We wanted to see how we would fare if we took the public transportation to visit Bohol’s most famous tourist sites, and so we started off from Tagbilaran City’s plaza near the cathedral at around 9:00 a.m. where we rode a jeep to Baclayon. Fare P 8.00 per head, travel time around 20 minutes.
The Baclayon Church is one of the more famous old churches in Bohol. Its parking lot was filled with tourist buses, vans for hire and private vehicles which came in and out at all times of the day.
It was my first time inside the church. As is staple to old churches, there were several statues at the altar, carved woodwork on the door panels and church pews, paintings on the walls and ceilings and stained glass windows. I dropped in on the souvenir shop and saw all sorts of religious items for sale such as rosaries and prayer beads made of several materials including the expensive Swarovski crystal. I bought a sapphire blue rosary for P 450.00 as a momento.
We stayed for a while near the belfry where we took several souvenir photos. Our photographer from the Manila Bulletin newspaper Noel Pabalate pointed out a shape on one of the churches’ stone façade which resembled the face of a friar. According to him, it was first noticed by a student who called the attention of the sisters running the convent. It has become an iconic example of Baclayon’s religious devotion to the church and its patron saint/s.
We went out back to look for the shop selling the famous Marzipan biscuits/bread but was informed they had ran out of stocks due to a deluge of tourists the day before.
We went back to the main road to wait for a jeepney ride to our next stop. After about 30 minutes, we were able to catch a jeep for Loboc where they have the famous Loboc river cruises and floating restaurants. Fare from Baclayon to Loboc was P 18.00 per head with travel time of about 45 minutes.
We alighted at Loboc Plaza which was just adjacent to the parish church of San Pedro Apostol and the Loboc Tourism Office and Waiting Lounge housing the boat terminal for the river cruises. Since most of the floating restaurants started at lunchtime (11 a.m.), we had to wait around for 30 minutes since we arrived early. A good thing there were several souvenir shops and snack kiosks to while away the time.
There were around four choices for the river cruises, each one revolving on a particular theme or menu, complete with live music entertainment. There was also a choice between day cruise (inclusive of lunch) or night cruise (inclusive of dinner) at P 400.00 per head. Capacity per boat was anywhere from 30-50 pax.
After a perfunctory lunch and a quick stop over at a balsa where a group of locals serenaded us with native songs and dances, we left at around 1:00 p.m. for a bus ride to the interior town of Corella to visit The Philippine Tarsier Foundation Inc. Entrance fee was at P 20.00 per head.
Bus fare cost P 21.00 with a travel time of around 45 minutes.
From the registration area, we walked down a dirt road for about 10 minutes before reaching the sanctuary. According to the tour guide, tarsiers are nocturnal animals and should not be disturbed at daytime. They commit suicide in captivity due to trauma from touching and loud noise. They have the slowest fetal growth rates of any mammal, taking 6 months to reach a birth weight of 23 grams. They are able to move about at night, but are wary of cats and snakes which usually prey on them.
Every morning, the tour guides go into the sanctuary to locate the three adults and one baby tarsier they currently have.
On our way from the sanctuary back to the main road, we met several foreign tourists riding rented motorcycles.
The staff at the registration area advised us that if we missed the 3:00 p.m. ride back to Loboc, we would have to wait another hour for the next ride.
We waited for 30 minutes before a jeepney headed for Loboc came along. Since it was already full, two of us had to ride on the roof since we did not want to wait another hour.
It was my first roof ride even though I came from the province. It was a good thing it was a balmy day, otherwise we could have gotten sunburned. The view was exhilarating and we had fun waving to kids who thought we were Koreans! From this experience, we learned that jeepney and bus rides in the province usually served as couriers as well, dropping off passengers and their packages on their front gates! So every now and then, it was normal for stopovers at someone’s residence, or little detours on side roads to drop off packages.
Back at Loboc, we had to wait another 30 minutes before a bus headed for the chocolate hills of Carmen passed by and it was jampacked, even worst than Manila’s MRT at rush hour! First thing we verified was that the last trip from Carmen back to Tagbilaran City was at 5:00 p.m.
So we squeezed into the bus along with all the other passengers. Just like Manila buses, bus aisles were also maximized to full capacity. Unlike Manila buses however, the front half of the bus were all seats with no aisle. After about an hour into the journey, I was ready to grab the next seat vacated. To our surprise, the elderly were just as agile and frisky in hitching rides on jampacked buses as did the young. Bus fare was P 31.00 each at over an hour travel time.
We reached the Chocolate Hills at around 4:30 p.m. and rode motorcycles at P 40.00 per head up to the view deck. Entrance fees were at P 50.00 per head.
At the view deck were several tour buses and lots of parked motorcycles. One had to go up a flight of stairs (I lost count at 50) to get a bird’s eye view of the hills. They were spread over several hectares of land and were covered in green grass since it was the rainy season. At summertime, they turn brown when the grass dies under the scorching heat of the sun.
Tagbilaran’s museum diorama explains that mainland Bohol could have been under the ocean in pre-historic times, a possible reason why several fossils of shells, volcanic rock and limestone are abundant in the area even though Carmen is an interior town and far from the ocean.
After about 20 minutes, we hurriedly made our way back to the main road to catch the last trip back to the city. It was a good thing we were able to grab some empty seats because it took an hour and a half back to Tagbilaran City.
We were back in the city plaza at 7:00 in the evening.