Half the family. Six whole days. Five nights. A flight deal. An AirBnb find. A Disneysea dream. A shopping spree. A few discoveries. All within budget!
Just tap on the topics below for blog photos and details. Enjoy!
Half the family. Six whole days. Five nights. A flight deal. An AirBnb find. A Disneysea dream. A shopping spree. A few discoveries. All within budget!
Just tap on the topics below for blog photos and details. Enjoy!
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Nami Island is a relatively “new” tourist attraction just outside of Seoul, Korea. Many tourists “drop by” this half-moon shaped island which can be reached via an hour’s drive from the capital and a short 5 minute ferry ride across the Han River. A day or half a day spent here may be enough soaking in the beauty of this island which showcases nature in all its splendor. I hear they turn off all lights in the evening to allow guests to “commune with nature” while in this tiny island spanning only 4 kilometers in diameter. Must be quite an experience especially during Autumn when one hears fallen leaves “crunch” while squirrels run over them in the dead of night.
I sensed the question coming as soon as we lined up for the ferry ride. The arch bearing the name NAMINARA REPUBLIC caught the eye of one of my elves. Confused that there’s a republic within the Republic of Korea, I was caught off-guard. I didn’t know! So I shoo-shooed my little man to ask our Tour Guide. Naturally, I was all ears listening to the guide’s spiel as it was obviously not the first time the question was raised.
Once a desolate piece of land, one man’s love for art, nature and music and his dream to share such partnership of Nature and Culture with the world gave birth to the Nami Island we enjoy today. The former Governor of the Bank of Korea bought the island back in 1965 as he prepared for a life of leisure with Nature in his retirement. Not just a banker, Mr. Minn also founded the very first symphony orchestra in Korea. The highly-cultivated island (recreated under the helm of a very cultured visionary) hosted many cultural events nearly every weekend and attracted moviedom’s producers as location for some popular movie and television series drama. NAMINARA Republic declared its CULTURAL independence in 2006 and adopted, rather “invented”, its own anthem, flag, currency, passport and “certificate of citizenship.” Truly, one can’t help admire Mr. Minn’s vision and determination.
I kept my word. In an earlier blog , I reminisced about my late February butanding encounter and promised myself I’d bring my family to Donsol for the same awesome experience. That promise was fulfilled last week.
It was a straight drive from Makati to Barrio Dancalan in Donsol, Sorsogon. Meal stops at Max’s Lucena, late lunch at Camalig’s Let’s Pinangat, and several pee stops. The little ones were good travelers. Expecting them to be restless, we were surprised they slept through much of the 10 hour ride. Leaving at 5 am, it was almost sunset by the time we reached the Butanding capital of the world. We stayed in a place that must not be named as it was very nearly a mood killer for this vacay. Well, only as far as I was concerned. The rest of the family went uncomplaining and were just too tired to call it an early night when we reached the place.
We spent 2 nights here. Randy, the Butanding Interaction Officer (B.I.O) I had that time I had my 1st whale shark experience has been waiting for us and eager to meet my grandchildren, aged 10 and 13. My girls were also with me, all of whom were just as excited to meet the butandings. I wrote about Randy the last time, and has since been my textmate with his “jejemon” language which never fails to give me headaches. For the day, he was Kuya Randy to my apos. So with the 2nd B.I.O. who joined us on our boat, Kuya Bong. Yes, we hired 2 BIOs. Wanted to make sure my 2 apos can each have a BIO cum life guard when they jump to meet their whale shark friends.
The gentle giants didn’t let us down. The 1st jump for the apos (plus 1 of my girls) was a hurried one. No chance for dear Martin, my 10 year-old apo, to change his mind. The minute the spotters alerted Kuya Bong and Kuya Randy that a butanding lurks beneath the waters near our boat, they ordered them little ones to jump with them. Oh, I was so proud of them! No hesitation. No second thoughts. They jumped in tandem with their BIO kuyas, and promptly raised their thumbs up shortly after seeing the whale shark which Martin described as “as big as a Honda City car”. Not exactly huge. But its size is enough to get these kids all smiling and proud of their experience. You bet it was the start of non-stop chatter from this excitable 10 y.o. till he grew tired and fell nearly asleep on the boat.
The duo of these kids’ mom and auntie was next. They made 2 jumps, without success. The first time, the butanding even displayed its dorsal fin for all to see. I was so excited I wanted to push anyone in front of me just to get a good shot. The second time around, they were just around 15 meters from the butanding whose shadow we can actually see from the boat. Oh, the frustration for these 2 ladies! The 3rd time around, and because the kids are so eager to have their turn, the BIOs allowed the 2 kids to jump with the 2 adults. Guess what. These butandings must have sensed the presence of my 2 apos that this 10 meter whale shark stayed with their new little friends for a while. I was beside myself on the boat, taking photos, when I saw them raise their thumbs up a second time. Happiness.
The B&B where we stayed, and which we refrain from naming here, packed a picnic brunch for us. No one wanted to eat. Or can’t. Too excited. Adrenaline pumping high. Me? I had this ill-timed eye infection that I stayed on the boat the whole time, snapping photos in between coffee and sandwiches shared with the boat crew. Though I’ve “met” the butandings just a couple of months back, I wouldn’t mind interacting with them again. But the glee I saw on the faces of them little ones and my girls are priceless. Empty stomachs, yet excited over this awesome animal experience. Too excited that 13 y.o. Patricia was swimming away from the pack, and without a life buoy at that! Enough to send her aunt into near-panic mode. But this grandma was watching the whole time. So did the 2 BIOs, Kuya Randy and Kuya Bong. We all knew that in glee, we sometimes make silly moves. But not that silly for my swimmer apo. Patricia , and her brother Martin, would likely not forget this experience for a very, very long time. 🙂
See you next year, my friend. 🙂
Check also my TravelBlog piece on same subject.
It took this long for me to think of blogging about one of my favorite places in my own country. Perhaps because I visit it too often, or I took its beauty so much for granted. Tagaytay holds many happy childhood memories for me and myfamily. Both my parents are from Cavite where Tagaytay is. And many weekends were spent here, in a neighboring town called Silang, Cavite where my grandmother used to live, long before it became a favorite tourist destination. From Manila, it would take about an hour and a half traveling south for 60 km to reach Tagaytay to view the “volcano island” inside a lake called Taal Lake, or Lake Taal.
As a child, my ears got so used to many old folks’ stories about Taal Volcano where one finds a lake within a volcano within a lake within a volcano. Yeah, I know, it sounds redundant. Can you imagine me listening to all these stories and this line which has now become an adjective to describe Taal Volcano back when I was still of pre-school age? It appears Taal Volcano made up for its size by always threatening to erupt, as if drawing attention all the time. Records show it is the smallest active volcano in the world. And for good measure, the old folks back in the province recount to this day all their experiences with Taal Volcano’s mini-eruptions in the past until it was no longer news.
The story goes that Tagaytay Ridge where one gets a perfect view of Taal Lake and Volcano was actually part of a bigger volcano until a major eruption hundreds or thousands of years ago. Originally a huge volcano towering 18,000 feet, many people don’t realize that it used to be one of the largest volcanoes in the world. Tagaytay Ridge is the rim of the volcano! Before it was “reduced” to its present size, Tagaytay ridge would have been only about a sixth of the way to the top of the volcano!! This caldera is now fringed with many tourist inns, hotels, restaurants and picnic groves. A major golf course and upscale community (Tagaytay Highlands) and a casino hotel (near Taal Vista Lodge Hotel) can also be found along this ridge. Most tourists make day trips from Manila to this place, missing out on an unhurried day of adventure which may include a boat journey across the lake to reach the volcano island (about 1,500 pesos or US $30 for the entire boat so you can split it among the 3 or 4 of you), a trek to the top of the volcano on a donkey (most recommended, unless you are very very fit but be ready to shed another US$10 per person), as well as trying out the many fine-dining and local restaurants in the area.
Many years back when Tagaytay only had picnic huts available for rent to locals bringing in their own picnic baskets, the place was famous for its many retreat houses and prayer centers. The cool climate and the now-lost “rustic innocence” of the place made for a very meaningful weekend of prayers and meditation. The retreat houses are still there. And many retreat weekends are still held there. The popularity of the place has also resulted in many foreigners deciding to stay permanently and setting up their own restaurants and shops there. These days, one can make trips to Tagaytay to try out this new Vietnamese restaurant (Bawai), or this Austrian-German bistro called Chateau Hestia, a greek taverna, or a lovely garden restaurant called Moon Garden run by a Belgian. Taal Vista Lodge Hotel is a newly renovated hotel complex , Josephine’s Restaurant with its seafood delicacies still stands attracting both local and foreign patrons, the Discovery chain of serviced apartments runs Country Suites and I must say, serves the best lamb chops, and of course there is Sonya’s Garden and Antonio’s – 2 of the fine dining establishments in the area. My personal favorite is Antonio’s though that will set you back a good US$30 to $50 per pax. For local food, one can try Josephine’s (their buffet is a steal at only US$7) and Leslie’s (try their “bulalo” which is beef stew). As for the kids, there is Residence Inn and Zoo where you can spend an entire afternoon with small children. Lunch is also served in this place, a good way to spend an hour or two after checking out the zoo. Restless kids can go to a nearby playground while the adults enjoy their coffee after lunch, or simply wait out for the sunset while viewing the volcano.
There is always something to do in Tagaytay other than just taking in the view. The more adventurous go for the boat ride and donkey trek. The prayerful spend their retreat weekends there and head back to Manila with emptied minds, restful spirits and re-energized bodies. The hedonists spend time in their favorite spas while their husbands play a round of golf in Tagaytay Highlands. The foodies try out the many food establishments, where the variety caters to every pocket range. The kids can check out the tigers, crocs, gorillas, etc in the zoo. Or simply rent out bikes or go horseback riding in the park.
I live in Makati, the financial center of Manila. This urban jungle has its advantages and disadvantages. Thank God for Tagaytay. In under 2 hours, we can enjoy its breeze and open spaces. There is just no way we will ever grow tired of Tagaytay!
This is my entry to the PTB Blog Carnival hosted by Mhe-Anne Ojeda
on the theme My Hometown.
Read also my blog on same subject in TravelBlog.
BenCab Museum is more than just a museum.
We came , knowing we won’t get disappointed with this National Artist’s works and art collections. Learning more about the indigenous art in this neck of the woods comes as a bonus . Appreciating how BenCab’s art evolved through the years since he dropped out of college to emerge as a Master of Contemporary Art is a natural consequence. Beyond all these, we were still surprised to find that behind the Museum is a farm and garden where one can arrange an eco-trail tour to meander around duck ponds, a forest, a layered garden imitating the famous rice terraces, typical indigenous architecture of the Ifugao, Kalinga and Bontoc. We wandered around the pond, crossed a charming wooden bridge leading to a small kiosk overlooking a mini forest and a river meandering through the property along with a cascading waterfalls on one end of the property.
We found BenCab Museum on our way to Baguio City. From Marcos Highway, we turned left at Kilometer 6 Asin Road, Tadiangan, Tuba, Benguet. It would be another 4.5 kilometers till we reached the Museum. Admission is 100 pesos. The place is only a 15 minute ride from Baguio City Center, passing the Woodcarvers’ Village along Asin Street. There are jeeps to Asin from the jeepney terminal found near Baguio market. Just be sure you don’t go on a Monday when the Museum is closed.
Since we arrived noontime, we were pleased to find that the Museum has a charming dining place called Cafe Sabel right on the Farm and Garden Level. There is a good menu selection ranging from the very local “Longsilog” consisting of the Baguio Longganiza or local sausages, served with an egg and fried mountain rice, to the more continental soup, salad and sandwich combination, to chicken cacciatore, pork schnitzel and a number of pasta selections. We ate our lunch here on a table with an open wide window overlooking the farm and garden.
Interestingly, Cafe Sabel was named after a somewhat mad, bag lady whom the artist observed and sketched from a window of a house somewhere in Bambang, Tondo where he lived for a time. In his mind, this mad scavenger must have been a symbol of dislocation, poverty, hopelessness and isolation.
In the lovely words penned by Rene Guatlo:
“This vagrant woman is one of the best known muses of the artist’s storied career. In her plainness, he saw beauty.
In her anonymity, he saw an individual person who chose to live as she saw fit.
In her weakness, he saw her native wit and strength. It is a tribute to BenCab that what he saw, what he painted, are what endure.”
The painting of rooftops was when the artist was still relatively young. Easily one of my favorites along with the Sabel pieces and the painting of 3 masked men. Taking off from the rooftop painting, one can observe how his art has evolved through the years. There is even a special gallery in the Museum called Erotica. From sensual paintings to erotic woodcarvings and sculptures, this room may overwhelm your senses. 😉
And then there is the collection of indigenous art from the Cordillera region. Abra, Benguet, Ifugao, Kalinga, Mountain Province, Apayao and Baguio City make up the Cordillera Region. It happens to be the ONLY landlocked region in the country encompassing most of the areas within the Cordillera Central mountain range of Luzon, the largest range in the country.
The Museum showcases the skills of Igorots in weaving and basketry, and the woodcarving skills of the Ifugaos. Notably, it was the Ifugaos who carved the Banaue rice terraces in the Cordillera mountainside 3,000 years ago.
In the middle of the Cordillera Gallery is this very long wooden bench called “hagabi”. Carved from a single piece of wood, the “hagabi” is a symbol of wealth and social prestige among the Ifugaos. The “ritual” involves the hosting of a public feast where priests (called “Mumbaki”) perform a ceremony called “mamaldang” to determine if the omens for the creation of the hagabi bench are favorable. If so, the ritual begins with the search for the right tree (usually a narra) , the journey of the woodcarvers to the forest to select, cut and carve the tree, and the villagers taking turns in transporting the carved hagabi bench out of the forest through mountain trails . This activity takes several days and ends with more days of eating, drinking of rice wine and dancing. Quite an elaborate feast, if you ask me. And I am reminded of the ceremonies attendant to the creation and carving of totem poles in Alaska to mark a “special event or milestone” . Interesting.
The last room we visited was the Maestro Gallery. Here one finds a selection of works by Joya, Edades, Aguinaldo, Chabet, Legazpi, Luz, Magsaysay-Ho, Sanso, Zobel and other masters. The Museum definitely does justice to this art collection. All of 3 levels plus the Farm and Garden Level, the BenCab Museum makes for an afternoon well-spent. For sure, I will come visiting again in my next Baguio trip. Perhaps spend more time in the Farm and Garden, or just sit it out in one of the kiosks in the middle of the duck pond. Who knows? The Cafe Sabel may even have a resident Chef by then. Or am I expecting too much?
Boracay this summer? So, who’s asking?
Many choose to fly straight into Caticlan airport to take the 15 minute boat trip to the island. My family has been here many times before, and each time flew to Kalibo, Aklan, rode the bus for 2 hours to Caticlan, and took the same 15 minute boat ride to the island. The extra 2 hours wasted on the drive is our penalty for not being too brave to take the more direct flight on a smaller aircraft. Call us chicken!
I remember the kids hopping and leaping each time we arrived in Kalibo. Never mind the sweltering heat and the long queue for the exit gate. Years before, we took the boat all the way to the beachfront. Boracay had 3 boat stations then numbered from 1 to 3. The high-end, quiet side is in Boat Station No. 1. The boats then would take us all to Boat Station No. 2 and from there, we just walked to our hotel on either side: left to Station 1, right to Station 2. These days, all boats disembark in the jetty port on the other side of the island. From here, one either gets picked up by the hotel or guesthouse or pay a pedicab (motorbikes with cabs) to drive them along the road nearest their lodgings.
Villa Simprosa in Boat Stn No. 2
Hardly anyone has heard of Villa Simprosa in the action-packed Boat Station No. 2 area. The owner of the guesthouse is a friend of my niece, and we were just too happy to get rooms good for 4 pax, air-conditioned, with a private toilet and bath with hot water at rates way cheaper than the other lodging places. No fancy stars for this lodging place, but it’s value for money for a beachfront inn right smack where the action is.
The beachfront is shared with the likes of Red Coconut Hotel, Hey Jude Bar, Boracay Regency, and right off the corner, there’s HAPLOS 24-hour SPA. Just a short walk along the beach and one finds himself at D MALL, an area littered with eating places with the broadest range of prices. D Mall has spawned many restaurants which have since branched out in the Manila and Makati areas where the same beach afficionados cum urbanites patronized the place, perhaps reminiscing life on the beach there. There is definitely no shortage of eating places, either in D Mall or along the beach, in and around Villa Simprosa. Souvenir shops and tattoo shops littered the beachfront too. Or just take a beach towel and wait by the shore for someone to come up to you offering an hour’s massage for less than US$7.
Memories of “Old” Boracay
I used to prefer the quiet and peace found in the lodgings nearer Boat Station No. 1. But my nieces are right, it is more fun to stay where the action is, in and around Boat Station No. 2. After all, part of Boracay’s charm is its being a party island. And so, with music blaring from some of the pubs and open air bars, we happily strolled many nights along the beachfront and enjoyed our time here every visit we made. Peace and quiet? You can still get it……if you wake up early enough. While most others who partied the night before spend all morning sleeping in, one can quietly sip his espresso by the beach and wait till the newspapers from Manila arrive in the island.
Here in Boracay, we found a breakfast place near Villa Simprosa serving Filipino breakfast meals which consists of garlic fried rice, egg, and a choice of our local sausage or pork/beef slices. The breakfast meal includes coffee too, except that I can be quite picky with my coffee. Plus I really do prefer a glass of “taho” more than anything else! Now that makes for a truly good morn.
Each time we visited, we would always check new developments around the island….though this is one form of development that I don’t particularly welcome. Even my nieces lament the fact that we have “lost the old Boracay” where there were just a handful of hotels beyond 2 storeys, no malls, and no touts! We look back to those days when we would linger around the grotto area near the place where Waling Waling Hotel now stands, and wait for the fishermen come home with their catch. I absolutely enjoyed buying their fresh catch and asking some of the local folks to cook them for us. There was one particular time we bought about 4 kilos of lapu-lapu (a local fish, called garoupa in some other Asian countries like China) and had it cooked four-ways: grilled, fried, sweet-sour, and with soup. That, with tons of steaming white rice, made out for one of the best meals we ever had in this island!
Much has changed. But we always head back. The kids frolic in the beach. The girls enjoy getting their tan. And I find myself always heading for the spa. Oh what a way to spend a good hour and a half. I love this, really really love this. For only P300 or under US$7, you get an hour’s massage. It was so good I could not get myself up after an hour, and would invariably go for a half hour more of rubbing. Now, this is the way to really pamper yourself. It is definitely more comfortable than lying on the beach to get rubbed. Here inside the “open air” spa, one still gets the breeze from the sea, but without the sand. You also get spared from all those beach touts who are always peddling boat rides, pearls or some other necklaces, ice cream bars, and seashells.
After a good rub, it is pure luxury to simply sit still by the beach and just waste away the hours reading.
Here in the island, it is the norm to take mid-afternoon lunch. We observed that most others do too. Either they wake up noon time after all that partying the night before, or they wake up early enough and lingered over their breakfasts as we always do, too full to eat lunch at noon. One trip to Boracay, the kids were getting so confused that one had to ask repeatedly if he was having lunch or snacks. Such is life in Boracay. Eat. Swim. Sleep. Il Dolce Far Niente. The Sweetness of Doing Nothing.
Postscript: I checked out some old photos in boracay with the family. Had to smile, those kids have grown……as did our waistlines! 😦
This beats many a collector’s dream. I am not sure whether to thank the collector, to envy him, or what.
We accepted a friend’s invitation to spend the weekend in Pilar, Bataan and prepared ourselves for a somewhat dull weekend visiting the local market, Mt. Samat War Memorial Shrine in Pilar, Bataan, and enjoying fresh fruits in season. “Ciudad de Acuzar” was not part of our itinerary. Neither have we even heard of this heritage town where the owner’s collections included many historical turn of the century houses, town hall, school and chapel!
The drive northwest of Manila via an expressway and paved roads took more than 3 hours. Pilar is a sleepy town in Bataan. Right beside a ricefield with a view of Mt. Samat, our host’s house promised a lot of rest , peace and quiet. History lessons reminded us of the annual celebration of the “Fall of Bataan” in 1942. Every April 9, which was declared a public holiday, we remember our fallen brothers who gallantly defended our land. The Shrine on Mt. Samat was built in loving memory of these brave Filipino and American soldiers who died during World War II. Along with the Fall of Bataan, this province also reminds us of the famous Death March from Bagac and Mariveles, Bataan all the way to Capas, Tarlac. Rich in history, it was ironic that what we remember most from our Bataan weekend would be the “heritage town” put up by a local land developer in Bagac, Bataan.
Uprooted from various areas within the country were a small chapel, the entire turn of the century school building, and many ancestral houses to form part of the new “old town” representing Mr. Acuzar’s collections. This development inevitably invited many critics to scream foul, asserting that these historical landmarks are best left and preserved wherever they were. So much furor for the transfer of all these heritage structures to satisfy one man’s dream collection! At the same time, there were also those who hail the transfer of all these ancestral and historical structures to one area with a good promise that the owner/collector will preserve the structures. Though a private collection and property, “Ciudad de Acuzar” is bound to attract a lot of attention, and likely curious visitors.
We saw a lot of activity in this heritage town during our visit, where men worked on cobble-stoned pathways and reassembled doors, windows and posts from some old near-forgotten buildings in some faraway place. The restoration and reassembly of these old buildings in this single area begs a debate on the propriety of such a collection. Will these structures now be better preserved here , or best left where they were? I have no answers to that. I only know that I feel lucky viewing all these “collections” in a single afternoon. Ciudad de Acuzar may either be your heritage town or modern day theme park, depending on your take. As they say, the Philippines “spent 400 years in a convent, and 50 years in Hollywood”. (That’s nearly 400 years under the spaniards, another 50 years of American rule)
By the way, at the time I visited, the place is not open to the public. The site is in this 60 hectare property somewhere in Barrio Pag-asa in Bagac town, 150 km from Manila, or a 2½-hr drive through NLEX and SCTEX. Not sure, but I hear the Museum Foundation runs tours . The property makes for a good day trip. Check out their link here.
P.S. The property was featured recently in a major daily. Here is the link.
More photos can be viewed from my TravelBlog site.
My niece Suzette teased me about my blogging only about my foreign travels, never on my local trips. Gave that a thought, and decided I should have really done some. Not so much for myself, but more for those who may wish to check out some of our local sites. Frankly, I enjoyed these trips around our islands just as much as I enjoyed my foreign travels. Perhaps I only felt compelled to write about my travel adventures when they last longer than 4 nights, never for shorter adventures. But I am changing all that now. So here goes………..
I actually meant to bring my other niece Mayette for this trip, but she’s busy. So, Suzette got lucky. Started our adventure with a mid-morning flight via Philippine Air Lines from Manila to Tagbilaran, Bohol. An uneventful flight of an hour and a half or so. The small Tagbilaran airport certainly demands improvement since the province attracted more tourists to check out the Chocolate Hills, tarsiers, Baclayon Church, a few colonial houses, and the beaches of Panglao. Small and seemingly chaotic, we actually did not have any problem retrieving our bags and driving out of the small airport for our next destination – Panglao Island Nature Hotel.
Our resort hotel welcomed us with a refreshing juice from squeezed dalandan (local oranges) and a couple of guitar-strumming singers. As soon as we checked in, we glimpsed a very beautiful beach beyond the swimming pools surrounding the reception hut/lounge. The infinity pool promised to provide a relaxing afternoon under the sun. It was exciting to find a small manmade island just beyond the beach area where some dinners are served. We were told we will enjoy one of our dinners in that tiny island.
From the reception area, we rode a small golf buggy to take us to our cottage where we would spend the next 4 days. The forest cottage is not very far . We could have walked. Even with our bags. Nice and roomy. The first item I check is always, always the bathroom and toilet. I was not disappointed. They could have put another room there. The walk in closet was a pleasant change. There was even a jacuzzi! The 2 beds promised that Suzette and I will not be breathing and snoring next to each other. We also found a good sized balcony though there was not a view except passing buggies bound for next door cottages. The basket of fruits included my favorite mangoes. I was happy with that.
After a walk around the resort, we headed for one of the 3 restaurants in the resort. We strongly recommend Bohol’s famous yam soup. It has the texture of a pumpkin soup, but this local version won’t disappoint. My first time to try it. They don’t serve this back in Manila. Yummy yam! The other dishes served are fairly standard hotel food. I will not rave about it. You’d have your standard barbecue, breaded fish, green salad, etc. It fills up , but won’t sate, if you know what I mean.
We spent the next day the best way any tourist can. Started off the day with breakfast in Bohol Bee Farm. We were served organic Chef’s salad, homemade jams and marmalades, pates and cheese spread, home-baked pumpkin bread and other pastries. They even have their own coffee made from corn! Eggs, local sausages called longganizas, meat loaf, various fruits, etc. After that hearty breakfast, a guide gave us a short tour cum lecture on how bees make honey, what plants went to our breakfast salad, the different flowers and plants around the area. There was even a small store where one can buy their homemade jams , cheese spreads, honey, local biscuits, and native bags. I got a couple of bags.
From the Bee Farm, we drove towards Baclayon Church and Museum. I have seen this church some years back when the province has yet to make a mark on the tourism map. There have been some improvements, but my heart tells me the local government can do a lot more. Tourism in the area has vastly improved. Perhaps ten fold if not more. It’s easy to guess that. My niece Suzette is making her first visit and I can tell she is impressed with our colonial history. Having grown up in the city, she has had not much exposure to vestiges of our Spanish heritage. The churches she goes to are all of modern architecture, unless she goes to Intramuros or a few other selected churches whenever she’s invited to weddings. But our everyday church is a modern church. Baclayon gives us a glimpse of how it was in olden times. It helped that our guide prepared us by citing the story of the Spanish Expedition led by Miguel Lopez de Legazpi and Datu Sikatuna’s Blood Compact in the island of Bohol. Now, let me explain a few things here. Datu Sikatuna is a local chieftain in Bohol. The Blood Compact is a ritual where both leaders seal their friendship by shedding a few drops of blood from their arms (i suppose they have to make neat cuts first…) , mix in some wine, and drink them. Sounds very primitive to me, but that is what history books tell us. Mind you, that “friendship” allowed the Spaniards to overstay by a good 400 years. Must be one effective Treaty of Friendship if you ask me.
Back to Baclayon Church and Museum. This ancient church claims to be the oldest church in the whole of the Philippines. Some may argue and say that the oldest church is San Agustin Church in Intramuros. Well, that is the oldest STONE church in the country. From the looks of it, there are still some renovations going on within the church compound. Let us hope the complex will have more improvements by my next visit. My only frustration is hearing the sad news that the church experienced burglaries in the past, and that the Museum is now missing some precious items of antiquity. My say on this? There would not be burglars if there are no buyers.
From the Church, we had a short drive to the Loboc Museum which sits right by the Loboc River, exactly where the terminal is for the Loboc River Cruise. The wide wide seaworthy vessel looks more like a big nipa hut with bamboo flooring floating down this green river. Lunch was served while cruising Loboc River, complete with a singing duo who would gladly oblige guests with their favorite songs. Again, I did not find the food all that impressive but I like the idea of having lunch while river cruising. Along the river, one gets a glimpse of provincial life. Native huts, children playing and swimming by the river edge, wooden outposts that serve as hangouts for idle men and women enjoying a good chat. The whole concept is just so relaxing. At river’s end, there was even a band of young girls singing kundimans (local songs of old) to the delight of foreign tourists. Their songs brought cheer to our hearts.
Having enjoyed a relaxing cruise down the river , we then proceeded to check out the tarsiers. Big eyed mini-monkeys with eyes bigger than their brains. The smallest monkey in the world is an attraction here in Bohol. Many foreign and local tourists took snapshots of these cuties who must have been stressed out with all those flash photography (despite the signage) and noisy crowd. Suzette had a couple of shots to show off to her son and daughter. From here, we then trooped to the Chocolate Hills. We were told that there are better views of the hills in a farther town in Carmen, Bohol. Tired that we were, we settled for the nearest viewpoint. This view though can be had only after climbing a hundred steps . But the vista did not disappoint. Rolling down the landscape were the Chocolate Hills, now not so chocolate-ty but more greenish. I recall having climbed the same steps the last time I visited Bohol. Was it age creeping up on me, or did they actually add more steps to the stairs? Kidding aside, it was not a steep and long climb. Very manageable, really.
Coming back to the hotel, we hit the showers right away to drain away the sweat from the sweltering heat, and all that dust and grime from a whole day of touring. We also had our perfect dinner in that tiny manmade island which was made up by the hotel for a luau dinner. They set up torches to light up our dinner , and they had tiny boats ready to ferry us from shore to the island. I thoroughly enjoyed our dinner of crabs, prawns, grilled pork bellies and chicken, seagrapes salad called lato, green mango with bagoong (shrimp paste), various fruits. Wine flowed. And the singing began. It was a natural consequence, one may observe. And it was also our cue to stand up and leave. Better back in the room, than feel obliged to sing. The night was magical and we decided to walk back from shore to our forest cottage. The resort is really not big. I may say it is a good size. There was a good breeze and I was happy to walk back to our cottage. It was also just the perfect time to try out the hotel’s famous spa. Suzette had her body massage at exactly 11 in the evening. Don’t ask me how she found her way back to our cottage by midnight after that treatment. What I know is that I’m pretty sure she drooled in her sleep.
The following morning could have been another adventure but the weather did not cooperate. Our dolphin watching boat adventure was cancelled at the last minute because of stormy weather. Balicasag island promised a lot, but I guess we can’t have it all. We spent the whole day in the resort. My niece checked out some of the caves around with newfound friends. By nightfall, we had a simple dinner before deciding to seek adventure. This time, we ventured out for yet another boat ride along Loboc river to check out the fireflies! We were along the river for a good hour, no fireflies. Just mosquitoes, and so much darkness. We almost gave up by the time the fireflies decided to make an appearance. So beautiful. One tree looked like a lighted Christmas tree in mid-summer. How magical! And that’s the second time I used that word here.
The following day is the day we take our flight back to Manila. There was enough time to hear mass at the nearby Dauis Church, another ancient church. After mass, we had a chance to check out the plaza behind the church. Then back to Panglao Island Nature Resort to pack our bags and get ready for our flight. It was a weekend well spent.
Read also my Bohol blog in my TravelBlog site. More photos there.