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It’s getting hotter and hotter in the Philippines because summer is already here. One of the popular activities during summer is snorkeling since our country has been blessed with a teeming underwater world. For this week’s post, I’ll share my amazing snorkeling adventure in the stunning Balicasag Island.

Pump Boats in Balicasag Island

Pump Boats in Balicasag Island

Balicasag Island

Balicasag Island

Balicasag Island

Panglao Island in Bohol is starting to flourish and etch its own name in the world map of tourist destinations. Resorts, apartments, cottages and hotels sprout all over the island to cater to snorkelers and divers alike. The flat and almost circular island of Balicasag is located southwest of Panglao, and is surrounded by a sandy shell coralline beach making it a popular dive and snorkel spot. So April of last year, my friends and I rented a pump boat to go to this famous hotspot and discover and experience nature at its best.

Dolphin Watching

Pod of Dolphins

Pod of Dolphins

You have to wake up really early so that you’ll get the chance to see the elusive dolphins. I was a little bit worried though because we got a late start and might not see the dolphins on the way. Our boatman was more optimistic than I was and I guess the dolphins heard his good-natured plea because after 15 minutes they appeared out of nowhere. It was so exhilarating to see them dance and play with each other. Just seeing them wild and carefree is, indeed, a heart-warming sight. After some time we bid goodbye to the jolly pod of dolphins and proceeded to Balicasag Island. By the time we got to the island, the sun was already up and about.

Balicasag Marine Sanctuary

Small Boats at Php 150

Small Boats at Php 150

We had to ride small boats to go to the island’s sanctuary because it’s a bit far from the drop off area. An environmental fee of Php 50 is also collected together with the Php 150 for the small boat ride.  You’ll have a personal tour guide, who is also a local of the island, and they’ll bring along some bread to feed the fishes and give you some facts about anything under the sun.

Puffer Fish

Puffer Fish

The current was quite strong but it didn’t hinder us from enjoying the warm water and the thriving nation of marine creatures. Once you put on your goggles, you’ll definitely see a different and more active life underneath the sea. The fish big and small, swim past you like busy people on their way to work. I tried feeding the fish with a piece of bread but one of the bigger fishes bit my finger instead. So I just went back to watching them. I was also very lucky to see a real puffer fish for the first time. Our tour guide saw it first and he tried getting it out of the water for us to take pictures of it. I know it’s kinda cruel but the puffer fish looks really cute when bloated. No need to freak out though because we set it free, safe and intact.

I found Nemo!

I found Nemo!

It bit my finger!

It bit my finger!

Be Careful!

The water in the sanctuary is a little shallow and the corals are a bit rough so you have to have snorkeling shoes all the time to avoid minor scratches and injuries. If you don’t have any snorkeling gears with you, no need to worry, because the local folks in Balicasag lets you rent snorkeling gear including masks, snorkels, snorkeling shoes, even underwater camera cases.

Virgin Island

After a whole morning of snorkeling in the clear warm water, you can have another treat by proceeding to a tropical oasis known to tourists as Virgin Island. It’s a white powdery sand bar during low tide, but completely covered during high tide. It’s not a snorkeling area but trust me, it’s a good place for some pictures.

Played with my Camera a little bit

Played with my Camera a little bit

Jump Shot

Jump Shot

 

Sand Bar

Sand Bar

So if you happen to drop by Bohol make sure to do some island hopping aside from the usual countryside tour to Chocolate Hills. If you want to check another snorkeling getaway of mine, you can check my previous post about Siquijor Island or tune in again next week for another snorkeling escapade.

Relax yourself with serenity in this hidden paradise; Veraneante Resort is located in the flourishing island of Panglao, Bohol. This inland resort was inaugurated in September 2012 and since then it has been a hotspot for local and foreign tourists alike.

Veraneante Resort

Veraneante Resort

Veraneante Resort may not be a beachfront property, but it boasts a luxurious oval-shaped swimming pool and an adjacent kiddie pool, which can also be readily converted into a big Jacuzzi. So one can take a dip in the cool waters and lay on the sunbed while basking under the lazy heat of the midday sun.

Veraneante Resort's Swimming Pool and Jacuzzi

Veraneante Resort’s Swimming Pool and Jacuzzi

Poolside (800x530)
This family-owned and managed resort has seven exquisite rooms: Premium Cabana, Superior Duplex and Deluxe Duplex. For a family vacation, the Superior Duplex would be can accommodate   four people. Deluxe Duplex is a perfect choice for couples who are on a budget but would like to spend their honeymoon in relaxation and comfort. And for the couples who would like to have a more private and a one-of-a-kind honeymoon, the elusive Premium Cabana is a lovely pick. The rooms are often fully booked, especially during the tropical summer heat. The peak season in the Philippines usually starts by December and lasts up to May of the next year.

Veraneante Resort's Premium Cabana

Veraneante Resort’s Premium Cabana

Veraneante Resort's Superior Duplex

Veraneante Resort’s Superior Duplex

Veraneante Resort's Premium Cabana

Veraneante Resort’s Premium Cabana

Café Oppe is the resort’s restaurant which offers a fusion of international and Filipino dishes, delicately prepared by their in-house chefs. A wide array of cocktails, drinks and espressos are also available to complement sumptuous meals. Daily breakfasts, which are already included in the room rates, are served in the native-styled restaurant.

Cafe Oppe

Cafe Oppe

Cafe Oppe's Cocktails

Cafe Oppe’s Cocktails

Cafe Oppe's Espressos

Cafe Oppe’s Espressos

So if you decided to take a quick break from your everyday hustle-bustle, do visit Bohol and try booking in one of the seven lovely rooms of Veraneante Resort. Experience the privacy and relaxation that you truly deserve and pamper yourself with nature’s beauty.
For more inquiries, please feel free to visit the resort’s website: www.veraneanteresortbohol.com.

I’m the youngest in the family, and many of you may think that youngest kids are the most pampered and spoiled in the family. Well, yes, sometimes that’s true (make it more than sometimes), but it has its drawbacks too.

I was diagnosed to have Mitral Valve Prolapse six or seven years ago. It’s a abnormality in the left valve of the heart that instead of completely closing when the heart pumps blood, the leaflet stands a little ajar making some of my blood flow back.

Daddy’s Girl

Daddy's Girl

Daddy’s Girl

Put my condition and my family rank together, and you’ll get an overprotective father. I love my father very much, in fact, I’m a daddy’s girl, but sometimes he goes just a tiny wee bit overboard in protecting me. He prevents me from being stressed out and I’m thankful to the Heavens because of it. He does the sweetest lil things and most of the time he gives me all I need and want: food, gadgets, clothes and much more. However, there’s this one thing, I’m sad about: he doesn’t permit me to ride a Ferris wheel, a roller coaster or any ride that has an adrenaline rush or heights. He thinks it’s bad for my health, but I haven’t even heard my cardiologist mention it.

Spilling the Beans

This could have gone unnoticed except that I love to try these things! I’d always fantasized about flying, and these rides are the next closest thing to flying (except for a plane ride, of course). Since I’m a little hard headed, I tried these without my beloved father knowing.

Zipline with my Beau

Zipline with my Beau

I know I’m guilty of disobeying my father, but I’ll forever regret it if I let the chance of riding pass  when I still have the strength and vivacity to do so. And so, I did ride. I rode the Ferris wheel, the rollercoaster, and other adrenaline-filled amusement rides. I had also tried the zipline, just like my co-author, Elmer, did. I did the Edge Coaster and the Sky Walk in Crown Regency Cebu, and I thought that was the most daring thing I would do in my entire life.

The Plunge

But that was before I knew of THE PLUNGE. And to give you a pea-size idea of what it’s like, just imagine yourself free-falling with zero-gravity, an adrenaline rush that makes you forget breathing and heart beats all at once, and a fast-as-lightning drop that makes the world blurry all of a sudden. That’s the very thrill you get when you jump on a 200-meter canyon with only a rope to hold your fragile existence.

The Plunge

The Plunge

The Ride of a Lifetime

I had no fear not even a trickle of it. I was determined to do the plunge and submit myself to a tiny precious moment of being in the free air. I felt like an angel free-falling from the sky and that rope was my salvation. For a moment or two, I yo-yoed on the rope while the operator prepared to haul me up. For a moment or two, I enjoyed appreciating the beauty of nature on top of the giant trees and the raging river. For a moment or two, I believed I could fly.

My father might, sooner or later, learn about this (especially if he reads my blog); nevertheless, I have no regrets because the plunge was indeed the ride of a lifetime.

THE PLUNGE: Ride of a Lifetime

THE PLUNGE: Ride of a Lifetime

The Plunge on Video

Tarsiers couple on a branch

I was not surprised to find  Panglao Island in Bohol, a province in the Philippines recognized as one of the top 16 Best Secret Beaches on Earth by Travel and Leisure Magazine.I have experienced the place and i was won over not only by the sand and surf but by how such a small place can offer so much activities for everyone. Immediately I got inspired to write about my experience on the island and my top 10 “must” things to do on Panglao Island, Bohol, Philippines.

I was told that if there’s a harder way of doing things I will find it – certainly our travel arrangement to and from Panglao was on the left side of convenience. First, I booked our flight to Cebu rather than straight to Tagbilaran, the airport in Bohol. I wanted to experience the ferry from Cebu to Bohol, thinking that I could do a Titanic scene on the bow of the boat, but alas we were not allowed outside of the enclosed areas so it felt more like a bus ride. After about an hour we reached the port and as soon as we got out, there were people offering accommodations and tours around the island. I made a prior booking to one of the cheap hotels on the island and they had a service to pick us up from the port, that made it a little convenient. By this time, i could see my partner’s face trying not to show any signs of discomfort with my arrangements and I was trying to be cheerful, not showing signs of guilt for making the start of this trip a bit of a challenge.

It only took about 10 minutes to get to the hotel from the port and that was a bit of a surprise since it was very close to the main island (Tagbilaran). From the map on the Internet we were supposed to cross a narrow bridge which will take us to Panglao Island and I knew from browsing through the map that the beaches are on the farther side of the island. We got off the van and proceeded to check-in only to find out that the reservation I made from the Internet was not confirmed because their server was down and that we cannot swim on the beach because it was too close to the port. Well it’s a good thing they didn’t charge for reservation fees.

Plan B (I always have alternative plans): I got the number of one of the tour providers from the port and I called them to provide us with transportation that could take us around to look for alternative accommodations. Within minutes we were en route to search for a suitable place to call home for the next 4 days. We told the driver to take us to places that have beach fronts.

The first one was really cheap, clean but it looked like a hide-away where you will take your mistress for a weekend getaway; the second one was Bohol Country Club, 5 star accommodations, quite posh, expensive but lacked character; the third one was right next to Bohol Country Club, mid-range priced, clean but they have videoke and I still curse the inventor of karaoke machines for making everyone feel that they could sing; and the fourth one was perfect! We stayed at Alona Tropical Beach Resort. It was along Alona beach, the rooms were big and clean and it had its own veranda where we had coffee right in front of the beach.

We settled in our room, got unpacked and organized our itinerary for the rest of the trip. And these are the top 10 “must” things to do based on our experience of the island:

Want coconut?

Laze around the beach drinking coconut straight from its husk. We love coconut, especially the ones you drink adn eat straight from its husk. When we found out that they serve this while we were having lunch, we couldn’t get enough of it! We practically had it every meal and on our last day we ordered 4 and finished it in an hour! They just cut the top part of the green husk, insert a straw and voila! paradise in a husk. After finishing the juice we asked them to break it open so we could eat the supple flesh. Beautiful!

Walk along the stretch of Alona beach and interact with the locals.

locals

They are very friendly in Bohol and although most of the locals you will encounter as you walk the 1 kilometer stretch of the beach will try to sell you their wares, you only need to say no once and they will respect that. Say it with a smile though, they are just trying to make a living. Honestly, I felt really safe here and the people have funny and interesting stories to tell.

Go scuba diving in Balicasag.

diving in Balicasag

This is where I did my introductory dive and I never looked back since then. It was the perfect immersion to the underwater world and I was singing the theme from Disney’s Little Mermaid “Part of Your World” for the duration of the trip. I was already amazed when I was snorkeling while waiting for my partner to emerge from their dive, but I was even more captivated when we went down 30 feet. Now I am a certified scuba diver and planning to go back to Balicasag to interact with my favorite fish – the Barracuda!

Have lunch in Balicasag Island prepared by local folks. After diving the boat docked in Balicasag Island for lunch. The dive instructor told us that we can get food there for lunch. We were expecting the usual restaurant but we were directed to one of the houses and they showed us freshly caught fish, prawns, squids, and crabs. Some were still alive and jumping for dear life, wetting my appetite even more! We chose a bout a kilo of huge prawns, a kilo of crabs, a huge fish, rice and soda. They cooked the seafood according to how we liked it and in about 30 minutes lunch was served. We had lunch under a tree where there was a simple table setup. In occasions like these eating with your bare hands and licking your fingers are the norm – so don’t be shy, dig in!

See the Philippine Tarsiers (Tarsius syrichta).One of the world’s smallest primates now endangered because of the destruction of their natural habitat due to logging and slash-and-burn agriculture and poaching. These creatures are nocturnal and they look like a cross breed of a mouse, a koala, and Yoda. Yes they look like they have super Jedi powers ready to unleash their light sabers on the dark side of the force. But they are so cute you’d want to eat them alive! Looking into their eyes though makes you feel their grief for the loss of their natural forest habitat and being reduced to a carnival-like existence.

Go on a river cruise in Loboc River. Now this one is like the Philippine version of The Love Boat. It’s a huge raft made of bamboo powered by a 4-stroke diesel engine. Aboard the raft is a buffet of seafoods, meat, vegetables and fruits and its all inclusive in the cruise fees of about 300 pesos (back in 2010). As you cruised along the river, while stuffing yourself, you are serenaded by a local singing and playing familiar western tunes on his guitar. There are also a couple of stop overs where you will see the local dance troupe showcase traditional dances with gusto and captivating smiles. The cruise go as far as the Loboc waterfall, which is a bit of a disappointment because it looked more like a busted sewage pipe than a waterfall. But the highlight was the scenery, the ambiance and the general simplicity of life. Climb aboard, they’re expecting you!

Have lunch and coffee in chART’s Art Cafe.This was just near the entrance to Alona beach resort and one of those rare finds. We found it on our way to Loboc River and made plans to check it out the following day. I was drawn to its Mediterranean architecture of white walls, arches and interesting use of space. The cafe was very homey and it had paintings of local artists and the owner, a retired European lady, hence the architecture. I can’t remember what we had for lunch but I could remember that it was quite sumptuous and I enjoyed their coffee. I had a brief tour of the place, which also offered accommodations and they had beautiful Mediterranean-inspired interiors. They also have their own pool and since they do no have a beach front guests can go to Alona beach which is about 2 minutes on foot. We chatted up the waitresses and typical of these places we got to find out a lot about them, including their sex lives, but this is not something to read on these pages!

 

Go crazy on the freshest catch of the day. Walk along the 1 kilometer stretch of Alona beach at night to get the best deal on fresh seafood for dinner. All the establishments along the beach display their fresh seafood – clams, crabs, prawns, different kinds of fish, lobsters, squids, and octopus. Choose the ones you like and tell the waiter how do you want them cooked from soup to grilled to sauteed and even sashimi style. I am not sure why crabs seem to be the best seller because as you walk across different stalls you will always here the waiters say, “Sir, we got crabs!” Is that a warning?

Have a massage on the beach.After a hearty meal we walked on the beach and found some of the locals offering massage services. It may not be a good idea to get a massage after having a meal fit for a last wish so walk it off a little. We had coffee first, walked and talked with some more of the locals and booked for a massage after an hour. We told the masseuse where we were staying and they said they will wait for us there in the specified time. When we got to the beach fronting our hotel they were waiting for us. We thought that they will do it in our room. Apparently, they are not allowed in the room for security reasons so we had our massage under the stars. Quite an experience and it felt like a body scrub and a massage at the same time with the sand sticking to our oiled lumps of fat! The sounds of the ocean is so calming and the cool breeze rustling the leaves of the palm trees calmed our senses – so calm that we both fell asleep. The masseuses had to wake us up about half an hour after the massage. We were half-naked, oiled and breaded with sand like pork schnitzels!

Chase after pods of dolphins.

Now this one is not to miss even if you have to wake up at the unholy hour – 4:30AM! We had this arranged the previous day. Talked to one of the locals and asked them what time the boat will leave and how much. Back then it was about 800 pesos. The guides picked us up from the hotel and helped us board a small motorized boat. We were in the middle of the ocean waiting for the dolphins by about 5:30AM. This was a bit crazy, felt like a regatta with all the other boats racing to find the dolphins in the vast ocean. An hour passed and still no dolphins. I badly needed to pee and since we were not on a yacht, surprise no toilet! The guides said just stand on the side of the boat and do my business. Well, I really had to go so I went. And then they came – the dolphins – attracted to the scent of my caffeine laden piss perhaps? And then the other boats came around as well to have a look at the dolphins…and my exposed piss-tap which didn’t feel like ever being drained! Yes, I exposed myself in Bohol and it felt so good I had goose bumps after!

So there you have it. My list of 10 “must” things to do in Bohol.

How much did I spend on this trip?

  • Airfare – 200 dollars (return for two)
  • Accomodations and Food – 350 dollars (4 days/3 nights)
  • Transfers – 50 dollars
  • Dives – 200 dollars
  • Tours – 50 dollars

Worth of the experience – priceless!

What are you waiting for?

Legend says that there are treasures at the end of a rainbow. Will it be the same if the rainbow’s underwater?

“Finding it out should be my first quest as a new pirate!” a dreamy EJ said to himself after hearing about an underwater rainbow sighted in the eastern sea.

He invited some friends to join him and they all laughed at him. They called him crazy and all kinds of names but the pirate was determined and shouted that he’ll prove them wrong then left them with his lips pouted.

So he set sail and the wind favored him. He mostly sits at the edge of the boat, looking down closely to the sea for signs of the underwater rainbow.

Searching for signs of the underwater rainbow

The pirate traveled alone in a small boat. He endured cold nights, the sun’s heat, heavy rains and some big waves. After a few days, he started getting weary and his food supply is now short. He has explored several parts of the eastern sea but not a hint of the underwater rainbow was seen.

He decided to go to the nearest island to rest a bit and gather some food.  Along the way, he met a fisherman and asked him if he knows something about the underwater rainbow.

“Yeah it’s a funny story I heard from a crazy old guy who can’t even remember his own name. I wonder who would still believe such a ridiculous story. I’ve been fishing here in the eastern sea since the day I learned how to handle a fishing rod and not one sighting.” said the fisherman.

The pirate felt discouraged after hearing this then continued his way to the island. After reaching the island, he tried to eat some food left even after losing his appetite because of frustration and hopelessness just to gain some strength.

Frustrated EJ

Walking with his head low and mind filled with dark clouds, he gathered some fruits and vegetables until his basket was full.

He decided to take a bath to get refreshed while rationalizing whether he should continue his quest or accept the fact that it’s just a big mistake.

With scrunched eyebrows and a face filled with sadness, he bumped his head to a tree and decided to give it up. He started walking straight back to his boat but suddenly got a call from nature so he ran inside the forest to answer the call then let it all out.

When he got finished, he noticed a strange mark in one of the trees. It’s an arrow leading to one tree and another. He kept on following the marks until he got to a large tree with carved drawings.

The drawing shows an inverted rainbow with sea waves on top of it located at the far side of the eastern sea.

“This must be it!” the pirate said to himself.

The pirate’s face went from gloomy to jolly.  His spirit burst out laughing which made him run and jump in excitement.

Happy Pirate

Full of energy and hope, the pirate set sail again following the direction on the map. The section he’s heading was once thought to be the edge of the sea because of testimonies about people who went there and didn’t come back. Most travelers are warned not to get near that section.

One evening when he was near the said area, the pirate got caught in a storm. The waves are much bigger and the winds are way stronger than any kind of storm he encountered in the past.

The boat was rocking wild and everything was so dark that he can’t tell anymore what direction his boat is heading. He grabbed the boat’s pole as tightly as he could to avoid getting thrown off the boat and prayed for the storm to end soon.

The next day was a peaceful morning, the pirate woke up with a lump in his head and some bruises in his legs. He stretched out his body, made a big yawn then dizzily stood up. He walked clumsily while scratching his tummy and went toward his food basket.

His eyes went from sleepy to shocked when he saw that the basket was partially ripped-off and its cover gone.  Inside it are some birds eating the left-over food which flew right away when he got closer.

For the first time, he realized that his boat landed in a small island. Hungry and desperate, the pirate started grabbing any living thing he can find near the shore.

EJ’s Breakfast

Most of what he found was sea urchins. He cracked it open, scraped its flesh with a spoon, and then added some chili vinegar. It tasted like a grounded oyster mixed with jelly but the pirate didn’t care and kept on eating until he was full.

He started exploring the island and found himself inside a forest with thick fogs. As he kept on walking, the fog became thicker and thicker until he can’t see anything. He thought of going back but a voice caught his attention.

He ran towards the voice until he was out of the fog then saw a woman singing. Her head was exposed and her body is submerged in the sea surrounded by bright glowing colors. The colors formed an arch and the woman is at the center of it as if she’s performing a concert with the colors as her audience.

“This must be it!” said the pirate who was overjoyed and leapt to the sea to ask the woman about treasures.

This must be the Underwater Rainbow

The woman was shocked and the fishes scattered. What the pirate doesn’t know is that the woman is a sea goddess who guards the treasures in the island.

Angered by the pirate, the sea goddess’s eyes turned red then grabbed the pirate’s neck. She has the power to turn anyone to a dead coral by searching evil in one’s heart.

She got surprised that her power doesn’t have any effect on him.  She started letting him go with a face filled with wonder.

“I haven’t encountered anyone who survived my power – why did you come here?” said the sea goddess.

“I’m just looking for treasures, do you know where it is?” said the pirate.

“It’s all around us,” the sea goddess replied.

Me and my New Friend the Sea goddess playing at the Underwater Rainbow.

The pirate looked around and realized that the island is full of bright and colorful fishes. It glowed like diamonds, rubies and emeralds, he felt very rich and alive.

He and the goddess became friends and had fun with the fishes. He finally understood the island’s real treasures are the fishes and promised the sea goddess that he will help her preserve and protect them.

He left the island filled with the treasures in his heart of the wonderful experience he had in the underwater rainbow.

Preparing to Leave

Suddenly, large tentacles of a giant squid grabbed his boat and he found himself getting dragged in the depths of the sea.

Like a kid who got out of Narnia, EJ woke up from his dream only to realize that the goddess is shouting at him because he’ll be late for work if he doesn’t get up immediately.

Making a big yawn with puffy eyes, he stood up and went to the kitchen realizing that he gets to keep some of the treasures in his tummy as well.

Bringing the Underwater Rainbow Home