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The allure of Alona Beach

It was originally called Tawala Seaside because it was located in Barangay Tawala. Then in the early 1980’s a Filipino actress named Alona Allegre, the younger sister of actor Philip Salvador, shot a movie on the beach in which she starred as a mermaid who falls in love with a mortal. During the filming, local guys would flock to the beach to ogle the scantily-clad beauty.

“Let’s go and see Alona!” was the cry around Tawala, and the name stuck.

Alona Beach is a beautiful 1.5 kilometer stretch of white sand bordered on both ends by limestone rock walls. A leisurely 20-30 minute walk from end to end will bring you across several resorts, dining establishments, souvenir shops and hawkers offering henna tattoos and massages on the beach. When the sun sets, some of these establishments offer acoustic music from local bands, and fire dancing on special occasions.

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Back in the 80s, a prominent landmark on Alona Beach’s north-eastern end was the thatched nipa roof of Alona Tropical Beach Resort’s Baybayon Restaurant. Tourists would hang out here for a sampling of Bohol cuisine and Filipino food.

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Established in 1988 by Mr. & Mrs. Montero, the thatched roof and native cottages have been given a facelift. Native inspired accommodations in a tropical setting, plus a free form swimming pool and a two-storey unit which serves as a showcase for some of Bohol’s antique collectibles give a bit of island history. Mrs. Leonila Montero is the incumbent Mayor of Panglao.

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Alona Beach belongs to one of two municipalities that share the island of Panglao in Bohol.

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Panglao was known to traders from China and other Asian countries even way before the Spaniards set foot on its shores. Archaeological sites have yielded Tang, Sung and Ming dynasty porcelain and trade ware. It is recorded in the history of the island that the Spaniards came to Panglao in search of fresh water in the year 1803. The Spaniards showed signs of friendship so they were welcomed by the natives. Few natives making their fishing device called “panggaw” were at the shore. A Spaniard pointing down asked what the name of the place was. The natives, who believed that the visitor was asking what they were making, answered “Panggaw.” Through the years, the name evolved from “panggaw” to Panglaw and finally to Panglao.

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For a bit of Bohol’s history and a taste of the finest white sand in the area, book at Alona Tropical Beach Resort. You just might get the chance to personally meet the town’s mayor for a guided tour of the beloved estate she calls home.

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For more information, please check out

http://www.alonatropicalbeachresort.com

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LIVING IN A GLASS HOUSE

It’s hard to miss Ocean Suites Bohol Boutique Hotel as it is the only accommodation that is adjacent to one of Bohol’s most famous landmarks, the Blood Compact Shrine.

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Created by National Artist for Sculpture Napoleon Abueva who hails from Bohol, the bronze sculpture depicts the first treaty of friendship between Spanish Captain Miguel Lopez de Legaspi and local chieftain Datu Sikatuna in 1565. As such, a steady stream of tourists drop by the shrine every day where enterprising locals entice them to buy handy souvenir items.

From the roadside, the view of the hotel is unremarkable.

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The moment you step inside however, you are mesmerized by the captivating view of the ocean, blue skies and a panoramic portion of Panglao Island on the horizon.

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Situated on a cliffside property, the architecture is strikingly modern. The ocean view is exploited with the use of floor to ceiling glass walls and sliding doors in all oceanside rooms. A split-level staircase connects all floors and makes for a dramatic backdrop for pictorials.

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An infinity pool at the main lounge and dining area is the focal point. Here, guests can take a dip or order food and refreshments, or entertain friends and visitors.

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In the evenings, the pool illuminates the area with its underwater lighting, taking on the blueness of ocean and skies.

A new, larger pool has been constructed one level down since my last visit in 2014.

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According to Ocean Suite’s Operations Manager Mark Tiago who recently assumed his post in January, the Ocean Café and Azure Restaurant, their main food & beverage services, are set to upgrade their menu in time to meet this summer’s deluge of tourist arrivals.

While a majority of their guests are foreigners, Ocean Suites has consistently been host to a number of guests from media and the local government in support of Bohol’s current thrust to promote eco-tourism.

Mark was quick to point out a mangrove area further downhill from Ocean Suites where the construction of an amphitheater could be seen progressing.

One of Mayor John Geesnell Yap’s priority projects for the City of Tagbilaran is the Bohol Friendship Park.

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According to Mark, the Blood Compact Shrine is going to be relocated downhill. Aside from the amphitheater, shops on stilts, a restaurant on a Spanish Galleon by the bay, as well as ample parking space are bound to rise adjacent to Ocean Suites in a couple more of years.

A sign of more good things to come.

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Ocean Suites Bohol Boutique Hotel

Blood Compact Shrine,

East Tagbilaran Road,

Brgy. Bool, Tagbilaran City

+63 38 4111031

+ 63 917 6547217

oceansuitesbohol@gmail.com

www.oceansuites.ph

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Bohol-a-baisse in a nut shell

Chef Renel Dimacali feels right at home as manager at Mithi Resort & Spa where he is currently based for these past couple of years. He moves with ease and grace, showing us around the beach resort facilities.

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A Manileno by birth, we first met him during the Sandugo Festival in Bohol in 2014 where he was resident chef at a boutique hotel.

Back then, he had already shown flair for innovating and concocting menus, substituting ingredients in existing recipes to come up with a local, improved version, in effect, creating nuances in the flavors.

His extensive training at Enderun, a brief stint in Paris, France and travels around South East Asian countries have served him well because now he has to deal with large-scale functions and events, at times feeding as many as 300 people, and at other times having simultaneous overlapping events. He has to multi-task, handling as many as two or three kitchen crews at the same time with no room for mistakes.

He takes it all in stride with prayer and a breath of fresh air, and some much needed day-offs to unwind.

This former novice in the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) considers the culinary arts his mission field. He approaches it with the same passion and dedication a priest would his ministry.

Surrounded by blissful nature on this side of Panglao Island, he shares with us what he has been doing with Mithi Resort & Spa’s menu.

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Kinilaw na Tangigue

(Spanish mackerel ceviche marinated in vinegar and citrus juices)

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Bohol-a-baisse

(mixed seafood soup in coconut broth)

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Ensalada de Panglao

(steamed regional vegetables with local anchovy vinaigrette)

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Kare-kare de Panglao

(beef ribs stewed in peanut sauce)

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Crispy Pork Roulade

(crispy pork belly roulade served with pork liver sauce)

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Pinaputukang Bangus

(banana-wrapped whole milkfish stuffed with aromatics)

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Ube Pasta Carbonara/Moringa al Pomodoro

(purple yam pasta with carbonara sauce/malunggay pasta with tomato sauce)

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Coconut Panna Cotta

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Mango Crème Brulee

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Bohol Pancakes

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To contact Chef Renel Dimacali, drop by Mithi Resort & Spa or send him a note at:

Mithi Resort & Spa

Bingag, Dauis 6339

Panglao Island

Bohol, Philippines

www.mithiresort.com

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Somewhere in time at Sitio Ubos

Sitio Ubos is Tagbilaran’s lower town located downhill from the backside of the St. Joseph Cathedral complex where the residence-cum-trading houses of some of the town’s merchandising families are located.

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“Easily the most impressive house in Sitio Ubos is the Antonio Rocha House. It has tile roofs and stone ground floor skirting. I remember when we were still kids we used to call it the House of the Roosters because there used to be a pair of ceramic roosters standing on both ends of the main roof. The date 1831 is inscribed into a back wall, giving us an idea about the age of this grand structure. This was the house of the mestizo sangley Don Antonio Rocha who served for a long time as escribiente of the Tagbilaran parish.”

“Time had not been good for this branch of the Tagbilaran Rocha. By the 1970s its owners had to rent out some of the rooms of the house to students, One of those students later became a colleague of mine and he told me of his experiences while staying at the house. It seemed he had befriended the old lady who lived in the house and one time this old lady requested him to help her move around some of the things the family had kept at the stockroom under the house. One of the objects he saw there was this huge wooden chest full of old coins. We may never know what happened to this valuable cache. What we do know is that a member of the family sold the property to a Manila-based antique collector who shelled out some earnest money so as to gain foothold in the house, after which he began methodically stripping the house of valuable antiques before selling the house to its present Swiss owner (I got the chance to visit the house while this was going on and I saw this painting showing the very Chinese-looking Antonio Rocha, placed against the wall and stripped of its frame). My colleague who once boarded here also told me hair-raising stories of supernatural encounters here. One night while he was sleeping on his bed, he was rudely awakened when his bed was violently shaken. Another time he was awakened in the middle of the night when both his feet were pulled down by invisible hands. He sat up to see a dark shadow hovering at the foot of the bed.”

So shares Prof. Marianito Jose Luspo, a Boholano historian and president of the Bohol Arts and Cultural Heritage Council in Stories from Sitio Ubos 1 published in the Tagbilaran Tatler on April 22, 2015 (facebook file).

Considered as the “heart of the heritage district”, Sitio Ubos reputedly holds the oldest stone house (bahay na bato) in the province of Bohol, Casa Rocha, which has the date 1831 carved into a backwall.

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What is currently used as a main gate is actually a side gate. The bottom part of the house is made of limestone blocks and serve as a storage area.

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A flight of wooden stairs leads up into the second floor which is the main residence.

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Noticeable are huge tree trunks which serve as posts and the detailed carved ornamentation on the trusses in the ceiling.

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A huge faded green wooden doorway with lotus flower brass ornamentation opens into a spacious receiving room with a huge dome, a truly unique feature. A brass chandelier hangs from the center of the dome.

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The back of the huge door reveals a double lock made by barricading the door with two thick, sturdy pieces of hardwood.

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Scattered about are a few old chairs and an antique shell inlaid chest which serves as a center table.

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An old wooden cabinet holds an antique wooden statue. The floors are made of large planks of hardwood.

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Through a door, you pass into the dining area which is like a verandah with huge windows. On one side you can see the limestone backwall with the date 1831 inscribed on it.

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There is an estimated 500 heritage houses and structures in Bohol out of which an estimated 300 are located in Tagbilaran City. Only a few dozen have so far been declared as Heritage Houses by the National Historical Institute, among which is the house of former Philippine President Carlos P. Garcia, a Boholano, at A. Hontanosas St.

In order to safeguard these heritage houses and structures, a city ordinance has been proposed by the City Vice Mayor and the Sangguniang Panglungsod Committee on Tourism to formulate The Tagbilaran City Heritage Conservation Guidelines and to create the Tagbilaran City Heritage District.

Modeled after Calle Crisologo in Vigan, and Intramuros in Manila, Tagbilaran City Mayor John Geesnell Yap II said that the city is looking forward to providing incentives to private owners to help them preserve the original design of their houses instead of selling the property or having it torn down.

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Aside from the heritage houses, another priority project for the mayor is the Bohol Friendship Park. This means relocating the Napoleon Abueva bronze sculpture commemorating the blood compact between Spanish Captain Miguel Lopez de Legaspi and local chieftain Datu Sikatuna in 1565 from its current site beside the road to a mangrove park that would include an amphitheater for cultural performances, a series of shops on stilts, and a restaurant on a Spanish Galleon by the bay, with ample parking space.

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Sincere gratitude to Ms. Josephine Remolador-Cabarrus, Ms. Gina Peluchi Kapirig and Mr. Neil Gerard P. Reyes of Bohol Tourism Office, Tagbilaran City Tourism Officer Ms. Shobel Ligalig, and Ms. Nonet Madrinan-Bolo who conceptualized the Tagbilaran Heritage Walk, a walking tour of Tagbilaran City’s Heritage Houses and Structures.

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A Culinary Tour of Bohol II

Three years ago, we had the opportunity to feature gourmet and buffet food being served in two upscale resorts and a boutique hotel in Bohol.

This time around, we were given the opportunity to feature four innovative dining establishments dotting the landscape of Tagbilaran City. All quite new and unique to match the breadth and scope of their tourism arrivals.

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The Buzzz Café of Bohol Bee Farm

(https://www.facebook.com/officialboholbeefarm/)

(https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Buzzz-Cafe-Bohol/242013165940810)

Distinctively the product of Bohol Bee Farm which has been around since 2000, it has three branches in Bohol and one in Cebu. Their menu boasts of fresh garden salads, succulent seafood, organic fruits and veggies, and lean meat recipes.

We were able to have lunch at their branch in Galleria Luisa Mall. The interiors were a pleasant mix of off-white and apple green colors, with homey shabby chic accents and several references to eating healthy food, staying positive and of course, the wonders of honey.

Service was efficient and the staff were courteous and prompt.

The front part of the café served as a retail store for their honey products, organic bread, cosmetics and personal care products, and their home-made ice cream served in their trademark cassava cones which boasted of fruits in season flavors as well as eccentric flavors such as spicy ginger, tomato and malunggay.

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Signature organic salad with edible flowers and honey dressing

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Seafood soup

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Fresh herb pasta

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Grilled Fish in herbs

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Organic red rice topped with sweetened cassava bits

 

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Too Nice to Slice Cake Gallery

(https://www.facebook.com/TooNiceToSliceCakeGallery/)

Barely less than a year old, this family enterprise started when the young Ms. Lapura was working in a BPO company in Cebu. During her free time, she would bake cakes and sell to officemates and friends. The consensus was that these creations were “too nice to slice” which gave her an inkling for a company name. When her mother Mrs. Alegria Lapura retired from government work as an accountant, the daughter packed her bags, went home to Bohol and opened the cake gallery. Soon, a brother who was a chef in one of the resorts in Panglao joined in, hence the business came full circle with them having both desserts and main courses in their menu. Another brother and in-laws lent a helping hand. They are looking forward to their first summer as a food establishment.

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Intimate and cozy, the shop interiors are awash in pink-purple color coordinates with white accent. The chairs, we were told, are old but salvaged, repainted and re-upholstered to give that distinct look of modern elegance.

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Boodle Feast of grilled seafood (shrimps, skewered squid slices, clams), fish ceviche, and grilled pork ribs, all sprinkled with fresh seaweed salad

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A sampling of the sumptuous Chocolate Addiction, Mango Wacko Walnut Cheesecake and Chocolate Blackout Cheesecake

 

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Massimo Pizzeria Ristorante Italiano

(https://www.facebook.com/MassimoPizzeriaRistorante/)

Meet Chef Massimo, the brains behind the menu, who may be seen in action supervising the kitchen staff of this authentic Italian Restaurant day in and day out, and all doubts fall away.

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A self-confessed resident of Panglao who has been living in the province for some time now, the Pizzeria is a recent endeavor with only five months of operations.

Filipino business partner Shobe Uy who has a certificate in Culinary Arts manages the daily operations leaving Chef Massimo with much needed time to focus on the ingredients and the cooking.

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Bruschetta Pomodoro (homemade bread, fresh tomato, olive oil, garlic)

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Taglier Salume e Formaggi or cold cuts and cheese (served with complimentary focaccia)

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Insalte or salad of lettuce, green apple slices, tomatoes and shrimps

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Spaghetti Carbonara (eggs, bacon, parmesan, black pepper)

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4 Formaggi (mozzarella cheese, blue cheese, parmesan, pecorino) Pizza

The wine list isn’t shabby either, and wine by the glass is readily available for those who want to go sampling through the entire wine menu of reds and whites.

Housed in a white Victorian-inspired pre-World War II residential structure, the ambiance is uncluttered and the trademark in keeping with guidelines on the preservation of Heritage Houses. Distinctly Italian with a Filipino soul.

 

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Socorro’s

(https://www.facebook.com/socorros.bohol/)

Joyce Valerie Mascarinas-Astilla is proud of her new restaurant which they opened to the public in September 2016. What was once an empty lot is now converted into one of the most happening tambayans for Boholanos and foreigners alike.

On an ordinary night, the tables are full and the place is abuzz with happy chatter as customers line up at the food counter to order their food and pay for it. Clean, shiny casseroles line up homemade cooking in a no fuss arrangement.

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According to Joyce, they started out with a barbecue grill place which is still in operations until today. The empty lot owned by her family had her brainstorming for a business venture that would surely appeal to the Boholano’s craving for good food but at affordable prices. Rather than fine dining which often raised the prices of the menu due to the expensive interiors needed to create the ambiance, she thought of home cooked meals and specialties served on wooden tables with sturdy benches, in honor of her mother Socorro who enjoyed cooking.

Her gamble has paid off. Not only locals patronize Socorro’s but tourists of all nationalities who come into the place wanting to try Filipino food whose names they sometimes do not even know!

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Best selling Crispy Pata

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Grilled Tuna Panga

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Fish Ceviche

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Sincere gratitude to Ms. Josephine Remolador-Cabarrus, Ms. Gina Peluchi Kapirig and Mr. Neil Gerard P. Reyes of Bohol Tourism Office, and all the food establishment owners for their hospitality and for sharing with us their passion for cuisine.

Banner photo, all photos on Too Nice to Slice Cake Gallery and Socorro’s by Mike Manlapid Apostol.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 www.bohol-sunside-resort.com

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Introducing Ava Canaceli

Think of contemporary Christian music singer Evie (family name Tornquist Karlsson) of the 70’s, Filipino gospel singer Gigi Villa from the 80’s (now Mrs. Gigi Villa Kenney, wife of Pastor John David Kenney based in Jakarta, Indonesia who had a successful music ministry in the United States under the banner Evangeline Ministries), or even Kari Jobe from 2009!

The self-titled debut album from Ava Canaceli has great packaging (great photos and lay-out courtesy of one of her sisters), and great production due in part to a cohesive band that provides her with the instrumentation to complement her sweet soprano voice, and another sister providing back-up vocals in most of the songs. The recording itself is clean with a crisp, clear sound.

14322771_673968696099014_2549779689003850698_nBut what makes this album stand out are the songs themselves, and the voice delivering the message of hope and love. All the songs were written by Ava between 2010 to 2015, with five of the tracks recorded in 2014, and one recorded this year. The first track is a youthful song reminding one to “take it slow and not rush into relationships”, hence Dahan-dahan Lang. The second track Isang Pintig continues where the first track left off, this time to “savor the relationship until the time comes when the two become one” – marriage as the goal. Whereas the first two tracks are ditties (a.k.a. love songs) and easy on the ears, the third track Paikot-ikot makes you stop and listen. The tempo picks up but is still light and easy on the ears (jazzy a la Sitti), and you are hooked by the chorus, tackling falling in and out of love in a positive tone that leaves you with Last Song Syndrome (LSS). If there was one big ballad on the album, it is the fourth track. Kung Mawala Man Ang Lahat tackles changing circumstances when blessings such as material wealth, dreams, even love relationships are lost and you go through a dry season – would you still sing a song of praise? Everyone can relate to this song. The remaining two tracks, Wala Nang Iba and Para Sayo are praise and worship songs that are adaptable to worship teams and youth choirs.

Good news is that the album contains accompaniment tracks of all the songs, hence the album becomes an invaluable addition to the music library of churches and youth groups, a perfect example of Original Pilipino (Christian) Music.

motex107To order the album:

1. Visit http://facebook.com/avacanaceli page and send a message.

2. Send your order info (format):

Complete name: Complete address: Mobile number: CD Quantity: Amount to Deposit:

***CD cost is P275.00 ***LBC Shipping Fee is P160.00

3. Visit any BPI Bank and deposit the amount to:

Name: Ma. Vanessa Ava Canaceli Account No. 4519-1193-37

4. Scan a copy of your deposited/payment receipt and send it to her.

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How are the “Women of the Weeping River”?

The scene starts off with an aerial shot of a secondary forest at early morning with the sounds of nature in the background. After a few seconds, the camera dives into the canopy of trees to reveal two women in the undergrowth garbed in blouses and malong skirts placing their location somewhere in Mindanao. They are dragging a body wrapped in cloth by the upper torso, with only the feet showing. It has to be the body of an adult male as it takes the strength of the two women to progress through the dense forest. They leave a muddy trail behind.
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With this dramatic opening scene, award-winning indie and documentary film director and writer Sheron Dayoc introduces the lead character Satra to the audience.
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Blood feud, locally known as “rido,” is the central conflict of the film and is being practiced by some Muslim communities until the present. There have been government efforts to curtail this practice but it has proven unsuccessful so far. Many disputes over land ownership lead to blood feuds carried out by men through several generations. There is an unwritten code that women are spared from bloodshed for it is deemed shameful and dishonorable for men to harm them. And so the adult men in rival families dwindle as they strive to avenge the death of their family members leaving behind the women and children to carry on with their lives and to fend for themselves.
What would otherwise have been gory scenes are presented in good taste through excellent cinematography. A young boy being pursued by an adult male from a rival family through the forest, weakened by the loss of blood through a stab wound in the stomach, falls on his face, still far from his home and not within hearing distance from rescuers. The pursuer catches up with him and starts hacking him with a jungle knife (bolo) as he lay on the ground. Mercifully, the camera angle only shows the killer hacking away but you get the idea of what occurred.
Satra initially seeks vengeance for the death of her husband and uncles but finds herself being convinced by Farida, a mediator trying to reconcile the rival families, to leave the land after the death of her only child Amiya.
A river borders the land occupied by Satra’s and Shadiya’s family. Both families get their water from the same source and as the conflict escalates, a murder taints the waters red. Flashbacks to earlier times and happier days show a couple bathing in the river’s pristine waters. Fast forward to present day and Satra is found swimming in the river crying over the loss of her only child at the hands of the rival family. Hence, the weeping river.
A conflict arises within the family as Satra’s father and brothers refuse to leave. They would rather die fighting for their land. To prevent the loss of her remaining male family, Satra secretly meets up with Shadiya, the matriarch of the rival clan, to seek possible reconciliation.
The movie thus ends in a hopeful note.
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All of the cast are raw natural talents who delivered great acting, credit due in part to the acting coaches in their production team.
Thank God for independent movie producers who eschew formulas for commercial success, and the benefactors who support these artistic and creative endeavors. They provide society with the much needed insight and perspective.
The practice of “rido” may not yet be completely removed from Mindanao due to the long history of political conflict that continues to haunt the island until today, but with films like these giving other Filipinos and the world an inside perspective, understanding and compassion in action may yet prove to be the catalyst for reconciliation.
Women of the Weeping River won Best Picture, Best Actress, and Best Supporting Actor at the recently concluded QCinema International Festival! Congratulations to the team and entire cast: Mr. Fernando Ortigas and EA Rocha from Tuko Film Productions, Buchi Boy Entertainment and Artikulo Uno Productions, Cinematogrphy by Rommel Andreo Sales. Special mention to former colleague Dianna Jean Callejo-Cruz, Line Producer for the movie. We are so proud of you :)
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The Line Producer with the Lead Actress Ms. Laila Ulao, a nurse by profession
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*** All photos used provided by Ms. Dianna Jean Callejo-Cruz
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a home at the edge of Samal Island

Sometimes the only way standing between the rustic charms of an unspoiled beach and loud, rowdy tourists is a dirt road. Such a dirt road exists in Brgy. Camudmud, Babak District just a few meters past the main road leading to the Monfort Batcave right across an INC church on the Island Garden City of Samal in Davao.

For some 15 minutes or so, you ride down a small incline and into a community of humble abodes, beach houses, a school for marine science and then into a bit of woody area, bamboo clumps, bananas and coconut trees before finally reaching the end of the road.

As soon as you pass a bamboo and chicken wire gate that has a friendly guard on duty, you know you made the right turn. Past some foliage, a white beach, a hut, a native-inspired beach house, and a couple of cabanas on turquoise waters greet your view.

Beach House La Concha belongs to the family of real estate broker Heiner Fernando Engelbach, born of a German father and Filipino mother. Since most of the time he and his family are either in Metro Manila or in Germany, they decided to open their beach house to friends and their families as a weekend getaway.

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Large comfortable sofas and canopied beds made of bamboo are scattered throughout the ground and upper levels for an unobstructed view of the beach and mainland Davao. Airconditioned rooms are available for those who wish to rest indoors.

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Shell ornaments hang from the rafters, and found objects are a consistent theme adorning driftwood center tables and side tables. A cogon hut on the beach with several lounge chairs makes for an ideal nap area, while a cabana right on the water promises adventure and time well spent soaking up the sun and saltwater.

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Wooden stairs adorned with the natural shape of a tree limb lead right into pristine waters that’s four feet deep during high tide. A couple of hammocks strung between the wooden posts of the cabana right below the flooring is an extra delight that allows one to swing and bathe at the same time.

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Sunny afternoons in the hammock, time stands still as the fresh breeze and the gentle lapping of the waves lull you off to sleep.

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Guests are encouraged to explore the local market to shop for fresh seafood and cook their meals in the kitchen. Or Mrs. Joanne, wife of Heiner’s cousin who is the caretaker, may be prevailed upon to cook the meals for a minimal fee.

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BEACH HOUSE LA CONCHA

Brgy. Camudmud, Island Garden City of Samal

Davao del Norte, Philippines

Tel. No. (082) 286-9008

Caretaker: Mrs. Joanne 09073856486

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A day’s worth of backpacking on Samal Island, Davao

Promo fares are like manna from heaven to backpackers. Book early and you get more chances of landing a roundtrip airline ticket at very low cost. I booked one for Davao City August of 2015 for just P 750.00 and flew in middle of June 2016.

It was a restful trip to the airport at dawn without the usual Metro Manila traffic and an uneventful one hour and 45 minute plane ride to Davao’s international airport. I had time to check out the 11th World Food Expo (WOFEX) at the SMX Convention Center in SM Lanang, Davao City before heading out to Sasa, Km. 11 wharf where I took a ten minute ferry boat ride to cross into Samal Island for a minimal fee of P 10.00.

Popular modes of transportation on the island are motorbikes (P50.00 per head) or tricycles (P250.00 one trip for five pax) and there are more than a dozen thrifty but comfortable bed and breakfast lodgings to choose from.

I was able to book at La Vida Orchard Bed & Breakfast Samal online for a single aircon room with private toilet for just P 700.00 inclusive of Continental breakfast of toasted bread with homemade mango and pineapple jam partnered with a steaming cup of roasted corn coffee.

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The compound had well tended gardens and rooms that had a “country” ambiance. There were also a couple of “dorm” type rooms that could accommodate 8-10 guests at any given time.

Nino Sepulveda, La Vida Orchard’s owner, manages the place together with his parents who are hands on in operations. He quickly shares that thanks to the internet, business is brisk and bookings come in succession. Having shifted to a bed & breakfast from a catering business, he has no regrets stating that he still finds time to travel overseas despite the full bookings.

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He is quick to point out though that as a bed & breakfast, guests are encouraged to explore the local market and do their own cooking. Their kitchen and dining areas are made available to the guests and mealtime often turns into an enjoyable cookfest and bonding time. Otherwise, there are several dining establishments all throughout the island offering a la carte meals.

For a day’s worth of sightseeing, first stop was at Kaputian Beach accessed via a one hour trip from the wharf on the main road. A dozen or so native huts spread across a vast expanse of white beach beckons the visitor to linger and relax. There is a minimal fee for use of the huts. Several enterprising locals hawking the day’s fresh catch of seafood are positioned near the entrance. A cooking area for grilling is conveniently located to one side and shaded by chestnut trees. Mainland Davao looks like a mere stone’s throw from Kaputian Beach.

Walking distance from Kaputian Beach is a quaint art shop named Samal Art Legacy. According to Mr. Sepulveda, the owner is an architect now working in the Middle East so he is not sure if the shop still opens everyday. He has already purchased several sculptures and mixed media installations in the past, now adorning some nooks and crannies of La Vida Orchard.

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Last stop for the day was at Hagimit Falls, accessed via a thirty minute ride from the wharf through the town center and up some hills. Entrance fee is at P 20.00 per head.

You go down a flight of concrete steps that lead to four clusters of the falls, each cluster managed by a separate private establishment. Huts and cottages may be rented at minimal fees. Ambulant vendors inconspicuously selling pancakes, shredded cassava cakes, steamed yellow corn, and coconut juice, as well as some neighborhood variety stores are strategically located all throughout the area. An afternoon at Hagimit Falls is a perfect way to wind up your day, especially if the weather is hot and humid.

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LA VIDA ORCHARD BED & BREAKFAST SAMAL

Brgy. Catagman, Island Garden City of Samal

Davao Del Norte, Philippines

Mobile: 0917-7700330/(082) 221-7601

Facebook: La Vida Orchard Samal

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