Tuesday, October 26, 2021

It's more fun in Bohol

WHEN I think of Bohol, I immediately tell myself: “Hmmmm… Been there, done that.”

I’ve seen the Chocolate Hills, I’ve been to the Loboc River, seen a tarsier… What else could I possibly do in Bohol? Well lucky for me, my family decided to spend Holy Week there. We took a roll on, roll off (RoRo) ship from Cebu to Tubigon. The trip lasted for three hours, and the best thing about this mode of transport is that you can bring a car or sports utility vehicle to roam Bohol island.

Lo and behold. I was shocked to see beautiful old churches in the towns we passed from Tubigon to Panglao. The churches were beautifully made with coral stones.

The Bellevue Resort in Bohol
The Bellevue Resort in Bohol. (Katrina Charmaine Avila)

Those in Baclayon and Dauis, to name a few, had murals made by Ray Francia, who happens to be my mother’s great grandfather… wow, what a discovery that was. These churches are definite must-sees because of their history and intricate carvings, art work and wood work.

After looking at old churches, we immediately checked in at the newest luxury property in Panglao, The Bellevue Resort. It was definitely amazing, the rooms were very spacious with all the amenities a five-star hotel can offer. My favorite part of the room was the bathroom with its rain head shower. The infinity pool was so inviting with its crystal-clear blue water overlooking Panglao’s famous white-sand beach that I, for one, could not resist from taking a dip. The food was superb, with its five-star international breakfast buffet; its dinner buffet featuring angus rib eye, sushi, pizza, pasta, ihaw- ihaw, and not to mention the best crème brûlée I’ve ever tasted, plus their mini coconut brazo de mercedes, which were all laid out by the beachfront under the stars. After dinner, you could lie on a banig (straw mat) and watch big screen movies at the garden while munching on free popcorn.

That was just my first day (whew!) and I couldn’t help but think, “now what?”

On our second day, we went to the Bohol Bee Farm Resort and Restaurant. It was really nice to see all these big buses full of tourists on their way to enjoy the Bee Farm.

My experience there was really fantastic. Although I was a bit apprehensivelooking at the malunggay ice cream, after a certain amount of urging from my Mother, I tried it and found that it was really good and creamy. It didn’t taste like malunggay and it didn’t have a bitter or any hint of vegetable taste at all. I even felt healthier just by eating it together with its homemade cone made from cassava flour.

After which, I walked around the farm wishing I had a green thumb. I was so envious of the assortment of herbs being grown on the farm, from parsley, oregano, thyme, mint, and tarragon, among them. Being a foodie, I often wish of cooking something fresh from my garden…I wish.

The food at the Bee Farm is all organically grown, from their homegrown salads topped with edible flowers, to their homemade honey mustard vinaigrettes, their malunggay pesto spreads, their honey, homemade bread, down to their homemade ice cream. But what I really loved the most was their fresh vegetable lumpia, whose wrapper was made from cassava flour instead of rice flour, it was really good and healthy as well. Also available for purchase there are homemade soaps, lotions and moisturizers for beauty aficionados. They also weave their own placemats, baskets and slippers which they sell as souvenirs.

After spending half a day at the Bee Farm, we decided to have merienda at Tarsier Paprika, the restaurant of Tarsier Botanika, a tropical botanical garden also in Panglao Island. Simply amazing. I thought I was somewhere in Cancun, Mexico or Ibiza, Spain. I was so impressed by their restaurant overlooking the ocean, with its all-glass windows and red chandelier. Very modern, yet sensuous. It was truly breathtaking.

Fortunately for me, my Father asked me to order for the group, and since it was Good Friday, I decided to order a simple pizza margherita. Once it was served, one look, and your mouth would start to water. The pizza looked so appetizing and tasted even better than the ones I’ve tried in Italy. I did not expect to taste pizza this good in Bohol. The crust was thin with a crunchy crispy texture, the sauce was sweet and tangy and I could taste and see real tomatoes on it. There was a hint of fresh oregano and just enough mozzarella cheese that didn’t overpower the pizza.

Simply delicious that I would definitely go back! The restaurant also offers a diverse choice of European and Asian cuisine.

After relaxing at the restaurant, we went around Tarsier Botanika. I was amazed by the tropical botanical garden, which showcased over seven hectares of 3,000 species and varieties of tropical plants with a conservatory. It reminded me of one of my favorite novels, The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. The botanical garden also boasts of a selection of stone and bronze statues and sculptures. They also have a grotto made out of sea shells and broken glass in honor of Our Lady of Lourdes.

There are different themes within Tarsier Botanika that one should definitely explore, like the reclining buddha or the big lotus fountain somewhere in the middle of the garden; the bamboo lane and the French garden. One can also simply rest or have coffee at the conservatory.

My greatest discovery at Tarsier Botanika was its art museum with beautiful paintings fit for the Louvre Museum. They have a cabinet de curiosité of European, Asian and African art, a collection acquired by Nicolas Moussempes from over 40 years of traveling around the world. Wow, definitely a feast for the eyes.

The next day, we went to see Bohol’s fun side. Along Alona Beach you will find endless rows of food stalls selling grilled items to coffee, shakes and halo-halo. I myself wanted to eat seafood since we were by the beach. I went ahead and ordered their alimango (crab) for P110 per 100 grams.

You could really taste the natural sweetness of the big, fat, juicy alimango. It was like going to seafood heaven and back.

After three days of eating good food and sightseeing, I ended up suffering from sensory overload. It was a memorable trip and I did not expect to taste and see a lot in Bohol. It was truly a revelation for me. It is more fun in the Philippines, and definitely more fun in Bohol. (Katrina Charmaine Avila)
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