Where to go in Bohol Philippines?
I arrived in Tagbilaran City, the capital of the central Philippine province of Bohol on a gloomy morning just before a signal #2 typhoon was about to hit the island. Not the coming storm nor the fact that a 7.2 magnitude earthquake struck the island only some 3.5 months back seemed to deter the throngs of people, mostly holiday-goers from coming. Prior to my trip, I had wondered myself whether I could still get a decent experience traveling around Bohol given the pictures I had previously seen of churches lying in rubble, impassable roads and landslides on the famed Chocolate Hills.
Bohol is very much open for business
The short answer is that yes – you can still pretty much get a hassle-free and uninterrupted trip around Bohol and still cover the overwhelming majority of the sights. On a clear day, the verdant or parched mounds that are the Chocolate Hills continue to enchant. This being said, not everything is hunky dory. Many of Bohol’s heritage churches still lay in ruins and will probably take years to rebuild.
2 Days in Post-Quake Bohol
My trip to Bohol lasted through the lunar new year long weekend, which meant that flights and lodgings were more packed than usual. I split my time between Panglao and the main island of Bohol. Both were great and seemed to complement each other – Panglao for its white sand beaches and Bohol itself for the green countryside, rice paddies and of course, the Chocolate Hills.
Day 1 – Panglao
my beachfront resort at panglao
I had arrived from Manila at mid-day which meant I only had the afternoon to see Panglao. Most people who come here make a stop at Alona Beach, but as it was raining and I was staying in a beachfront resort anyway, I decided to skip this. However, I was still afforded a glimpse of the main street which has sort of become like a traveler’s haven in Bohol not too different from Bali’s Kuta.
interiors of the st. agustin church in panglao
Also, while many of Bohol’s churches have been destroyed, the St. Agustin Church in Panglao still stands marvelously on a wide expanse. The interiors are quite impressive, with painted murals on the ceiling and brown, moorish tiles on the floor.We also made a stop at the Hinagdanan Caves which is located not too far from the church. The cavern is lit only by the sunlight piercing through a few holes at the top of the cave, and is complemented by a deep pool. Entrance here was something like 20 or 25 pesos. The stalactite and stalagmite formations in the cave are quite stunning though I found it too dark to see much.
awe-inspiring sunrise at panglao
Panglao is also notable for its many (tourist-centered) restaurants. A vast majority are found in the vicinity of Alona Beach though one frequented by travelers here is Bohol Bee Farm which prides itself on serving organic food. We availed of the buffet which was around 550 pesos per pax and included specialties such as honey-glazed chicken, seafood lasagna, pork ribs and organic salad. Overall, I thought it was okay but for the price, I thought some restaurants over in Tagbilaran City offered better value.
Day 2 – Bohol Island
slippery walk down the falls
Our second day was really jampacked, as we crammed our trip around the Bohol mainland in one day. It was an early start in the morning for the Mag-aso Falls over at the town of Antequera around 20 kilometers from Tagbilaran. It had poured heavily the night before and the otherwise turquoise pools were brown, with the waterfalls making a bigger splash than usual. The entrance fee of around 20 pesos came with a guide, who explained to us that the earthquake actually changed the water flow.