Monday, March 27, 2006

Bohol: More churches and nature in Bohol

For some reason, I wake up earlier when I'm traveling. I guess the excitement pushes you to get out of bed. Hehe! I was up by 6:30 a.m., took a quick shower, then went to the place called the Garden Cafe right by the cathedral which Lonely Planet had suggested. A themed restaurant, I didn't have the chance to explore their food that much. But what surprised me was their staff. When I got in, I was given a menu, a piece of paper and a ballpen. Hmmmm, so they don't take the orders. It turns out, most of the staff are deaf and mute! At least we have establishments like these in the country. Good job!

I then rushed to start my itinerary for the day. Took a minicab to the Integrated Central Terminal where jeeps and buses out of Tagbilaran are stationed. That was just PHP6. From the ICT, I took a jeep to the next town which was Baclayon. The Church of the Immaculate Concepcion there is a national historical landmark. That was PHP7.

Wow!
Baclayon Church is reputedly the best-preserved Jesuit church in the country and has the most intricately-carved retablos I've seen. When the Jesuits were expelled from the country, management was given to the Augustinian Recollects. One thing I like about Bohol's churches is they stand out like manificent fortresses facing the sea. And the space around it was preserved. No commercial establishments crowding out the churches themselves.

Outside the church was a nice tarpaulin billboard from Holy Name University reminding people to preserve Bohol's natural and cultural heritage. I'll suggest to the Center for Kapampangan Studies to do the same in Pampanga to increase awareness in the heritage sites themselves.

Next town was Alburquerque which also had a heritage church. Waiting for a jeep took like forever. And the morning sun didn't make it any easier for me. But finally, one passed by and I was on my way.

Boholanos call the town Albur for short. The
Church of Sta. Monica was another well-preserved church. I had to enter through the convent via a bridgeway that led to the choirloft. With all these antique thefts no thanks to unscrupulous dealers, churches have to keep close watch over their contents.

Again, a long wait for the next jeep to the next town, Loay. The Church of Santissima Trinidad of Loay is also a national historical landmark. I almost missed it since the church was up a hill, hidden from the national highway, had I not recognized the Clarin Ancestral Home which is a national heritage house. The church and its plaza were a stunning reminder of the grand architecture during the Spanish colonial period. The coral and limestone buildings around the church were still standing. Really nice!

After that, it was off to
Loboc. Again another wait. After a few or so minutes, a bus for Carmen passed by, and knowing how difficult it was to get a bus, I decided to go straight to Carmen and the Chocolate Hills and stop by Loboc on the way back. It was an hour away passing through the heart of Bohol island, a refreshing man-made Mahogany forest and stunning rural scenes.

Before reaching the town of Carmen is the stop for the Chocolate Hills viewdeck. To get up there, you took a motorbike for PHP20. Wow! The view from the top was stunning. But the trek up so many steps was tiring. Pant! Pant!

At the top, I got a pleasant surprise since I saw Mica Pineda, a friend from UP, who was touring with her family. She invited me to tag along since they were going to tour Loboc and go to Panglao Island after. Just great, that was my exact itinerary! So I joined them in the van. At least I was able to relax on the way down and the good thing was, I didn't have to wait for public transport!

When we arrived in Loboc, we went straight to the Loboc River Cruise. This is something you have to try out. The river is clear and pristine. The views are stunning while you have lunch on a house boat and are being serenaded as you cruise along the river. The food is buffet! Hehe!

At the end are small waterfalls where we were able to take some photos. Smaller boats could go further upstream to Busay Falls where one could take a dip. On both sides of the river, everything is green with flora. Really cool experience. It was a welcome respite to see things like these in the Philippines when media projects almost everything as dire.

After the cruise, we visited the Church of Sts. Peter and Paul in Loboc which is a national cultural treasure. It is really great that they've preserved this much in Bohol. And I hope it stays that way. We have to safeguard what makes the Philippines unique.

But talking about preservation, right beside the church is the biggest example of government stupidity! Notice the unfinished bridge on the left of the photo. Guess where it was headed? Yup, you guessed it, right smack into the church! Idiots! What was the DPWH thinking?! For them to even consider demolishing the church, that was the height of stupidity!

After the church, we went to visit some tarsiers. Finally, I get to see the small primates which inspired Steven Spielberg's E.T. Hehe! The is a new DENR directive that you could no longer handle the tarsiers, meaning no touch or putting them on you for pictures. Good thing! There was a group from the Philippine Christian University who were also on tour. By God! They started shaking the trees and scaring the tarsiers. Mica's mom got so mad that she scolded them reminding them that they are the future of the country and what eill the Philippines expect if they do not know how to care for nature.

And to think the tour guide from the Heaven Tour Company was just standing there! Shame! As a tour guide, it is your responsibility to properly educate your group about this endangered species, the fact that it is very difficult for them to reproduce since they only mate once a year and that is not sure to produce an offspring. Which is why they must be handled with care!

Anyway, after Loboc, it was off to Panglao for the beach. Woohoo! On the way, we passed by the Sandugo Monument in Bool, Tagbilaran City which memorialized the blood compact between Sikatuna and Miguel Lopez de Legaspi. Although controversy hounds the site since research points that the actual site may have been in Loay at the mouth of the Loboc River.

We passed by the town of Dauis which is also on Panglao Island. It has a heritage church as well but it was nearing sunset so we went straight for the beach.

Panglao is indeed a great beach, white sand, blue water, fascinating view! Watching the sunset from Pangalao was a perfect way to cap another day around the Philippines!

Have to rush now. On my way to Siquijor. And everyone's telling me stuff about the island. Just great since I'm arriving midnight. Hehe!

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