez, I’m so enamoured with it that nothing can keep me from going there over and over again. If given several options, I’d choose Bohol over the others, all other things being equal. 

Perhaps out of curiosity, a friend of mine once asked me why I’d often bounce back to the island province, returning there like a lost child longing for his mom’s comforting embrace. My answer to that is simple. Bohol has it all! There could only be one bewitching place for me to set foot to if I’m seeking serenity, solace and satisfaction all under one roof. 
Dumaluan's immaculate sands
Laidback beaches that lure beach bums; stunning hillocks that spellbind nature trippers; charming waterfalls that captivate adventure junkies; exotic underwater spots that enthrall scuba divers. These and more are the distinctive images of Bohol that have been etched in my mind. Not exactly off the beaten path, it has remained one unspoiled paradise just waiting to be re-discovered even though thousands flock there year in, year out. 

Wanting to share what I consider the best of Bohol, I came up with this online anthology  based on my experiences there. This is then the second part of my homage to the island province. In the previous post, I’ve given a rundown of the interesting things to do when you’re there. Taking off from where I left off, here’s more of Bohol, all yours for the taking:

Loboc River

pic nameLounge along Loboc River. Regarded as one of Bohol’s prime attractions, the enchanting river of Loboc is best known for being one of the cleanest and greenest bodies of water not only in the province but the entire country as well. Visiting the old town, which was already existent long before the Spaniards came, isn’t complete unless you get to cruise along its famous river aboard those fancy-looking floating restaurants.  

pic nameCruising along the river has been part of my bucket list for quite some time. I’ve been to the quaint little town years ago but I’ve never taken a ride aboard one of those floating restos, until this recent tour. The nearly one-hour ride I took started at the Loboc River Complex, with our boat meandering through the long and winding river until it reached Busay Falls before turning and heading back to the place where all the other vessels are docked.  

pic nameOnboard, we were entertained by a live acoustic band. Good thing, I was able to hop into a floating resto where the musicians played my fave pop ditties! As the vessel took off, the much-anticipated buffet lunch consisting of typical Filipino fare also began. All of us onboard helped ourselves with generous servings of the mouth-watering delicacies while enjoying the green and serene landscape unfolding before us.

Cruising along Loboc River
During the cruise, we stopped by along the riverbank to watch the live performance of a local sing-and-dance group composed of Loboc’s young people. There were also some stations at the riverbank where different communities put on display their indigenous wares for sale. We even chanced upon a few daring boys on top of a tree, getting ready to plunge into the water. Geez, when you’re young, anything is possible under the sun!

Trifle with the tarsier. Cute and cuddly, their tantalizing eyes never fail to catch anyone’s attention. Allegedly the world’s smallest primates, tarsiers are considered Bohol’s internationally famous residents. Who would want to miss seeing them? Certainly not me! I had a rare intimate encounter with these lovable creatures years ago during a brief stopover in Loboc when I went there for a look-see at the floating restos.  

One of the boatmen I met along the riverbank had about a dozen tarsiers kept in a cage and I was fortunate enough to pet the prosimians and even put some of them on my shoulders. Lucky me! I heard that’s no longer possible nowadays since there’s a national directive imposing a “no touch” policy for these endangered species. Those wanting to see the saucer-eyed prosimians held in semi-captivity can still visit and shoot them (no camera flashes please!) at the Loboc Tarsier Conservation Center. 

There’s another tarsier sanctuary in the town of Corella, roughly ten kilometers away from Tagbi, where you can see them in the wild. Since it was way out of my itinerary, my guide and I headed straight to the Loboc site right after the river cruise, staying with the cuddlesome creatures for roughly thirty minutes. Short as it was, the prosimians captured my heart anew. I guess the same holds true to the huge throngs who came that day to see them.

Chocolate Hils

Count the Chocolate Hills (if you can!). Undoubtedly, Bohol’s top crowd-drawer is its cone-shaped mounds collectively known as the Chocolate Hills, which was once in the running to become one of the world’s New Seven Wonders of Nature. Seeing the famous hills, reported to be around 1,776,  topped my itinerary during my first visit to the province.  Awed by their beauty, I kept figuring out a way on how to count them but to no avail—I got distracted by the beauty of those mesmerizing mounds! 
The gently rolling, conical hills, which are largely concentrated in the towns of Carmen, Batuan and Sagbayan, turn brown during the summer months, hence, the name.  Missing it, I revisited the place, climbing the 214 steps leading to the view deck to catch a glimpse of the renowned cone-shaped mounds. At the summit, I, along with the other tourists, was treated to a panoramic vista of the hills that left many of us tongue-tied for several moments.

Though I’ve laid eyes on the marvelous mounds once before, I was still as ecstatic as the day I first saw them. Still gasping for air, I gathered my wits and wasted no time in snapping at them. I also had myself shot with the hills at my background. On our way out, I was amazed to see busloads of foreign tourists all raring to see Bohol’s quirk of nature! 

Hinagdanan Cave

Hie off to Hinagdanan Cave. Outdoor enthusiasts fond of exploring the hidden beauty of caverns will find this cave in the town of Dauis in Panglao Island worth their while.  One of Panglao’s precious plums, the underground cave has something that not too many caverns have. There, amidst several stalactites and stalagmites that protrude out of the earth's bowels, is a deep lagoon (about 15 feet deep according to one of the cave guides I met) which will surely lure intrepid tourists to take a dip.

Made of limestone, Hinagdanan Cave (whose name mean’s “laddered” in the vernacular) is very accessible from the town center. A hole of about one meter in diameter serves as an entrance into it. Cemented steps lead spelunkers into its eerie interior. The trail is slippery but there’s a railing that tourists can hold on to keep their balance. Although natural light pierces through a few holes found at the cave's ceiling, strobe lights have been strategically placed inside to further illuminate it.

Years ago, I made it to Hinagdanan Cave one late afternoon. Only a few people were there at that hour so I didn’t linger. This time, however, I made sure I’d revisit it early in the morning so that I can catch the sunlight as it penetrates one of the openings of Hinagdanan’s ceiling. With the help of Eman, my cave guide/shoot director/photographer, I had myself snapped with the sun’s rays showering me with bright light. The result? A well-captured shot that I’d treasure forever!  

The times I’ve been to Bohol, though mostly brief and hurried, count among my most cherished ones for they’ve given me a lifetime’s worth of lore about the place. I guess I’m so bewitched that each time I leave, there’s a part of me that wants to stay even for just one more day. For the time of the next visit is uncertain.

Having known a lot about its rich history, its wonderful natural attractions and its friendly people, I’m certain I’ll always have a reason or two to go back.  For around every corner of Bohol, there seems to be a new secret or an interesting discovery just waiting to unravel itself. So, if you haven’t figured it out yet, you’d need one weekend, if not longer, to bask in its bewitching beauty. 
From lovely churches to lovable creatures, to extraordinary hills to exotic hideaways, to historic monuments to haunting museums—there’s no denying that Bohol has everything that would make your vacay rock to the max! These, I guess, are enough evidence that an escapade there has everything that would surely bewitch and bolster those who bolt out to this slice of paradise. :D

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