VIDEO: Philippines’ natural paradise Bohol attracts UAE visitors - GulfToday

VIDEO: Philippines’ natural paradise Bohol attracts UAE visitors

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The Chocolate Hills spread across the towns of Batuan, Carmen and Sagbayan. Mariecar Jara-Puyod/Gulf Today

Mariecar Jara-Puyod, Staff Reporter

Bohol – itself an archipelagic island-province east of Cebu Province in Central Visayas, Central Philippines – beckons. Spectacles jutting out of the Visayan Sea, Bohol Sea, and Cebu Strait – an astonishment and reverence at God’s exclusive talent in creation – Bohol is a bucket list must.   It is more than the half-a-foot long chocolate brown tarsier – true that its bulging saucer-like eyes – are an over-size for its body.   It is more than the famed Chocolate Hills of Batuan, Carmen and Sagbayan, which, according to one of four folklores, burst forth into almost 1,800 emerald to sunburnt mounds, because of two bickering giants that had pelted stones at each other. Moreover, these, which had inspired food-loving Boholano entrepreneurs to craft the now sought-after Peanut Kisses, were the copious tears of the giant Arrogo, trapped in despondency over the demise of his mortal forever love, Aloya.

“The growth of Bohol tourism is a combination of factors like the experienced-based activities of scuba-diving and free diving primarily because of world-class dive sites and the designation of Bohol as a UNESCO Geo Park, highlighting the unique geological characteristics of the province that include the massive Chocolate Hills and other wonders such as easily accessible waterfalls and cave pools,” said Amorita Resort Hotel general manager Leeds Trompeta, 20 years in the industry.


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“But the game changer is the new international airport in Panglao Island that has made access to Bohol convenient. Due to this, several airlines are flying direct to Bohol internationally, like from South Korea,” he continued. Leeds welcomed our group one overcast dusk, during the Eid Al Adha holidays. The heavily wooded five-hectare 17-year-old property, which Metro Manila entrepreneur Ria Hernandez-Cauton owns, atop a limestone knoll, overlooking Bohol/Mindanao Sea, at the edge of the Aloha Beach, soothed everyone’s tired frame.   The vista was a breath of fresh air; coming in from the nine-hour evening Cebu Pacific Air flight from Dubai with 584 of 589 seats occupied. Co-passengers included a Spanish-speaking family and an Eastern European couple. Wow to the digitalised Immigration and amiable staff, arrival in Pasay City, Metro Manila was hassle-free.   Bohol is indeed going boomtown; 180 of the 183-seater connecting flight to Panglao Island were both domestic and foreign tourists. Among the municipal general assessors to attend their national convention in the capital of Tagbilaran City, was Rochelle Salazar from the island-province of Mindoro Occidental. Elderly women from land-locked Laguna Province were for a short respite. American Beth was to visit a Filipina she met pre-COVID-19.

There were Scandinavian teenagers, too. More of limestone galore talk. The underground Hinagdanan Cave in Dauis, discovered in the 1500s, that became the World War II sanctuary of civilians, has its own natural lagoon, connected to the Bohol Sea. The moss-coloured water, which rises to 17 feet when high tide, is due to submerged limestone.

Biodiversity conservation is not dead. On the highways of Bilar and Loboc, is the Man-Made Forest of mahogany, a project of the Boy Scouts of the Philippines, began post-World War II. Cuddling the Loboc and Loay Rivers and which hug lunching tourists on board wooden vessels are marshlands amidst peeping limestone formations and riverbed. The Shell Museum is a treasure trove. The Bohol Bee Farm is a relaxed cultural-culinary edutainment. Bohol Enchanted is a park where four tarsiers, clasping on trees, were sighted. Irritant were some noisy promenaders, even as guides consistently requested for quiet to prevent the primates from leaving and worst, commit suicide.

The ratatat of a mini circus-like fair near the tarsiers’ haven must be shut-off. Tibuok salt production, rooted since the 1600s, is in Alburquerque. At the Panglao Public Market, Rafeez experienced haggling – Pinoy style – for two kilos of sweet-smelling yellow mangoes. Curious Haley bought a bottle of banana catsup. Cebu Pacific Air passengers from the UAE “grew seven per cent for the first half of the year against the same period in 2019. Passengers going to Bohol grew 20 per cent for the first half of 2024 compared to the same period in 2019.” Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. who had ordered the provision of e-visas for Indian nationals to boost tourism, welcomed the Cebu Pacific Air management decision to additionally purchase 152 A32neo aircrafts from Airbus. It means confidence in the country’s economy.

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