By Mary Angela S. Barlongay
Bohol has proven to be more than just Chocolate Hills and tarsiers. You can go on land activities like visiting famous landmarks—Loboc’s manmade forest and Bilar’s butterfly sanctuary—or go on a heritage tour of Bohol’s centuries-old churches and (sigh) ruins or try its newest attraction, a geo-science tour to “The Great Wall of Bohol” or the North Fault of Bohol that was formed during the devastating 2013 Bohol earthquake.
Other guests who prefer the island comforts of Panglao will be surprised by the wealth of experiences and beautiful sites the island has to offer. You can go island-hopping or go on a diving adventure. You can sail to Balicasag for snorkeling or watch dolphins dancing underwater and playfully jump out of it. Panglao also has a rich history.
St. Joseph Cathedral’s (Tagbilaran) beautiful altar
Painted ceilings of St. Joseph Cathedral depicting scenes from the bible
A miracle well found in Our Lady of Assumption Church (Dauis)
White sands and blue waters of Alona beach
Amorita’s infinity pool
A peak inside Amorita’s Junior Suite
Breakfast buffet at Amorita
Bohol’s glorious churches
During the 7.3 magnitude earthquake in 2013, most of Bohol’s beautiful churches were destroyed including the Dimiao Church (San Nicholas de Tolentino Church), one of the oldest stone churches of Bohol, built in the latter half of the 19th century. But the Boholanos worked hand in hand in restoring the beauty of their well-loved churches. Many of Bohol’s old churches were built during the early Spanish colonial period. Most of them had beautiful painted ceilings, which were mostly done by Cebuano artists Caruto “Rey” Avila and Raymundo Francia. The ceiling paintings show contemporary scenes and religious heritage, like the one at St. Joseph Cathedral in Tagbilaran, where one tells the story of a young Boholano boy who lived in Loboc and died in 1509. He could have been the first Filipino saint according to old stories. Its altar, filled with gold linings, has neoclassical style architecture.
The Church of Immaculate Conception in Baclayon was one of the churches founded by Jesuit priests when they came to the island. It was declared a National Cultural Treasure by the National Museum of the Philippines and a National Historical Landmark by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines. Though the church is still under major reconstruction, tourists visit the area for its museum and souvenir shop.
Holy Week is fast approaching and even though renovation is still underway at some of Bohol’s churches, going on a Visita Iglesia in Bohol is always a good idea. Boholanos put a lot of effort in making many parts of the centuries-old churches look like magnificent works of art.
Island of Hope
Aside from the white sands and blue waters of Alona beach, Panglao has another public beach that awakens the soul. With a long sand bar, this island is great for swimming and exploring. Isola de Francesco, previously known as the Virgin Island, is filled with statues of Jesus Christ and Padre Pio. This island does not require an entrance fee, even if the island is a private property. But it does accept donations. Donations collected would be given to churches and chosen charities. The caretakers of the island offer cold drinks and snacks like banana que, turon, and puto. They also have sea urchins or fresh uni for the guests. Even the boat ride to the island is free of charge but you can give donations from the heart. Its owner is a Padre Pio devotee. He renovated the entire island in dedication to Saint Pio. The island also has a small chapel that holds mass every 23rd of the month at 10 a.m. You can reflect on life while sitting on the beach listening to gospel songs.
The perfect getaway wouldn’t be complete without the perfect place to stay. Panglao is already filled with luxurious resorts and five-star hotels, making it hard to pick the best from the lot. But if you’re looking for a resort with great service, luxurious amenities, a stunning infinity pool that spills over the vast blue ocean, and scrumptious food, then look no further because Amorita is perfect for you.
What sets Amorita apart from the rest is their service to their guests. They treat them with care and love. Guests appreciate the small details they put in to make each stay a memorable one, like handwritten notes and snacks that were made special for them. “We pride ourselves in our great services. We are number one on Trip Advisor and the number one resort in Bohol. We’ve just recently won the Condé Nast Johansen Excellence Award for Best in Service. We are the only resort in the Philippines that received the award for 2017,” beams Amorita’s general manager Noel Barrameda.
Amorita is perched on a cliff that overlooks Alona Beach. So if you crave company and a little cocktail buzz, you can go partying down the beach and then come home to your quiet, cozy villa afterward. They call it “dip in crazy,” you just go down for some time at the beach then if you want to come back for luxury then just come up at the resort, says Barrameda. With its recent renovations, the resort now has 98 rooms, including 16 villas with their own dipping pools and two family villas with two bedrooms each, plus a living room and a swimming pool.
“In Amorita we like to believe we leave lasting memories. The impression that we leave resonates long after they are gone. So we have a lot of returning guests. It’s really the details, the small details that we try to be perfect, says Kata Agmata, director of marketing for Amorita resort.
AirAsia now offers four flights daily from Manila to Tagbilaran, Bohol with promo fares for as low as P1,599 for travel period between July 1 to Nov.30. www.airasia.com.