It's Not Just About the Grassy Hillocks: What Else Bohol?


The mystifying beauty of the Province of Bohol and the benevolence of its people were the reasons why it's one of my favorites in the South. It boasts of a thousand plus cone-shaped, chocolate colored hills; home to the smallest primates, and of course, the stretch of undeniably pristine beaches. The bounty of nature wonders here makes it so irresistible!

Today I'm wrapping up my Bohol travel series by featuring the famous Loboc river, the historical Blood Compact site, the second oldest stone church in the Philippines - Baclayon, the man-made forest, and the postcard-worthy chocolate hills!


Whether you've book your flight directly or will be coming from Cebu via ferry boat, you're first stop will always be in Tagbilaran. This capital city of Bohol is just one to two hours ferry ride from Cebu Island, and has the only airport terminal in the province. This is your starting point whether you decide to do a city tour first or island hop. If you're thinking of buying a pasalubong, I believe the city stores have the cheapest prices compared to those selling near the tourist attractions.


If you picked to do a city tour first and have rented a car and a tour guide, your first stop will be the Sandugo historical Blood Compact site. Do not expect so much from this spot though, because the only thing you can see here is the monument and a viewing deck overlooking the port of Tagbilaran. But it's an interesting place to visit whether you're a history geek or not. This site commemorates the treaty between Spanish explorer Miguel López de Legazpi and Datu Sikatuna, the chieftain of Bohol, in 1565. Blood compact, or Pacto de sangre in Spanish and Sandugo in Filipino, was an ancient ritual in the Philippines intended to seal a friendship or treaty and was done by contracting parties by cutting their wrists and pouring their blood into a cup filled with liquid and drink the mixture.

Afterwards, your guide may take you next to La Purisima Concepcion de la Virgen Maria Parish Church commonly known as Baclayon Roman Catholic Church. This century old church, the second oldest stone church in the Philippines, is the most famous among other iconic churches in Bohol. It also holds the title as the oldest coral stone church in the region, and one of the oldest in Asia and foremost among the best-preserved Jesuit-built churches in the Philippines. 


Honestly, I'm not really a fan of visiting old churches as they usually have a vintage collection of saints sculptured in wood and encased in rather strange looking display cabinets. It really is creepy to me, to say the least. Well, I guessed it right, Baclayon church has many of these and one I cannot forget was the sculpture of the Archangel Michael defeating Satan. Credits to the artist, it was probably the most strangely alive sculpture I've seen in a church.

The structure of the church have an obvious touch of Spanish architecture with its painted tiles, and high carved ceiling dome. It also housed an 1824 pipe organ, an example of baroque instrument, the only one of its kind in the Philippines. 


After Baclayon church, instead of heading to the Butterfly farm we opted to visit the zoo in Agape, Loay. What can you expect here? Well, aside from the usual animals you can see in Philippine zoos, a huge bat that eats a fresh bouquet of leaves even at noon time can be found here which name I cannot recall. Also, a photograph with a tamed Burmese python is encouraged by the zookeepers here. 


After checking the zoo, we proceeded to Loboc to have our lunch and river cruise at the same time. Captivating, serene, may not be the best description to sum up the beauty of this another pride of Bohol. 


The river, swank in abundant lush tropical vegetation such as Palm trees, banana groves and bushes. It's one of the cleanest bluish-green river I’ve ever seen in the Philippines. 


The river cruise starts from the Loay Bridge which is 20 kilometers away from Tagbilaran. The floating restaurants serves Filipino cuisines and with an added perk of being serenaded by an in-boat band. There is also a cruise stop where a group of local residents showcase folk dancing in complete traditional costume.  The end point of the river cruise offers a good view of small waterfalls. 




After a pleasurable lunch, the next spot we visited was the Tarsier Conservation Area. During our visit, there's a long line of tourists waiting to be entertained. Each group of tourists were required to be assisted by a licensed tour guide of the place. The little primates were mostly sleeping since they're nocturnal, some were wide-awake eating (what I mean by wide is with big, bulgy eyes).

The conservation management discourage, or shall I say, strictly prohibited visitors to use their camera's flash-light when taking photos. Also they warn tourists to avoid loud noises and touching the tarsiers. Even if no one is looking, you should abide to these rules because these primates were highly suicidal. When they're stressed, they commit suicide by bashing their heads against trees or holding their breath. With its body covered with chocolate-brown colored hair and a very long tail, one can mistake them as a rodent (I certainly did at first). But they're really cute once you see their face with those big eyes!


On our way to our last city tour destination, we traveled the two-kilometer stretch of the so-called 'Man-made Forest' of Bohol. We had a quick stop there took some photos and then headed to our last spot to visit. There's nothing to do here really, except to behold the beauty of the first and only man-made forest in the Philippines, mainly composed of Mahogany trees. 

And the last but certainly not the least spot you must visit when in Bohol - the grassy hillocks most commonly called, the 'Chocolate Hills'. With an estimate of 1,776 hills; it is declared as the third National Geological Monument of the Philippines, a UNESCO World Heritage entry, and the main attraction of Bohol. It’s an example of conical karst topography, made up of marine limestone covered in green grass which turned into chocolate brown color during dry season. These cone-shaped hills were named such because it looks like mould of chocolate kisses. I wasn't really excited seeing these hills before because when I looked at it in postcards and books, it doesn't look appealing to me. But when I was able to see it in person, my jaw dropped in astonishment. It's simply amazing.


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