#Wanderlust: Bohol 2015 (Part 2)

Alright, time for Part Two of my Bohol Trip 2015!  If you haven’t read Part One, please be sure to check it out; links are at the end of this post.

My friend and I aren’t morning-people so it is somewhat a miracle that we were able to get up early.  We showered, dressed, had breakfast at the hotel’s restaurant and waited for Guide to pick us up.  We were expecting a long van filled with other people, probably grumpy for being kept waiting.  But, much to our surprise, we were the only two guests in that brand new sedan.  Just like the city tour, it would just be a trip for two — not that we’re complaining or anything.  It was actually kind of fun, so we began our long drive to the countryside to begin the tour.

Here are the places we went to in chronological order:

Philippine Tarsier and Wildlife Sanctuary

When someone says “Bohol”, two things come to my mind: Chocolate Hills and Tarsiers.  The Bohol Tarsiers are considered to be the world’s smallest specie of primates, measuring up to only 85-160mm in height.  They are no bigger than an adult man’s hand, and they weigh about 4-5 ounces.  It is a member of the approximately 45 million-year-old family Tarsiidae, whose name is derived from its elongated “tarsus” or ankle bone.

Tarsiers are nocturnal creatures.  They have large mesmerizing eyes that provide them with excellent night vision.  These eyes are also fixed into the skull, meaning it cannot turn in its sockets.  A joint between its skull base and spine allows the primate to rotate its head 180 degrees much like an owl.  It has gray fur and a nearly bare tail that is roughly not more than 232mm in length.  The underside of its tail has dermal ridges similar to those found on human hands and feet.  They are extremely agile creatures, able to leap up to 10 feet and easily maneuver itself from tree to tree.  They hunt and feed mainly on fruits and insects, and sometimes small lizards.

Tarsiers used to inhabit rainforests worldwide but poaching and illegal logging has caused their numbers to dwindle.  They now exist only in some parts of the Philippines, Borneo and Indonesia.  Although a bit odd-looking, they are nevertheless truly majestic creatures.

The Philippine Tarsier and Wildlife Sanctuary covers an area of 167 hectares within the three municipalities of Corella, Sikatuna and Loboc, and is currently under the administration of the DENR and is part of its Social Forestry Project.  Inside this sanctuary, the tarsiers are allowed to live and and reproduce freely in a natural setting.  Poaching, killing and even wounding them is strictly prohibited, so is any act of destroying their habitat.

Trails and pathways known as the “Tarsier Trail” spread out to various parts of the forested area where visitors may observe the tarsiers in their natural habitat.  The trail is over a distance of 15km with established vantage points along the way.  Since the tarsiers sleep during the day and are otherwise hidden in-between branches, you might experience some difficulty in finding one yourself.  Luckily, specially-trained handlers and personnel are present to point them out for you.  At the foot of the facility, which is both the start and finish line of the trail, there are a couple of shops that sell souvenirs and tarsier-themed memorabilia.


Man-Made Forest

Whenever I hear the term “man-made” I always envision something mechanical, but the Bohol Man-Made Forest isn’t a piece of equipment.  It is a kaleidoscope of green foliage comprised of planted Mahogany trees that stretch out in a 2km radius along the highway.  The terrain from both sides of the road goes up to who knows how high; and all you see are giant trees — uniform in height — standing erect like massive pillars holding up the sky.  No other vegetation grows among these trees; it is a forest of only Mahogany.  Try entering the forest and you will immediately feel a change in the temperature, especially during the summer or so I’ve heard.  A refreshing cool breeze can be felt underneath this canopy of green leaves and overhanging branches.

This forest lies between the border of Loboc and Bilar towns, which is why it is also commonly called the Loboc-Bilar Forest.  It has become a tourist destination; and many visitors, locals and foreigners alike, take the time to disembark from their vehicles to snap some pictures and simply admire its beauty.


Habitat Bohol Eco Park (Butterfly Sanctuary)

There are over 300 known butterfly species housed in this sanctuary, and its aim is to conserve and raise the butterfly population in the island.  The sanctuary offers guided tours of the facility.  Led by the funny and quirky tour guides, visitors get to see the metamorphosis of a butterfly, and even differentiate it with its cousin, the moth.

The sanctuary itself is like a massive garden with flowering landscapes and butterflies of different sizes and colors flutter about the area.  My friend and I had a fun time taking pictures of these winged insects, and even got the pleasure of being turned into one!  Wait… what?  Don’t panic.  The facility comes with live butterflies, framed butterflies and wing mosaics.  There is one “station” in the garden where you can pose behind one of the framed butterfly wings.  With the right angle and perspective of your camera, you can create the illusion that the wings are sprouting on your back.

The place isn’t just about butterfly viewing, it also educates visitors of the different types of butterflies.  All my life, I’ve always believed that the Mariposa is the largest butterfly.  But there, in that sanctum, I realized that the Mariposa, which is Spanish for “butterfly”, is ironically not a butterfly at all — it’s a moth.  Yes, a moth.  The Magellan Birdwing is actually the largest specie of butterfly in the Philippines and is one of the largest in the world.

The guide explained to us the difference in physical appearance of the two insects.  She explained that the most obvious difference would be the antennae.  Butterfly antennae are thin, slender and club-shaped at the end while the moths have comb-like antennae that are un-clubbed.  There is also the coloration of the wings and overall structure of the body.  Another big difference is when a butterfly is still in its pupal stage: moths typically form a cocoon while butterflies form a chrysalis.  In other words, everything I know about the life stages of a butterfly had been a lie!  Well, probably not all, but I certainly learned something new in this sanctuary.


Chocolate Hills

Earlier, I mentioned that the first thing that comes to mind when it comes to “Bohol” is the very famous Chocolate Hills.  They didn’t get that name because it is literally made out of chocolate (in my head it is).  It gets its name from its appearance during the dry season when the grass withers and turns into a brown color.  From afar, these hills look like giant chocolate kisses, hence the name.

The Chocolate Hills are roughly 1,268 cone-shaped hills which is a very strange geological formation — something that baffles geologists to this day.  Theory has it that the hills are the result of thousands of years of weathering of marine limestone.  Some say it was formed ages ago by the uplift of coral deposits.  Others say it erupted from the sea in a massive geological shift, and erosion for the past thousand years did the rest of the work.

Sometimes considered as the “8th Wonder of the World”, the Chocolate Hills are spread over an area of more or less 50sqm and vary from 30 meters to 120 meters in height.  It has been declared as the country’s 3rd National Geological Monument by the National Committee on Geological Sciences in 1988, and submitted to the UNESCO World Heritage for inclusion in the list of Natural Monuments in 2006.

There is a viewing deck atop the hill in Carmen Town where it gives you a 360-degree view of the hills, and to be quite honest, words escape me on how to describe something of natural beauty.  Marveling at man-made structures is one thing, but seeing natural monuments that spread out as far as the eye can see will leave you speechless.  As I stood on that deck, trying so hard to capture every single detail on camera, I realized that something of this wonder could only have been crafted by God.  Pictures do not do justice to it.  If you are thinking of taking a trip to Bohol then you should make sure the Chocolate Hills are on your list.


Hanging Bridge

The Hanging Bridge in Sevilla connects two barangays that are separated by the Sipatan River.  It is laid over 20-25 meters high above and spans roughly 40 meters long of woven bamboo slats with steel cable wires and hand rails.  The bridge was originally designed as a way for locals to pass the river and reach the neighboring barangay, but for some reason has become one of the tourist attractions in the municipality.  The bridge may not be much for thrill-seekers, but for people with fear of heights, I guess this bridge is enough to give you a scare.  It is layered with bamboo so it jumps and sways whenever people walk on it.  I haven’t heard of anyone actually falling in, and it really isn’t that scary once you cross it.  I was actually more worried that I might drop my phone or something.


Loboc River Cruise (Rio Verde Floating Restaurant, includes: Bohol Ati Tri Tribe)

We didn’t stay long at the Hanging Bridge as we wanted to make it in time for the Loboc River Cruise.  This is one of the highlights of the trip which I found really entertaining and relaxing.  Floating restaurants are set up along the Loboc River where guests are invited to dine while cruising along the river.  The boats are made up of two long catamarans over which a large wooden platform is placed.  There are a number of dining tables placed around this platform and a long buffet table in the center.  The food served was comprised of local delicacies and an assortment of fruits.  A band also plays to provide the perfect ambience.

Midway through the cruise, we stopped to meet with the Ati Tribe.  We disembarked and had a bit of fun with the locals, watched their performance and snapped some pictures with them.  We stayed there for around 15-20 minutes before  boarding the boat again and cruising back to the pier.  Lunch at the Floating Restaurant is included in the package so you don’t have to worry about that.


Snake Sanctum

I’m not very fond of reptiles despite my willingness to get up close and personal with them.  My friend is especially terrified of snakes.  She has a phobia of them so I commend her for gathering the courage to enter a place that is filled with those slithering, cold-blooded animals.  The sanctum’s main focus is obviously snakes but they also have an array of wildlife that they care for such as a couple of lawin birds named Agua and Bendita, and two monkeys named Miley Cyrus and Taylor Swift to name a few.  The tour guide always injected a little humor in showing us around and certainly riled up with wildlife with his weird imitations of animal cries.

The highlight of the sanctum is the stuffed and preserved carcass of a 23-foot female python.  Affectionately named “Prony”, she was discovered by her owners in 1996, and was adopted as a family pet (Woah!).  With the weight of about 280kg, she held the title of the largest python in captivity until her death in 2013.  There is this belief that when a person is close to death, their beloved pet will take their place and die in their stead — such was the case with Prony.  According to the tour guide, Prony’s owner was suffering from Stage IV cancer.  After Prony’s death, the owner miraculously recovered.  Prony’s remains have been preserved and exhibited in the very same den that she occupied during her life.


Baclayon Church

Baclayon Church is the oldest church in Bohol, founded in 1596.  The church was built out of coral stones, and served as the first seat of Spanish Jesuit missionaries.  It was heavily damaged by the 2013 earthquake — the strongest to hit the island to date — and, much like Daius Church, was undergoing repairs and restoration during our visit.  However, despite the piles of boulders on its lawn and iron scaffoldings, a piece of the structure’s beauty remains.  The pulpit and three retablos remain intact despite its years and remains accessible to public viewing amidst the ongoing restoration.

The church is adorned with various murals and religious icons.  The retablo mayor contains 18th and 19th century images of St. Joseph, the Holy Trinity, Saints Michael and Gabriel, the Immaculate Conception, and Saints Anne and Joachim.  Above the altar is a ceiling painting depicting the Last Supper and a Spanish inscription dedicated to the Virgin Mary.  The Gospel retablo is located on the left side facing the altar, and is consecrated to the Santo Niño — an image of the child, Jesus.  Opposite it stands the Epistle retablo which houses another early 19th century image of the Nuestra Señora de la Consolacion (Our Lady of Consolation) in the central niche.

Beside the church stands a convento.  Its first floors are made out of coral stones and egg white mixed with plaster as binder, while the second floors are made out of light materials like bamboo.  The building also serves as a small museum that houses centuries-old ecclesiastical relics, artifacts and other antiquities that date back to the 16th century.  Included in the collection are ivory statue of the crucified Jesus Christ, an image of the Blessed Virgin Mary that is said to have been presented by Queen Catherine of Aragon, relics of St. Ignatius of Loyola, gold-embroidered vestments worn by the clergy throughout the centuries, books with covers made out of carabao skins, and Latin librettos of church music written on sheep skins.  You can also find the cuadro paintings of Filipino painter Liberato Gatchalian that were made in 1859.

Baclayon Church has been declared a National Cultural Treasure and a National Historical Landmark.  It was also considered for addition to the UNESCO World Heritage Sites of the Philippines under the collective group of Jesuit Churches of the Philippines, but its nomination was revoked due to its destruction.  There is a lot of history to this church, which is what I adore when it comes to historical monuments and buildings.  I would have loved to see it in its former glory, and the Diocese of Tagbilaran intends to restore this church and all other churches destroyed by the earthquake.


Blood Compact

The Sandugo, or commonly known as Blood Compact, is a ritual wherein two individuals draw two or three drops of their own blood from their arms, mix it with wine, and drink equally from the cup.  This is considered as treaty or a sign of friendship, and was the custom of local tribes during the pre-Hispanic era.

In 1565, Miguel Lopez de Legazpi landed on the shores of Cebu.  He was from the 5th Expedition that the King of Spain sent to the Phillippine Archipelago after Ferdinand Magellan.  The Cebuanos did not take their arrival kindly, and Lopez was forced to search for other islands (and tribes) to establish trade with.  He shortly reached the island of Bohol, and with the help of a Muslim interpreter, made a good impression on the local chieftain, Datu Sikatuna, and the trade was secured.  As testament to their newfound friendship, Lopez and Sikatuna partook in the ceremony of the Sandugo.  This event is considered, in Phiippine history, the very first treaty formed between the natives and the Spaniards.

The Bohol Blood Compact monument was sculpted by National Artist, Napoleon Abueva; it depicts five life-sized images re-creating that moment in history when Legazpi and Sikatuna were sharing a toast to cement their friendship.  Visitors are able to access this sculpture with the view of the Bohol sea right behind them.

The Blood Compact was the last item on our list.  Afterwards, we headed straight back to our hotel, exhausted from another day’s journey.  It was still a bit early so we decided to take a dive into the hotel pool.  Since our trip wasn’t during the peak season, we practically had the whole pool to ourselves while the other guests were either packing  their bags or chilling in their rooms.  By the time we were done swimming, it was already dark outside so we dried off, freshened up a bit and then headed our way to the beach for a little night-life.  There were lots of good food, but don’t expect a beach party like the kind you would see in Boracay.  Not all the beaches in Bohol are developed and commercialized which is what I find most appealing.  We ate dinner, walked around on the beach, and headed back to our hotel.  We instantly dropped on the bed, dead-tired, and lulled off to sleep.

We greeted the next day with a heavy heart — we knew it was time to go home.  We packed our bags, got dressed, had breakfast, and waited for the car to take us back to the airport.  The whole trip felt like a dream to me.  I was only brought back to reality when our plane landed at NAIA Terminal 4, and I saw the hustle and bustle of the big city once again.  Sigh… I miss Bohol already.

All tours were private, meaning we weren’t part of any joiner group.  It was just me and my friend; the tour guide who mostly functioned as a chauffeur since we pretty much moved on our own leisure.  It was also a good experience since we didn’t have to wait for anyone and moved according to our pace.  Looking back, I’d say it was an enjoyable, relaxing trip — the kind of out-of-town excursion that we badly needed.  The only sad part is that there are still a lot places in Bohol that we didn’t get the chance to visit.  I would love to go back there and see different sites.  Hopefully, by then, I would have a more decent camera than just my smart phone.

I’ve linked the MetroDeal offer below if anyone is interested.  Purchased vouchers are valid until June 30, 2016.  I know for some, spending 7k for this trip is a bit much especially when there are cheaper deals out there coupled with the occasional Piso Fare.  In my own opinion though, you get what you pay for.  The private tour, places we were able to visit in just two days, the round-trip airfare, and the high-class accommodation– I’d say it’s worth every peso you paid.

If you are a backpacker or a budget-traveler then I suggest looking up some cheap hotels or transient houses that offer affordable lodging.  Save up for airfare or take advantage of the airlines’ promotional discounts.  You can always DIY.  There are hordes of locals offering guided tours the moment you step off the plane, and at a cheaper price than what’s being sold online or by other travel agencies.  You can even put your socializing skills to the test by joining other tourists in splitting the bill.

Happy travels to you! 😉

Haven’t read Part One?  Click right here: https://khmissy.wordpress.com/2016/04/08/wanderlust-bohol-2015/
Want to know more about Vanilla Sky Resort? https://khmissy.wordpress.com/2016/04/10/wanderlust-vanilla-sky-resort/

Other links:
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~