There are times when the experience, when basking in the sights and sounds of nature, is too expansive and there’s a need to break it into smaller pieces, hoping that the smaller attempts to describe the experience would be reasonably enough.
And so we embarked on a mission, to chronicle our visit to Panglao Island, found at the southwestern part of the island-province of Bohol, Philippines (map and directions).
We proceeded to Panglao Island, just a 45-minute drive from Tagbilaran City, when the sun was in the middle of the sky (Tagbilaran City, the capital of Bohol province, is 1 hour by plane from Manila or under 2 hours by ferry from the neighboring Cebu Island). It was hot, but not the humid hot. It was more of the tourist-hot, the kind of warmth that even gets better with sunblock.
It was lunchtime when we arrived at a resort in Panglao. We were excited to see the place. But we were hungry. I now have proof that hunger is a more primordial and basic instinct that curiosity — I had to exert more effort to stop myself from telling the van driver to shut up, focus driving fast and zip through the bridge connecting Panglao Island from mainland Bohol. You don’t mess with someone who is hungry.
There’s a soup with the most basic of ingredients — fish (sliced fish, like blue marlin). Throw in a bit of sliced tomato and spring onions, with a bit of flavoring, then there’s tinowa that Visayans enjoy (sometimes called tinola in other areas in the Visayas, but don’t equate tinowa with Luzon’s tinola, because the ingredients and the taste are islands apart. And don’t try cooking tinowa other than the freshest product of the sea — you have an all-year round supply of fresh seafood and farm produce in Bohol (there’s no problem with meals because, just like in Boracay, there are a number of restaurants and open-air dining areas on location).
After lunch and a little rest, it’s off to the beach for the little kids, running around like there’s an endless supply of energy. They stopped not because their energy level dropped. They stopped because, after hours of having fun on the white beach and the clear waters of Panglao, it was already sunset. Click for more of Bohol Sunrise and Sunset.
It’s easy to say a place is a paradise. It’s easier to say a place is overrated. Between these two characterization lies the waters of Panglao Island. Don’t get me wrong, though, it’s totally incorrect to say that’s equivalent to being ordinary. For the waters of Panglao is far from being ordinary. Click for Clear Waters of Panglao.
The white beach is perfect for the little ones, running around and having a grand time on (and in) the sand. It’s a strip where you could leisurely stroll, encountering lumps of sea grass carried by the waves. Either wait for the sun to hide along the horizon during sunset or wait for it to emerge in glorious explosion of colors during sunrise. Perfect place to be in love (or simply having a great time during summer vacation). Click for Beach of Panglao Island.
There’s a standard tour package in Bohol, the “Countryside Tour”, which you could book in advance when booking your hotel. Not a big island, Bohol (if Yoda would say it). You’ll see the more important places in Bohol with a well-planned one-day tour. Our tour, which should have started at 8:30 in the morning, was moved to 10:00 a.m. because we had to wait for half of the group who went island-hopping before sunrise. The island hopping, of course, comes with whale-watching (unfortunately, they didn’t see any whales because they were in a hurry).
First stop was the Blood Compact Monument, the site where Spaniard Miguel Lopez de Legazpi, forty years after his compatriot Ferdinand Magellan was killed in the Philippines, declared to local chieftain, Datu Sikatuna, that he came in peace (yeah, right). Click for more of Blood Compact Monument.
Since we left at 10:00, lunch was fast approaching, after a short stop at the Baclayon Church, more formally known as the Church of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception in Baclayon. It’s one of the oldest churches in the Philippines.
We were anticipating buffet lunch to be served on a banca, floating through the immaculately clean and wide Loboc River. A tour in Bohol is not complete without a river cruise up along Loboc River, a clean and scenic river winding through a number of towns in Bohol. The cruise, of course, includes lunch. It also includes catching a glimpse of children diving in the sparkling waters of Loboc River. Click for more of Loboc River.
The next major destination is the Chocolate Hills, but there are a number of stops along the otherwise one-hour drive. There’s the Philippine Tarsier, with viewing sites just beside the highway. The Hanging Bridge and the Man-Made Forest are also along the highway and you’d begin to wonder if the tourism planners in Bohol consciously arranged the spots in neat succession (Bohol is one of the very few places that seriously protect their environment and cultural artifacts).
The deliciously-sounding Chocolate Hills are the most famous tourist attractions of Bohol. I’d even go where no one dared to go, and say that you haven’t been to Bohol unless you’ve seen the Chocolate Hills. Click for more photos of Chocolate Hills.
A 2-night, 3-day trip is a very brief introduction of Bohol, providing a glimpse of Bohol’s place in history and a feel of Bohol’s sand and sun. With a whole-day off for tours, however, the remaining hours spent on the beach is seriously not enough. But you can always go back for more.