After having a blast in Cebu throughout the last week of December, I want to spend New Year’s Eve on Bohol and Panglao islands. It takes about two hours to reach Bohol by ferry, and when we do, a beautiful sunny day greets us at the port. Bohol Island is famous for several things, but I don’t intend to squeeze them all into one day, so I choose the ones related to nature: Loboc Cruise River, Chocolate Hills, and Tarsier Sanctuary.
Loboc River Cruise
We rent a van at the port and first head to Loboc River Cruise to enjoy lunch. While watching the road out the window, it’s evident that the hustle and bustle of Manila and Cebu are long gone. Instead, it feels like a typical tropical island. As soon as I utter to myself, “What a lovely day to visit Bohol!” it starts raining cats and dogs! The driver tells us it usually rains around noon, but the sky will clear soon.
We arrive at the cruise and grab our seats. I sit beside the deck and watch the river and its surroundings comfortably. Despite my increasing hunger, I don’t even pay attention to my food because of how unique the scenery is. Instead, I watch it and the other local boats floating on it lazily. The rain didn’t stop entirely; it drizzles now. I would be annoyed under normal circumstances, but this is an unusual day with exceptional scenery.
The next stop is the renowned Chocolate Hills. I didn’t have a chance to visit them during my first trip to The Philippines in 2019. There are more than 1,250 hills in total, and they are covered in green grass. The grass turns brown during the dry season, which gives the hills a chocolatey look. I will be honest: I first thought there were chocolate plantations on those hills before learning the real meaning behind the name!
We go on an ATV adventure to watch a couple of hills closely. The staff warns us about how messy it can be, but I ignore her warnings completely. The road is bumpy with large puddles throughout. I soon understand why the staff told us it could get messy. Oops! After that, we hike a small hill to watch the spectacular 360-degree view. I look at the distant hills as far as my eyes can see.
There is also a public area where people can watch the hills, so we head there after the ATV adventure. There lay hundreds of Chocolate Hills! I don’t know much about the geology of these formations, but I know of one legend about how they might have appeared. A giant was in love and was left heartbroken. As he wept, the hills grew where his tears fell. I am sold!
Our last stop is Tarsier Sanctuary. They have the cutest eyes I have ever seen and remind me of slow lorises. The difference is that tarsiers are more deadly! They are the only entirely carnivorous primates and can leap over five meters. I read about these quaint animals on our way to the sanctuary. Some are poisonous, but I am unsure if that applies to Bohol tarsiers.
Tarsiers are nocturnal animals, so we are told to be quiet in the sanctuary to avoid messing with their sleep cycle. They all sleep and seem to dream of some delicious bugs. There is one tarsier with eyes wide open. One of the staff takes photos for us and gets tips from other visitors. I suspect that he intentionally woke up the animal to get tips.
Even the thought of disturbing a nocturnal animal for visitors’ entertainment bothers me and makes me question my decision to visit there. Perhaps it is best to leave some animals alone—especially endangered ones like tarsiers. I am willing to give up on my photo privileges if that means they won’t be disturbed.
Next, we go to the neighboring island, Pangalo, to spend the night there. The calendars show December 31. Our cottage is located in a quiet and beautiful neighborhood. After spending all day on Bohol Island visiting three places, I feel an aching desire to hit the hay. Yet, I also want to discover a famous beach called Alona to see what people are up to.
We have a delicious meal at one of the restaurants on the beach and come across a Turkish couple. They seem to be bickering over the menu, so I leave them alone and pretend not to understand what they are saying. It is getting noisier towards midnight, and they start playing EDM on the beach. Finally, my body and mind can’t take it anymore, so we return to our cottage to wake up on January 1.
In the morning, I want to explore the tranquil neighborhood and go to a nearby beach before leaving Panglao. There is nobody in sight, and the weather is temperate. Everything seems asleep, even the hermit crabs. I observe them and a few divers who want to take advantage of the weather.
We spend the rest of the day on Dumaluan Beach, another white sand beach on Panglao Island. I don’t know what shade of blue its waters are, but the transparency and shallowness remind me of Okinawa. Everyone seems to have a blast on the beach, including stray dogs. One of them is digging up the sand to sit in it. I find it hilarious! Such a beautiful day makes you forget all your troubles.
I leave Panglao with a light heart and a genuine smile. Our Philippine adventure will end in a few days, and I am not ready to go. The following days in Manila are idyllic, which only makes it harder to leave this country.
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Where was the most peaceful place you have ever visited?
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