I couldn’t decide where to travel in the Philippines. With 7,107 islands, I felt overwhelmed with choice. So I asked around, and I took the advice of a fellow London blogger who recommended Bohol, an island in the Central Visayas.
She told me that Bohol, the 10th largest island in the Philippines, had a lot of natural attractions and that its neighbor, Panglao, was paradise. Richard from the Philippine Department of Tourism in London said the same thing. Convinced, I worked with him to set up the perfect trip to the islands. Here’s the story…
On my first full day in the Philippines, Amorita Resort in Panglao sets me up with a countryside tour of Bohol. My guide, Melot, and driver, Cory, pick me up in the morning and drive me across the small causeway that separates Panglao from the larger island.
The first destination on our Bohol tour is the one I am most excited about: a tarsier sanctuary. What is a tarsier? A real life gremlin, also known as one of the world’s tiniest primates. Small enough to fit in the palm of a hand but fierce enough to be the only primate to hunt live prey, the big-eyed, small-bodied creature is both adorable and endangered.
After watching a video about the tarsier, I take a tour of the sanctuary with a guide, who shows me four of the 10 resident animals (the other six being expectant mothers that understandably don’t want to be disturbed). They are adorable, and I want to put one in my pocket (I don’t).
I continue my tour of Bohol with a trip to Loboc. The town is famous for the Loboc Children’s Choir, which is known throughout the world for its exceptional musical talent. It is also famous for being the location of popular river cruises, one of which I board for a buffet lunch.
As I eat, I am awed by the green hillsides that climb up from the banks of the aquamarine river. At one point, I get off the boat to see a traditional performance in which children dance between two long sticks that are clapped together to the beat of live music.
During the performance I get distracted by some resident river dogs, six adorable strays that swim up to the boat to say hello and bask in the coolness of the water in the hot, humid climate. They have the right idea.
When the boat returns to Luboc, my tour continues with a trip to the Chocolate Hills, clusters of brown Hershey’s Kiss-shaped mounds dotting Bohol’s countryside. The result is a unique natural phenomenon the likes of which I have never seen anywhere else in the world. I want to admire them and eat them at the same time.
Instead, I save my appetite for something better. May is festival month in Bohol, and every day of the month a different town has a fiesta feast for a different saint. Today it is the town of Alburquerque’s turn to celebrate the Fiesta of Santa Monica, and I am invited to join Melot at her friend’s house for a fiesta meal.
We are given a warm welcome when we arrive, and I am happy to experience the famous Filipino friendliness firsthand once again. We take a pass at a table full of food in the living room, which is just the beginning of our feast. Soon another table is filled with everything from fish to seashells, and I eat my fill along with the others.
After the fiesta, we make a stop at the famous Baclayon Church, the historic Clarin Ancestral House, and the Blood Compact Monument on Bohol that commemorates the first friendly relations between the Spanish and the Filipinos in 1565.
By the time we leave the monument, sunset is nearing. It’s hard to believe how much ground we’ve covered in just one day, but I feel like I’ve gotten a great overview of the nature, culture, and wildlife of the island.
In fact, Bohol has so much to offer that it’s hard to comprehend how much more time I would have to spend traveling in the Philippines to get a feel for the other 7,106 islands in the archipelago.
Back in London, I meet with Richard from the Philippine Department of Tourism again. Over bubble tea and Filipino-style tapas at a new cafe in Notting Hill called Lakwatsa, we discuss my trip and my need to go back and see more of the country.
And our discussion brings me full-circle. With over 7,000 islands and a variety of activities and attractions to choose from, how can I possibly narrow it down again? Add to that the fact that Bohol set the bar incredibly high, and I might be paralyzed by indecision. But being open to suggestions worked last time, so if you have been to any islands in the Philippines that can match the ones I visited, please let me know!