The Island of Friendship

It may be the island in the Visayas Region where residents know each other. They greet each other as if they have known one for such a long time. The locals greet the many of the foreigners who step onto the island with a sweet hello.

Welcome to Bohol, the Island of Friendship.

We started our tour sailing along the kilometers-long Loboc River while having our lunch on a floating restaurant. The river looked so similar with South America’s Amazon River as it is capped between two high hills. It’s almost as if the Lockness Monster is about to show up!

They served a buffet lunch on a floating restaurant made up of two boats connected by a raft. The desserts were delicious including the rice cake (puto) and the rice wrap covered in latik (suman). The taste goes from the tongue and crawls down to the throat. Perfect for people with sweet tooth, only it is native.

The boat stopped in front of a nipa hut like for the tourists to see the performance of a group of locals — among them are children, adults, and elderly — in a rondalla ensemble. They were like males serenading a lady.

While the rondalla played tunes of Lady Gaga’s Pokerface and welcome songs of Bohol, the kids danced to the music’s rhythm.

They also showed off their skills in dancing tinikling to the tourists. Some of the tourists even stepped onto the nipa hut to dance with the locals.

The lunch won’t be complete without songs from a local singer singing tunes of the old times. He made the experience even more exciting with his voice while tourists look at the beauty of the river.

From Loboc, we went north to Bilar where the magnificent man-made Mahogany forest is found. Its wonder will make you think you are one of the characters in the Twilight series. This is my first favorite on the whole duration of our trip.

From Bilar, we headed straight to Carmen to meet the famous Chocolate Hills. The hills turn green during the rainy season and brown during the sunny season because the it is when the soil turns moist.

Reaching the height where one could have a nice view of the hills takes 214 stair steps. It’s good for those looking for a place to hike and to tone up their muscles.

After visiting the hills, we headed to the home of the tarsiers, the conservation area. According to our tourist, there were conservation areas before but since the government ruled out that ordinary people won’t be allowed to breed tarsiers, only one conservation site was provided for them.

Tarsiers are tiny adorable entities. They are awake at night as they hunt for food and asleep during the morning. We visited the site and saw them at their sleeping form. While they are asleep,  their hearing senses become so strong that they jerk at the smallest sound they hear.

I saw a pregnant tarsier. Tarsiers bear offspring(s) as little as one man’s thumb. A mother wcarries her offspring for an average of six months.

We headed back to Tagbilaran City to see  the marker of the blood compact between Rajah Sikatuna and Miguel Lopez de Legazpi in the Bool district of Tagbilaran City.

The statue sits just meters away from the shorelines and it’s nice to see the monument from the national road as if you a native trying to get a good picture of the Spaniards coming toward the shore.

The blood compact, according to the tourist guide, never really happened on the coastlines but rather Rajah Sikatuna came inside the galleon to slash his chest, not his wrist, and mix the small amount of blood with the wine for them to drink. It’s a fact and it’s true!

Though Bohol won’t win against Boracay island, it is also home to some of the country’s most beautiful beaches. The sands are white and the water is clear, enough to see the corals beneath.

From Panglao island, we travelled by sea through a boat to Balicasag island, a small island just south of Panglao. I could say we were like castaways in the reality show as we neared the island.

Travelling by sea has never been easy for seafarers but they got used to it. They bring tourists into different islands everyday. They are great meditators. Imagine a 30-minute to 45-minute travel by sea, still depending on the weather, with you only hearing the noisy sound of the motor rumbling. They would stare at a distance and feel the peace brought by the sea.

We were like Spaniards on an expedition to see an island of wonder, in history’s case, the Spice Island. What lies there still awaits to be unfolded.

As we neared the island, one of the boatmen began to stand up and wade through the sea using the long bamboo stick. He did it everyday, and repeatedly until the boat reached the shores.

The island was small. Many trees of different species covered much part of the island. We took our lunch there. Purely fresh seafoods, fishes, and squid. I remember how it tastes like the underwater that indicates its freshness and until the time I am writing this post, the aftertaste still looms on the throat.

One of my favorite parts of the trip was the snorkeling experience. I was a fish for a day experiencing the life underwater. It made me realize how vast the world is present under out toes, that fishes may be living in a more wonderful and beautiful world than ours.

The only problem was the issue of coral bleaching. Because the corals are touched by men, they gradually freeze to death and never live again. That’s the sad part.

When we went back to Balicasag Island to take our lunch, it made me realize how great the survivors were on this island. Even electricity is rationed in this island. At night, they would only experience lights from 6 p.m. to 12 a.m., so they better get in their beds as early as possible.

When my younger brother had his knee slit by the dead corals which used to be sharp and pointed, there were no alcohols or betadines on the island. One of the locals picked out a leaf and pinched it so as to release a small drop of viscous liquid. She said it would make the wound heal faster.

I was amazed by how the residents of the island lived on their own. I even saw one girl spending her leisure time not with a television, but with a Tagalog romance book while an old song played on the background with the mobile phone.

I got to say I have to thank the Spaniards and the Americans for occupying the country. Because if they haven’t discovered the Philippines, the world wouldn’t see the beauty within.

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