Trip to Bohol, Day 1

I was originally planning on writing a complete travelogue of our trip to the Philippines last Christmas season. After giving it more thought, I decided to just retell the more interesting events and curious aspects of our vacation instead. This way, I wouldn’t be too overwhelmed by the task of writing about our trip. So, here, I’ll talk about our three-day vacation in Bohol.

When we were still living in Manila, we’ve never really ventured too far from Manila. The farthest I’ve been to was Cebu and I did that only once because my Dad used to work in Cebu. In Luzon, the farthest I’ve been was Lucena, Quezon to visit my Tito Pogi’s (aka Teddy) family there. Anyway, Raquel and I wanted to a beautiful and interesting tourist spot in the Philippines that is far from Manila and isn’t Baguio.

The choice came down to the Sagada hanging cemetery or Bohol with its Tarsier and Chocolate Hills. We opted for the latter. I thought I’d rather see the beach, wonderful unique-looking hills and the smallest primate in the world than see a bunch of vandalised coffins hanging from a cliff wall. Although, I was told that despite the vandalism, the hanging cemetery still looks cool. Still, I wanted the less depressing option.

We booked our flight from Manila to Tagbilaran City (Bohol’s capital) two days after our arrival in Manila from Melbourne. We wanted a couple of days in Manila to do some additional shopping for things we might need for our stay in Bohol. We also had our Australian Dollars exchanged for Philippine Peso so that we’d have some local currency to use when we get to Bohol.

Wanting to see the inside of the newer NAIA2 (the international and domestic airport apparently reserved only for Philippine Airline flights and its affiliates), we picked Philippine Airlines return flights. It was only at the airport after my parents dropped us off that I realised that we have forgotten to bring a few things with us. We didn’t have our usual identification cards, for example. Fortunately, I still had my Victorian drivers licence with me while Raquel only had a very old ID from when she was still working in Makati (and still single) and a credit card that showed her new surname. Still, the guard at the airport entrance and the check-in personnel both let us through to the terminal. Soon, we’re up in the air.

When the airplane captain announced that we were about to land, Raquel and I both looked out the tiny window of the airplane to see what Bohol was like from the outside. Right then I told Raquel that I wished we had booked for a longer stay than three days. It was beautiful. All the coconut and banana trees and few nipa huts. I love seeing scenery like that. Anything that takes me back to when I was younger while visiting the provinces.

Then the plane landed. We stepped out on to the tarmac. We were at the Tagbilaran airport. However, to my surprise, it was just a relatively small building. It reminded me of a busy bus terminal near Pasay City except smaller. I guess I shouldn’t have been at all surprised. It was a small town after all.

When we walked out of the airport building, we were suddenly approached by this mob of shouting people carrying signs with names of hotels, resorts and people. They were all drivers looking to get passangers. Coming from Manila, I wasn’t at all sure if we could trust these supposed drivers at all. I was fully expecting these people to rip us off. I wanted to take a taxi with a proper meter on it but unfortunately, according to the airport guard, those come in rarely to the airport.

Since we probably wouldn’t be able to get a legit taxi, we sought out a driver that could take us to our hotel, the Alona Palm Beach Resort. The other drivers were at least kind enough to point out the guy who supposedly services our hotel.

The driver, Bong, greeted us and directed us to his car. It was a white sedan that had no special markings to distinguish it from any other private vehicle. When I got in, there wasn’t an identification card hanging from the rear view mirror neither. That got me a little anxious, to be honest. We only have Bong’s word that he works for Alona Palm Beach Resort at that point. While on the road, he called up his office to confirm that we are heading for the hotel. That certainly help lessen my anxiety about our situation. He also loved telling jokes and that helped, too.

During the trip to the hotel, I noticed how the roadside slowly became less and less uninhabited. First there were buildings then next there were just nipa huts and old houses made of wood in view. For a moment, I feared that we were going to be abducted and held for ransom or something. Well, thank God it was just me being a worrywart because soon, we were pulling into the resort driveway.

Apparently, we were too early having gotten there at about 10 AM. The room we had booked won’t be ready until 2 PM. In the meantime, we were supposed to just hang around the lobby while we wait for our room to be vacated and cleaned. That’s a four hour wait that we would rather not waste sitting around. We left our bags with reception and then we headed straight for the beach with the intent to explore the surroundings.

Near the beach, we noticed a groundskeeper eyeing us from afar while he was sweeping the ground. Actually, he pretended not to be looking but I caught him several times eyeing us. He was slowly sweeping towards our direction until he was only a few feet away from us. He stopped, looked around suspiciously, then looked at us.

“Uh-oh,” I thought. This could be trouble.

He continued with his sweeping then said, “Psst! Sir. Do you want a boat ride to Balicasag (island)? Only P1,200, sir.” For a moment there, I thought he was going to offer us something illegal. But then, maybe offering hotel customers boat rides on the side was something that wasn’t allowed for him to do which would explain his suspicious behaviour.

“Sorry, but we don’t have a lot of money with us,” I said. And that was the truth, too. We stupidly left behind the our local cash in Manila.

“Ah, ok. How about P1,000, sir?” he asked. Although we weren’t haggling with him, it was an interesting offer nonetheless. Either way, we were telling him the truth. We didn’t have a lot of money and we would rather spend that on the tour the next day. We had contracted Bong the driver to show us the sights the next day for only P2,000. That’s actually cheap since there were only the two of us and we have him booked for the whole day.

We said no again to the groundskeeper and continued to follow the path along the beach. From where we were, the path seemed to go through a bunch of nipa huts. We followed the path wanting to explore what was beyond the huts when a couple of ladies dressed in a white coat and white pants intercepted us. What was it now, I wondered.

“Sir, do you like a shiatsu massage?” one of the lady asked. If we were just going to be fending off people left and right as we walk the path, we might as well just head back to the hotel. And that’s what we did.

We ate lunch at the hotel restaurant (which was a bit expensive but, hey, it’s a hotel) then just sat at the reception area to wait for our room. It was warm and we were tired. I couldn’t help but fall asleep right there. I must’ve been snoring loudly or otherwise embarassing the hotel personnel there because we were informed at about 12 noon that our room was finally ready. Yes!

The room was spacious and gorgeous. And, most imporantly, it had airconditioning. We just spent the rest of the afternoon holed up in that room. We only came out again after dark for dinner. Again, we had our dinner at the hotel restaurant but this time, it was by the swimming pool. It was a romantic ambiance with the pool glowing blue while Christmas lights where hung from the coconut trees. The food we ordered was actually delicious but still quite expensive.

When we finished our meal, we decided to try walking around the beach again. I was hoping that since it was already dark, there wouldn’t be a lot of people who would be hassling us. I was right. We were able to go past the nipa huts without anybody trying to sell us something. And what lay beyond the nipa huts were more resorts!

As it turned out, there were a lot of resorts along Alona beach and Alona Palm was just the farthest one. So, when we walked along the beach, we were able to see what the other resorts were like. All of them had this barrio fiesta feel to them. There were bands playing, people grilling seafood and having drinks or simply enjoying the atmosphere. We then realised that we could’ve saved some money if we had eaten our lunch and dinner in one of the restaurants along the beach. Darn.

At least, we also found out that there was an information centre along the beach where we could access the Internet and have our Australian dollars exchanged for Pesos. And we also learned that there was a cheaper place where we could have dinner next time.

After spending a couple of hours by the beach, we returned to the hotel. We don’t want to tire ourselves too much because we’re supposed to get up early the next day for the whole day tour with Bong. I’ll just continue the story in another post.

Published in: on February 5, 2007 at 1:41 am  Comments (4)