Growing up, I was bombarded in school by books showing off photos of tiny bug-eyed primates clinging to branches with their tiny little hands, and hills that supposedly imitate Hershey’s Kisses in the summer. It piqued my interest enough to harbor a secret desire to see these things myself, and it didn’t help that I was constantly being reminded by Instagram that people were enjoying these attractions and I wasn’t. Having to constantly live on a budget restricts me from covering as much ground as possible, travel-wise, so when another Cebu Pacific Seat Sale came around, I immediately hit “Search” on Manila-Tagbilaran flights and booked a four-day trip.
Since my Pangasinan trip, I’d been looking forward to going on a solo trip again, but since I clearly wouldn’t know my way around the province, I had to conduct a bit of research. After looking up ways to commute to the different spots by myself, I realized it might be a bit more convenient to book a couple of tours instead. I found Bohol Island Tours, which offered pretty fair rates, so I bought a Countryside Tour and an Island Hopping/Dolphin Watching Tour. (Each tour costs Php500, but keep in mind these only buy you a seat in the van and the boat; entrance fees and additional activities cost extra, so remember to have extra cash on you.)
I arrived at Tagbilaran Airport a little earlier than the ETA of 7:25 AM and, per instruction by the tour organizer, headed to our meeting place, McDonald’s at the city’s BQ Mall for the Countryside Tour. A little tip: if you want to save money, don’t immediately jump into the first awaiting tricycle outside the airport. If I did that, I would’ve been robbed of over Php150. After a few minutes of waiting at the side of the road, a tricycle just passing by with another passenger offered me a ride for Php20.
I got to McDonald’s at about 7:40. Back in Manila, I was told the ride would arrive at around 9; this morning, they texted me that the van would be there at 9:50. It wasn’t; I was picked up at about 10:30. The driver explained that I was his last passenger, and that the first ones he picked up took a while to get ready. Already in the van were 10 other tourists, so away we went.
Loboc Eco-Tourism Zipline
At the forefront of my mind was my desire to stay within my budget, so I decided to forgo the zipline (which costs about Php350 a run) and resigned myself to taking photos and videos at the view deck. It was OK, but then one of the tourists said the zipline was pretty cool, so I did feel a tiny bit of regret not doing it. No time to wallow, though; we were on a tight schedule after all.
Bilar Man-Made Forest
I arrived at Bohol on a Saturday so I was dreading the flood of tourists getting into my personal space (and my photos). Crowds were thick at certain attractions, but not here. The massive mahogany trees line a major highway in Bilar, so tourists can’t really stay too long and I was able to enjoy the quiet and the cool atmosphere.
Tarsier Conservation Area
When you get to the conservation area, there is a predetermined trail you follow to spot the tiny critters. Just to help out us tourists who didn’t have the trained eye for spotting them, guides were posted next to specific trees where tarsiers were hanging out. We were advised to keep our voices down, avoid flash photography, and not touch them (the tarsiers, I mean, though I wasn’t really interested in touching the guides anyway).
Make sure you eat a heavy meal before going off to see the hills. The best way to view the Chocolate Hills is to climb all the way up to the view deck, which is over 200 steps high, so you need all the energy you can get. Still, the view up there was pretty spectacular, so stretch your legs, take a deep breath, and get climbing.
Two parallel bamboo bridges hanging over a body of water doesn’t sound too interesting, and it wasn’t. All it was was a display of how the locals had enough sense to keep foot traffic on a bridge to a minimum by making two that go on opposite directions.
Loboc River Cruise
When we got to Loboc River, the driver collected our payment for the buffet lunch and made the payment while we waited in the van. I guess there was a long line because it took about 20 minutes before we were led to the boat/raft/dining area. Once everyone was on board, the raft was let loose and the buffet was opened. The spread wasn’t much, to be honest. I was surprised not to find any famous Filipino dishes since it seemed like the perfect setting for them. The food I had was not worth the money I paid, though the view sort of made up for it. The ride was relaxing and cool, and the water didn’t produce the kind of smell that might make you lose your lunch (or put you off it).
Blood Compact Monument
No offense to the locals, but as historically significant as the shrine is, it really is just a monument, so there wasn’t much to do there but take photos and pick up some souvenirs.
We collectively decided not to stop at the Butterfly Farm and the Baclayon Python; I guess we were all in agreement that we already knew what butterflies and pythons look like in captivity. And since none of us were particularly religious, we skipped Baclayon Church, too. Also, our tour was supposed to include the Aproniana Gift Shoppe and I wasn’t sure why we didn’t go. Then again, none of us minded since all the stops we did make sold souvenirs. (In fact, it didn’t hit me that we missed this one until just now, as I’m writing this and looking at Bohol Island Tour’s itinerary.)
During the tour, I fell into conversation with a couple of the tourists: Michael, an American who’s in the landscaping business in Vegas; and Fabian (?), whose accent I couldn’t place (and I didn’t really think to ask him where he’s from). I was actually hoping no one would talk to me; it was just my luck that I ended up sitting next to these two outgoing guys, so I knew I had to suck it up. It wasn’t so bad; it was pretty interesting get to know them, but I was also happy (and more comfortable) during my lonesome and when the tour was over and I got to be really alone.
The van let me off at Alona KatChaJo Inn in Panglao at about 5:30 (I should say we found it by chance, since no one he spoke with seemed to know of its existence), where the owner informed me that they were experiencing a short power outage but that we’d be fine by 6. I was okay with that, so I checked in and took a cool bath in the dark. I guess I was a little out of it because I didn’t notice there was an emergency lamp on one of the desks in my room. Didn’t matter; the power was back on before 6:30.
I stepped out in search for dinner at around 7:30. I have to say, walking at night along Panglao’s Circumferential Road is incredibly safe, even if you’re out alone at night. No one’s going to bother you, save for a few habal-habal drivers offering rides. After walking around for a few minutes, I settled for a not-so-crowded restaurant called Payag, where I ordered chicken inatô. I never tried the dish before, and now I wish I hadn’t. If you don’t like sweet-style grilled chicken, stay away.
I always have to have coffee before bed, so the nearby Dunkin’ Donuts was like a beacon in the dark. I grabbed a cup before heading back to the inn and calling it a night. I played around with the cable while guzzling my coffee, but as much as I wanted to stay up, I physically couldn’t. When I finally settled down, exhaustion hit so I had to give into it. Besides, those dolphins aren’t going to take photos of themselves.
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