My family and I welcomed 2013 doing what I love the most - travelling.
* My apologies for the late blogpost as I should have posted this sooner. I offer no excuses except for my procrastination over the past months. I only realized it this week that I have a list of travels that I need to post on my blogsite. In any case, I hope to catch up on my travel blog by the end of this month before I gear up for another adventure.
With my apologies in place, allow me to head back to my blog proper...yes...I started this year by going places and the best part of it was I was with my family. There will always be a challenge when planning for a family vacation. Unlike my solo travels where anything goes, drafting an itinerary for a family vacation requires a lot of research and careful planning. The trip needs to appeal to every member of the family and, if you have kids, it also needs to be child-friendly.
When I started planning for our family vacation, I only had one thing in mind...I wanted to spend a week with them doing every adventure we could think off while enjoying the beauty of the place and communing with nature. As the plan started falling into place, the trip would cover three destinations, three flights, a ferry boat ride, and a lot of land travel.
FIRST PIT STOP: BOHOL A MIX OF HISTORY AND NATURE
I remembered visiting Bohol way back in the 90's and I only remember going there to attend the town fiesta of my grandfather's hometown. So when we touched down at Tagbilaran Airport, I felt like the visit was long overdue.
The province of Bohol is located in Central Visayas and is bounded by the islands of Cebu, Leyte, and Mindanao. Tagbilaran City is the capital of the province and serves as the main gateway of Bohol. It is the home of one of the most photographed tourism icon of the country and the smallest primate in the world - the Philippine Tarsier. Together with the famous Chocolate Hills, its rich history, and the pristine beaches of Panglao, Bohol is definitely one of the places to visit for nature and history buffs.
Arriving in Tagbilaran City, I was pleasantly surprised with the province's airport. I was expecting a more modern airport since the province is one of the prime tourist spots of the country. Unfortunately, the airport fails in comparison with other provinces like Bacolod, Iloilo, or even Caticlan, who have all managed to upgrade its airport facilities to accomodate the inflow of tourists. I really hope that a plan to upgrade the airport is in the works so as to give tourist a better first impression.
Our plans quickly shifted when we stepped out of the airport as we were met by drivers offering van or car rentals, even tricycle drivers offer to drive you around town or to the resort or hotel where you are to stay. Since I was travelling with my family, I decided to get a van, through Kuya Nilo, to bring us to our resort in Panglao Island. It was a decision that later on turned out to be beneficial for us throughout the duration of our stay in Bohol. While making arrangements with Kuya Nilo for our transportation needs to get to our hotel, he gave me an offer that started our Bohol adventure.
Panglao: The Beauty Above and Below (Day 1)
Panglao Island is best known for its pristine beaches which can compete against that of Boracay. Just a few minutes drive from the Tagbilaran Airport, Panglao island has its own share of history and nature. The initial plan to head straight to our resort shifted towards disovering the sights that Panglao Island has to offer.
Dauis Church Complex
One of the three oldest churches in the province, Dauis Church was established in 1697 and features a neoclassic and neogothic architectural design. The church is breathtaking as the community was able to preserve exterior and the interiors of the church. The location of the church also adds to its beauty as it is located near the sea. A watchtower can also be found at the back of the church. During the earlier times, it warned the community of pirate attacks. With the breeze coming from the sea, it definitely refreshes the tired soul of tourists and visitors of the church.
Dauis Church stands as a dominant structure of Dauis. The simple facade of the church is a complete contrast of the intricate paintings of biblical scenes on its ceilings. The chessboard design of its flooring, an alternate mix of black and yellow, mirrors the intricate chessboard design of its ceilings. It is amazing how the community was able to preserve the old charm of the church despite the developments in the area.
Right beside the church, is the another mute testament of the place's history - the church convent. It served as the official residence of the Jesuits and later on by the Holy Spirit Sisters of Tagbilaran during World War 2. Now the convent still stands as a testament of the town's religious and historical value and its contribution to the country's history.
Our visit to "Simbahan ng Dauis" was a great way to start our adventure. The place was serene and it refreshed our tired mind and bodies from the night's celebration and our early morning flight. As we drove away from the church, I marveled at the sight of its belfry, with its pointed steeples, as it looms over the town. I cannot help but say a little prayer of thanksgiving for bringing me and my family there.
Hinagdanan Cave is one of nature's handcrafted beauty that stood out for me on this trip. Who would have thought that this small island, known or its beaches, holds a beautiful underground sight in Bohol, and by that, I mean literally under the ground.
The Hinagdanan Cave was discovered when the lot owner started to clear the area for farming and discovered an opening on the ground. The owner threw a rock into the opening and heard a loud splash. The owner then initiated the exploration of the cave by constructing a ladder, known as "hagdan" in local dialect, to be able to get down into the cave - this is where the name of this natural attraction was coined. The original entrance has since been closed after a more convenient alternative has been set-up after the discovery of the other hole on the ground.
The experience begins as you step into a narrow and steep opening where you can marvel at the "spectacular" stalagmite and stalactite formations that were a product of years and years of water dripping from the cave's ceilings and the accumulation of sediments. As you go deeper into the cave, you will be brought to the main chamber of the cave that houses a huge pool that has a depth of 10 feet in the middle. It is a mix of fresh and salt water as the pool is connected to the sea. If you are the adventurous type, you can also try taking a dip into the pool but one needs to take extra precaution as there are no lifeguards in the cave.
It was a really awesome experience as you also get to see the play of lights inside the cave as sunlight gets into the cave through the old entrance of the Hinagdanan Cave. The old entrance now serves as the backdrop of the cave and are being used for "enchanting" camera shots for tourists.
The whole experience is further enhanced by our enthusiastic and interactive guide, Regine. The guy can really give one hell of a presentation and the amount of humor that he brings in makes one glued to the whole tour. He is also a fantastic photographer who would gladly ask tourists to pose, as per his direction, and take the shots. The sight and the guide makes Hinagdanan Cave a must see place when you are in Panglao.
Bohol Bee Farm Resort and Restaurant
Relaxing and Rejuvenating are the two words to best describe the Bohol Bee Farm Resort and Restaurant. The place, with all its natural greens and the fresh air blowing from the sea, can definitely soothe one's tired soul. I enjoyed having a great meal with the great ambiance of the place - it makes you feel really close to nature.
Eating healthy in Bohol Bee Farm can be as exciting as visiting the place. They offer a wide selection of healthy viands with ingredients grown organically. The management enourages farmers to go to organic farming. I ordered pork ribs and I was surprised to see flowers as my side salad and it tasted different and yummy. Dining at Bohol Bee Farm is definitely worth the value that you spend and is a totally different experience.
After the meal, one can roam around the area to enjoy the fresh air and the scenery. You can buy souvenir items, organic food products, and even plants to bring home. The visit to the resort offers a sweet respite for one's five senses and is definitely worth a visit when in Bohol.
After the half day tour of Panglao, it was time now to head up to Alona Beach where my family and I were staying. My little girl was already tired as we also had to stay up late the night before because of the new year celebration so I have already asked Mang Nilo to head up to Alona Beach.
Alona Beach is a small stretch of powdery white sand located southwest of Panglao Island. It is about a 20 minute drive from the mainland. When we got there, it had the vibe similar to that of Boracay but with less of the party flavor and more of the acoustic feel, especially at night. It was more laid back. The one and a half kilometer of powdery white sand are lined up with restaurants, resorts, and business establishments that offer water activities. I noticed that most water activities were diving and dolphin watching activities since Panglao is also the kick off point to great diving sites in the area.
The vibe and the feel of Alona Beach is very conducive for family recreation and for the "barkada" get-togethers where you just wanna hang out for a couple of beers by the beach. The evenings have an acoustic feel and your family or friends can really swap stories and catch up on each other's lives. It is a definitely a better choice if you want to spend quality bonding time with family, friends, and peers.
I thought that Panglao Island gave me a brief on what to expect in Bohol in the coming days. I was wrong. The province of Bohol has a lot more to offer that would let families enjoy their vacation in the province while bonding together. I really hope that my next blog posts will give justice to what I just said. But one thing that was definite was that our tour of Panglao Island gave us a preview of the whirlwind adventures that we were about to embark on.
Marc del Rosario
I believe in education, entrepreneurship, and caring for the environment.