Last time I was in the Philippines I returned to Bohol where my wife’s family have a home. Bohol is probably my favourite island in the Philippines – not that I am an authority on the matter, having so far only stepped foot on a handful of the country’s 7,000 or so islands.
Bohol has a lot going for it. It is a fairly big island of over 4,000 sq.km. and a population of around 1.5 million. The bulk of the population is engaged in agriculture (rice, bananas, copra, mangos, pigs and cattle), fishing (prawns, fish, squid etc.) light industry, handicrafts and service industries. Bohol’s people are reckoned to be hardworking, conservative and perhaps more reserved than most Filipinos.
Bohol has a number of attractions for the tourist. Beautiful Panglao has some excellent sandy beaches and one or two first class beach resorts such as Bohol Beach Club. It is a popular destination for divers, dolphin and whale watchers.
The Chocolate Hills are the most famous landmark on the island, a series of 1,200 rounded hills of between 40 – 120 meters high, which turn brown in the dry season, hence the name. There are various theories as to how these unusual formations came about. My own theory, which has no scientific basis, is that these hills are the weathered remains of gigantic lumps of earth which were hurled into the sky when one of the Philippines’ super volcanoes blew its top millions of years ago.
Bohol is also home to the tiny Philippine tarsier, one of the cutest primates around, with huge bulging eyes which give it amazing night vision. Sadly they are an endangered species. Although Bohol is still a very green island with verdant rice paddies, the tarsiers’ natural forest environment has virtually disappeared and their numbers are restricted to a couple of small reserves and tourist enclosures.
Loboc River is a lovely spot. Here you can rent boats or dine on a restaurant raft.
On our dinner cruise we paused alongside two floating bands of talented singers and musicians who were serenading passing boats in return for a modest tip. They like their music in this country!
Bohol can also boast a number of heritage sites and Loboc church, located near the dining raft jetty, is said to be the oldest church in Asia having been established by the Spanish in 1600.
My wife’s family have a home in a sleepy village on a stretch of mangrove coastline. My wife’s father built this rustic payag to enjoy the cool sea breezes and splendid view.
To get to the payag you have to negotiate a 100 meter long rickety bamboo bridge or wade through the squishy mangrove swamp.
At high tide the kids enjoyed swimming, paddling in the banca and looking for fish and crabs. We saw a couple of striped sea-snakes (harmless unless you stick your little toe in their mouth – in which case they are lethal).
Nice view from the payag!
Meanwhile yours truly was in intense training for my current job.