11-12/03/2018 Bohol Island

On the first grey-skied day since we landed in the Philippines, me and Isa left Alona Beach on board of a tricycle to get to Tagbilaran, Bohol’s main hub, determined to rent a scooter and spend a few days exploring the island.

After dodging what sounded like a scam, we came across a trust worthy(-ish) scooter rental, paid a ridiculously low fee to hire one for 2 days, and quickly left the asphalt mess of Bohol’s capital behind our back to venture towards the island’s landmark: the celebrated Chocolate Hills.

First stop on the way: the tarsier sanctuary in Corella, where, at the cost of 1 euro, you can visit the allegedly eco-friendly centre, hosting a dozen of adult tarsiers, and learn about these weird creatures habits and lifestyle. And I repeat, ALLEGEDLY, because the information they provide you with and the way the animals are kept don’t really seem to match.

What are meant to be territorial, shy, nocturnal and solitary animals that meet for 10 seconds once a year with the only purpose of mating, are kept a few metres apart from each other. They might not be kept in captivity (still have to get over how these cute little creatures can get suicidal when caged. We got told they hit their head on the cage’s bars until they miserably die…), but are shown to visitors  during the daytime (when they’re meant to sleep), and there’s literally no protection whatsoever. Which means somebody could easily grab them if they were stupid enough to go for it.

In a way getting exposed to this animal’s funny facts was somehow fascinating.

[I’ll share a few here: tarsiers can live up to 25 years of age, are pregnant for 6 months and, after giving birth to one only baby, they spend another 6 months looking after it. They are carnivore, can jump up to 5 metres and have the skill to turn their heads 360 degrees but can’t roll their eyes… I mean, they are really weird AF, and would deserve a proper honey badger’s treatment, for those who know what I’m talking about].

However the experience in general was somehow questionable and left a weird taste in our mouths.

The otherwise jaw dropping ride along uphill and downhill roads cutting through lovely rural villages, paddy fields, and the jungle’s wilderness, was made not so enjoyable by a sudden turn in the weather. Basically it started to pour down. First we pulled the brakes and waited for a good hour at a bus stop while involuntarily listening to the horrible karaoke attempts of some very off-key locals. We eventually agreed that being soaking wet was way better than listening to an extra second of that never-ending lament.

And soaking wet we got.

After my nerves got badly put to the test while riding on a muddy and bumpy unpaved road, we reached what was meant to be our accommodation for the night: a wooden cabin by the river (Nuts Huts), hidden right in the middle of the jungle. We gave some time to our clothes to dry up and got warm with a hot glass noodle soup, before hitting the road again.

Of course it started to pour again, which forced us to stop twice, and eventually to surrender to the fact that reaching our planned destination (the chocolate hills) had to be postponed to the following day.

As much as these moments can be annoying when you’re travelling on tight schedules and need to make the most of the little time you have, we both agreed that being pissed was absolutely pointless.

So we went back to Nuts Huts and had a weird Asian sauna session in a minuscule shaky stilt house. What was meant to heat us up (being soaking wet the whole day didn’t help) actually never really got hot, and eventually made us even colder… Determined not to give in to the bad mood that had tried to take over me for the whole day, and motivated by its ridiculously affordable price, I decided to go for a one hour full body massage and let go off the stress. It worked. Beautifully, I’d say. Only turned slightly awkward when, right before saying goodbye to my masseuse, I realised my balls had been exposed throughout the whole session. Oh well!

That night we feel asleep to the the mysterious sound of the jungle and we woke up to the rain hitting the wooden roof of our cabin.

To kill time during this monsoon-like weather, we came up with a bit of everything: we indulged on our breakfast, I caught up with my diary, we made a few plans for the coming days… but the rain never stopped. At one point I just gave up and sat on the veranda while listening to some music. While clutching my coffee mug soothed by the warm voice of Amber Mark, I actually managed to let go off my FOMO and literally enjoy the calmness of that moment and contemplated the beauty of the rain falling on the trees and the mist building up all around the jungle’s silhouette.

It still has to be one of the most comforting moments of the time I spent in the Philippines.

At around noon, despite of the weather, we decided to move on. Funny enough, as soon as I turned the engine on, the rain suddenly stopped.

You can marvel at the Chocolate Hills, so-called because of the brown colour they take in the dry season, from two different viewpoints: Carmen, the most scenic but also known between tourists, and the slightly off-the beaten track Sagbayan, not as impressive but literally with nobody else to be seen around.

There are geological explanations behind the origin of Bohol Island’s landamark. A matter of tectonic processes, uplifting movements above sea level and erosion… However, I like this legend much better. Arogo, a powerful giant, fell in love with Aloya, a beautiful mortal girl. When she passed away, he couldn’t stop crying his heart out. Finally the tears dried, and the chocolate hills were there, as an everlasting evidence of his love for her.
You can call me romantic.

Making the most of the sudden shift in the weather into the sunniest of days, me and Isa decided to take a different, less popular, route back to Tagbilaran, and we cut through the chocolate hills, rice terraces with bathing buffaloes and beautiful humble local villages. It’s really hard for me to put down in words how wonderful this ride was and the way it made us feel. Let’s say that karma must have paid us back for being patient.

We eventually made it back to the Bohol’s hub without much of a buffer time. We returned the scooter, grabbed our backpacks and walked down to the harbour, where, before hopping on the ferry that was taking us back to Cebu City, we followed the advice of a bunch of schoolgirls and bought ourselves what everybody seemed to be getting: kwek kwek, a spicy and fried boiled egg served with thick seaweed. I lied to them saying it was awesome, while Isa tried not to retch after dealing with the salty flavour and slimy texture of the seaweed.

Once back in Cebu City we took a cab to Gran Tierra Suites (a last minute deal that would have spared us an airport sleepover), which also happened to be a bakery, and right away ventured out for dinner. Willing not to miss out on Cebu City’s reputation for fish delicacies, we picked STK ta Bay and dined with crab meat, spicy squids, garlic rice and beer for less than 12 euro.

Nikon N55, Petzval 58 Bokeh Control, Fuji Superia 200

Olympus OM-10, Zuiko 50mm f/1.4, Lomochrome Purple 100-400 (35)

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December 21, 2019

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