By Fung Yu Contributor Author’s Note: This article uses virtual reality technology to provide an immersive experience. Adobe Flash 10 or higher is required to view the 360-degree VRs. Average VR size is 2.5Mb each. "Welcome to Bohol" the sign says upon landing in Tagbilaran airport. I found myself joining yet another media test drive with Honda Cars Philippines, Inc. for the newly launched Honda City. The onset of the summer months bring hot and humid weather, more evident as the intense heat of direct sunlight pierce your skin and sweat slowly crept on the insides of your shirt. Fortunately, it was rather cloudy when we landed; but the photographer instinct in me wished it was rather radiantly sunny. Famous for its Chocolate Hills, Bohol is an island province in the Central Visayas region of the Philippines. It comprises of the Bohol mainland plus 75 surrounding minor islands of which the Panglao Island is the biggest. It is also the home province of President Carlos P. Garcia, the fourth Philippine president, who was born in Talibon, Bohol. Our start of the tour was the Clarin Ancestral House. Built in 1840, this typical Filipino-Spanish stone house was the residence of Don Aniceto Velez, former governor of Bohol and his son Jose Butalid Clarin, former president of the Senate. Declared by the National Historical Institute as a heritage site, the Clarin House is now converted into a museum that displays a wide range of antiquities dating back to the Spanish and American period. The ground floor, turned into a café called Café Olegario, serves native Boholano delicacies such as rice cakes, hot chocolates, and yams. Endemic to Bohol are the tarsiers, so called because of the large tarsal bones on their legs that enable them to leap from branch to branch. Tarsiers are sometimes referred to as the smallest primate in the world. These nocturnal creatures have been living for nearly 45 million years with almost no changes except in size. Tarsiers have the ability to rotate their heads almost 180 degrees in either direction, their eyes are as big as the entire brain, they feed mostly on insects and small vertebrates and is considered as one of the endangered species. There are four main rivers that run through Bohol, of which, the most famous is the Loboc River where you can find floating restaurants supported by wooden boats. It offers tourists a cruise complete with mouth-watering buffet of fresh catch and native cuisines; and as you slowly boat down-river (and back) in its emerald waters, one gets to be serenaded with folk songs and old melodies. There is even a floating stage where you get to ‘swing it’ with the locals. The first international treaty of friendship between two people of different races was held in Bohol through a blood compact and is celebrated every year as the Sandugo festival. On March 16, 1565, Spanish explorer Miguel Lopez de Legaspi and Datu Sikatuna of Bohol wounded their left arms with a dagger and let their blood fill a cup with wine, which they both drank in honor of their friendship and brotherhood. This was 44 years after Magellan was killed in the island of Mactan, Cebu. A commemorative shrine was built in Barangay Bool, Tagbilaran City, although after further research, the actual site was found at Hinawanan, Loay, about 17 kilometers away. Today, the Order of Sikatuna is a presidential decoration conferred to exiting diplomats who had served the Philippines with distinction. Being an island province, Bohol is dotted with numerous beaches. Most well known is Alona Beach in the island of Panglao, just opposite the provincial capital of Tagbilaran City. Alona Beach is blessed with fine powdery sand that rivals Boracay. Alona beach is clean and is home to numerous first-class resorts. Nestled atop a seaside cliff is the classy Amorita Resort where we stayed. The resort offers first-class amenities and various accommodations ranging from the high-end Ocean View Villas to deluxe rooms. A well manicured garden encircles the resort, with the sundeck and infinity pool offering a panoramic view of the Bohol Sea and that of the neighboring islands. Sunrise bathes the beach with splendor and the golden colors of sunset are equally breathtaking. The drive to the Chocolate Hills the following day was one of comfort and spectacle. As we cruised along the southern portion of Bohol’s coastal towns, splendid seascapes and old colonial churches greeted us along the way. Arriving in the municipality of Carmen, at the heart of Bohol just before lunch, we saw the majestic Chocolate Hills finally. These unusual geological formations in Bohol are composed of around 1,268 nearly perfect symmetrical cone-shape mounds of close similar size. The hills are covered in green grass that eventually turns to brown during the dry summer season, hence the name. They were formed by the uplift of coral deposits and the action of rain water and erosion over geologic time. The official count for the number of hills is 1,776 and they are scattered throughout the towns of Carmen, Batuan, and Sagbayan with the highest concentration in Carmen. Bohol certainly doesn’t run out of attractions. Being one of the early islands colonized under the crown of Spain, its numerous Catholic churches attest to the rich past heritage. There are also several caves in Bohol. The Hinagdanan and the Kamira caves are the most popular and easy to reach. Water falls and spring such as the Mag-aso falls, the Can-umantad falls, and the Tontonan falls provided Bohol with another form of inland attractions. For divers, Balicasag and Pamilacan islands are teeming with large pelagic fishes and cascading coral walls; they are considered as two of the best dive spots in the country. Furthermore, the waters surrounding Pamilacan Island is also frequented by numerous species of marine mammals, a sure site for dolphin and whale watching. All VRs taken on March 2-3, 2009. Thanks to Honda Cars Philippines for another successful media test-drive. Portions of text from wikipedia.org and bohol-philippines.com. The author can be reached at: email@example.com
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By Marjorie Gorospe BOHOL is just an hour away from Manila if you were to travel by air to Tagbilaran Airport. Even before landing, you will be amazed by the scenic view of Bohol from above. But once you’re on the ground, smiling faces are the most consistent trademark in this province, which known for its Chocolate Hills and the Philippine Tarsier, an endangered species that is endemic to the country. A group of journalists and I were eventually billeted in Panglao Island, courtesy of computer giants HP and Intel. It took us 30 minutes to settle in. The resort’s good service – not to mention wonderful accommodation and endless line of seafood and Filipino cuisine – was something that you can only have once in a while. There was also a pool where one can bathe while enjoying beach scenery. To top it all, there was wireless Internet through wireless fidelity, which to journalists like us was heaven-sent – or at least to those who were planning to work remotely. Panglao Island is a natural attraction for tourists because of its white sands but and virgin reefs. If you wish to relax by the shore, you can hire masseuse for that soothing massage. If you can wake up early and be patient enough, you can watch dolphins frolic out in the sea. You can also rent diving or snorkeling gears and just wonder beneath the ocean. Those are the more common activities you can do while in Panglao Island. In my case, we had a rather different activity, which was partly inspired by the reality show Amazing Race. Hoping to let us appreciate the environment in Bohol, we were divided into teams and we raced around Bohol, giving us a chance to visit famous spots in Bohol. Loboc is one of the places that caught my fancy. This place is the hometown of Maestra Talda and the world renowned children’s choir. We took a “floating restaurant” up the Loboc River. During this ride, we got a taste of the local meal and Bohol entertainment. You can actually grab a microphone from one of the singing ladies and sing. So, we were welcomed by the Gotozon performers who sang medleys and performed folk dances like Tinikling. I even joined the Tinikling (a folk dance that requires dancers to maneuver through two hitting bamboo poles held on opposite ends by two people). But I was afraid that my foot would get caught in between the slamming bamboo poles. Well, my fear was gone when it happened. As we cruised along the Loboc River, we saw other floating restaurants loaded with Koreans and other tourists. There were lots of them. The Loboc River Cruise was just a break for us. We almost forgot that we were in a race. So after the cruise, we rushed to a place to visit and feed the Philippine Tarsier. Too bad, we cannot hold the cute mammal. They were too small and but they have these enormous eyes. We fed them cricket. We got our next clue. We then rushed to the Chocolate Hills. The Chocolate Hill has been nominated as one of the world wide “Seven Wonders of Nature.” It earned the reputation of Chocolate Hills because during the dry season, the green lush that covers the hills turn brown, thus the name. Since we were in a race, I only got a glimpse of the hills. We were all racing to the top of one of the hills to take a snapshot of the place to get our next clue. While my stay there was quick, I finally saw one of the country’s marvelous sights and natural beauty. Our final destination was a river in Buenavista, where planted five mangrove sticks. This act became our little contribution to propagating mangroves in that area – a nice feeling to have because apart from the excitement of being in a race around Bohol, we were able to help the environment. As we were the first team to finish all tasks, we were declared the winner. But I am sure that after the race, everyone else enjoyed since we all had the chance to see Bohol and help the environment.
By Lawrence Casiraya BALICASAG Island in Bohol is described as one of the best dive spots in the country with its protected marine sanctuary teeming with healthy corals. For non-divers, it is also a great place for snorkeling. Last Saturday, I was part of a small group that ventured near Balicasag for dolphin watching. I did read about dolphins in Bohol although around nearby Pamilacan Island. Anyway, one important lesson is to wake up early – early as in don’t wait for the sun to rise. Or rather, it pays to be at sea on sunrise because that’s mating time for dolphins. We set out past 6AM and by the time we reached the area where the dolphins are, it was already swarming with many boats with the same idea. As one colleague puts it, it was more like “dolphin chasing”, rather than watching. Each time dolphins were seen rising out of the water; it was like off to the races. And it just seemed to scare these poor creatures. Fortunately, before we headed for home we did see dolphins - one more like twirling rather flipping out of the water. And just when we least we expected it, a whale shark passed by in front of our boat rousing our sleepy eyes.
By Niño Mark M. Sablan, 2bU! Correspondent Inquirer MANILA, Philippines--There was something mystical and gentle about dolphins—plus I’d never seen one—so when I went to Eskaya Beach Resort in Panglao Island, Bohol, several months ago and was informed that dolphin-watching was part of the itinerary, I was extremely delighted. Eager and excited (and armed with sandwiches, an MP3 player and a digital camera), I woke up extra early to join our group in a little motorboat for what I expected would be an intimate time with the dolphins. It took us almost an hour before we spotted our first school of dolphins and the moment I laid eyes on them, I felt like a kid seeing his first, well, dolphin. It was just pretty disappointing how, when we tried to zoom close for a better view, they would suddenly stay underwater. I guess the sound of our motor (15 motors actually, since there were 14 other motorboats with us during that morning) scared them. So for an hour or so, the typical scene was a school of dolphins would surface, all 15 motorboats would try to get as close as possible and then the dolphins would disappear. Another group would surface somewhere and the whole process would be repeated. At the end of the day though, I was a satisfied little boy. A couple of months after my Bohol trip, I flew to Cebu and was billeted at the Badian Island Resort and Spa. They offered dolphin-watching as one of their recommended activities but after pretty much having enough of dolphins during my recent Bohol trip, I decided not to go for it anymore. However, I strangely ended up joining them. For their dolphin-watching activity, Badian surprised me with their spacious yacht equipped with tables and chairs, binoculars, a comfort room and lots of pansit and sandwiches. Just like my previous quest for dolphins, this one took a while before we spotted some Flippers. After approximately 30 minutes, we saw our first batch of dashing dolphins darting out and in the water. I was saying wow every 10 seconds for about 30 minutes already when I realized how pretty close the dolphins were to our yacht—so much closer as opposed to how they were during my previous dolphin-watching experience. And then something even better and more wow-inducing happened. A good number of dolphins positioned themselves in front of our fast yacht, and sort of joined the ride. They swam with us and kept up with our speed, jumping out of the water from time to time. It was as if they were putting on a show. They knew we were watching—enjoying, actually—and they just went on and on and on entertaining us with their tagging-along and little jumps. This continued for a couple more hours. And then we finally had to go back to the resort for lunch and other activities. Seeing dolphins up close for the very first time was definitely an exciting experience and I want to do it again very soon. Come to think of it, I now want to jump into the water and go swim with the dolphins next. For more information on Badian Island Resort and Spa, visit www.badianhotel.com E-mail the author at firstname.lastname@example.org
By Joey Alarilla INQUIRER.net FUNNY enough, we only went to Bohol Beach Club to have lunch. This was on June 24 when I flew to Bohol to cover the launch of three Animal Bite Treatment Clinics by the provincial government, in cooperation with Family Vaccine and Specialty Clinics Inc. and IP Foundation, the corporate social responsibility division of IP Ventures Group. Still, even that brief visit was enough to impress us with the resort's pristine surroundings and beautiful white sand beach. It was the first time for me and my companions to go to this resort, and I've actually vowed to go back there in the near future with my family because this place is truly a sight to behold. And we have pics and videos to prove it, heh. All photos courtesy of Jon Jone D.R. Javier -- except obviously for the one where he appears :) which was taken by one of the waiters. Here are two video clips courtesy of iVDO. And here are the photos. Go nuts over coconuts. Now that's pristine. From left to right, that's me, Sheila Rada of IP Ventures Group, Joel Pinaroc of Manila Bulletin, and digital photographer Jon Jone D.R. Javier. Talk about the sea's bounty. Needless to say, it was a good lunch. After lunch, it was time to take photos again. Here we are at the restaurant, except we moved to another table to hide the evidence of how much food we ate. And here's one na kunwari candid heh :) I'm pretending to describe how big something is. Sheila seems amused; Joel, confused :) If you get tired of the beach, you could always take a dip in the pool.