April 25, 2008

Other reasons to visit Bohol

rounded chocolate hills

Aside from the churches and ancestral houses, there are of course other reasons to visit Bohol. Here they are, in no particular order:

The Chocolate Hills : No visit to Bohol would be complete without seeing this peculiar landscape that has been declared a National Geologic Monument. Our hike up a couple hundred steps to the viewing platform is rewarded with a view unlike any I've ever seen before. Some hills were pointy and conical and some were rounded but they all appeared to be of the same size. They looked like scoops of matcha or green tea ice cream garnished with sprigs of mint and parsley. Actually more like pistacchio. Two of my favorite flavors! I pictured it in the summer when the hills dried up and turned brown like chocolate (hence the name). B & I watched in amusement as on-site photographers directed tourists in funny poses over the hills, making them jump high on command while straddling a broom so it looked like they were witches flying over the hills. One could also choose to 'surf' over the hills, or shoot an arrow like cupid. Make sure you check out the photo samples on display, they're a riot!

The hills, over 1,200 of them spread over 50 sq km. across several towns, continue to puzzle geologists and there are a number of theories regarding it's formation (see under Origin here). But like a magician who never reveals his secrets, Mother Nature likes to keep us mystified.

cute tarsier

The Tarsiers:

Aww the tariers, such adorable little primates. Seeing them for the first time was actually a bittersweet experience for me. On our way back from the Chocolate Hills, our driver pulled up in front of a small shack at the side of the road, "to see the tarsiers", he said. We followed him inside past the souvenir shop to what looked like a tiny greenhouse. There was a small crowd milling about and peering into the trees and plants, snapping away with their cameras. It didn't take me long to realize that this was it, and I was already surrounded by the tiny creatures. So I searched the bushes until I found one, and there it was snuggled on a branch, eyes half-closed. It was the cutest thing ever! It couldn't have been much bigger than my hand. I saw about 10 more. All teeny-tiny, furry, big-eyed precious little things. They had frog-like fingers and heads that could freakishly swivel 180 deg! I took photos as B fed one a skewerd bug that was promptly snatched and stuffed into a tiny mouth - crunch, crunch.

But the cuteness stopped there. Nothing else about this scenario amused me much. In fact, I felt a flood of sadness for these sweet things held captive away from their natural habitat. As a carefree kid I kept all sorts of animals at home: parrots, fish, rabbits, mice, hamsters, hens, name it. But I have long since disposed of the fish tank and bird cage. But this wasn't just about animals in capitivity for our amusement (I can even tolerate this when it's for educational/ research purposes), but tarsiers are nocturnal animals. If they're 'working' like this during the day, when do they sleep? :( I really hope they're cared for well over there. Otherwise, tarsier viewing should be limited to the Tarsier Sanctuary in Corella which is under the auspices of the Philippine Tarsier Foundation.

alona beach, panglao island

Alona Beach

I know I said this particular trip to Bohol wasn't about it's islands or beaches but we couldn't resist. We couldn't have chosen a better place to have dinner after a long day on the road. Alona beach at twilight was like a salve to my senses. It is a beautiful stretch of beach lined with resorts and restaurants sans the maddening crowds that usually plague more popular beaches in the country. B & I wound down with a nice barefoot stroll before settling down at the Coco Vida restaurant for a lovely seafood dinner. We picked some fresh fish, prawns, corn and fruit which they prepared according to our preference while we waited, enjoying the live Americana folk music from a local trio. The food was more than we could normally consume, but it was great and we managed, washing it all down with a couple of beers. Ahh...I'm definitely coming back and staying here next time!

panglao island

And speaking of food:

Bohol has it's share of culinary delights. One of my most memorable meals aside from the seafood dinner in Alona beach were the turo-turo (literally point-point) style lunch we had in a carinderia (eatery) outside the Loboc church. I can't remember what everything was called but it was all delicious. We sampled and took home local delicacies such as calamay hati- a sticky sweet concoction made with coconut milk, sugar, and ground sticky rice sold in smooth coconut shells; peanut kisses - very addicting cookies (shaped like Hershey's kisses hence the name) made with peanut and eggwhite; Bohol torta - a sweet cake; ube kinampay (purple yam) - which I found to be lumpier, and not as sweet or creamy as Baguio's Good Shepherd ube which I have a fierce love for but it was pretty good, the puto-maya is not unique to Bohol but it was special because it was sold to me by these adorable kids outside the Albuquerque church, puto-maya is sticky rice boiled with sugar and coconut.

Boholano food

Top row: native chicken & longganiza, kalamay, tsokolate tablea
Middle row: carinderia-style lunch in Loboc, Bohol torta, puto-maya
Bottom row: ube kinampay, fresh seafood on Alona beach, ube

And then there's Osang's broas. These are by far the best broas (ladyfingers) I've ever had. They are super crisp and light, almost feathery, melt-in-your-mouth heaven! I was thrilled to no end that you could watch them make the broas right there. There were only four women at work in the small bakery. I watched as the mixture was piped onto sheets of tin, baked by charcoal in a clay oven, and then scraped off the sheets and turned over on a grill to crisp and cool before being packed into brown paper bags. A very uncomplicated process using conventional baking equipment and methods. The entire place of course smelled of butter and sugar and all that bakey aroma I wanted to bottle up. I bought as much as I could manage to hand-carry in the plane (you don't want to crush these delicate things in your check-in luggage!). They were still warm from the oven when they were handed to me and I handled the bag like a first-time mother would a frail newborn baby.

Osang's broas

The Buzz Cafe

I thought it would be charming to stay at the Bohol Bee Farm on Panglao Island. But that was before the unfortunate incident at the Great Wall of China. Bees don't like me. Considering how much honey I guess I shouldn't be surprised. Maybe that bee in China is some kind of vigilante bee like Barry (Seinfeld's character) from the Bee Movie, but I wasn't taking any chances and decided to just visit the place for a meal and to buy some of their products instead of sleeping there. Unfortunately, we didn't even have time for a quick visit.

Upon realizing that we had some time to kill before heading to the airport on our last day, we opted to spend it at the Island City Mall in Tagbilaran. B & I both saw it at the same time - the sign for The Buzz Cafe of the Bohol Bee Farm. Yay!! I was going to have my honey and my chance to sample their food after all. The cafe is a sunny and charming country farmhouse style affair where you can also buy the farm's products such as honey, of course, home-baked bread, spreads, pure honeybee pollen, bee propolis, and their famous muffins (loved the corn and pumpkin the best but the cheese and carrot were great too). For merienda (afternoon snack), I ordered the kamote (sweet potato) fries with latik (caramel-like coconut milk sauce). It was delicious! I paired this with their signature corn coffee specially-brewed from roasted corn.

The Buzz Cafe by the Bohol Bee Farm

The locals. They Boholanos are a charming bunch. They have a deep sense of pride in their heritage, a trait I admire greatly, so they are more than happy to show you around and tell you tales. Everyone we met was warm and friendly and very down-to-earth. They remind me of the Dumaguetenos in many ways. :)


And on that note, I conclude my Bohol series. I will be posting a part two should i return in September for my friends' wedding (fingers crossed!). :)


Em Dy said...

Love the shot of the tarsier. I've only been to Bohol on a day trip. I'd like to go back and stay near the beach.

Sidney said...

Tarsiers are very lonely animals...
did you know they have sex only once a year ! ;-)

Too bad you didn't posted this earlier... I see I missed quite a lot in Bohol... next time na lang !

Ruy said...

I loved your experience in Alona Beach... I can just feel the sand, the tranquility, the fresh fish and prawns... I want that feeling!

This post emanates strong Interpersonal and Naturalist MI elements. Neat.;p

princess_dyanie said...

Waaah! I miss Bohol! Btw, did u pass Bohol Beach Club? If not, please try to visit there in Sept. I'm sure you'll love it too just like what I did! :)

christine said...

Thanks, Em. I hope you get to go back, Bohol is worth much more than a day. :) I's love to go back and stay at the beach this time too.

Sidney, I didn't know that! haha thanks for the interesting tidbit. :) Aww sorry I didn't post earlier. When did you go?

Haha Ruy, you're right I believe. You're quite observant! :)

Hi Dyanie! No, we didn't have time to make it to BBC, but definitely in September! :)

{Ãñgê£}ä said...

The tarsiers are too adorable!
You sure got a great shot too.

Chocolate Hills huh? Maybe I'll have to go visit there sometime!

Sounds (and looks) like you had a great trip. :)

christine said...

Angela, they're super adorable! If I didn't feel so bad for them, I would have loved to hold one in my hand. Yes, Bohol is worth it, visit when you can! :)

oggi said...

I wish I can have the kalamay hati, they look like the tiny Chinese ones that come attached to 2 sticks...you make hati (halve) each ball and pry the sweets with your fingers, sarap!
The kamote fries and coconut sauce also sound yummy.

christine said...

Hi Oggi! I didn't know the Chinese had those as well. What you're describing sounds like the "kulangot" from Baguio. :)

katrina said...

We, too, felt bad for the tarsiers. We had originally planned to boycott those small tarsier tourist traps and instead see them in Corella. But the bad weather prevented it. In order not to disappoint the kids, we had little choice but to do what you did. :-(

I definitely think you'd love staying on Alona Beach, since I know you love Boracay! (Others might prefer the more secluded, private beaches in Bohol, though.) I liked that it wasn't crowded at all, yet there were many choices of dining places, and that it wasn't so quiet that going out to drink at night would be boring. If you go back, I recommend the Alona Tropical Resort. Mid-priced but comfortable rooms, good food and service, and most importantly, it is one of only two resorts on that strip with a wide, beautiful beachfront! Plus, its location at the end makes it more private, too.

After MM's many posts on Boholano torta, I had my eyes peeled for it. But would you believe I never saw it? Maybe because we hardly ate in any commercial establishments or walked around town like you did. Oh well, more for next time. :-)

christine said...

"I liked that it wasn't crowded at all, yet there were many choices of dining places, and that it wasn't so quiet that going out to drink at night would be boring." Exactly!!! For Sept, I had ATR in mind because of your recommendation, but most of the wedding party will be at BBC and Amarela so that's where I've been booked (Amarela). Ever since I saw photos of it in the web, I was charmed. I hope the place lives up to it's image and reputation.

About the Bohol torta, come to think of it, we didn't see much of it either. Have you ever tried the Cebu torta? It's very similar.

katrina said...

Amarela IS charming! I really appreciate how they incorporated native design and techniques, but not in the traditional way. The restaurant's service was pretty slow and inefficient (it's the province, after all), but the food was good. We had dinner there and the owner's wife (a judge!) showed us around -- check out my pictures on my Multiply. If the husband is there when you go, I hear he is the raconteur and eager to tell guests the stories behind the many curiosities in the resort. :-) It's not a beachfront resort, but they said it was just a few minutes walk down. We were there at night and didn't get to see the beach.

I think Boholano and Cebuano torta are basically the same thing. I saw it only once in Cebu, and in the airport at that, so it wasn't that good. But MM's version is sinfully rich! He gave it away (together with the T-shirts and bags) when he had that donation drive for the public school lunches.

christine said...

That's true, Amarela isn't smack beachfront, but it's got it's own path that runs through the garden and onto the beach. It's such a pretty place! And I can't wait to stay there for a few days. I don't even wanna add anything to my agenda, aside from the rehearsal dinner on friday night, and the actual wedding on saturday. Now, I hope to meet the owner and make 'pa-cuento' :). Thanks for the tip!

Nina Lumberio said...

Ganda talaga ng Pilipinas! I hope to visit Bohol soon!

christine said...

Amen, Nina! Sobrang ganda talaga ng Pilipinas!! I keep falling in-love with these islands over and over again. :) I just came back from another trip to Bohol and experienced another side to it. Needless to say, I loved every minute. :) I hope you get to go soon!

mia loves russian architecture said...

I love this post. Bohol is so beautiful and unspoilt.