Eager to get away from the mundane elements of everyday life in the city for a weekend of laid–back fun, my friends and I decided to take advantage of promo fares and package tours and decided to take a trip to a place that has always been at the top of our list: the island paradise of Bohol.
We have always wanted to go to Bohol, with its beautiful beaches, lush greenery, exotic wildlife, old churches, and colorful history. Shying away from the typical hotel and beach club setups, we came across the website of Bohol Bee Farm (www.boholbeefarm.com), located in Dao, Dauis, on Panglao Island, and decided to avail of their comprehensive tour package, which included accommodations, food, a tour around the farm, a visit to Bohol’s famous tourist attractions, and dolphin watching.
fter a 20-minute ride from the Tagbilaran airport, we reached Bohol Bee Farm, which turned out to be a hidden sanctuary perched on a cliff facing the beach. The sweet smell of herbs, flowers, and baking bread filled our nostrils as we alight from the vehicle and were led to a delightfully rustic log cabin. Spacious and set with high ceilings, our accommodations were cozy and had a homey feel with a woodsy fragrance, with thoughtful anointments, such as a set of batik robes and native slippers, bee–themed ornaments, woven mats and raffia shades, sea shells, and even a selection of novels.
We then went down Bee Farm’s winding paths to the dining area nestled among blooming foliage, where a sumptuous lunch was set out for us -- the first of many mouthwatering organic meals we would have for the next four days, a heaping table with thick slices of camote bread and a selection of homemade honey butter, mango, and pesto spreads; iced lemongrass tea; organic salad (with edible flowers) with Bee Farm honey–mustard dressing; seafood soup; vegetarian pasta; brown rice; grilled marlin; honey glazed chicken; and farm fresh buko ice cream.
We then proceeded to take a tour of the Bee Farm. Ronell, who was conducting the farm tours, led us to the herb garden where we were introduced to the different herbs grown on the farm: fennel; dill; coriander; basil; sage; and lemongrass.
"Each herb has a distinctive smell and flavor, which really spices up the ordinary meal," Ronell explained as he broke off sprigs of herbs and handed them out to us. He also pointed out to us the different flowers they used for their salads, like bougainvillea, hibiscus, cosmos, and marigolds.
He then led us to the beehive, to tell us more about bees and the honey–making process.
"The bees fly out to different flowers to suck the nectar out, then go back to the hive to pass the nectar on to the worker bees, the drones. The drones then digest this nectar and spread it through the honeycombs, where the honey is formed as water evaporates from the nectar and thickens as the drones fan it with their wings," noted Ronell, as he took out a frame buzzing with bees from the hive, and guided our fingers through the honeycomb to get a taste of fresh honey. "We breed the European honey bee, which yields 10 times more honey than that of the local (Asiatic) wild honey bee."
We were also toured around Bohol Bee Farm’s handicraft facility, where dried raffia is colored and woven into different items, such as placemats, curtains, slippers, and bags.
"Aside from farming, this is one of the livelihood activities that the Bee Farm staff are encouraged to take up, as an act of giving back to the communities on the island," states Ronell.
Out and about Bohol
The next few days were spent getting to know Bohol and its various attractions for tourists:
This is Bohol’s signature attraction, made of about 1,268 haycock–shaped hills around Central Bohol. The grass-covered limestone hills dry up and turn brown during the summer, hence its famous title. Two of the hills have been developed into a resort, with a complex that offers lodging, conference rooms, restaurants, and a view deck..
Loboc-Bilar man-made forest
In the 1960s, in conjunction with a nationwide reforestation program launched by then president Diosdado Macapagal, thousands of mahogany seedlings were planted on a cleared area of 857.4 hectares of the Bilar and Loboc towns, which have now grown into a forest of tall hardwoods growing along the side of the road, which often prompt tourists to take pictures right along the highway.
The Simply Butterflies Conservation Center in Bilar showcases an exhibit of different moths and butterflies, as well as a sanctuary for live butterflies. Knowledgeable guides take you around the sanctuary, explaining the life cycle of the butterfly and pointing out different species of butterflies, as well as their cocoons and caterpillars.
"Prony," the 11–year-old, 23–foot, 200 kg female python, is the star of this tourist attraction in Albur (short for Alburquerque), and is one of the biggest, longest, and heaviest pythons in captivity all over the world, capable of swallowing a 50–lb pig whole in a single feeding. The sanctuary also houses other interesting animals, such as three–toed sloths, a bald eagle, kingfishers, and other exotic birds.
The main attraction is a lunchtime boat ride along the riverbanks, passing by the river’s dense vegetation and waterfalls. The boat is a roofed, bamboo platform mounted on two bancas, pushed from behind by a small motorboat.
One of the oldest stone churches in the Philippines, this massive edifice still retains its centuries–old design, with a museum that houses various relics dating back to the early 16th century, including relics of St. Ignatius of Loyola, old gold embroidered ecclesiastical vestments, books with carabao skin covers, and librettos of church music written in Latin on sheep skins. Here you can also find the cuadro paintings made by the Filipino painter Liberato Gatchalian in 1859.
These tiny mammals, endemic to Bohol and other parts of the South, are an endangered species believed to be 45 million years old. Measuring about four to six inches in height, the tarsier is characterized by its huge goggling eyes and membranous ears on a round head that can rotate 180 degrees, grayish brown fur, padded fingers and a long, thin tail. Tarsiers are commonly found near other tourist attractions, such as Loboc, at captive displays with DENR permits, but the Philippine Tarsier Foundation has a sanctuary and research and development center in Corella, Bohol.
The Dauis Church is another beautiful church, built in 1697, with Romanesque and Byzantine architecture, decorated with beautiful frescoes in 1916 by a painter named Ray Francia. The patron saint, the Virgin of the Assumption, is believed to possess miraculous powers. Legend has it that when the town was invaded by pirates, the town folks locked themselves inside the church until they ran out of water and provisions. Suddenly a well appeared at the foot of the altar where people started drawing water, which was surprisingly fresh although the well is located only a few meters from the sea. Until today, fresh water still springs from the well at the foot of the church altar. Locals and tourist alike flock to the church to fetch water from the well, as it is believed to have healing powers.
Just 2.5 kilometers from Dauis, a narrow staircase leads down into a surprisingly large cave, with dripping stalagmites and jutting stalactites, and an underground pool
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