Text and images by Angelo G. Garcia
When you land at Tagbilaran airport, rent-a-car drivers outside the arrival area wait and offer incoming tourists of one-day tour packages of Bohol. The tour covers the most basic of Bohol attractions. It would usually start at the Sandugo (blood compact) Shrine in Tagbiliaran then to the historical Baclayon Church and its museum, then off to see the tarsiers, then lunch break in Loboc on board the river cruise. After lunch, straight to the Bilar man-made forest then finally to the famous Chocolate Hills in Carmen.
If you’re staying at one of the resorts on Panglao Island, then you would probably stay the rest of your time there after touring the must-sees of Bohol. But you really haven’t seen the province if you stay within the common tourism area because to really see Bohol, you have to go beyond the boundaries of Tagbilaran, Loboc, Panglao, and Carmen.
In a special tour organized by Bluewater Panglao, a select group of media was able to see more of Bohol, from Bohol Sea’s cute residents to Anda’s white sand beaches to Candijay rice terraces. In my opinion, this tour is much more fun than the usual spots.
A steel ladder was built at Cabagnow Cave Pool for easy access
Anda White Beach, a long stretch of white sand at a public beach
Crystal Convento Cave and its clear natural pool
Entrance to Convento Cave
The lagoon-like main pool is flanked by two two-storey buildings housing the premier deluxe rooms
Candijay Rice Terraces
The premier deluxe room with its signature spacious interior and cantilever beds
Panglao is to Bohol what Mactan is to Cebu. It’s the province’s resort island, which features white sand beaches lined with affordable resorts, mid-scale hotels, and luxury resort hotels. Probably one of the best resorts on the island is Bluewater Panglao.
Situated on a seven-hectare property, it’s a sprawling resort with 54 rooms and villas. Operated by the Bluewater Resorts group, its signature feature is its cantilever beds or “floating beds” inside spacious rooms with equally spacious bathrooms. It has two pools, a garden, two restaurants (Aplaya and Baroto Poolside Bar), and its own private beach.
The resort is just a few minutes away by motorized banca to the dolphin watching site in the Bohol Sea between Balicasag and Pamalican islands.
Boats from all all over Bohol go here to “chase dolphins.” The tours happen early morning, and the boat leaves Panglao at around 6 a.m. There’s an area between the two islands where different species of dolphins and whales thrive. The area is said to be the natural habitat and breeding waters of these marine creatures.
These dolphins swim in the area and boats need to chase them for guests to have a closer look. Each boat has its own “spotter” who can easily point where the dolphins are. The chase is exhilarating and the porpoises are truly majestic.
The troubling part, however, is the area is littered with boats every morning. During our tour, there were about 30 boats congregated in one area, and these boats simultaneously chase a pod of dolphins. I’m not sure if what the boats are doing is dolphin-friendly but the marine mammals are still there, which is a good sign. I just hope the Bohol government regulate these tours, especially when more tourists are expected to pour in once the new Bohol International Airport opens in August of next year.
About two and a half hours away from Tagbilaran is the municipality of Anda. It is known for its long stretch of white sand beach known as “Boracay of Bohol.” The beach, however, is just the tip of the iceberg because the area has more caves than any part of the province.
Anda is littered with so many caves that some of them are just a few meters walk from the road. During our tour we visited two caves, the Convento Cave and Cabagnow (kabag-no) Cave Pool. Both caves are just a few minutes away from the town center.
The caves of Anda are part of network of caverns, connected by narrow passageways and waterways. Convento cave is a small cavern with cathedral dome-like ceiling, thus the name. Inside is a pool of cool and clean water where tourists can take a dip or lounge around on rocks and take cave selfies.
But Cabagnow Cave Pool is probably Anda’s most exciting cave. Located just a hundred meters away from the road, the cave has a clear pool where locals swim. After being discovered by tourists, it instantly became a major tourist attraction. Guests can jump into the blue waters of the cave pool, which is more than 20 feet deep. There’s a steel ladder so people can get in and out of the cave.
Locals guard the area and there’s also a makeshift toilet. They also burn dry leaves to create smoke because the area also has a lot of mosquitoes.
Travel 30 to 40 minutes from Anda and you’ll get to Candijay. This town offers something one would never imagine exist outside of Luzon—rice terraces.
The municipality became an attraction after a television show featured its rice terraces. As one of its main livelihood, the rice terraces has been used by local farmers for many years. Although not as magnificent as the terraces of Ifugao, the terraces are still a sight to see, especially when it’s filled with freshly planted rice. There’s a privately owned area where tourists can view the entirety of the terraces. This area also leads to a downhill trail going to Can-Umantad Falls.
Named after its height, Can-Umantad is 60 feet high (can-uman translates to 60). It is the tallest waterfalls in Bohol and can be reached through a 10- to 15-minute trek from the terraces or a eight to 10-minute trek from the main road. Tourists can take a dip in its cool waters with its deepest at only more than four feet deep.
Bluewater Panglao; +6338 416-0702; www.bluewater.com.ph; Facebook/BluewaterPanglao; Twitter/@bluepanglao; Instagram/@bluewater_resorts