While in Cebu City last summer, my friend Kei Tan and I considered a side trip to Bohol since it was just one fast-craft-boat ride away. With a few thousand pesos left in our accounts, we grabbed our strollers and hailed a cab to the port.
We asked around where the ticketing office is and what time the next departure will be, then bought two tickets for a few hundred pesos. While aboard the Supercat we ate some of our pasalubong, mouth watering dried mangoes bought from SM Cebu for half the Manila price.
In less than an hour we arrived and saw the glorious sunset in drizzling Bohol. We went straight to their cozy tourism office inside Tagbilaran Port. A teenager greeted us at the information desk, and it turned out that he’s in charge of tourism queries there. He gave us a book of tourist spots and accomodations: hotels, dormitories, inns, restaurants and their contact numbers, address, and price. So right from the start we were able to budget what little was left of our honoraria.
The port’s gate was full of van and car drivers haggling with tourists! One of them even followed us to our hotel negotiating a tour deal for a little more than a thousand pesos, but we said we’ve contacted someone for cheaper price.
At night we explored Tagbilaran City. It’s a quiet little town full of polite (and good-looking) people. Kei found a dark corner where youngsters and oldies eat barbeque of all kinds (chicken, seafoods, pork, cold cuts) and puso (steamed rice covered in aromatic banana leaf, in heart shape); so instead of cups of rice, we ordered bundles of rice. After that we grabbed some snacks at Mercury and split: she went to an internet shop, I retired to our hotel room (I had the feeling that no one was in the hotel) and watched a documentary on horror films in NatGeo channel (that’s how you scare the hell out of you).
The next morning was our trip around Bohol: underground caves, historical sites, oldest churches in the Philippines, beaches, pasalubong centers, bridges connecting islands, the legendary Chocolate Hills (they’re huge, man!), and the romantic Loboc river where floating restaurants pass by like gondolas in Venice.
I have to say this: I love Bohol’s comfort rooms. That one beside Loboc River is fully air-conditioned, complete with washroom supplies, free of charge.
At 7pm, we met up with a former student of mine who lives in Tagbilaran. His family treated us to a sumptuous feast of seafoods I’ve never seen before, on a fine restaurant by the sea. Videoke galore finished off our celebration of life, then called it a day.
At 10pm, we met up with the tour guide back from the underground cave. He gave us a taste of Bohol night life (some bars and KTV) then brought us to the port, bedazzling at night, aboard his motorcycle. He said he used to live in Manila and speak their Tagalog, but when he transferred to Bohol he has totally forgotten the language that claimed superiority over other languages in the country.
That’s when I remember people back in Manila, who thought they are the Philippines, as evident in news focused on Quezon City and some other parts of the national capital region, and who laugh at Visayan accent, sidestepping subcultures that are proudly Filipino and are worth exploring more than once.
I’m definitely going back to Bohol.