Of the many stunning island destinations in the Philippines, Bohol is considered as ideal for a family get-away. It has a little bit of everything from history, white-sandy beaches, dive spots, adrenaline-fuelled adventures and many more. This other province in the central Visayas is nothing short of exciting. Reminders of past era are very much evident in the towns whilst eco-tourism development complements the islands’ natural resources. Some of the country’s old churches are found here and attracts regular visitors all year round. Baclayon Church, the second oldest stone church in the Philippines is a National Historical Landmark. The Dauis Church or recently proclaimed Our Lady of Assumption is exceptional with a small well next to the altar believed to have healing attributes. Centuries old watchtowers built during the Spanish era remain as a constant reminder of the distant past. In some towns, traditional ancestral homes made of wooden floors and sliding capiz (shell) windows are a rarity to enjoy and appreciate. In and around the oval shaped island are thousands of unexplored caves believed to contain “hidden treasures” from WW II.
In Tagbilaran, the capital and only city in the province, visitors are greeted by the ‘Sandugo Blood Compact Site’. This is where the first ‘Treaty of Friendship’ was forged with drops of blood in 1565 by the Bohol Chieftain Datu Sikatuna and Miguel Lopez de Legazpi, representing the King of Spain. Also in this city is a sprawling memorial park in honour of its greatest son, the 4th President of the Republic of the Philippines, Carlos P. Garcia.
But perhaps, most synonymous to this enchanted island are those symmetrical mounds jutting out from the earth in vibrant green and eventually turning brown in the summer to look like Chocolate Hills. There are at least 1,260 of these unique geological formations that continue to astonish visitors. The other crowd-pleaser in the island is the world’s smallest primate, the Tarsier. Measuring a mere 4-5inches, these wide-eyed creatures are endemic to Bohol.
And, there is Panglao Island with its glorious beaches to bask in the tropical sun. Nearby islands Balicasag and Pamilican are world-class dive sites with abundant flora and fauna. On good days, if not swimming next to one, you can admire from a distance the dolphins and whales jumping in and out of the water.
Domestic carriers fly daily to Tagbilaran Airport from Manila. Flight takes approximately 1hour and 15minutes.
Passenger ferries are available from Manila, Cebu and other major ports in the Philippines.
*Bohol is just a ferry ride away from Cebu. One way trip takes approximately 2hours and there are quite a few scheduled trips daily. Passenger ferries and fast craft services offer comfortable seating.
What else to see?
Loboc River (Loay River)
Cruise along the calm river in a motorised boat and enjoy the lush surroundings and waterfalls. It takes approximately an hour to complete a return trip made delightful by a short cultural entertainment and a refreshing lunch buffet en-route. For a more adventurous ride, get on a cable car or a zipline at Loboc Ecotourism Adventure Park. The Bamboo Hanging Bridge is also gaining favours from thrill-seekers.
Unlike the many caves in Bohol, this has a small underground lake surrounded by stalagmites and stalactites. The cold water gushing in makes it a popular swimming place.