By Excel V. Dyquiangco
Bohol in the Visayan Region is known for its lush Chocolate Hills, the most prominent national tourist spot that locals and foreigners flock to. But aside from this feat of nature, there exists other treasures that make the province as cinematic and as majestic as other favorite Philippine destinations. The presence of the Philippine tarsiers, of course, has always been there as well as islands and beaches that are just within the reach of an ordinary backpacker.
Here are some of the reasons why Bohol has always been – and will always be – endearing and engaging to visitors, close to their hearts and souls.
The Lure of Virgin Island
When it comes to sandy beaches and wading in the waters, nothing beats Virgin Island in Panglao, Bohol. There are many Virgin Islands in many parts of the country, but this one is quite different from the rest mainly because it has a long and wide sandbar that even gets longer and wider during the summer season. As some bits of it are immersed in water, the whole island is revealed when it gets too hot for comfort, allowing parents and their children to frisk in the sand and wade in the waters. Plus the sands are just so white and fine it flows smoothly through your fingers.
This famed island is also a sandbar with all kinds of amenities – stores where you can buy souvenirs, T-shirts and even food and drinks, and a picnic area where you can lounge around the place with benches and all. This place is also one sign that the people in this community are serious in their religious and cultural homage. One of the first images that would greet you along your walk in the sandbar includes the monument of Saint Pio Petrelcina, a priest and a friar who was believed to appear in Bohol, housed in a makeshift hut. A further walk would also reveal statues of Saint Agustin, the patron saint of Bohol, of Mary Mediatrix of all Grace, of angels and of Jesus Christ at the Garden of Gethsemane and during his crucifixion. A flag pole – without the flag – also stands erect in the middle of the island.
Interestingly Virgin Island also showcases a small gallery where you can see and observe different pictures (and illustrations) of the native life in the province and in the island, as well as noteworthy achievements of some locals
Of Familiarities and New Discoveries
One of the more famous beaches in Bohol is called the Alona Beach which is a long stretch of sand that extends miles away. Filled with souvenir shops, restaurants and small resorts, this famous beach exudes an appeal of green and turquoise waters that are crystal clear to the eyes and to the soul. Quite surprising is that when it’s low tide season, the beach only reaches up to your knee – and some to the waist – even when you feel that you are already far away from the shoreline.
If, on the other hand, you want to go uphill and discover the mountains, travel to Loboc and see the tarsiers up close. The Tarsier Conservation Area which is more or less than an hour’s drive from Panglao provides the perfect getaway for those who want to discover why these mammals are rare and in demand. The place which has a maze-like structure with a lot of trees and plants in the area requires visitors to pay at least an entrance fee of P60 for adults and P50 for students and senior citizens. Once inside the compound, of course, you’d want to be on the lookout for these creatures but these tarsiers are so small that you need to peer at them closely and brush through the trees. Good thing, there are people around who keep an eye out for them and points you in their direction. At the end of the visit, a souvenir shop also abounds in the area where you can buy shirts, hats and caps and other items.
Adventure and Thrill Seekers at CHAP
For a different kind of adventure altogether, you can visit the Chocolate Hills Adventure Park or better known as CHAP which houses, of course, the famous Chocolate Hills. But to get there, you have to do rounds of activities first – for the brave and the courageous. Situated in one of the most scenic sites in the Region, CHAP offers a fresh angle of nature trails and adrenaline-pumping thrills – this, in fact, is what greets you upon entrance, the refreshing sight of a little bridge over a pond that glistens in the sunlight and fishes that swim in that small pond. This is what makes it an ecological park, as well, which also serves as a home to various species of reptiles and mammals and a place where you can commune with around 17 varieties of flowers and shrubberies.
The rush at CHAP involves the Rope Courses such as the Snake Ladder which allows you to walk through a dilapidated bridge several feet above the ground and the Pentagon which is a tree top course, probably one of the more difficult courses you have to take, that allows you to swing from one tree to another using a string of ropes, among others. Definitely you’d lose a lot of weight when you try this one.
Meanwhile the Bike Zip in which the rider pedals a makeshift bicycle 150 feet above the ground is probably one of the last rides you’ll ever do. No pun intended, but the rush of the wind with nothing that prevents you from a hard landing is what makes it more terrifying – and fulfilling. Once in the apex, though, you’d see an enthralling view of – what else – the Chocolate Hills which is made up of more than a thousand hills. A glorious sight to behold since no other Region can offer such a glamorous view of one of the top natural attractions in the country.