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Dive Fiesta in Bohol
Source: Manila Bulletin
Author: Jaser A. Marasigan
Date: 2004-07-29
TAGBILARAN CITY, Bohol – Two of the best dive sites in the country, Panglao and Balicasag islands, recently hosted the Department of Tourism’s (DoT) “Dive Fiesta Philippines” which aims to let tourists, particularly diving aficionados all over the world, to explore and feel the “more than the usual” dive experience that only the country could offer.

At least 40 foreign buyers of dive tours and media from Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan, Japan, Belgium, Canada and USA participated in the “Bohol Dive Fiesta”, together with local dive and resort operators, and dive equipment suppliers particularly from Region VII (Cebu, Bohol, Negros Oriental and Siquijor).

The three-day affair is the first-ever dive event in Central Visayas, highlighting the increasing and well-preserved underwater attractions of the region.

DoT Secretary Roberto Pagdanganan said, “The event is a promotions program that showcases the diversity and unparalleled range of our dive destinations aimed at positioning the country as the ‘Dive Capital of Asia’.”

“Proof of which is when the Philippines bagged various awards in the recent Marine Diving Fair in Japan, including the ‘Best Diving Areas’, ‘Best Diving Resort Hotel’ and ‘Best Dive Operator’,” he added. Marine Diving Fair is Japan’s biggest scuba diving and beach resort travel consumer event.

The travel exchange between dive tour operators and their local counterparts held in Bohol Tropics Resort has produced at least 10 bookings from the Singaporean, Japanese and Taiwanese for Oasis Resort and Atlantis Dive Center, among others.

According to DoT, the number of bookings from other countries like Belgium, USA and Canada is expected to increase in the next few months.

Tony Devolde of Blue Wave Dive Tour from Belgium said that he was overwhelmed by Bohol’s marine diversity that he pledged to sell Bohol dive tour packages to Belgian divers upon returning to his country.

A wide range of fiesta-inspired activities and thematic events were also held like video presentations of Bohol’s underwater sites and wide range of aquatic organisms, tours to nearby dive sites and other tourist attractions.

Lying in the heart of Visayas between Cebu to the northwest and Leyte to the northeast, Bohol is pleasantly gifted with tourism potentials which are both natural and historical.

Topping Bohol’s natural tourism assets are the wondrous Chocolate Hills (an hour-and-a-half away from Tagbilaran City), which have drawn thousands of foreign and domestic tourists.

These perfectly cone-shaped hills, which abound more in Central Bohol are the only ones in the world. A few of the hills have been developed into resorts. On top of the hill are two youth hostels with a conference room, cozy cottages with rooms, swimming pool and tennis court. While on top of the second hill is an observation deck with 213 concrete steps. Once on top, one can view the exquisite panorama of hills spreading as far as the eyes can see.

The tarsier, a favorite subject of scientific researches, is considered as the smallest monkey in the world. A midget monkey with big round eyes, measuring from four to five inches, it has a tail longer than its body. Its natural abode is at the hills of Corella.

A few minutes from Tagbilaran is the Baclayon Church, known as the oldest stone-church in the Philippines built by the Jesuits in 1595. This ancient massive edifice retained its century-old architectural design. It houses a museum containing a rich collection of religious art, ecclesiastical vestments and librettos of church music printed in Latin on animal skins.

The Baclayon Museum also has a souvenir shop where they sell among others, the best-tasting toasted “polvoron”. Another souvenir shop can be found at the back of the church where the famed “peanut kisses” are on sale.

A sculpture depicting the Blood Compact between native chieftain Datu Sikatuna and Miguel Lopez de Legaspi, representing the King of Spain, can be found in the secluded barangay of Bool. The Blood Compact on March 16, 1565 is considered as the first treaty of friendship between the brown and white races.

Bohol has four major rivers that serve as drainage and irrigation system of the province. They are Inabanga River and Ipil River in the northern half portion of the province and the Abatan and Loboc rivers in the southern portion. A fascinating boat ride along the serene waters of Loboc River starts from Loay bridge, cruising along palm-fringed banks inland while eating sumptuous buffet lunch, ending near the Tontonan Waterfalls.

Surrounding the island of Bohol are 72 other islets including popular dive sites Panglao and Balicasag.

Panglao, located 30 minutes from Tagbilaran, is a small coralline island near the southwestern tip of Bohol, frequented by tourists because of the beautiful beaches around it. Coral gardens welcome you near the surface which are great for snorkeling. Its warm waters, good visibility and colorful marine finds also attract diving enthusiasts. Its best assets are its steep walls with caves, overhangs and crevices home to abundant fish and other marine life.

Balicasag island is a 30-minute boat ride from Panglao and welcoming visitors is a gigantic billboard of the Philippine Tourism Authority (PTA), which manages the dive resort in the island.

The island boasts of a 400-meter marine sanctuary of healthy corals with plenty of aquatic visitors characterized by vertical walls over deep waters with strong currents. A dive in December or January can offer treats of hammerhead sharks and sometimes whale sharks.

Bohol Dive Fiesta is sponsored by Philippine Airlines (PAL), Cebu Pacific, Mandarin Air, Qatar Airways and Alona Beach Community Foundation.

[ Loboc River Wiki | Alona Beach Wiki | Balicasag Island Wiki | Baclayon Church Wiki ]

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