One of the reasons I timed my last vacation in the Philippines in December was to grace and attend the wedding of a good friend in Bohol. Since we’ve never been there, I was joined by my family and some of my relatives sans the wedding attendance. I’ve wanted to blog about this months ago but it took time to sort the thousands of photos from this vacation (yes, I do click the shutter a lot) and other things got in. Now that summer is approaching in the Philippines (and we still enjoy winter in the Lower Gulf), it’s about time to reminisce and share this rejuvenating experience especially to those who plan to visit Bohol.
Getting up so early to be at the boat at 5:30 AM was worth it. Each day there are several tourists who chance on seeing the dolphins. It helped that our boatman-guide was a strategist, or maybe it was coincidental that the dolphins approached the tip of our boat many times. You really need to be sharp especially if you intend to take their photos. They move quickly, teasingly; hence, that perfect shot is definitely elusive. Since we were there to enjoy the experience itself, I set my mind to just take at least two decent shots of the dolphins and devote the rest of the hour of the boat ride to appreciate the playfulness of these friendly creatures. Yes, the dolphin shows are also entertaining, but they are boxed there and movements were calculated. Seeing them at their natural habitat and interacting with them, without anyone commanding them where they should show up and what they should do, is far more fascinating.
While Bohol is considered the 10th largest island in the Philippines, it is further surrounded by 73 smaller islands. Two of which, Balicasag and Virgin Islands we visited after our peek a boo with the dolphins. As soon as our feet kissed the pristine sand of Balicasag, we arranged for the dishes to be served for lunch. So that by the time we were done with snorkeling our lunch was ready. We utilized small boats (each boat accommodated a maximum of four people including the boatman-guide) in taking us to the snorkeling sanctuary. Included in the gears that we rented were the shoes. I can say that my snorkeling experience topped our overall activities in Bohol. I liked snorkeling here better than in Boracay, I’m yet to experience Palawan. Of course, don’t forget to bring your underwater camera to have your memento with the coral reefs and other fishes (rather than literally taking them).
(There were too many creatures to see and feel. And for the first time, I held a sea cucumber! There you can see Kuya, the bangkero (boatman) of other visitors; he looked like weirded by my enthusiasm with this sea creature. It was a bit slimy and thinner when it’s taken out of the water. Some of my companions were freaked out.)
As we finished snorkeling, our hearty lunch was served. We ate kamayan style (to eat with your own hands) which was very appropriate for the nipa hut setting. We had the buttered crabs (which was prepared almost similar to the recipe I shared sans the oyster sauce + the ginger — a Boholano mark), baked oysters (highly recommended), sinigang na salmon, and grilled squid. Our lunch was reasonably priced considering that the ingredients were so fresh! Until now, I can taste them inside my head. The priceless part is the hospitality and genuine concern the locals of Balicasag Island extended to us as they attended to every single concern. I enjoyed chatting with Ate, the cook, about their day to day situation, their limited source of electricity (right now it’s powered by a generator and they pay a lot for their consumption), the deficient supply of water that they have to rely on the irregular rainshowers and buy bottled water at a rather extra marked up rate due to inter-island delivery charges, and the other deficiencies that despite of, they feel that they are very blessed since they have a chapel and mini-school in the island. And due to the basic fact that they are Boholanos, they are indeed blessed. (I’ll elaborate that on a separate post.)
It was an interesting lunch which I never wanted to end. Thanks to the friendly reminder from our boatman-guide that a prettier yet less explored island was next on the agenda — the Virgin Island. Wow, who would have thought that there’s more to being pristine! It’s basically more private and I was awed by the fact that it’s crescent shaped. During our visit, there were few people and most were foreigners. There were vendors selling shells and sea urchin (I wished I’ve tried).
(From a far, you would think that those visitors floated on the water. Just like the others, I particularly enjoyed walking on the therapeutic white sand. We walked up to the other end reaching the sand bar wherein a group of Filipinos were on a picnic.)
We went back to the hotel in Panglao Island nurtured with more than enough good memories of the day’s trip. And we’ve just begun exploring. Much has been told and blogged about Bohol, but it’s really more fascinating when you get to experience it first hand. There’s more to share in the succeeding posts.
Note: All photos which will be featured in Bohol related posts were either taken with a Canon S95 or Fujifilm FinePix XP10 (underwater camera), which are both point and shoot cameras.