We were staying on the Philippine island of Panglao but had a day’s sightseeing on the larger island of Bohol: the two islands are linked by a short bridge.
Bohol is famous for two things, tarsiers and chocolate hills, and as this was my partner’s birthday, we were looking forward to the day. Having been presented with a small bottle of red wine, bearing a label, “Happy Birthday!!! Mr Roy Arthur” we set off.
As we drove around, we noticed the ubiquitous Filipino tricycles were different in design from others we’d seen and as they all have religious quotations on the back, they’re known as ‘running bibles’.
Our first stop was just over the bridge in Dauis at the Blood Compact Monument which celebrates a Bohol Chief and Spanish Conquistador sharing a cup of each others blood in 1565. However, it was crowded and as usual, everyone wanted their photograph taken in front of it.
At the Philippine Tarsier Sanctuary, we were guided through trees with the tarsiers being pointed out as we’d never have spotted them in the foliage. The long-tailed animals, which cling to tree trunks, are 6 inches tall and weigh around 70g. There are only around 1,000 of these indigenous creatures left, and we were told to keep quiet, not rustle branches or use flash as if disturbed by humans, they can commit suicide. I’d expected to see more than four and found it a low-key place with little hype or marketing – for example, we expected to be hit for a donation.
Next stop was the Chocolate Hills. There are 126 natural mounds, 40 to 80m high and it’s still not known, how they were created. There is a good view point on the tallest and up 212 steps. Unfortunately, the chocolate hills were not very brown at the time of our visit as it isn’t the dry season yet.
After a quick stop at the Bilar Sunday market where the most interesting items were the huge varieties of dried fish, we reached the butterfly farm, Habitat Bohol. A young man took us swiftly round explaining the difference between moths and butterflies and showing us the butterfly pupa hanging in frames and resembling gold earrings. We saw a huge 6-inch moth and pair of butterflies mating (it apparently takes them a day). A butterfly with non-symmetrical wings was said to be like Lady Gaga although we didn’t understand why.
We drove along a 15km stretch of winding road nicknamed ‘chicken intestines’. Mahogany trees had been planted to prevent deforestation but although lots of people had stopped to take photos, our guide, Elmer said they shouldn’t and we simply drove past.
At 1pm, we arrived at the embarkation point for our river cruise. It was a massive operation, 15 huge boats each taking around 50 people, and as it was a Sunday, there were lots of huge family groups. We thought it was going to be a scrum down, but Elmer did a sterling job: quickly getting us on a boat and on a table for two at the front in pole position. There was a selection of chicken, duck and pork dishes with rice and noodles and an excellent jackfruit stir fry. It was much better than anticipated and a very slick operation. We stopped for 10 minutes on a floating deck for a show of local dancing by youngsters and onboard band played a variety of music. After 60 minutes, we turned around and headed back – a young boy gave a spectacular Tarzan like display from the riverbank to much applause.
Our final stop of the day was the Baclayan Church and Museum where we saw vestments, large wooden candle sticks etc, but nothing too inspiring. The church, built by the Spanish, had suffered in the 7.2 earthquake of 2013 but has now been rebuilt.
This was a rather exhausting whirlwind tour of Bohol and the first thing we did on returning to our hotel, was open the birthday wine.