“Never lose your sense of wonder”
I have been living in Cebu for almost 8 years now. The reason it’s such a shame that I haven’t visited Bohol even once knowing it’s close proximity from the Queen City of the South. I knew however, that visiting the island is inevitable. It’s probably the reason why I have been procrastinating on it, brushing aside the opportunities and invitations of jumping on a fastcraft for a 1 hour ride to a land so historic and beautiful I could probably write a dozen poems under a coconut tree in one of its idyllic beaches. Last weekend, I grabbed that chance. I was spellbound as I crisscrossed the endless roads of Bohol and the pristine waters of its islands. I’m officially a fan.
The CHOCOLATE HILLS
I had this picture of the Chocolate Hills in my mind from the postcards I’ve seen from elementary grade. I have always known that it is a national pride but to see it up close, going past hundreds of them on the road is a different story altogether. I simply couldn’t stop clapping my hands from amazement. I counted over 70 of the hills as our van moved across the towns where the hills are spread in a vast land. I started counting midway, so I must have seen hundreds of them. Some were green as thin grasses covering their sides slowly dry under the summer sun. Some were more chocolate than the others. It was an experience seeing the hills that I couldn’t imagine how such wonder was created by an invisible Hand, carefully crafting each mound of soil into a beautiful masterpiece. I didn’t get to see the hills from a viewing deck where they must have looked a hundred times more amazing but it was enough that I got to take a glimpse of the towering hills as they move from the glass window like a gallery of postcards I held when I was a kid.
Anda is a sleepy town which boasts of a long stretch of white sand beach they aptly call Long Beach. The beach is about half a kilometer long with one of the most powdery white sand I’ve ever seen. The beach is situated across the town’s church and plaza which makes it really easy to find. The beach has cottages along the shoreline and a more popular resort, Anda de Boracay, sits beside the cheaper cottages. I could imagine bringing a tent and spending a night at the beach. The town is peaceful and there were a few tents set up for the night by some tourists from another town. They don’t charge a fee for those who are bringing tents. Shower is free and there is a decent place to change clothes that the local government has made available for everyone. We spent our time there for a little over 3 hours. If you’re planning to visit Long Beach for a really short time like we did, make sure you’re there when it’s high tide so that you can swim on its crystal blue waters to your satisfaction. When it’s low tide, the sea retreats really far from the shore and is really shallow even at a distance. The sun sets on the mountains at Anda giving a beautiful silhouette of their irregular shapes. Across the sea, Camiguin Island could be seen in the horizon draped in a beautiful pinkish color of the sky as the sun slowly disappears into the Anda mountains.
Anda is one of the places in Bohol that I am pretty sure I will visit again soon. I might be bringing a tent with me. Food is available right at the beach so you don’t really have to bring much when you go there. Anda is my idea of lounging at a beach with a book to read and a pen and paper to write on when I feel like scribbling. It’s pretty and nostalgic. I just hope that there won’t be a videoke to spoil my time when I go back.
Alona Beach – Alona Beach is a vibrant strip with equally pristine waters and restaurants to satisfy your cravings. You don’t just go there for the beach, you go there for what’s going on underwater!
We went to Balicasag, an islet just across Panglao.It’s roughly 20-30 minutes ride from Alona Beach. While approaching the island, I couldn’t help telling myself how pretty the island looks like. The island is flat with different hues of green shining in the sun sitting on top of the white sandy shoreline. Looking at it, it’s a tropical island in every sense of the word – one I could imagine myself being in for a whole day of daydreaming. And Balicasag did not disappoint! It has a long shoreline to bask in the sun and swim. But the white sand and the inviting water are not what you go there for. You go there for the experience of swimming with hundreds of fishes under shallow waters. There is a fee of 200 pesos for snorkeling and 100 pesos for a snorkel mask rent if you don’t have one. Balicasag is a protected marine area that sits on a cliff of corals you can literally see the edge of the island underwater in all it’s glory within a small portion of its shallow waters leading to the cliff. It’s the first time that I experienced snorkeling without having to go very far from the shore. It’s a fish fest down under, a gathering of colors, a pompous display of the treasures of the sea. Nemo can be found comfortably nesting in anemones and hundreds of different kinds of fishes too swimming their way around like they are in the marketplace. The walls of the cliff are untouched and schools of fish come by the hundreds. You’ll see fishes that seem to emit blue light, some stupid looking ones, a few that seemed stuck in a state of infinite pouting of lips, neon colored ones swaying with the current as if flaunting their colorful gowns. It was fiesta and I had the time of my life I simply didn’t want it to end.
Our next stop was Virgin Island (Pungtod Island). It is a tiny strip of land with a few plants lined up and a long sand bar when it’s low tide. One could go around the islet in ten minutes or less. The water there is immaculate it almost felt like a swimming pool. The island is privately owned but there is no fee entering the island. It’s a picture-perfect island to take pictures in the sand and its waters. There is no establishment in the island but a local goes there everyday, except when the weather does not allow them, and puts up a small tent in the middle of the sandbar and sell banana cue, fresh buko, and softdrinks. It’s one of those times when a banana cue tastes so good you’d think you’ve forgotten how it tasted. We swam there for a couple of minutes, took pictures and endlessly yakked about how gorgeous the water there is. The island must have been so used to hearing what we had to say.
I’ve seen dolphins several times from a boat while traveling from Dapitan to Dumaguete. And I get all giddy everytime. This time, I saw them so close they were swimming with the pumpboat we were in en route to Balicasag Island. We thought we’d never catch them since we left Alona quite late in the morning. It turned out that the dolphins reserved their last show for us. There was only one other boat waiting for the dolphins when we arrived at their playground and the dolphins didn’t disappoint. They put up a wonderful exhibition a few meters away from us as they wrapped up their playtime and swam into the distant seas, slowly disappearing in the reflection of the sun on the sea.
If there is one thing I learned from my Bohol experience, it is to be truly a kid at heart – to never lose that sense of wonder. Ever.
Expenses at Panglao:
Pumpboat – 2500 good for 10 people
Balicasag Sanctuary Fee – 200 pesos
Snorkeling (Mask) – 100 pesos
Bath at a Resort – 30 pesos (we didn’t stay overnight)
- Buffet Breakfast – 300 pesos
- Softdrinks – 30 pesos (I drank several)
- Banana Cue – 20 pesos
- Late lunch – 100 pesos