An island of rich greenery
Piles of natural treasures
These are the greatest qualities of
As we ride the spiral road enroute to
The hills that resemble chocolate truffles
Hills that also remind you of
Chicken pox or bites from mosquitos
Or piles of moss covered clouds
I didn’t expect to see how unique the hills
Formed a soft peak
Not a sharp rigid point or a flat plateau
They formed a soft round shape
Like candy dots,
Drops of morning dew on palm tree leaves,
Small scoops of ice cream
They made you question,
“How did they form on this bountiful island?”
We embarked on a ferry ride from one of the oldest cities in the Philippines, Cebu, to the biologically rich and forested island, Bohol. We took a bus to the Loboc River area and our Airbnb hosts picked us up. While we waited, curious children asked us what our names were and shyly giggled as we responded. When we were shown the house we would be staying in, we were completely blown away. Not only was the house made of bamboo, but it had unique features and a comfortable tropical cabin feel. Our hosts, Jess and Wilfred, were welcoming and hospitable, along with their adorable dragons, their nickname for their little girls.
We woke up early the next day so we could venture to see the Chocolate Hills, one of the biological wonders of the Philippines. We noticed that we were running low on cash…significantly low on cash. “No worries,” I thought, getting used to the tropical attitude. “I’m sure there will be a few ATMs when we get into the main touristy area.” We caught the bus headed north toward the Chocolate Hills. As soon as we walked on, we didn’t have to say a word, the driver immediately asked, “Chocolate Hills?” We confirmed that the Chocolate Hills was our destination and paid the small bus fare.
The old bus was packed with primarily locals heading to the next city in the northern part of the island. I shared a seat with a friendly woman who asked where I was from and where I was going. As the bus sped through rolling hills and steered past cars and motorbikes, I noticed how the weather changed and hoped the sun would come out. September is one of the months during the hurricane season, and although we were warned, we still decided to go.
At one of the stops, the bus driver waved to a man who was selling bananas, asking him in Bisaya, Bohol’s native dialect, for a bundle. He took one and handed it to me, smiling and telling me in English to try the local bananas. I peeled the small yellow fruit and took a bite of the sweetest banana I’ve ever tasted. Back in the United States, we’re used to eating large bananas that have been shipped from Central America and have been pumped with chemicals to make them grow faster. They are flavorless and somewhat chewy, never soft and sweet like this one. I thanked him for the best banana I’ve had so far in the Philippines and we were finally at our destination.
It was 50 Philippino Pesos to enter the area, we were asked if we wanted to rent ATVs or motorbikes to get to the top faster. We decided to walk up the hill and enjoy the gorgeous scenery around us. You could see the bumpy emerald hills in the distance as we made our way to the top where the observation deck was. We were among other tourists as we climbed up the stairs so we could snap a good photo. We marveled at the scenic view since the hills looked unreal. It looked as though they were covered in moss and nothing more. We noticed that there weren’t any other trees or vegetation that grew on the lumpy blobs of land. We started feeling some rain drops as the clouds started to roll in and we decided it was time to leave and find an ATM.
After walking in the autumn rain to another touristy area that had a zip line, we were told that there weren’t any ATMs in the area. We decided to keep walking into the town area we had seen. Again, no luck. We found ATMs but the problem was they only accepted local debit cards. We felt stranded since we didn’t know how else we were going to get back to where we were staying by the Loboc River without any Philippino Pesos.
I thought of calling Jess to see if she could pick us up or had any suggestions. She luckily saved the day by explaining that we could take the bus and she would pay our fare when we got off. She could then hook us up with her friend who would let us rent a motorbike and we could take a trip into town and go to the ATM in the mall since it’s the only ATM foreigners can use to pull out money. The only problem was that the mall was a 40-minute drive so it was going to take up most of our day and neither of us had driven a motorbike before. We had no other choice but to accept the challenging adventure.
As it turns out, the best way to discover Bohol is to jump on a motorbike and ride through the barren country roads. We were so amazed by the beauty of the island on our way to the city. We took streets that the bus didn’t take us through where you could see the handcrafted houses the locals lived in and the tropical palms and banana trees that flourished from the lush land. We felt the island breeze kiss our faces as we sped through the wind. The wide empty roads dared us to speed but the gorgeous scenery kept us at a solid pace so we didn’t miss any striking sights.
As we got closer to the city, the traffic started getting busier and it was Donald’s goal to make sure we got their safely. It’s not uncommon to hear about people getting into motorbike accidents, especially if they’re not experienced driving one or not confident in driving in the heavy traffic. We luckily reached the mall, pulled out Philippino Pesos, and headed back to the Loboc River area.
We decided to check out the longest bamboo bridge instead and fortunately we were able to cross it. The history of the bamboo bridge is very interesting, it was originally built so the locals could efficiently cross the river since it separates the land. Now when you walk the shaky yet very stable bridge, there are vendors on the other side selling coconut water, sweet treats, and other goodies.
When we returned the motorbike back to Mike, a friend of Wilfred and Jess, we learned that he was the one who designed the blueprint for the native bamboo cabin we were staying in. He told us stories of growing up here on Bohol. They were forced to speak English in school and if they spoke their local language, they were given a fine. It was a small fine of 1 or 2 Philippino Pesos but it trained the students to use their English skills. While on Bohol we learned that the Philippines has anywhere between 120-175 dialects. While Tagalog is considered the national language, some people never learn it and only communicate in their local dialect.
The next day we left the lovely forested island of Bohol and headed to the airport so we could jet set to Palawan. We decided that if we ever returned to the Philippines we would definitely stay longer on the bountiful island of Bohol. The people were friendly, there wasn’t a huge city vibe, the surroundings and natural areas were incredibly beautiful, and we also didn’t get a chance to check out the southern white sand beaches! Bohol will always be a favorite place in my mind, I already miss it.
Thank you, Jess for hosting us and making us wonderful meals! 🙂 Hope you, Wilfred, and the girls are doing well and if we ever return we will contact you again!