For such a tiny province, I am surprised at the number of tourist destinations Bohol has to offer.
In just nine hours, we managed to visit a lot of the must-see places and conduct our shopping, without feeling hurried or harassed.
The key to enjoying any tour, whether it is in this country or around the world, is getting the right tour guide.
And while accredited guides are a good place to start, some can be quite boring as they provide a by-the-book tour. They can also end up being more expensive as you may need to hire a separate driver for the tour.
In our case, we were fortunate enough to know a Boholano, or someone who hails from the province of Bohol.
Our friend advised against booking the tour through the resort. He recommended Ramil Palileo, another Boholano, to conduct the tour for us.
After giving Ramil a call, he informed us that PhP2,000 would cover a tour of the following:
- Sandugo Commemorative Shrine
- Centuries-old Baclayon Church & Museum
- Prony the Python
- River Cruise with Native Lunch on Board
- Bilar Man-made Forest
- Chocolate Hills
- Butterfly Conservation Center
- Hanging Bridge
- Souvenir Shopping
Right before the trip, we heard that Hinagdanan Cave in Panglao Island had the cheapest souvenirs. So we requested that it be added to our tour, making our total PhP2,300.
After closing the deal, Ramil informed us that a driver would pick us up at our hotel at eight o’clock in the morning then bring us back at five in the afternoon on the same day.
Now before moving on to the different sites, I would like to make a few suggestions for the tour:
- Wear comfortable clothing
- Just make it nice enough for those immortal pictures
- The last thing you want to regret developing those pictures because you were dressed terribly
- Bring an umbrella and hat
- Some of the locations will require walking and the sun can burn
- Wear comfortable shoes with good grip
- Make sure they have already been broken to avoid any injuries
- You’ll also need something that won’t be slippery around moisture or rain
- Apply sun screen on your neck, arms, and legs
- Like I mentioned earlier, the sun will burn at some spots
- Bring a camera with extra batteries
- I used up 8GB of RAM with my point-and-shoot
- You might want to bring more memory if you have a dSLR and a heavy trigger finger
- Bring a folding fan
- While not required, it can help keep cool
- Have a heavy breakfast
- This should keep you from wasting valuable time by passing by a sari-sari store for food
- Bring water and some snacks
- Some hotels give out complementary bottles of water
- It would be cheaper to bring snacks from Manila so include them when packing
- Bring loose change
- That way you won’t have to worry about people not having change when you pay for things
Oh, and one last tip before you go is to make sure your tour guide understands what you want. Some of our friends were not able to go to certain places because their tour guide understood differently.
So without further delay, we’re off for the tour!
Start of the Tour
Our driver, Leo Merwin Reselosa or Bobet for short, was at the lobby of Bohol Beach Club at exactly eight o’clock in the morning.
He greeted us with a warm, genuine smile and offered to help us with our personal effects before walking over to the vehicle.
A few minutes after getting in his light green Toyota Avanza 1.3E, the added automatic door locks activated to safely seal us in the vehicle.
As we exited the resort, he gave us a brief rundown of the tour by enumerating the spots in succession and ended the introduction by saying he’d have us back at the hotel by five in the afternoon.
Located within Panglao Island, which is in the same place as Bohol Beach Club, Hinagdanan Cave was the first site on our tour.
The cave was found when the land it was under was being cleared of vegetation in preparation for planting crops.
When they saw a few holes in the ground, farmers threw in stones to see how deep they were before lowering a ladder, or hagdan. And because of this ladder, Hinagdanan Cave got its name so many years ago.
Entering the cave today is not by same wooden ladder it was centuries ago. The present cave entrance has been developed with concrete stairs and pathways.
If it is your first time to visit, you may find the stairs to be really steep and tight. Other than holding on to the railing for balance, you’ll need to mind your head as it may hit the ground as you descend.
After you go through the entrance, you will be greeted by darkness punctuated by fluorescent lights that are spaced along a cemented path.
I couldn’t estimate the size of the cave, especially with the weak lighting but it may be around 500 square meters and maybe as high as a three story building at its highest point.
And like the rest of Bohol, the cave is composed of limestone, giving it a distinctive whitish color. Stalactites and stalagmites dot the ceiling and floor as they continue to grow with time.
The temperature is warm and humid enough you will find yourself perspiring after a few minutes. The place smells of water and organic matter.
The pool inside is about ten feet deep and located at the inner rightmost corner. The water is fresh as it is composed of rain seeping down from the surface. But at the drain holes, the water is salty because it connects to the sea.
Looking up, you will notice that the place is teeming with birds and bats. Since it is the morning, birds would fly in and out of the holes at the end of the cave, chirping wildly as they flew about.
In between the chirps, we could hear the muffled squeaks of bats, which were most likely bothered by all those noisy birds.
My favorite spot in the cave is directly under a big hole at the end of the cave. If you position yourself at just the right spot, you’ll be illuminated by a bright shaft of sunlight that makes you want to yell, "I have the power!"
If there is one thing I will say about the cave tour, it’s that this place has the best guides.
Not only did they conduct the tour with gusto, they knew quite a lot about cameras and taking pictures..
Thanks to their camera training, they knew what aperture to set and when and where to use the flash. They knew enough to use the cave’s rock as anchors to prevent camera shake. And they can set and reset practically any camera, whether it is a point and shoot or a dSLR.
Incidentally, don€˜t be turned off by the souvenir shops lining the road to the cave entrance. They sell the cheapest shirts, with prices starting at PhP99. So you may want to get what you can here.
Sandugo Commemorative Shrine
Back in March 15, 1565, a blood compact was done between Datu Sikatuna of Bohol and Miguel Lopez de Legazpi of Spain, making it the first international treaty of friendship between the two countries.
Known locally as Sandugo, the word comes from the term Isang Dugo, which means one blood.
As I mentioned in an earlier Bohol Beach Club article, everyone I have met in Bohol has been very nice, with their greetings being both warm and genuine.
Our guide was very proud to say that the Boholano’s attitude towards peace can be traced even before the Sandugo took place.
Incidentally, the Sandugo festival is celebrated every July of the year.
During this time, the Sandugo is re-enacted, a parade is conducted, and a street dancing competition is judged.
It is such an important event for Boholanos that many of them go home from all over the world during just to be part of the festivities.
On week days, you need to pass through the museum to get to the church. A small entrance fee of PhP25 is requested before entering the museum.
When you enter the church, all girls in short pants or short skirts will be required to wear a saya, or cloth around their waist as a sign of respect. For you girls out there, don’t worry about bringing your own saya as the ladies by the entrance already have some for you to use.
The museum houses quite a few statues dating all the way back to the 16TH century. Not only will you find statues hand-carved from wood and adorned with ivory heads and hands, you will find hand-carved furniture.
The expressions on the statues’ faces are very lifelike and are a testimony to the craftsmen who carved them centuries ago without the benefit of modern power equipment.
Centuries-old Baclayon Church
This is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Bohol and is a must-see.
The Church of Immaculada Concepcion Church in Baclayon can be traced all the way back to the year 1727, making it one of the oldest Jesuit churches in the Philippines.
Once inside, you will experience the altar being bathed in a blue light, which is the result of sunlight passing through the stained glass behind it.
After taking it all in, we walked over the smooth floor over to the massive pews that appear to have been carved from single blocks of solid wood. And after after kneeling down, we made the three wishes that all first-timers make when entering a new church.
The ceiling is high and decorated with art work. A few cracks dot the paintings to remind us about the age of the church.
As we were about to leave, our guide gave one last thing to look at by pointing to one of the exterior pillars.
It takes a while to see. But it you relax your eyes, you will see the face of Padre Pio outlined on the pillar.
Other than its age, what makes this church unique is that during its construction, around 200 native laborers, also known as obras pias, cut and dragged coral blocks all the way down from the sea.
These blocks were then raised in to position and cemented with egg white. Yes, egg white. The stuff many people throw out after baking.
Why egg white, you ask? I asked that same question and was told that centuries ago many Filipino pastries were made with egg yolks. So as not to waste the egg white, many creative uses were found like new dishes and, interestingly, construction.
So why haven’t the ants eaten the church since then? I’m afraid I haven’t gotten the foggiest idea why they haven’t munched their way through the walls. Perhaps it’s because Bohol has religious ants that wouldn't risk going to hell by eating such a holy place.
Then again, for all I know, ants hate eating fresh egg white as much as people do, so they left the place well enough alone. Regardless of the reason, it is good to see the church still standing after centuries of existence.
Our final act before leaving is to light a few candles by the entrance. The nice thing about the candles here is that they come in different colors and symbolize different things.
One is for family, another is for business, and another is for health, and so on. I think there were eight in all. And while it’s not a traditional thing going back through the centuries, it was a nice touch.
So what candle did I light? Why, I lighted the one for good fortune of course! And if I hit the lotto, I’m definitely coming back to light the rest of them!
Prony the Python
Prony is a Python that was found in a cemetery on October 21, 1996. She got her name from her owner Sofronio, who goes by the nickname of Fronio, hence the name Prony.
When she was found, she was five feet long weighed five kilograms. Today, she weighs 250 kilograms, is over thirty feet long, and is thicker than a man’s calf muscle.
Her skin was cold to the touch and kind of oily, while muscle underneath was soft but not spongy. It was amazing to be so close to something that eats whole pig for lunch.
When we visited her, we had the misfortune of coming in when every other tourist on the island was visiting. So the line to take pictures was long.
And while that didn’t bother me, there was an inconsiderate guy who took his sweet time with his dSLR. He just ignored the fact that everybody was in a hurry to take pictures and let others in on the action. But here he was, showing so much love for his camera, he should’ve gotten a room instead.
Getting back to Prony, she is fed every third of the month. So if you happen to be in Bohol during this time and find that thought disturbing, you may want to skip feeding time.
Now if snakes make your skin crawl, there are other animals being raised by the family who owns Prony.
Not only are there big exotic birds, they are quite tame and as they sit on their perches as they calmly allow you to take close-up pictures of them. These include a Kingfisher, Herons, and what looked like an eagle, together with other exotic birds.
When you’re done talking all your pictures and touching base with Prony, I suggest stopping by the booths near the main gate. They sell the cheapest Peanut Kisses there and make great pasalubong for family and friends.
River Cruise with Native Lunch on Board
During the rundown, our guide gave us several choices for our meal:
- Good food for lunch, a more expensive cost, and a visit to a tribal village
- So-so food for lunch, a cheaper cost, and a visit to the waist-high water falls
- So-so food for dinner, a more expensive cost, and the chance to watch fireflies
Naturally, we chose the first option, which had the good food for lunch at a slightly more expensive rate.
So after paying the PhP400 for lunch and the PhP25 port fee, we boarded the boat at a port on the Loboc River.
Try picturing a Bahay Kubo, or Nipa Hut, as it stands on stilts in the middle of a farm. Now remove the stilts and walls then stick it on the water.
And while that may be how the typical floating restaurant looked like, it was the Pawikan, or turtle, boat that I wanted since its head moved as it floated over the river!
The buffet consisted of Pork Barbecue, Crablets, Shrimp, Soup, Rice, and dessert cooked Filipino-style. Bottled water and Coke in cans are the available for drinking, with the first drink being free and succeeding ones costing PhP30.
Pushing the restaurant is a small boat permanently attached to the tail end. While a man with a guitar sits at the forward part to serenade hungry guests with lively songs.
On our one hour trip, we floated up to a fake tribal village where people are dressed in costumes.
For the average foreign tourist, it was a good opportunity for pictures, while the local tourists appreciated the fire breathing talents of the other members.
In my case, I enjoyed the giant crab at the left of the village. It was a realistically-colored rendition with claws bigger than I was!
It was too bad that I discovered it a little too late because by the time I was warming up with my camera, the river boat had to leave.
And since I didn’t want to be left behind, I grudgingly put my camera away and slowly trudged back.
Then I got thinking...
For all I know, these costumed people were the real deal and needed a sacrifice for their crab god before munching on the remaining scraps.
So they fattened us up with tasty Pork Barbecue, timing our visit just as we finished lunch.
And with that thought in mind, I scurried back, intent that no fire-breathing, crab-worshipping cannibals were going to get me!
End of Part One
Well, since it is already lunch time, I’ll take the opportunity to end the first part of our tour.
I hope you can still join me for Part Two of our Tour as it is already out.
|Hinagdanan Cave entrance fee||PhP50|
|Sandugo Commemorative Shrine||None|
|Centuries-old Baclayon Church||None|
|Baclayon Museum entrance fee||PhP25|
|Prony the Python||None but donations are welcome|
|River Cruise with Native Lunch on Board||PhP 400 for the food|
|PhP25 for the port|
|Taxi and Tour Service|
|Cell Number||+63 (920) 558-0974|
|Driver||Leo Merwin Reselosa or Bobet for short|
We would like to thank Maricar Villanuevan and Lundon Valmoria for helping us out for the tour.
We would also like to thank Anything Under the Sun for contributing pictures and videos for this article.