Bohol has long been a tourist destination and for most Filipinos, the name cojures the image of the famous Chocolate Hills. In recent years, however, the province also became known for its Tarsier white-sand beaches and as home of the tarsier -- the world's smallest primate (or as some mistakenly say, monkey).

The pictures below were taken during my first visit to the province on March 18-21, 2001. I was again with my office mate Bong, for we just came from a field work in Cebu City. My mother has a brother (Engr. Enrique Salapantan) who married a pretty and charming lady from Tagbilaran City (Cholie Escobia) so we did not have difficulty looking for a place to stay in. Tito Iking and Tita Cholie were even very kind to fetch us from the pier. The couple is into flowershop business and it is doing quite well. At the front of their house is a big garden where all types of decorative plants are in luxurious display.

Right after we arrived, my uncle and his wife showed us around Tagbilaran City and we went to Bohol Tropics Resort later where we sang at the videoke bar. The following day, they brought us Chocolate Hills to the Tarsier Sanctuary for a close encounter with this unique creature. Then we proceeded to Panglao island to swim in Bohol Beach Club (the public portion of the beach, at least).

On our third day, Bong and I went to Carmen, Bohol to see the Chocolate Hills. We were a bit concerned that our pictures of the Hills will not come out beautifully because the sky was very cloudy then. Along the way, I didn't miss every opportunity to campaign for my favorite senatorial candidates to those I have talked with. :)

One note about the pictures: the dates are one year earlier because I mistakenly set the date of the camera to year 2000 instead of 2001. Bong had set the date correctly in Cebu but I took out the battery during our trip to Bohol, and commited the error when I returned the battery later.

This is the house of ex-President Carlos P. Garcia, which turned out to be just about ten steps away from the house of Tita Cholie's parents. Now a museum, the house reminded me of how simple the lives and lifestyles of Philippine presidents were before Marcos' and Estrada's extravagance.
This is a tarsier in its natural habitat at a Tarsier Sanctuary being managed by a Foundation. The creature is 4-5 inches long, and is nocturnal. It eats insects for food. Though the tarsiers at the sanctuary already got used to the presence of humans, the sanctuary keepers do not encourage visitors to touch them. The sanctuary is primarily for the preservation of this endangered species, and was not put up as a tourist attraction.
Getting acquainted with another tarsier. This one was sleepy for he kept closing his eyes while we watched him. Except that it jumps and clings to trees like monkeys, the tarsier actually is more like a rat with the facial features of a bat. Each tarsier establishes and is jealous of its own territory so is not sociable with its kind except on mating season.
From the Tarsier Sanctuary, we drove to Panglao island which is connected to Bohol by a pair of short and barely imperceptible bridges. We stopped at this little pier where we ate our packed lunch which we bought from a Tagbilaran mall. The water here was clear and inviting. The air was deliciously fresh.
Here's a sampling of the white beach in Panglao island. The sand was also fine, though not as expansive as in Boracay. This picture was taken in a beach that's a little farther from the Bohol Beach Club.
Just like in Boracay, bars, dining establishments, and resorts abound near the beach. There were also diving clubs. A lot of foreigners and backpackers enjoy coming here.
This is the portion of Bohol Beach Club that is open to the public. We swam around 5pm when the sun was already down. At the time, the sea was a bit rough on this side of Panglao Island so the waves were a little big and strong.
It was a Sunday so the public beach was crowded. Before this beach was made public, Boholanons raised howls why they could not enjoy their beach while the rich and the foreign tourists monopolized them. When this portion was opened to the public for free, everybody was happy. The adjacent private portion, however, remained expensive and reserved for club members and clients.
On the background is a resort which rents rooms. This part of the beach is already developed but is less expensive than Bohol Beach Club. Backpackers and tourists with a tight budget prefer to stay here.
The Chocolate Hills. This view from a nearby hill is familiar for this is the angle at which most Chocolate Hills postcards were taken. For those who are curious about the name, the hills are shaped like chocolate candies. During summer when the grass gets dry, the hills take on a brownish color making them all the more like chocolates.
Because Bong and I wanted adventure, we just commuted to Carmen which was about 2-3 hours from Tagbilaran. We walked this road to climb to the park which serves as the viewing area. It was a very hot day so we got sunburned during the trip.
This is the peak of the hill which provides the best vantage point to view the Chocolate Hills. I forgot to ask or read about what this bell monument represents. I was so engrossed with the Hills that I scarcely noticed the bell.
At the background are the rest of the Hills viewed from the other side of the Viewing Peak. The Chocolate Hills, declared a National Geological Monument, is composed of 1,268 unique land form produced by the uplift of coral deposits and action of rain water and erosion. They formed millions of years ago and their formation is an amazing and interesting geological case study for geologists.
This is the clean and green Loboc River. The shrubs at the side of the river are home to tarsiers, our boatman said. I took this shot while in a boat which we hired to take us to Bosai Falls. Only familiar with muddy rivers like the Pasig River, I was taken by the beauty and color of this one. I would have liked to take a dip and swim, but we were not able to bring any swimming wear.
To attract visitors, the owners/operators of the boats plying the Loboc River have pet tarsiers. Unlike the tarsiers at the sanctuary, these ones are used to being touched by visitors. Here, they gamely posed for the camera. The tarsiers featured in the PLDT phone card were from this place.
As part of the routine, the boat owner/operator made me pose with the tarsiers and took this shot herself. From the way the tarsiers acted and jumped all over my shoulder, they sure would make lovable pets. The bad news is that they rarely survive being taken away from their natural habitat. My uncle and aunt once bought a tarsier sold by one of their helpers, and it promptly died the following day. The keepers at the Tarsier Sanctuary suspect that the Loboc boat operators just buy a continuous supply of tarsiers to humor the visitors.
Having seen tarsiers at the Tarsier Sanctuary first, the sight of these four little creatures huddled together in a cage was very sad. Knowing that these primates prefer to be alone in their respective territories, I wondered how they felt being forced to share a small cage with the other 'slaves'. This cage contains about 5 to 6 tarsiers compared to the 10 or so tarsiers which share one hectare (10,000 square meters) at the enclosed sanctuary.
Twin little falls near the end of the boat tour. This is where some visitors swim -- like the two children in the small banca in this photo. My aunt told us later, however, that she knew of one instance when a visitor who swam here drowned. The Bosai Falls (which is actually only around 7-10 feet high) was just around the bend but the photos I took of it had too much glare.
You could actually go sightseeing along the river while riding these motorized "floating restaurants". We saw one plying the river after our tour. I doubt if you could concentrate on your food when you ride it, however. You'll be too distracted by the sights.
This bridge which spans across the Loboc river is controversial. It is new and expensive but it wasn't finished (though practically 90% done) for it runs right smack to the Loboc Cathedral. I asked why it was built when there was opposition to its construction in the first place. The common and evident reasons are politics, corruption, commision from the project, etc. But the boatman intimated that those responsible insisted on the project because they are actually after an ancient treasure supposedly buried in the church's location. Whether that is truth or intrigue, the bridge now represents millions of pesos of taxpayers' money gone to waste.
The historic Loboc Cathedral which the controversial bridge would have run down. Are there really hidden treasures buried here? Hmmm.... the plot thickens. Bohol really offers not just fun, but mystery as well.

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