I went by plane from Manila to the Tagbilaran airport (on the island of Bohol) and took a 6-person plane to Cebu and then took a small plane to Siargao.
Philippines was one of my dreams. I often received photos of paradisiacal beaches and exuberant nature of this exotic country and this made me sure that visiting it would be a success. So it was.
Let's not forget that it is an archipelago of 7,641 islands. It is not easy to choose which ones to visit. There are so many that too high volume is waived. They all have their charm, each gives a different experience to the visitor. By the time I was going to stay there, I could only choose three and you don't know difficult it was for me to decide! One factor that often helps the decision is how ease it is to access the island or movement between the islands. Keep in mind that tourism is concentrated in places as El Nido; but there are many other destinations that are less exploited and access is not so easy.
I think I chose perfect! Bohol, Siargao and Coron. Yes... I gave up El Nido! I listened Bontur's advisers and it was perfect. Bohol gave me wild nature, Siargao a youthful and carefree surfing environment and Coron landscapes that I will never erase from my retina.
In the map link you can see the details of the destinations I visited in Bohol.
Although one of the main tourist attractions on the island is diving in the Panglao area, I went to enjoy its jungle flora in the interior and the curious fauna of the Tarsiers. There are two historical events that marked the people of the island: the earthquake of 2013 and its past from the Spanish era. They are two moments that often appear in the explanations of any historical monument.
I arrived at Tagbilaran Airport from Manila. Luckily I did not analyze it well until the departure, otherwise I would have stayed to live there. Suitcases are weighed with food scales and boarding passes are made by hand. They are not prepared for tourism and what is seen generates a certain insecurity...
A very valuable recommendation: try going to BQ Mall to buy what you need or what you have forgotten. It is a shopping center in the center of Tagbilaran where you can find everything, even sky blue cakes! In the rest of the island it is difficult to find things.
Borja Bridge is one of the two bridges that connect Bohol island with Panglao island. Since I had the hotel in Panglao (there are so many hotels here that it even has an international airport), I crossed it repeatedly and honestly, I found it amazing. It is not pretty, nor is it cared for; but it has a lot of charm and a lot of life. All kinds of vehicles cross the bridge several times a day and all full of people and various materials. The surrounding houses face the river and are in a state of decay, but together with the fishermen's boats give the place a special charm.
As soon as you cross the bridge, you reach the municipality of Dauis. The Church of Our Lady of the Assumption (Dauis Church) is a must-see. It dates back to the 19th century and is awesome. I dare say it is one of the most beautiful churches in Bohol. The interior is very wide and beautiful. I loved the octagonal pyramid shaped dome. The interior, in fact, is curious: austerity on the walls and ceilings with very beautiful paintings and decorations. It is frequented by pilgrims, as they say that the water in the interior has healing powers. The church suffered greatly during the earthquake, but is now in very good condition. It has been rebuilt up to 5 times. The exterior, and without knowing about art, I thought it had a mixture of styles. It is located in a park in front of a very authentic jetty. Nearby is the Dauis Watchtower, which is an observation tower that is closed to visitors. The church and the tower give a majestic air to a somewhat decayed area. I loved the mix.
The next stop is the Hinagdanan Cave. It is a naturally lit cave; the sun's rays filter through the holes in the ceiling. It has a lake in the interior and many stalactites and stalagmites. Honestly, I hate the tourists with the floats and selfie sticks in the lake. Visit that would be perfect without people.
I was lucky to visit Bohol at the beginning of November, this allowed me to live and see their rituals for All Saints' Day or the Day of the Dead. They took me to Panglao Cemetery # 3 and it is one of the visits that impacted me the most. In the cemetery the two social classes are clearly differentiated: those of the lower class and those of the upper-middle class. The first ones have individual graves on the ground or arranged vertically. They carry tents and set up the parade to spend a few days praying for the deceased. The latter ones have little houses built with the graves of all their relatives inside. The houses are closed with bars to prevent anyone from entering in their absence. Ones do not mix with the others; but they all do the same: spend hours sitting eating and drinking keeping company with the deceased.
Very close to the cemetery there are St. Augustine Parish and the Panglao Watchtower. The similarity between this church-tower pair with the pair located in Dauis is very curious. These are visits that I did not have marked on the map to visit, instead, I loved when they took me there. Next door is the Panglao Island Sunset View Boulevard. It is a boulevard between mangroves and palm trees where you can enjoy views of the Bangka (typical Philippine boats).
I stayed at the "Amorita Resort" (which I will post shortly). It is a very cute hotel, highly recommended without being cheap, and it is located on one of the most popular beaches on the island: Alona Beach. The hotel has direct stairs to the long beach. It is of fine white sand. It is full of palm trees, resorts and several water activity centers. It is a place frequented by lovers of diving. I saw a lovely sunset here. Bagobo Beach is another beach accessible from the hotel (with wooden stairs). It's right on the other side and it's the antithesis of Alona. Small, lonely and not so paradisiacal. It has rocks in the sand and it doesn't have a palm tree. However, I loved it. In fact, I spent more time here. The hotel has arranged sun loungers that make time fly by!
One of the most typical visits is the Philippine Tarsier Sanctuary. They are small animals with very round eyes. They fit in the palm of the hand, turn their heads 180º to each side, can jump up to 5 meters, move their ears in the direction of sound, a single eye is bigger than their brain, and they have very long fingers. They are nocturnal animals and it is not good to disturb them during the day. They can commit suicide when they see that they can be captivated. They are solitary and territorial (each of them needs one hectare)... They are very curious, right? They are in danger of extinction. It is true that they have them in a limited space, but the place is very large and the environment is 100% natural. There are informational signs and the guides put a lot of emphasis on respecting silence.
In the middle of the island, right in the center, are the famous Chocolate Hills. It is a geological formation made up of at least 1,268 hills covered with green grass that turns brown in the dry season. Hence their name... they look like mountains of chocolate. If you go with time, take advantage of the visit to see the rice terraces. I had already seen them in Sapa (Vietnam) and I preferred to see other things on the island. The Chocolate Hills are well prepared for tourism. There is a square, not too big, where buses and tourist cars park and where there is a large building with a thousand merchandising products that only those of us from abroad buy. From this square there is a staircase that can only be climbed on foot; in other words, it is not prepared for people with reduced mobility. Most of the hills are between 20 and 50 meters high. The highest is 150. Thanks to this, from the viewpoint above you can see the entire extension! How the hills were formed is a mystery. One of the most popular legends says that two giants fought for days, throwing stones at each other... (really, we made it all up!). Geologists say that these are tough formations of marine limestone laid on mud (this theory I believe more). They can be visited all year round; but always from the viewpoint. I loved.
Sipatan Twin Hanging Bridge are two suspension bridges (40 meters long) that cross the Sipatan River in the municipality of Sevilla. One bridge is one way and another one back. The step is individual. Initially, it was built with bamboo and rope. Today, they have changed the ropes for steel cables to ensure safety. It is a fun experience that makes you enjoy nervous moments (because the bridge moves a lot) in the middle of nature. If I could decide, I would control the accesses. For me, there were too many people. One of the things that I liked the most is the green color of the river. Very intense.
Nearby, but a little further south, is Loboc River Cruise. Here I took a boat to go around the Loboc River. There is a jetty with many boats. They all offer more or less the same; but there are differences between them. There are some that are more exclusive and others are more "touristy". I recommend not getting carried away by the price difference. Since you are here, assess the difference between good food vs bad food, loud music vs live singers, sharing with 50 people vs going alone. We rented a whole boat for ourselves. The walk along the river is wonderful. Giant palm trees that come out of the water make us realize that inland is the jungle. The water is emerald green. The are a lot of tranquility. Other wooden boats slowly pass by, while children can be seen playing on the swings they have made themselves in the palm trees to jump into the river. During the return, I realized that above us, but at a great height, a zip line was crossing (I knew it would be the next visit!). The food on the boat is good. Light, like almost all Asian gastronomy, and very tasty. The return goes up to the Busay Falls. They are tiny, but they are funny. The only stop the boat makes is a stand (entirely set up for tourists) where there are local people dancing traditional dances. I guess I don't have to say I danced, right?
At Loboc Ecotourism Adventure Park I had one of the most spectacular experiences of my life. Climbing a zip line 150 meters high to travel 500 meters above the Loboc River and the jungle was simply awesome. I'm not going to lie you... it's very impressive. It is very close to where the boats are caught. One tour is done with the zip line and the other with a kind of chairlift. On the zip line she is lying face down. The first minutes I assure you that the adrenaline is at full throttle; then I relaxed a bit and got to enjoy the views more. Until the end... I got very nervous again when I saw that the braking system was manual! It was in the hands of a boy... and it was all perfect. Amazing.
The last two visits were to the Baclayon Church and the Blood Compact Shrine. The latter commemorates the peace agreement of the Spanish Miguel López de Legazpi with the leader of Bohol Rajah Sikatuna and they did it by drinking the blood of the other. Very interesting, but after the zip line everything seemed little to me.
A lovely island that has recovered from the 2013 earthquake and is better than ever!
You already know that I follow the Lonely Planet guides. The one from the Philippines is quite good: Filipinas 1 (Guías de País Lonely Planet).
It depends on the type of visit you want to make.
If you just see the visits mentioned in the post, three days are enough. If you want to enjoy the hotel and the beaches, I would double it.