Sunday, October 28, 2007

Weekend's Business Holiday: When Nature Calls in Bohol, Philippines

The famous kissing scene between Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr in the 1953 movie 'From Here to Eternity', on the sandy beach amid crashing surf, has immortalised itself in popular culture. During Valentine, couples can relieve that scene in the great outdoors - captivating, rippling terrain, luxuriant greenery, teeming wildlife, exotic marine life and turquoise waterways - and make their getaway a memorable and passionate one.

Let you be guided to the tropical sanctuary of Bohol to find solitude, serenity, and a diverse beauty of endless splendid paradise of the East.

Nestled in the heart of the Central Visayas, and located approximately 800 km south of Manila and 80 km northeast of Cebu, the province of Bohol is the tenth largest island in the Philippines. It is only a brief 75-minute flight from Manila, yet its pristine beaches, lush scenery and leisurely pace set it worlds apart from the throngs of humanity and relentless drone of traffic that characterize the Philippine capital.

Sun-Kissed Beaches

Pristine beaches and breathtaking sunsets are a staple of Bohol. Miles of white sand and clear blue waters are just waiting to be enjoyed by keen photographers in the never-ending pursuit for the postcard-perfect tropical image. Some of the unspoled beaches (Alona, Dumaluan and Momo) can be found on Panglao Island, which is joined to the mainland by a short bridge. Countless colourful outrigger boats dot the flawless ocean landscape and make interesting subjects in their own right. And the evening sunsets are often brilliant, casting strokes of ginger, crimson and violet across the night sky.

Natural Landscapes

Next to the white sand beaches, Bohol's signature attraction is its 1,268 dome-shaped grass-covered limestone hills. Sprinkled across six local communities, and ranging in height from 40 to 120 meters, they are affectionately known as the Chocolate Hills because they dry up and turn brown during Bohol's dry summers, resembling rows upon rows of Hershey's Chocolate Kisses. This unique geological landmark is a National Geographical Monument, and from the lookout point more than 200 steps above ground, the hills make for a one-of-a-kind panorama.

Another wonderful way to spend a few hours is aboard one of the many native, covered rafts that cruise up and down the palm-fringed banks of the Loboc River. This idyllic ride takes around two hours, and includes a delicious lunch of local delicacies with the added attraction of a Filipino trio who perform lively renditions of old rock and roll favourites.

Exotic Jungle and Marine Wildlife

Not far from the capital city of Tagbilaran is Corella Town, home to a unique nature refuge providing sanctuary to the Tarsier, the world's smallest - and oldest - known mammal. Believed to have existed for more than 45 million years, this tiny nocturnal primate measures a mere four to five inches, with a tail longer than its body. Tarsier conservation experts are present to explain the characteristics and behavior of this small creature, as well as provide information about the protection efforts of the shelter. The Tarsier is a rare find, particularly in its natural habitat, and certainly an attraction for nature and animal tourists.

Sea lovers will also enjoy scouting for playful Spinner dolphins and majestic Toothed and Baleen whales while on an outrigger boat ride southeast of Tagbilaran. Led by crews of former whale hunters - who are now employed as whale spotters - the adventure also includes swimming and snorkeling in the crystal clear waters.

Age-Old Architecture and Significant Historical

Bohol is a destination steeped in a centuries-old history that would be of particular interest to architecture lovers and history buffs alike. Located in the town of Baclayon, the Church of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, a magnificent structure and relic of the Philippines' Spanish history, is one of the country's oldest Catholic churches. Erected in 1727 by the first Spanish missionaries to settle in the region, the cathedral is constructed from coral culled from the sea and cut into rectangular blocks. Legend suggests that the 200 Filipino labourers who raised the church used the whites of a million eggs to cement these bricks together.

No comments: