Thursday, June 13, 2013

Prancing all over Panglao's Precious Plums

Our Lady of the Assumption Church

There's no better way to spend a laidback weekend when you're in the island province of Bohol than prancing along its shorelines. For the island prides itself of having some of the finest beaches in the country. Off the mainland, there are over seventy smaller islands and islets falling under Bohol’s jurisdiction. These, too, have immaculate beaches where you can frolic to your heart’s content. 

One of my preferred destinations whenever I’m in Bohol is Panglao, considered to be the largest among the smaller islands surrounding the island province. Separated from mainland Bohol by the narrow Dauis Strait, the island, which is around 18 km away from Tagbilaran City, can be reached by car, taxi or tricycle through two causeways that connect it to the island province. About ten years ago, I first made it to this spectacular hideaway lying southwest of mainland Bohol through my Boholano buddy, Jieboy, who took time out from his busy schedule just to take me to one of Panglao’s world-class beach resorts.

Dumaluan Beach

One of Panglao's two causeways
After having my fill of those natural, historical and socio-cultural attractions, he told me that the next best thing to explore is Panglao, which is being promoted as an alternative destination for Boracay. The island also happens to be a popular take-off point for divers who take the plunge at the nearby islands of Balicasag and Pamilacan. Since then, I make it a point to drop by Panglao whenever I’m in Bohol if only to get my share of sun, sea and sand.

  This year, I got the chance to revisit the place as a side trip during my recent invasion of the province’s heritage churches. Together with Julius, my tour guide, driver and photographer, all rolled into one, I went around Panglao to explore its precious plums.

St. Augustine's Church
Divided into two municipalities, Dauis and Panglao, the island also teems with historical and religious edifices of a bygone era, treating travelers to a grand vista of its glorious past. It always feels like I'm traveling back in tiime whenever I visit the legendary St. Augustine's Church. Built around 1894, the ancient church boasts of breathtaking ceiling murals that showcase the Seven Sacraments. Not to be missed also is the Gothic-inspired Our Lady of the Assumption Church in the town of Dauis, erected in 1863, which has a freshwater well right at the foot of the altar.

After revisiting the two Spanish churches, I headed straight to the public beach in Dumaluan where most budget-conscious tourists like me gravitate. Panglao prides itself with having several kilometers of the finest beaches in the country, scattered all over its fringes. 

Dumaluan happens to be one of the most visited strips there. Seeing the place after a decade, I was amazed to see how crowded it has become what with all the cottages and huts that have been built to accommodate the huge crowds who come on weekends and holidays. 

The more upscale resorts in Panglao, however, are still concentrated in Alona Beach, where you can do practically anything under the sun. Said to have been named after former Pinay sexy actress Alona Alegre who shot a film there allegedly in the nude, its stretch of sparkling white sand is home to several beach resorts, lodging houses, restaurants, entertainment hubs and dive centers. 

Inside Hinagdanan Cave
Those seeking a respite from the hubbub of everyday life will find the posh hideaways in the island of Panglao as ideal places for cocooning and communing with nature. These include Eskaya Beach Resort and Spa, Bohol Beach Club and Panglao Island Nature Park, to name some.

If you've had enough of beaches, you can go spelunking in Hinagdanan Cave, one of the island's natural must-sees. Inside the underground cavern, a great surprise awaits you. There, surrounded by several stalactites and stalagmites that protrude out of the earth is a natural lagoon which will surely lure you to take a dip.

Hinagdanan Cave
Riding a motorbike from Tagbilaran, Jieboy and I dropped by the cave late in the afternoon. Only a few people were there, snapping themselves with the protrusions as their backdrop. It felt eerie staying there at that hour so we didn't linger.  

On my recent visit, I made sure I’d get there when the sun is still up. So, together with Julius and Eman, our cave guide and shoot director, I returned to Hinagdanan Cave early in the morning so that I’ll be able to catch the light penetrating the holes up in the cave’s ceiling. 

Good thing, the cave guide was well-versed with the shooting modes of cameras as well as ISO and white balance. He made some adjustments on my Nikon to capture the nuances of light and shade while we were shooting inside the cave. Voila! I ended up having shots that exuded a seemingly ethereal, if not, “divine” quality.

Now, if you’re looking for something eccentric and unusual in Panglao, then pay a visit to Bayoyoy, probably one of the smallest and oldest dwarfs in the country. I first heard about him when he was featured in Korina Sanchez’s show, “Rated K”. On our way to Dauis, Julius asked me if I wanted to see him in the flesh. I readily gave my nod.

Upon entering the compound where his modest abode is found, I saw some tarps and other pictures posted on the walls featuring the little man. In minutes, we were met by one of his sisters who led us to Bayoyoy. Seeing the dwarf up close and personal, I was suddenly struck with pity for his hapless condition.

Later, his sister started sharing some trivia about their family. Both their parents are deceased, according to her. Out of twelve children, six suffered from dwarfism. All the other five siblings are dead and only Bayoyoy has survived.  Confined to a baby’s stroller, the dwarf, who stands less than three feet, couldn’t talk nor walk. Now in his sixties, he feeds on a soft diet composed mostly of milk, oatmeal and cereals. 

Seeing him didn’t cost me a thing since there’s no entrance fee whatsoever but I offered to give a few pesos as donation. Any amount would go a long way in helping the family provide for Bayoyoy’s needs since their only source of livelihood comes from a small family-owned convenience store. All told, the Bayoyoy experience proved to be one of the highlights of my return to Panglao.

On my way back to the mainland, I heard from Julius that the construction of an international airport in Panglao to support Bohol’s tourism industry will finally push through. I came to know about the project way back in 2003 but somehow nothing was ever constructed. This time, however, I learned that it would eventually take place between 2013-2017.
Chocolate Hills

Well, I can only hope for the best for Panglao as far as this undertaking is concerned. Here’s hoping that by the time the project takes off, the islanders have prepared themselves for its possible social and environmental implications, particularly on their coastal resources. Here’s hoping also that the local government is prepared to handle the throngs of tourists coming Panglao’s way who are raring to experience the island’s precious plums. :D

No comments:

Post a Comment