This is a long, overdue post but you know what they say — better late than never!
2015 was a year of travel for me. I had been to most number of places than I’ve ever had in a year — and that’s an achievement! The last quarter was particularly hectic and stressful, and a lot of changes were happening (more on that in another post) that my friend and I decided to go on one last out-of-town trip for the year. On a sheer whim, we purchased two vouchers from MetroDeal for Php 7899 per piece, which was originally priced at Php 14600. It was a 3 days, 2 nights trip to Bohol, inclusive of flights, tours, and accommodation at the Vanilla Sky Resort in Panglao Island. The itinerary shows the first and third day as “free” days while the 2nd day is allotted to the Bohol country-side tour.
Our departure from NAIA Terminal 4 was nothing short of an adventure, not because we missed the flight or any kind of poor service you may think of, but because the flight got cancelled! Our trip happened around the same time as the 2015 Southeast-Asian haze which caused an air pollution crisis in many southeast Asian countries and disrupted air traffic. We had to wait in the airport for hours until it was announced that the flight was ultimately cancelled. We experienced waiting in a long line to try and squeeze ourselves in any of the succeeding scheduled flights. We almost gave up, mind you, and nearly dragged our feet home with our bags on our backs. But, luckily, God is very gracious. There were some extra seats on the flight to Bohol the next day, so we just re-booked. Since it was a weekend and the travel agency who made the arrangements for us was closed, I personally called the resort to move our reservation for the next day and to reschedule our tour.
The next day was clear, bright and sunny; a good day to fly! We were well-rested, refreshed, and ready to embark on our trip. The airline included in the package is Airasia. The travel time from NAIA to Tagbilaran Airport is more or less than an hour. It’s a small-type plane and, since the airport runway is a bit short, you will expect some turbulence and a bumpy landing. I’m happy to say though, we made it one piece.
Directly outside the airport terminal, there are already a bunch of locals signing up visitors and tourists for a guided tour. There are several tours which you can sign up for, and the price depends on the type of tour that you select. Moreover, the prices are per tour not per pax. This means regardless of whether you are a solo traveler or in a group, the price remains the same. If you ask me, it’d be a whole lot cheaper if you came in a large group instead of just two persons. This is also why you may be approached by some foreign tourists asking to join in a group so that the payment becomes cheaper. Some of the locals who offer these tours also offer free transfers to whichever hotel you’re staying at. Since our package included a countryside tour, we decided to purchase the city tour and get a free transfer to the resort.
So here are the places we went to for the first day:
Our Lady of Assumption Shrine (Dauis Church)
The Visayas region is filled with old churches that date back to the colonial era, so a trip to Bohol wouldn’t be complete without visiting some of these historic monuments. In recent years, the Visayas islands had been hit with massive typhoons and earthquakes that caused great damage to these structures. When we visited Dauis Church, it was undergoing restoration so there were some areas that were closed from public viewing. However, the altar and pulpit were still accessible.
The present church is one of the oldest in the region, constructed in the 1800s, and boasts a mixture of artistic styles in both its exterior and interior designs. Its Gothic towers house the second and third oldest bells in Bohol, both date back to the 1700s. Parallel to the church is a convento which is built out of massive coral stone blocks dating back to when the church was run by Jesuits. A short walk from the convento leads to the shore where there are sheds just out to the seafront. Just imagine yourself sitting underneath the shade of a tree, watching the glimmering sea while in the presence of God — an ideal place for prayer, reflection and meditation.
Inside the church, there is a well that lies at the foot of the main altar. The water from this well is believed to have healing powers. It is said that, during the Spanish era, pirates often attacked and pillaged Christian settlements. It was during one of these attacks that the locals took refuge behind the locked doors of the church. Besieged by the enemy for days, they soon ran out of food and water. Miraculously, the well sprang up and has since become the source of drinking water for the populace nearby. Now, the church management draws water from the well at given intervals of the day and bottles it for distribution — all you need to do is make a donation of any amount. It’s not normally my thing to drink blessed water, but since the Guide told us that the water is drinkable, I decided to take a sip. It really does taste fresh despite the well’s closeness to the seashore. It is because of this miraculous water that Daius Church is a well-known pilgrimage site.
Bohol Bee Farm
Since it was close to lunch time, the next stop on our list was the Bohol Bee Farm. I feel that this place deserves a review of its own, but since we just stayed there for less than two hours, I don’t think anything I write would do justice. The place is fantastic! Upon arrival, you are immediately greeted by luscious greeneries and a tranquil ambience. The owner breeds not just bees for honey but also organic vegetation, meaning fertilizers, pesticides and other chemicals were not used in growing and cultivating the plants. There are winding paths spread throughout the area, giving you glimpses of different fauna that are growing there.
The farm’s Bamboo Restaurant (as they call it) is situated near the cliff, giving you a spectacular view of the sea. We dined on the deck and felt the sea breeze against our skin. Ha… such peace. We tried their special set which was really a full-blown organic meal complete with a flower-salad. Everything was delicious. After eating, we walked around the compound a bit and looked at the different spices they were growing and selling. Aside from that, they also make and sell their own ice cream! They have a bunch of unique flavors but their best-seller is the malunggay flavor — trust me, you should try it.
The Bohol Bee Farm is not just a restaurant or a massive greenhouse, it is also a hotel and resort. They have all kinds of amenities like spa services, sea-diving area, swimming pool, etc. I can’t say much about their services as a hotel since we didn’t stay there, but so far I’ve seen only good reviews. The beautiful surroundings, the homey ambience — who wouldn’t want to spend at least one night?
Here’s a link to their website if you’re interested in their products and services: http://www.boholbeefarm.com/
After lunch, we next went underground to Hinagdanan Cave. It is a naturally-lit cavern with a deep lagoon at the center, numerous large stalactites and stalagmites, and old tribal paintings gracing its walls. The cave is made out of limestone with only a hole of roughly 1 meter-wide in diameter as its entrance. Cemented steps lead to the entrance of the cave, but the ground is very slippery. Luckily, there’s a railing made out of rope to help prevent and possible accidents. The cave is lit by sunlight which permeates through the holes in the ceiling. Because of this, the cave is unsuitable for bats.
There is an interesting story on how the cave was discovered. It’s said that the owner found the hole entrance while he was clearing some decaying branches. He threw a stone into the hold and heard a splash. He later built a ladder in order to get inside the cave, and thus it was named “Hinagdanan” which means “laddered”.
The cave is about 100 meters long of beautiful rock formations and a lagoon with a glimmering greenish surface attributed to the green limestone at the bottom of the pool. The cave is accessible to all visitors, you just need to pay the entrance fee of 20 pesos and know how to keep your head down.
Nova Shell Museum
Our last trip for the day is the Nova Shell Museum which houses some of the more exotic shells, clams and mollusks of the ocean floor. We learned a thing or two in that museum like the different types of shells, how to distinguish poisonous shells from non-poisonous ones, and how to determine authentic pearls from imitations. Much of the displayed shells were either fished out from the sea itself or acquired by trade with other shell collectors.
Among the displays is the rarest, tiniest shell known to man. It was found in the waters of Balicasag Island and named after Emperor Hirohito of Japan. It is so tiny that you would need a microscope in order to see it clearly and marvel at its beauty. However, the treasure of this museum is not this minute shell, but two shells that were discovered by the museum owner himself, Mr. Quirino Hora. They were both discovered in the very waters of Panglao and named after the man who discovered them.
That just about wraps up our tour for Day One. After the shell museum, we were back on the road, finally heading to the hotel to check ourselves in. It was a long day and it was close to evening when we reached the hotel. We were exhausted from the day’s journey. We had just about enough strength to eat a meal, take a hot bath, and then drop on the bed. I remember sleeping like a log, dreaming of sites we saw that day and wondering what we would be seeing the following day.
Done with Day One. Stay tuned for the countryside tour.
P.S. I apologize for the poor image quality. All pictures were taken using my smartphone.
Indochina Strings Travel Agency – https://www.facebook.com/IndochinaStringsPhilippines/
Vanilla Sky Resort – http://www.vanillaskyresort.com/
MetroDeal offer (valid until June 30, 2016) – http://www.metrodeal.com/deals/Metro_Manila/Vanilla-Sky-Resort-Panglao-Bohol/318235127
Until next time, matta ne~