Getting away from it all in Bohol

FULLY LOADED - Mikael Daez - The Philippine Star

Bohol was such a peaceful experience. It allowed me to recharge and completely get my mind off things.

It’s been awhile since I’ve been to a province in the Philippines that hasn’t been hit by the wave of commercialism yet. All our famous tourist spots have fallen victim to it but I’m not saying it’s a negative trend. It’s just that having our tourist spots commercialized has its pros and cons in the same way that an untouched paradise has its own. It just so happens that all the places I’ve been to lately such as Boracay, Iloilo, Cebu and the like have all become similar as a result of their commercialization. It came to a point that I wouldn’t have minded taking a mini-vacation to a virgin island just to get away from all of that, even just for a bit.

With that, I suddenly found myself taking a trip to Bohol recently. It’s a place that I always used to hear about when I was growing up. The Chocolate Hills always popped up in my Araling Panlipunan class and I was always curious as to how they looked up close. Many years later, I finally got the chance to visit the place and at first, I really did not know what to expect. Not a lot of people talk about Bohol nowadays and even less have a lot of pictures of their time there. I also don’t recall the province having any signature fiesta such as Dinagyang, Sinulog or Masskara so I was going into the place without expecting much.

As I arrived, however, I quickly realized that I had found a place I had not seen in a while. Bohol felt like an island completely disconnected from our hectic and brand-filled lifestyle. The short road trip to the resort was full of lush foliage and the occasional range of rolling hills. There were no malls or fast-food chains that would’ve stuck out like sore thumbs. All I saw was a place that felt genuinely serene and laidback.

On top of the awesome province, I was staying in Bellevue Bohol — a new resort in Panglao, Bohol that invited me over for their grand opening. As I explored the resort, I found that it wasn’t enormous or daunting. It wasn’t trying to be fancy or over the top either. The best thing about Bellevue Bohol was that, instead of trying to add glitz to such a peaceful island, their design enhances the experience. The room I stayed in had a great view of the resort and the beachfront, plus the lobby and lounge area were laid out nicely. Their overall theme blended well with the island which was refreshing compared with the high-end hotels we have in Metro Manila that try to catch so much attention.

My favorite part of Bellevue Bohol would be night swimming in its pool. Even if there were a good amount of people occupying that place, it never felt crowded. I never felt like my privacy was being invaded and the experience made me feel like I had the island to myself at times. Basically, the resort was able to retain the “untouched” quality of the island while providing a comfortable place to stay in.

Moving on, the most fun that I had during the trip would be our one-day tour of the province. In just a couple of hours, we were able to visit and hike up to the viewing deck of the Chocolate Hills. They were a lot bigger than I expected. I thought I’d be able to hop around from hill to hill. I also stepped into the cage of the biggest python in the Philippines and snapped a few goofy photos with it. I went through the routinary church-visiting part of the tour (doesn’t every province have a church we have to look at?). And then, the most memorable spot would be the river cruise. My group had lunch while cruising down a beautiful river. We would even occasionally interrupt the on-board entertainment so we could sing along with the band. It was a floating lunch-slash-rockeoke!

During the whole trip, I had no sense of time. I never felt like I was trying to catch up with anything. The people were extremely friendly and the calm and serenity of the place was just contagious. I was even able to chat with our tour guide who was originally from Manila. He told me about life in Bohol and how crime rates were almost non-existent and the cost of living was less than a fifth compared to the metro. You live life at your own pace without having to stress over the silly stuff.

Over all, Bohol was such a peaceful experience. It allowed me to recharge and completely get my mind off things. I think it’s a place where people can really “get away from it all.” I didn’t have to contend with other tourists in the must-see places and prices weren’t jacked up (spent less than P1,000 per head for the tour). It feels completely untouched in Bohol and I get jealous over their way of life because there doesn’t seem to be any stress in their lives. I admit I may not be able to live there for long periods of time but I will definitely go back if I need a place to recharge.

(For any comments/suggestions, e-mail me at [email protected]. Follow me on Twitter @mikaeldaez.)










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