Category Archives: ALTERNATE ROUTE

Tour Itineraries

A River Runs Through It

Sometimes the most scenic route isn’t always by land. Sometimes it takes a river cruise to appreciate the nuances of life.

If you have been to Bohol’s most famous landmarks (Chocolate Hills, Tarsier Sanctuary, Loboc River Cruise, Baclayon Church and the famous beaches of Panglao), and was wondering if you have seen it all, then it’s time for you to hop on a boat and take a leisurely trip on the Abatan River which connects several municipalities of Bohol for that eco-cultural tour that may be just what you need to open your eyes to endless possibilities.


First stop should be the town of Antequera, known as the capital of Bohol’s basket industry.

A family in Brgy. Bicahan started making bukag, the forerunner of today’s market baskets made from bamboo and rattan, which were primarily used by farmers to transport rice seedlings from the seedbeds to the rice paddies in 1911.

Fast forward to the 60s when basket weaving had become a full-blown cottage industry, and almost all barangays would showcase their wares during Sunday market. Excepting a few who lived on agriculture, most families were able to send their children to college through earnings gleaned from the sale of baskets.


Today, the town of Antequera takes pride in being the major supplier of hand woven products to most of the major resorts and souvenir shops in Panglao and the rest of the province. The demand for these are such that the town’s Municipal Tourism Information Center assists in the marketing by putting up a Display Center where orders based on samples of all woven products may be fielded out to the weavers and delivery arranged inconspicuously.



Aside from baskets, Antequera churns out bracelets and necklaces, food containers, mats, bags, accessories and other woven products approximating 500 designs. If it’s made by hand using organic materials, the basket weavers of Antequera can do it. No design is too eccentric.



According to Mayor Jose Mario Pahang, they celebrate the livelihood that the basket industry has given to their townsfolk through the Basket Festival. Now on it’s third year and celebrated every second week of March, street dancing and rituals incorporating their town’s signature moves, as well as a showcase of all woven and agri-products may be enjoyed by visitors.


The Hon. Mayor is proud to say that Antequera participates in trade fairs organized by the Department of Trade and Industry in Metro Manila to help push their town’s products to the export market. They already have existing accounts from foreign buyers who pass through the Mactan International Airport in Cebu.

Next stop on the Abatan River cruise could be the town of Balilihan, so named after the grass that carabaos love to munch on.

With several waterfalls in various levels of accessibility, this town could very well be Bohol’s water world.



Kawasan Falls and river is easily accessible through a thirty minute motorbike ride from the town center. From a native hut which serves as its jump off point in Brgy. Candasig, it has a hiking trail which passes through a junction on the Abatan River that leads up to the falls surrounded by lush foliage. From around 20 meters height, the falls forms into a cool natural pool with emerald hues.


Camugao Falls and river in Brgy, San Isidro offers more challenges as it is located further from the town center and the road is rough. Those who are content just to see the falls will be able to view it topside at 30 meters from a viewing area just a few meters from the access road and some rice fields. Those who want to swim in the pool at the bottom of the falls have to trek down a slippery, mossy and rocky trail which is highly recommended only for the agile and young at heart. There are no existing facilities here, just a few picnic sites made of nipa and bamboo huts, and the splendid creation offered by Mother Nature.


According to the town’s Hon. Mayor Maria Puresa Chatto, Balilihan has just had a welcome addition to its roster of accommodations.



MJS Camp is set to launch this summer offering backpackers and campers the opportunity to book affordable dorm type rooms, or the option to rent and pitch a tent on its massive grounds situated amidst a hilly and woody area. With an Olympic sized swimming pool in its vicinity, it enables the municipality of Balilihan to formally make its bid to become the host and venue for Bohol’s swimming competitions.

Afficionados of everything that is organically grown will enjoy the agri-town of Maribojoc.


It has a Demo Farm Training Center which started off with funds provided by the municipality and is now privately run by a cooperative. An ideal display center encompassing several hectares for organic farming, they grow lettuce, eggplants, cherry tomatoes, an assortment of herbs, aloe vera, kamote tops, papayas and other crops which they cook and serve for lunch to guests.



There is an area for raising hogs which are fed animal feeds mixed with juices extracted from the same crops and vegetables, making the hogs healthy and disease-free, as well as effectively eliminating the nasty smell that normally surrounds animal farms.

They are able to butcher an average of two hogs for the Sunday market every week. The price per kilo of organically grown pork is just a bit more expensive but well worth every cent knowing that what you have is lean meat that you can cook any way you want.


End your day in Maribojoc with a sunset view of the bay at the Punta Cruz Watch Tower. Recently renovated and restored, it is the perfect backdrop for a romantic shoot provided that the weather is good.

A souvenir of the massive earthquake that devastated the province in October 2013, the Punta Cruz Watch Tower area has uplifted ridges showing where the shoreline has receded to reveal a rock floor which used to be at the bottom of the sea.

It is always good to finish off your Abatan River cruise with Firefly Watching at the Abatan Main Village Center in the municipality of Cortes.


You hop on a boat which can accommodate anywhere from 10 to 20 guests and ride out into the dark mangrove forest with only the dimmed light of a bulb to guide the boatman to avoid scaring off the fireflies. Only certain areas of the mangroves and particular trees at that are frequented by fireflies all throughout the Abatan River. If your camera is not sensitive enough to capture images of fireflies without the use of a flash, then you should just relax and enjoy the experience rather than concern yourself with selfies.

The tour guide is quick to explain that glaring lights and noise should be avoided, and that utmost respect for the environment and these natural wonders should be practiced so that future generations can enjoy Firefly Watching.

Governor Edgar Chatto who is now on his last term of office bared plans of turning the Abatan River into a Living Museum during dinner with media guests in Tagbilaran City recently.

According to him, several foreign experts and consultants were amazed at the biodiversity of species of flora and fauna found on the Abatan River. They suggested to install labels along the way, so that guests will learn to appreciate nature and absorb information much like in a museum. Only this time, the museum is outdoors and alive, hence a Living Museum.

Gov. Chatto’s sound advice to the 48 mayors in his province: not to worry if their municipality’s tourism assets are in various levels of popularity and acceptance with the market.

“Each town has something unique to offer and their time will come,” he stressed.


With “Behold…… Bohol” as the tagline for promoting eco tourism in his province, the Governor is confident that Bohol and Boholanos will continue to make their mark in tourism.

Just as watching fireflies dance on silhouettes of trees in the middle of a river at night is magical like watching thousands of tiny fairies lighting up a tree with fairy dust.


Sincere gratitude to Ms. Josephine Remolador-Cabarrus, Ms. Gina Peluchi Kapirig and Mr. Neil Gerard P. Reyes of Bohol Tourism Office for the introduction to the Abatan River, and all the Municipal Tourism Officers of Antequera, Balilihan, Maribojoc and Cortes, and Abatan River Cruise tour guides for service beyond the call of duty. Cruise on!!!

Banner photo on Abatan River from


Eastern Samar, surfing capital of the Visayas

In the Philippines, even the poorest province has rich tourism assets which may be harnessed as an alternative source of income and livelihood for the residents.


The fastest route from Manila to Borongan City in Eastern Samar is via a one hour and twenty minute plane ride to Tacloban City in Leyte, and then a four hour van ride through a two-lane national highway which offers a picturesque view of the countryside – crossing through the San Juanico Bridge into coastal towns, rice fields, rolling hills and mountains, public cemeteries, countless bridges and rivers, and public schools. It is literally a long and winding road.



The municipality of Borongan became a city quite recently, in April 12, 2011 by virtue of Republic Act 9394. It is the capital of Eastern Samar.

Borongan City is the hometown of TV personality Boy Abunda. In fact, his sister, Maria Fe Abunda, is the incumbent mayor of the city.


Eastern Samar has a significant backdrop of the country’s rich colonial history through the island of Homonhon, where Ferdinand Magellan first set foot on Philippine soil in 1521. The tiny island of Suluan in Guiuan was likewise where the U.S. Army Rangers had their first encounter of the Philippine territory in 1944, three days before General Douglas MacArthur made his historic landing in Leyte.

In his account, Pigafetta, the chronicler aboard Magellan’s ship, describes the island of Humumu, now Homonhon, as so: We found two fountains of very clear water, we called it the Waters of Good Signs, having found the first sign of gold in the said island. There also can be found much white coral and tall trees that bear fruits smaller than an almond and look like pines. There were also many palm trees, some of the best kind, some of the bad. Thereabouts are many neighboring islands. Hence, we called them the St. Lazarus Archipelago because we stayed there on the day and feast of St. Lazarus.


City Park

The Hamorawon Park is located at the center of the city beside the City Hall. It contains the stylized rendition of a concrete giant clamshell, the upper half of which is held up by two mermaids while at its base are two crocodiles. This giant clamshell served as the former town’s cultural stage where social presentations were held while the fenced grounds fronting it served as the venue for social gatherings. From underneath this giant clamshell bubbles and flows the Hamorawon natural spring, the only place in the entire province of Eastern Samar which has a naturally-occurring freshwater spring, flowing from the very center of the city towards the Lo-om River a short distance downstream. Local folks attribute the spring as being miraculous; the site itself having allegedly been the place where appearances of a lady in white (supposed to be the patroness saint of the city) have reportedly been seen.

Surfing @ Calicoan Island, Eastern

Photo credit:

Beaches and surfing spots, islands and islets

Eastern Samar has many fine beaches which boast of white sand, vibrant coral formations, sparkling clear blue waters, and rich marine life which are also ideal for diving and snorkeling. As the coastal areas of Eastern Samar face the Pacific Ocean, the changing tides and strong currents make surfing viable. Surfers’ haven is the surf at Baybay Boulevard, in Brgy. Bato, and in Brgy. Locso-on in Borongan City. Other municipalities also have their own local spots.

Stitched Panorama

Pearl Island Photo credit: Martin Schaublin

  • Homonhon Island, Suluan Island, Tubabao Island, Kantican (Pearl) Island  in Guiuan
  • Ando Island
  • Butay Island located at the middle of Lo-om River
  • Divinubo Island off BoronganCity
  • Monbon Island
  • Pamuloton Island in Tabunan
  • Calicoan Island


Suribao River Photo credit: Vic Asio

Rivers for cruising and river rafting

  • Balacdas River
  • Borongan or Sabang (formerly called Guiborongani) River
  • Can-obing River
  • Lo-om River
  • Maypangdan River
  • Naghahagong underground river located past Sitio Cati-an (its “snore” or “hagong” – hence the name – can be heard by the locals when there is heavy rains as the onrushing torrent of water gushes and rumbles underground), ideal for spelunkers although it has remained unexplored up to this day and is relatively unknown to outsiders
  • Palanas River
  • Salog River in Brgy. Cancaligdas
  • Suribao River (serves as common city/municipal boundary with the adjacent town of Maydolong)

Kansuriyaw Falls M.Voloso

Kansuriyaw Falls Photo credit: M. Voloso

Waterfalls that entail a certain amount of hiking      

  • Pahungaw Falls in Brgy. San Pablo, Borongan City
  • Kansuriyaw Falls in Brgy. San Andres, Borongan City with a 70-meter drop for rappelling

Other significant sites

  • SANTA MONICA CAVES in Borongan
  • MENASNGE PARK (natural rock formations) in Maydolong
  • GUIUAN WORLD WAR II OPERATING BASE which has a 3 kilometer runway that could service jet-propelled planes; constructed by WWII US Navy in 1944. During the Liberation of the Philippines, it was the airstrip of war planes; now a good picnic area.

For additional information, please contact

Borongan City Tourism Office 
Tel. No. (055)

SycharSincere gratitude to the Nicart-Leones family for hosting an afternoon at the Sychar beach house in Borongan City. I enjoyed soaking in saltwater and taking in the sights and sounds of the beach.



World class water sports complex in Camarines Sur

Situated right within the Provincial Capitol Complex in Pili, Camarines Sur and with a splendid view of Mt. Isarog in the background, 6 out of 118 hectares is home to the country’s first world class water sports complex besting those found in Lago de Oro and Punta Fuego, Batangas. A 6 point cable ski park for extreme water sports such as wake boarding, water skiing, knee boarding, and wake skating, it also has a restaurant, pro shop, spa, grandstand and facilities for beach volleyball.

During its soft launch at the Kaogma Festival in May 2006, over 40 wake boarders and water sports enthusiasts from other countries such as the USA, Germany, Australia and Japan came upon Governor LRay Villafuerte Jr.’s invitation for an exhibition and to rave over its top of the line facilities.

One of the few women on site, Danielle Crawford from Florida, USA, is a history and geography teacher who has been wake boarding for over 3 years now. She frequents 2 watersports complexes in Florida (Ski Rixen and OWC) and finds CWC the best for its size, number of obstacles and friendly atmosphere. She is also a member of the WCWC (World Cable Wakeboard Commission), an international council promoting cable wakeboarding worldwide. She hopes that CWC will be host to future international events and competitions and looks forward to returning to the Philippines soon. The kindness, warmth and hospitality of the Filipino people and the beauty of the country have left a lasting impression in her mind.

Brett McBriar from Australia, a full time cable rat, wake boarding operator and teacher sporting cool dread locks and pierced ear lobes, has been wake boarding for around 9 years now and been injured twice, the last time 5 years ago. He is fully recovered and back in the game. He says wake boarders are not “beach bums” (lazy people), they just love the water and enjoy the sport. There’s nothing he would rather do than be in the water every time the sun shines. He says CWC is one of the best in the world.

18 year old Heather Johnson came on behalf of Orlando Watersports Complex in Orlando, Florida, of which she is a team rider.  Heather, who holds numerous national and world rankings for both boat and cable wake boarding is known as the “Queen of Rails” in the US.  When asked what her favorite part of visiting the Philippines was, she responded that besides spending the day at the cable park (which she feels is one of the best in the world), she also enjoyed the beauty of Naga City and its surrounding area, as well as making new friends.  Heather and her mother, Mina Johnson, both stated that they were overwhelmed with the hospitality of the local population, so much so that they are already planning their next visit. Mrs. Johnson and several of the other visiting US representatives were so impressed with Camarines Sur they are exploring the possibility of purchasing homes in the cable park vicinity.

World Class water sports complex in Camarines Sur

World Class water sports complex in Camarines Sur

World class water sports complex in Camarines Sur

Photos of former Governor LRay Villafuerte Jr. courtesy of Mr. Jun Pasa/ CAMSUR Provincial Tourism Office


White water rafting

Hello Mindanao (my first visit to Southern Philippines)

I had been to several destinations in Luzon and the Visayas on leisure and business trips, but have never ventured to Mindanao. I was thus looking forward to my first visit there with the Foremost Group staff in what was to be our company outing.

Amidst monsoon rains in Metro Manila, we departed via Air Philippines at NAIA Terminal 3 early morning. The take-off was a bumpy ride because of gusty winds but we soon settled down for the hour long flight.

Upon our arrival at Cagayan De Oro (CDO) airport, we were fetched by Darryll Montesa of CDO Bugsay River Rafting ( in a blue Starex aircon van and a good thing too because the weather in CDO was quite hot.

First thing to do was to check in at Nature’s Pensionne near the city park, also known as Divisoria because of the weekly Friday and Saturday night markets.

After a 30 minute rest, we were off for lunch and on to our itinerary for the day. From CDO, we took the Davao-Bukidnon Highway from the Alae Junction and proceeded 25 kms. to Brgy. Dahilayan past Camp Phillips and the pineapple fields via Mampayag. En route, we passed by vegetable farms, flower farms and pine forests. The cool mountaintop weather, frequent afternoon showers and warm sunlight were ideal for growing vegetation.

Day One

Hello Mindanao

The Zip Zone at Dahilayan Adventure Park ( claimed to be Asia’s longest dual cable zipline at 4,500 feet above sea level on Mt. Kitanglad Range Natural Park, Manolo Fortich, Bukidnon. First course was 320 meters plus 150 meters in a sitting position. Except for Ms. Flor our employer, we were all nervous at our first attempt and had to overcome our fear of heights. We were allowed to hold on to the nylon straps which anchored us to the cable above, so that somehow gave us an assurance of safety. After the first lap, we started to enjoy zipping through the air but were not prepared for what was to come later.

You have to take another 4 X 4 off-road ride up the mountain to reach the second course launch pad. Second course was 840 meters long in a face down reclining position with nothing to hold on to. The guides assured us that the cable and outfit we were strapped in could carry up to two tons of weight. After we were hung on the cable by a couple of male staff, we were given a minute to adjust to the feeling of being suspended and had a full view of the mountainside and pinetree tops we would zip down to. We were instructed to spread out our arms like a bird to help slow down our descent, and then to clip them to our sides as soon as we saw the end zone approaching. Then the gates were opened and we were sent on our way with a strong push. I had the advantage of taking off my prescription glasses before my launch for fear of losing them in the fall, hence I couldn’t quite clearly see my distance from the ground. All I could feel was the wind rushing through my hair and a patch of green coming up to meet my fall. I had to scream out a couple of times to get rid of my tension and I was on my way. After what seemed like a really long time (a couple of minutes max in real time), I saw a couple of staff at the end zone and I remembered to clip my arms to my sides.

The cable brakes were controlled from their side and with the help of a large metal ladder, we were unharnessed from suspension and brought back to terra firma unharmed.

In a span of like 30 minutes, all 7 of us were back to the main area of the park to claim our certificates and select our souvenir photos for printing. We were offered to claim the 7th ride for free since one of our staff backed out at the last minute (guess who?) but since it started to drizzle, no one dared to claim it.

On our way back to CDO, we stopped over for some refreshments of fresh pineapples and Chinese noodles at Pinutos, an al fresco stopover cum dining area. There was fresh cow’s milk and chocolate milk by the litre in their menu but I was told they sold out every morning so I bought some golf balls as souvenir instead at P 25.00 apiece.

We were all exhausted after an early morning flight and a challenging zipline experience, so everyone opted to sleep early sans dinner.

Day Two

Hello Mindanao

We woke up early to leave for Balingoan Port in Misamis Oriental where we would take the ferry boat that would cross us over to Camiguin Island. There used to be a ferry ride from CDO pier to Camiguin Island which took two hours but we were informed that the owner of the ferry sold the boats and bought amphibians instead to concentrate on city tours via Cagayan River rides so we had to take the alternate route instead. The trip to Balingoan Port took an hour and a half, and we slept for the most part on the hour long ferry ride.

Upon nearing Camiguin Island’s Benoni wharf where we were to dock, we noticed several fishermen on the horizon, an islet surrounded by white beach which had a fishing village and cultured seaweed as a means of livelihood, and some white seabirds flying overhead. We couldn’t help but admire the pristine waters which were incomparable to Manila Bay’s murky waters.

Tatay Junior, a resident of Camiguin who was our tour guide and multicab driver was ready to meet us as soon as we got off the boat.

We rode around the coastal road and checked in at the Bahay-Bakasyunan sa Camiguin ( in Mambajao. The resort was all native inspired with wood, bamboo, coconut husks and nipa shingles incorporated in their interior design, but with an international look. The cottages were located amidst spacious green lawns and landscaped gardens. I am sure Europeans would find the resort most appealing, with a pool at the far end beside the ocean. They have a gift shop, a gym, a game room, a massage room, a jacuzzi, function rooms and the Oceanside Bar & Grill Restaurant which offered an assortment of seafood and drinks in their menu.

Hello Mindanao

First itinerary on the island was a cool dip in the Sto. Nino Cold Springs. A natural pool on the mountaintop, entrance fee was most affordable at only P 20.00 per head. There were souvenir shops outside selling an assortment of novelty items from shirts and swimsuits, to native accessories that included among other things necklaces, earrings, bracelets and decors made of seashells, animal (monkey, bird, fish) bones, claws and teeth, and some dried fish in packs. Home-cooked meals could also be ordered at the nearby houses for lunch. We had fresh fish and native chicken cooked in several viands, and had durian for dessert. Durian which looked like a small brown version of the jackfruit, gives off a pungent smell when ripe but tastes great when eaten fresh.

The pool area had huts and cottages that were rented out to visitors. Ideal time to bathe in the cold springs are morning to 4 in the afternoon, and it is interesting to note that the pool which has a natural floor of rocks and sand has some interesting fish species swimming around.

We left the cold springs to transfer to Ardent Hibok-Hibok Hot Spring Resort late in the afternoon and stopped by the church ruins in Bonbon, Catarman and the sunken cemetery along the way.

The church ruins were what remained of the first settlement in Camiguin when the volcano erupted in the late 1800s. Near the monastery ruins, a century tree stands as a silent witness to the passing of time.

The sunken cemetery came about when the eruption caused the shifting of plates and the cemetery area went below sea level. A large cross marker marks the spot where the cemetery now lies underwater. The area has been declared a marine reserve where several species of marine species abound. We crossed shore to have our souvenir photos taken on the marker and the tour guides/boatmen who, according to them were required to take workshops in basic photography, suggested several poses which had the effect of stepping on the mountain or holding the marker in the palm of your hand depending on the angle your photo was taken. According to Jimmy who went swimming to retrieve his snorkel, there were several large colourful fish around.

Entrance fee to the hot spring was again most affordable at P 35.00 per head. The hot spring had therapeutic effects due to the sulphur content (clears skin infection) since it was on Mt. Hibok-Hibok, a dormant volcano. There were now several native cottages to stay in should visitors decide to stay overnight. The only downside here were the mosquitoes that feasted on our heads when we were taking a dip in the natural pool.

Henna tattoos were offered at P 50.00 for the simplest designs in the souvenir shops outside the entrance to the hot spring.

We went back to our resort at around 7 in the evening and after a delicious dinner at the Oceanside Bar & Grill Restaurant, we stayed on for a couple of hours in the swimming pool for night swimming.

Day Three

Hello Mindanao

We woke up early on Saturday morning to make the most of our half day schedule on White Island (sandbar actually), a 10 minute boat ride from shore.

Hello Mindanao

Crystal blue waters, sandy swimming area to one side, and a marine reserve on the other side makes for an ideal waterhole. Large, colourful beach umbrellas and snorkels are available for rent from walking entrepreneurs (locals), and sea urchins are sold by the piece as local delicacy on the sandbar. On the background is the verdant Camiguin Island, specifically Mt. Hibok-Hibok. We took our time soaking in the sun and taking several dozen jump shots! Thank God for digital cameras or we would have emptied our ATMs for photo development expenses.

After checking out of the resort at noontime, we went to J & A Fish Pen near Benoni Wharf for lunch before taking the ferry back to CDO at 3 in the afternoon.

Hello Mindanao

The fish pen in fact had several fish pens from where you could order your choice of seafood for home-cooked meals. There were large crabs, several varieties of fish, and a lobster the day we were there. A group of tourists had the 3.5 kilo lobster cooked. After sneaking into the kitchen where the meal was being prepared for some perfunctory shots, I learned it cost P 1,800.00 per kilo which meant the group had to pay around P 7,000.00 for the lobster alone!

Back in CDO, we had dinner at the Divisoria night market where the streets were closed off from traffic. Several tents were set up and grilled food the main highlight. There were also several stalls offering bags, shoes, clothes and other items as souvenirs.

Day Four

We left Nature’s Pensionne at 8 in the morning on Sunday for a jeepney ride up the border between Bukidnon and CDO to reach the starting point for white water rafting.

Hello Mindanao

Darryll, our guide, informed us that our group was lucky to be starting off from the advanced course area which meant we would be enjoying several more rapids as opposed to the basic course which generally meant small rapids and plenty of still water.

After donning our gear, and a short briefing on how to paddle and what to do if a crew fell overboard, all 9 of us (7 staff and two guides that included Darryll) boarded our raft and pushed off for a 3 hour ride down Cagayan River, and an hour stop over for lunch.

First half was a bit of an adjustment to the rough waves and a bit of history along the way. We were dowsed in the cool brown waters of the river which was a pleasant relief against the scorching heat of the sun. Several tributaries and water sources were pointed out by our guides along the way.

After a sumptuous meal of grilled fish, shrimps, chicken and pork, and some fresh pineapple for dessert, we pushed on with the other half of the ride down Cagayan River. When we came to some still waters, we jumped overboard to take a swim.

Further down, our guides pointed out Snake Wall which was so named because the mountain wall was pockmarked by holes and sparse vegetation which was home to several snakes. True enough, there were several shed snakeskin caught up in some of the bushes and the photographer Mark Aldea from CDO Bugsay River Rafting was able to photograph a yellow and black snake high up in some branches overhanging the wall!

We finished up around 1 in the afternoon and after a quick shower at the end camp, we went back to the city for some last minute shopping and an early dinner at Bigby’s!

All in all, we were able to make the most of our four days in Mindanao. I sure am looking forward to a return visit to Camiguin Island next year. And a second try at the zipline if I can convince some other first timers to try it!