There were times over the past two years when no one would have thought they would be able to see blue seas, high mountains, lush fields and vibrant flowers off their computer screens.
Even a simple desktop background that has been around for so long went viral on social media with netizens sarcastically asking: “Nakarating na ba ang lahat dito (Has everyone been here already)?”
Now that a new normal is being practiced, many things are seeing the light of day.
Employees are being asked to report back to the office, but for certain days only; public places are filling up with people who are sick and tired of the four walls of their homes; and international acts are announcing tour dates, several even, in the country.
Everything is almost back to the way it was, just masked up and spraying hand sanitizers from time to time.
Tourism is also being boosted, specifically local travel. The Philippine government sees this as a big contribution to uplifting the economy.
For one, the Department of Tourism Region 7 is presenting one of its prized provinces — Bohol.
Residents of the metro and nearby provinces may opt for Cebu Pacific (CEB) which carries seven flights to the island daily. For Davaoeños, CEB flies to Bohol from Davao thrice a week — Wednesday, Friday and Sunday.
While Bohol is known for the majestic Chocolate Hills and adorably wide-eyed Tarsiers, the province has more to offer than the aforementioned.
This writer had the amazing opportunity of revisiting Bohol — the first being years ago as a child. We were even lucky enough to visit in July, just in time for the Sandugo Festival.
Greeted by the most perfect weather for exploring the island, we went ahead and ticked off our itinerary after settling and having lunch at Bluewater Panglao Beach Resort.
If my memory serves me right, my family and I went on the usual Bohol tour. This one, however, went beyond Chocolate Hills, highlighting four Fs: Farm, Fork, Fitness and Faith.
For the farm and food aspect, we visited the Green Thumb Farm in the town of Corella. We were welcomed by the owners Jares and Rona Denque. The latter is also known as the Queen of Cultured Mushrooms for her vast cultivation of mushrooms on her lot.
The farm also houses the Al Fresco restaurant where they serve the usual meals burger, sisig, pizza, among others. The catch is mushrooms and how it’s incorporated in all the dishes.
Adding to this, plus the fitness aspect, was our visit to the Fox & The Firefly Cottages in Loboc. It is beautifully situated near the famous Loboc River where tourists seek the floating restaurants.
This property owned by yoga instructor Joan Christine Soupart boasts of the fitness aspect of the ‘beyond Chocolate Hills’ tour as it offers fitness activities such as
stand-up paddling and yoga.
Food & Fables Café is its restaurant that serves healthy meals and beverages. We were served chicken halang-halang soup, monggo, maranding manok, chili shrimps, vegan kare-kare, somtom salad, among others.
Then there is also Crescencia Café in Baclayon. It’s a café incorporated under an ancestral home that was built in the 1900s.
There, we were introduced to Boholanons’ take on biko with a twist — ube cheese. Among its ingredients is the Asin-Tibook, an artisanal sea salt.
One of its creators, Asinan ni Tan Inong managed by his grandson, can be found in Alburquerque. They create through a process that has been passed down through generations.
Finally, there is Julio’s Bed and Breakfast in Loay ran by Pio Araneta, formerly a physical therapist in the US who decided to return home and run the family business.
Araneta gave a glimpse of his childhood by sampling Siakoy which is comparable to a donut and churro. Pairing it with Tableya Sikwate, a rich hot chocolate drink, was chef’s kiss!
Also in the area were makers of Calamay, a Bohol delicacy.
Araneta showed us how he caught Kagang or land crabs with a traditional bamboo trap, also a pastime of his as a child.
Kagang cooked with coconut meat is an heirloom delicacy.
Spotlighting spiritual heritage makes sense when touring Bohol as the island is home historic churches. For this tour, we were able to visit three: Baclayon Church, Dauis Church and Loboc Church.
These churches are proof of Boholanons’ resiliency as some of these spiritual buildings have gone through tumultuous calamities that rendered it destroyed. Yet, it continues to thrive through the meticulous hands of the locals and visitors.
Amarela Resort, a boutique resort in Panglao, was also among our stops.
Apart from being a tranquil space, it also houses traditional Boholanon furniture as well as an art gallery that offers a glimpse of their cultural and spiritual heritage through antiques and art pieces by renowned Boholanon artists.
Finally, there is the legitimate site of the blood compact between Miguel Lopez de Legazpi and Datu Sikatuna just off the highway of Loay.
On our last (and extra) day on the island, we visited Best Western Plus Ivywall Resort Panglao managed by Yvonne Villacorte.
The property is situated on the coast of the famous Alona Beach, perfect for tourists yearning for vitamin D and sea.
Seeing the island with these older, more experienced eyes is an adventure unlike any other. After all the anxiety and stress caused by the pandemic, this trip is a much-needed solace, good for the soul.
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