The penultimate stop on our southern tour of the Philippines was the island of Bohol, a place Lynette and I had been looking forward to for a long while. We arrived by boat into the port of Tagbilaran, docking late at night in the pitch black. We stayed for one night at the basic but comfortable Nisa Travellers Hotel, which was adequate for a short stopover with a simple included breakfast of toast and eggs.
As we planned to go to Cebu City after Bohol to catch our flight out of the country, we needed to make some travel arrangements. After that we took a jeepney to Loboc, roughly an hour’s drive away.
Loboc felt like a world away from the modern bustling city of Tagbilaran; the town is green and peaceful with the Loboc River running through the countryside. It was just a short walk from the jeepney stand to our guesthouse, which we found easily enough.
Stefanie Grace Paradise Inn is located just outside the main area; we had a basic room with a shared bathroom. The bonus for us was that the guesthouse has something that we very rarely have… a swimming pool! The owner and staff were very friendly and attentive too, which made our stay pleasant.
The guesthouse has a restaurant but the choice was very limited for us vegetarians! The breakfast option was marginally better with toast, eggs, juice, tea and bananas. While Lynette had this each morning, I made the most of getting items from the bakery in the town. I didn’t mind doing this as it was an excuse to have a little something sweet.
The next day we rented a scooter and set off, wanting to see all the main sights in one day. This didn’t prove a challenge as there were only two main ones that we really wanted to see, the Tarsier Sanctuary and the Chocolate Hills.
The Philippine Tariser Sanctuary
Our first stop was the Philippine Tarsier Sanctuary in Canapnapan, Corella; there are two places on Bohol where you can see tarsiers but with very different reputations. We visited the place, run by the Philippine Tarsier Foundation Inc., where conservation, eco-tourism, environmental awareness and research are at the fore-front. The sanctuary does not allow visitors to handle these fragile creatures.
With just a small number of tarsiers in an open walk-through environment, the animals health and well-being is clearly being looked after. They have a good deal of space and are free to roam. We were shown around by a guide, who pointed them out to us very quietly, being careful not to disturb or agitate them.
Tarsiers are an endangered species and are only found in the Philippines; there are, however, other breeds in parts of Indonesia too. These incredible creatures are the smallest primate in the world. They have eyes 150 times as large as their heads in comparison to their size. They can jump as far as 5 metres from standing and can live up to 25 years… not bad for an animal that could easily fit in the palm of your hand!
It was comforting to see tarsiers in their natural habitat, being protected. We had heard negative reports about the other centre on Bohol (Loboc Tarsier Conservation Area), where tourists are allowed to hold and have their photo taken with them. This might be good for tourism numbers but is definitely a step in the wrong direction for the creatures themselves. We were glad to have visited the place considered the best for their welfare.
The Chocolate Hills
After the short tour we moved on to our next destination, the Chocolate Hills, which were quite a drive away; the road at least was smooth and straight. Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t on our side that day; driving along it was chilly and overcast, threatening rain. As we arrived and began to ascend the 200-odd steps up to the viewing decks, the heavens opened.
The dismal weather did not spoil the view of these oddly shaped hills though. The Chocolate Hills are so called because in the dry season they look, as the name suggests, like they are made of chocolate, the lush green grass having turned brown.
As we were there in the wrong season, the scene looked more like Teletubbyland! They were still an impressive sight though! The area is a little touristy with minivans, tricycles and motorbikes all carrying tourists to the same spot, but it is well-worth the trip.
On our last full day, not just on Bohol but in the Philippines, we decided to walk to the neighbouring village of Loay, much to the utter disbelief of locals. It was evident by the many offers of motorbike taxis and tricycles that we received, as well as heckles of “why you walking?” that not many Filipinos walk anywhere! In fact taking exercise in the form of walking or just doing so to get from A to B is something very alien to most people in Asia!
Loay, located at the mouth of the Loboc River, lies 4km from Loboc; we had a look around but there wasn’t a great deal to see. Once we were back at the inn and had quenched our thirst, we took one last swim in the pool. It was a great way to cool off on one of the rare days the sun decided to make an appearance!
Goodbye to the Philippines
The following day we took a ferry to Cebu City, where we spent one night before catching our flight to Bangkok and then on to India. Unfortunately, we did not get the chance to explore the city or island of Cebu; we’ve heard that some great diving can be found off the coast and it is also possible to swim with whale sharks.
There is no question that the Philippines is a beautiful country, which offers ease and convenience in terms of its food and transport. We didn’t have any issues getting around or encounter any language barriers as everyone spoke flawless English.
We were surprised to learn that the children not only begin learning English from Kindergarten but that all of their education is taught to them in English! This is mainly because there are so many different dialects in the Philippines, so everyone uses one common language to communicate.
We are glad to have had the chance to see and experience the Philippines but left feeling that we probably won’t return. We couldn’t wait to get to the dirt and craziness of India; perhaps the Philippines is just too clean and westernised for our liking! We will fondly remember the country as a very beautiful part of Asia with friendly local people, captivating mountain scenery and some wonderful white-sand beaches.