Continued from the peek a boo with the dolphins and snorkeling in Balicasag Island
My senior companions could have foregone the visit to Chocolate Hills had it not been THE Chocolate Hills. What discouraged them was the tiring walk to the viewing deck. (In one of our neighbor towns in Laguna, there’s a church situated on a hill which requires at least 100 steps to get inside it. So, the experience was very reminiscent.) I was catching my breath when we went to the viewing deck at the town of Carmen (Bohol). What fueled me to “climb” better was the (embarrassing) thought of losing to my mother’s and aunts’ stamina in braving the numerous steps to the top.
I lost count of the number of steps we triumphed, but our tour guide and Wiki both said that it was 214 steps. It helped that we invested on enough sleep the preceding night and we dotted this amazing attraction first from our countryside tour; hence, we were all on our strongest state that day we climbed. In the future, there will probably be escalators just like in the Hong Kong Ocean Park. Maybe.
(There are 1,776 hills encompassing the towns of Carmen, Batuan and Sagbayan in Bohol.)
The hills that welcomed us were on their green state since we visited pre-Christmas. Apparently, they are brown-chocolate-y during summer. I have not given much thought about my preference because I think that it’s surreal and unique regardless of its color. It also helped that the December air on the viewing deck was so refreshing that it eased all the sweating and shoo away the rayuma (rheumatism) tendencies. Be careful when taking photos and/or when you’re being photographed (especially when doing a jump shot) by the edge. You might fall and roll.
(Here’s a photo from Wikipedia when it’s indeed a “Chocolate Hill”.)
(We didn’t pay much attention to the bell at the viewing deck. In fact, this was my only photo of the bell. Only after our visit I learned that it’s a counterpart of a wishing well, i.e. you make a wish while ringing it thrice.)
The flat surface in between hills are mostly rice fields and are planted with trees and ferns. The hills are covered by limestones that there were reports that a portion was harmed by the quarrying done in the past.
I enjoy learning about legends though I (generally) don’t really believe in them. That’s why I was all ears to our guide when he shared the varying versions of Chocolate Hills’ legends: the two feuding giants and giant carabao whose poops turned into hills, the romantic story of a giant (whose tears formed hills) and a mortal, and more that always involved a giant. The other theories of formation related to geological shift and volcanic eruptions (although bearing insufficient evidence) are equally interesting. But whatever it is, the Chocolate Hills are truly a wonderful creation. Much has been written about it and I could only hope for its official inclusion in the UNESCO World Heritage List. And let’s hope that the provincial government of Bohol would be able to find the balance between its protection and use as a natural resource, tourism instrument, and utilization by its locals.