April 5, 2011

Island Hopping in Bohol

Date of Trip: April 1, 2011

On my last business trip to Bohol, I was luckily joined by HB. When I found some free time in between meetings, we debated whether to go to the usual tourist spots (Chocolate Hills, Loboc River, Bee Farm, etc.) or go island hopping. Hands down, the prospect of setting foot on a couple of islands won.

We rented a banca for PhP 1,300 which took us to two islands a few kilometers off Panglao. About 40 minutes after departing Alona Beach, we got to the first island on our itinerary, Balicasag Island.

shore line of Balicasag Island

corals on the shore amidst the blue sea

Laden with broken corals which were washed ashore, the island boasts of a marine sanctuary which was ideal for snorkeling. For this, tourists would need to shell out PhP 200 more because we were told that the sanctuary can only be accessed by non-motorized boats to preserve the marine life. Since we were pressed for time, we skipped the marine sanctuary and opted to head on to the next island.

The drama with my BlackBerry phone then took place but it didn't stop us from appreciating the magnificent views of Virgin Island.

As soon as the boat docked, we were met by a vendor selling fresh sea catch:

Locally called taklobo, these were boiled until the meat inside these shells were tender. The taste was surprisingly good. I gladly threw away my squeamishness aside and delighted on the new experience.

Next, my palate tried these sea urchins:

The manong (general Filipino term of respect for an older man) opened the urchins in half and poured the soft, yellow liquid contents onto the palm of my hand. He then instructed me to put some pepper-seasoned vinegar and stuff the concoction in my mouth. Once again, I enjoyed this treat and easily "ate" 3 urchins before I even got off the boat. 

As we walked on the shore, I saw these empty shells being dried out. The shells were sold to tourists as souvenirs. I picked a couple to add to my collection at home. 

At the far end of the island was this beautiful sand bar which was bordered on both sides by blue sea.

We were told that this sand bar would be more appreciated at certain times of the year (particularly on January) when the tides are low.

With that, we walked back to our boat for the return trip to the main island of Panglao. If only we were on vacation, we would have stayed longer, packed some food and relax by alternately dipping in the blue waters or lying in the fine sand.

As I looked back with the thought of planning a return trip, this sight of Virgin Island reminded me of how Boracay Island was way before the crowds and the party scene came to be. If the local government of Bohol learns from the success and troubles of Boracay, then Virgin Island will continue to live up to its name.

serenity at its best in Virgin Island

Photo Op: The Alona Kew White Beach Resort

Located in Panglao Island in Bohol, the Alona Kew White Beach Resort lies smack in the midst of Alona Beach. Its ideal front beach location is perfect for vacationers and wanderers alike. 

beach front of the Alona Kew Beach Resort

grand staircase by the resort lobby

the resort's pool

native room types

native bungalows

Villa Catalina building with Superior and Executive type rooms

a different view of the Villa Catalina 

For information on room types and rates, visit their website www.alona-kew.com.

In and Out of Bohol

I got the chance to visit Bohol for the first time courtesy of a business trip earlier this month. My entry to this province was via "back door" as we originally flew in to Cebu (where we stayed overnight) and took the ferry to get to Tagbilaran City, the capital of Bohol. 

There are a number of domestic companies which ply the route of Cebu to Bohol (and vice versa) and we chose OceanJet. We purchased the ticket at an outlet in Ayala Town Center (which came with an additional handling fee) and saved ourselves from the hassle of rushing and lining up at the ferry port. 

It was a bright and sunny day when we crossed the Cebu Strait. The blue sea and sky brought an instant tranquil mood in me. 

The ferry ride took about an hour and a half. As soon as the passengers alighted the ferry, this billboard came to view:

There are cabs and tricycles lined up outside the port, all ready to take passengers to their chosen destination in the province. Tourists usually end up in Panglao Island which boasts of white sand beaches and diving spots. But other must-see spots in the province are aplenty. Taxi drivers entice travelers to go around and set foot in the city's historical Sandugo Blood Compact landmark and Bohol Museum, visit Baclayon Church,  board the floating restaurant and cruise down the Loboc River,  experience crossing the hanging bamboo bridge, pass by the Mahogany-lined road in Bilar, discover their province's famed Chocolate Hills, and finally see the Philippine tarsier. Other noteworthy spots to visit are the Punta Cruz  Watch tower, Mag-aso Falls and the Bohol Bee Farm, which I heard offers a unique dining experience.The drivers may be contracted by the tourists to take them around for a day or two.

But with business to do, I passed up on those destinations and  went straight to Panglao Island to attend a number of meetings.

The following day, we were back in Tagbilaran City. It was time to leave for Manila. The airport was just a few minutes away from the city proper. Albeit small, it was bustling with much activity.

My time in Bohol was quite short and left me wanting. I vow to be back for another time to enjoy the different natural and cultural sights and experiences that Bohol has in store. 

http://www.bohol.ph for the comprehensive article on What to See and Do in Bohol.