Sunsets. The illusion either above the horizon or below it. When day and night are linked in a way that cannot be one without the other, yet they cannot exist at the same time. - Ebelsain Villegas
The thing about travel is that once you start, it doesn't seem to end. It takes you on a whirlwind ride across the earth, the ocean, and the sky and when you finally think that you've reached the last island - the final frontier - you see another island just a bit farther away almost like how the horizon never ends.
The opportunity to finally travel outside Luzon presented itself as a text in the wee hours of a random day back in February when one of our friends booked us promo plane tickets to Cebu. It's another one of those barkada outings but a bit more special because it was a chance for him to take us to his home province - Bohol. Fast forward to a few months later, on a rainy Thursday evening, we finally set off for the trip.
Doing things for the first time can sometimes be nerve-wracking but with the company of friends these moments usually turn into enjoyable and, oftentimes, funny moments. Aside from my first trip to the airport turning into a zombie fest because we arrived too early for our 4 AM flight we did have a few good laughs from our friends' reactions inside the plane cabin during take off and on the final descent. Sadly, I wasn't able to snap a photo of the high altitude sunrise because my seat was in the middle aisle. I could only catch glimpses of the view from the window and just as I was about to move to one of the empty seats by the window the "fasten seat belt" sign lit up.
We arrived at Mactan airport on a rainy morning. Upon landing we rented a van to Pier Uno since the plan was to catch the first Supercat ferry trip to Tagbilaran, Bohol but it was about to depart when we arrived. We just bought tickets for the next one and used the waiting time to fill our tummies and to get some much needed sleep.
Just like the plane ride it was also my first time riding a big ferry so everything was new to me. I still wasn't used to the security protocols (almost the same as that of the airport). It was also good that I have switched to a more minimalist style of travelling which meant I didn't have to carry so many bags. I still have a long way to go (my backpack weighed six kilograms flat) and will try to optimize my travel gear until I can decrease it to about four kilos of stuff that's good enough for a whole week or even more.
The whole cruise from Cebu to Bohol took about an hour. It was nice to just sit back and relax while everything else passed by. I quite enjoyed looking at the view through the window where I saw a nearly sunken ship near a boardwalk, a white object that looked like a shrine, and an airplane taking off from Tagbilaran Airport.
Based on our itinerary we will be renting a van (to be driven by one of our companions) for the whole duration of our stay in Bohol but there was a minor setback concerning the van that was provided so we had to exchange it for a better one. After everything was sorted out we finally set out to discover what the island had to offer.
On a fateful day back in 2013 Bohol was rocked to the core by a massive earthquake which caused devastation throughout the whole island. Four years later, the damages caused by the calamity are still pretty evident especially in the bridges and churches some of which are still under construction.
On the eve of our departure for Cebu, Leyte was rocked by a strong earthquake. Bohol and Cebu also felt tremors. All throughout the trip, Leyte had numerous aftershocks that also reached the nearby islands. The main effect of the quake was a major power outage in Bohol. However, this seems to be a regular occurrence as all of the accommodations that we went to had their own generators.
Our first stop was the Loboc River Cruise Floating Restaurant. We were already quite famished at this point of the journey so an eat-all-you-can buffet was a blessing even for someone like me who isn't a big fan of buffets. The cruise stops at certain platforms wherein performers showcase the local music and dance.
Before going to the cruise I saw a lot of signs advertising some sort of firefly watching activity being offered as part of the tourism campaign. I tried researching about it when I got back home and found out that it does take a bit of effort to see them. As part of the conservation efforts, visitors are also not allowed to go near the dwelling places of the fireflies. It reminded me of a fond memory back when I attended my cousin's wedding in Maria Aurora, Aurora province. We were hanging out outside one evening when fireflies just appeared out of nowhere. It was a sight to behold and we could freely interact with the insects, that is, until my aunt told us that when there is a swarm of fireflies then there is bound to be a ghost nearby.
We had a quick stop at the man-made forest en route to the Loboc Tarsier Conservation Area. I didn't realize that having your picture taken on that road was such a life-threatening activity. It is one of the main roads that leads up to the Chocolate Hills so there was almost always a vehicle passing by.
I did a bit of research about the Loboc Tarsier Conservation Area while drafting this blog post and it turns out that there were a lot of old blog posts warning readers not to visit the place because it is not a government-recognized conservation area and because they kept the tarsiers in cages. A little more digging up revealed that the place has been banned from caging the creatures some years ago. Whether they keep the creatures at night and only display them in the morning is a question that remains to be confirmed but it is up to the local government and the agencies involved to take the necessary measures. The place and its staff does need to be more strict in implementing the 'silence' policy especially on the areas where the tarsiers are so carefully placed.
The Chocolate Hills view deck was our last scheduled stop for the day. Reaching the actual view deck required one to go up a flight of stairs which has quite a number of steps. It was funny overhearing some of the comments/complaints from the other tourists. Thankfully, the sun was already way past its zenith and was slowly making its way to the horizon so we didn't have to suffer too much from the heat.
Fun fact: I had always thought the Chocolate Hills were just teeny-tiny mounds of earth. I always saw them in low-quality pictures inside text books and in cheap posters thinking that the greenery around them were just tall grasses and shrubs. Imagine my surprise when I first saw a high quality photo of the hills.
We had to leave soon because we had to reach our accommodation before night fall. The road was a winding path across hills and mountains. We almost had to go back because of a muddy section on the road but thankfully it wasn't a long stretch of road so we just pushed on with caution. It did take us quite a long time to pass through the mountain region. Most of us also needed a rest room break so we stopped by Jagna, Bohol where I enjoyed watching soccer players doing training on the grass field near the Municipal Hall while my peers enjoyed eating street food.
It was already late when we reached the resort but we did make it in time before the resort kitchen closed so we ordered food upon checking in and then cleaned up ourselves before having a marvelous dinner. I was already quite exhausted so I went straight to bed afterwards while the others stayed for a bottle of beer or two.
The others were already enjoying the private beach and the infinity pool when I woke up from slumber. Famished, we ordered breakfast and enjoyed the scenery as we waited for the food.
It is, by far, one of the best resorts that I've been to. All the facilities are well-kept and the food was exceptionally delicious. Sadly, we could only stay for one night because we had to move on to the next destination - Talibon - our friend's hometown.
We stopped over at Anda, Bohol's public beach before going to Talibon. The beach wasn't in its best shape during our visit but we still stayed for a bit and enjoyed drinking fresh buko juice before heading out.
Just like the previous day, it was already night time when we reached our next accommodation. We just dumped our stuff on the rooms and then we were off to our friend's parents' house where we were treated to a sumptuous seafood dinner.
We discussed a lot of things after eating and one thing that really stuck to me was how the Catholic influence on the people of Bohol, or even Cebu for that matter, is so strong that most of them do not believe in superstitions. Although Catholicism is prevalent in my home province - La Union - superstitions are still widely observed especially on major events like birthdays, weddings, and funerals so hearing of a place where people didn't believe them was quite a surprise.
The group decided to move to a new accommodation the next day due to the current one's sub par facilities. After having breakfast by the bay we were off packing baggages and buying food and other necessary items. The new resort is in an island far from the mainland so we had to have enough food to last until the boat comes back to pick us up the next morning.
The island was quite far so it took us quite a while to get there. I saw a lot of amusing sights on the way and was enthralled by this phenomenon wherein some of the distant islands looked like they had a mirror reflection. They also seemed to be floating above the water. I googled it a couple of days after getting back home and found out that it was a form of mirage called Fata Morgana which is the Italian name for Morgan le Fay, a character from the Arthurian legends.
Upon reaching the resort we immediately set up the table and had lunch so we could go see the sandbar nearby before sun down. We reached the sandbar in time for the sunset and had a blast taking group photos and admiring the 360 degree view.
The moon was already making its way across the night sky when we returned to the resort. It was already quite late when we finished eating dinner. The others still wanted to have a bit of alcohol so I just excused myself and headed to our room for some sleep. On the wee hours after midnight we packed our bags and headed back to the mainland. We had a lot of distance to cover so we hurriedly left Talibon bound for Tagbilaran. We didn't get enough sleep so most of us were listless on the ferry ride back to Cebu.
The group decided to hire a van and do a bit of sight-seeing before going to the airport. Due to time constraints we were only able to squeeze in a quick visit to Fort San Pedro, Magellan's Cross, and Museo Sugbo. We then proceeded to SM City Cebu for lunch and then took a shuttle bus to Mactan Airport.
I have read a lot of travel blog posts saying that Visayans, in general, ignore Tagalog speakers. Many reasons are given but the most common one is that they are very proud of their own language and, as a non-native Tagalog speaker, I don't think I can argue with that. I tried to listen to them carefully on several occasions and observed something - they sounded like they were singing. Maybe that's one of the reasons why Visayans are known as good singers. If anything else it made me realize just how inarticulate I am at my own native language, Ilocano, and how I have taken it for granted. I did manage to confirm something else. Saying you are from Manila might get you ignored but saying you are from Baguio does the exact opposite.
Every time my friends ask me why I don't live and work in Manila I always say that I'd rather live and work in Cebu. When I finally visited the place, I knew I was right. Our little tour was quite short so I do plan on coming back in the future to experience the province in a more intimate level.
I had almost forgotten the feeling of being catapulted away from my comfort zone and I had also almost forgotten the feeling of travelling at my own pace and just doing the things that really interest me. I usually try to blend in like a local. Nevertheless, the trip proved to be an endearing one as I got a little taste of what the South has to offer. Despite the lack of sleep and rest, the constant travelling on the road, the lingering blackout throughout the whole island, and the many delays, all I can say in the end is, "It was worth it."