About Me

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An occasionally belligerent mother of five and an autism parent / advocate who believes that traveling, good food and good company are vital to keep one sane. I've worked as a news writer/newscaster, a quality systems auditor, a ISO9001 consultant, an FM radio DJ, a Filipino tutor, TOEFL reviewer and have gone into the food industry both as an entrepreneur and as a mommy chef, giving a sponsored demo on healthy cooking in a mall and on local TV. My favorite job however, is being a mom and a wife.

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Saturday, May 28, 2016

Tagbilaran, Bohol In One Day Part Three: The Tarsier Conservation Area

Our last stop before going to Panglao Island was the Tarsier Conservation Area. 30 - 40 minutes away from Chocolate Hills, we checked out these nocturnal endangered mammals.

The keyword being nocturnal. As we walked through the area, we caught glimpses of sleeping tarsiers, unlike the wide eyed critters that we saw in Zoobic's (Subic, Philippines) Night Safari.

A minimal fee of 50 pesos/pax is charged for entrance fee. Your tickets to the place also double as postcards, that you can mail from the area.

By 4 PM, we were done with seeing our share of the tourist areas in Tagbilaran and was more than willing to check in, freshen up and rest from the day's activities.

At the entrance, don't forget to buy at bottle of mineral water for that short walk uphill and a pack of crunchy meal worms. They're a protein packed experience :)

Phil holds on to his pack of chichaworms and postcards/entrance tickets
Bohol has so much to offer and is always a great place to visit by your lonesome or with family and friends.

flying back to Manila

Do catch the rest of this one day adventure in the following links:

Tagbilaran, Bohol In One Day Part ONE: The Loboc River Cruise
Tagbilaran, Bohol In One Day Part TWO: The Chocolate Hills

From TMW, may all your wanderings be better than ours!

Tagbilaran, Bohol In One Day Part Two - The Chocolate Hills

Our next stop was the iconic Chocolate Hils. I have not been back here since we visited when I was 5 years old.

 having acrophobia sucks when you're off to see the view deck at The Chocolate Hills

The roads going there were under repair so it took us anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour to see the famous site.

FYI on the Chocolate Hills: Wikipedia lists it as re a geological formation in the Bohol province of the Philippines.[1] There are at least 1,260 hills but there may be as many as 1,776 hills spread over an area of more than 50 square kilometers (20 sq mi). They are covered in green grass that turns brown (like chocolate) during the dry season, hence the name.

I survived the open cable cars climbing The Great Wall of China, the Macau Tower's glass walls and floors at it's 58th floor and the longest escalator system in the world at  Ocean Park HK...but I couldn't make it up these stairs!
While at the Chocolate Hills, aside from walking up the flight of stairs leading to the view deck, you could also pick up various souvenirs and Bohol sweets like Peanut Kisses.

If you aren't strapped for time (and energy, like we were), you could also check out the Chocolate Hills Adventure Park near the area. Extreme sports are what this park features. Go ride or bike a zip line, walk on hanging bridges and many more.

On the way or coming from the Chocolate Hills, you could also make a quick stop as you pass through the Bilar Man Made forest -  2 km stretch of Mahogany trees that border the towns of Loboc and Bilar.

It is part of the The Rajah Sikatuna Protected Landscape. This is a protected landscape area of forested limestone hills, grasslands and natural springs. It is the largest remaining tract of natural forest in Bohol and one of the Philippines' top bird watching sites.

As a child, I remembered seeing a pool and a rainbow painted wall at the view deck of Chocolate Hills. It's all gone now. At least, the hills have remained standing despite the ravages of time, the throes of humanity and the different moods of Mother Nature.

Do check out the rest of this 3 part series:
Tagbilaran, Bohol In One Day Part One: Loboc River Cruise
Tagbilaran, Bohol In One Day Part Three: Tarsier Conservation Area

From TMW, may all your wanderings be better than ours!!!

Tagbilaran, Bohol In A Day Part 1 - Loboc River Cruise

If you're going there via plane, the only commercial airport in Bohol may be found in Tagbilaran City. Given that we absolutely love the sun and the sand, our family was naturally booked in Panglao Island, specifically along Alona Beach.

Panglao Island is a 20 to 30 minute drive from the airport. Since our hotel had a 2 pm check in time and we arrived at around 10 in the morning, we all decided to visit all the tourist spots we could in Tagbilaran, before we moved to another island.

the difference between the 2 meals is that the "high end" has crabs added into their menu

First on our stop was lunch. Lunch came in the form of having our meals while on a River Cruise ang the Loay River. We signed up for the Rio Verde Floating Restaurant's regular menu, as the boat for their "High End" lunch left at a much later time. Walk-in clients are welcome, but early birds get to be accommodated first in lining up for the cruise.

The meal in itself was so-so if not blah. yes, I could've used better adjectives, but this was the closest one I could come up with to sum up THAT dining experinece. Maybe it was because the food was lukewarm, or maybe because some of the dishes were stuff whose flavors I wasn't too familiar or too keen with, either way, I stuck it out with the crawfish.

fries fish fillet, crunchy crawfish and por bbq were probably the only tings I ate

Don't get me started on the ghastly entertainment. If I could've, I would've paid the cruise singer to hush up and have him play instrumental music only. I swear, I never have much luck with cruise performances, but then again, I digress.

(snicker) HI (snicker) END
The view however made up for the awful meal. The breeze was refreshing, the waters were turquoise, emerald and sea green while the surrounding cliffs and greenery was quite stunning.

Halfway through the journey, our boat pulled over to make a quick visit to the Ati Village.

Have your photos taken with tribesmen, their pet iguanas and the huts in the area - for a fee (or not, if you brought your won camera, and have no plans of contributing to the village funds).

one of the village people (no YMCA here though)

My boys, making new friends :)
You could also buy toy wooden bow and arrows for your little savages or just get a good stretch.

back to the boat, before the village people  burst into song :P

Before you know it, you're back on the boat, listening to ghastly renditions of 80s and 70s music.

off to our next destination

I must say, the experience was quite enjoyable, if not a great respite from the city's heat. A great way to see the sights and kill some time before checking in.  Quick tip : bring bug repellent when going on the river cruise. Before our boat went out to sail, there were pesky mosquitoes flying around.

Catch the rest of our journey in Tagbilaran, Bohol In A Day Part 2 - The Chocolate Hills
and  Tagbilaran, Bohol In A Day Part 3: The Tarsier Conservation Area

From TMW, may all your wanderings be better than ours!

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Ang Pagbalik Sa Balicasag (Return To Balicasag)

early morning start  for our Balicasag Journey

Our day started quite early as our tour guide told us that we had to be at the dolphin watching area by 7 AM. Based on previous experiences with dolphins and whale sharks, we knew beforehand that once the water heats up as the sun rises, they move deeper into the sea, where it's much colder. and where we won't be able to see them, unless we're diving.

Luckily, our hotel, Henann, packed for us heavy portions of Filipino and English breakfast plus drinks, at no extra cost.

beautiful day to go sailing

We met our tour guide at Alona Beach, Panglao in Bohol. There are a lot of them offering mostly the same stuff offered at the resorts. It's up to you to haggle and get the best price there is.

pushing out to sea at the crack of dawn

Here's a rundown of the prices originally quoted to us by our guide, what it would have cost us and what we paid after all the haggling. I must inform you though that I put the "HAG" in haggling :).

10 pax  2850 - boat rental, with 2 boatmen. There were 10 adults and 3 kids in our group.
snorkel rentals P150 /pax = 750
shoe hire P100/pax  = 700
Entrance Fee to Marine Sanctuary /Life Guard Fee (didn't see one in the area, except for our own guides) P100/pax = 900
Swimming with the Sea Turtles (boat rental + boatman fee): P200/pax  = 1000
Lunch: approximately P300 pesos per head.

the boat we rented out and its crew
The itinerary included the round trip boat ride from (a) Alona Beach in Panglao Island to Balicasag Island and vice versa; (b) dolphin watching in the bohol sea; (c) snorkeling at the Marine Sanctuary; (d) swimming with the sea turtles (pawikan). We were suppose to pass by the Virgin Island (a long sandbar on the way back to Alona, but the kids were too pooped to party). There are also giant clams in Balicasag and great dive spots.

aside from catching the dolphins when you sale early, the waves are much gentler too in the mornings
I think we paid around 3000 php for lunch and around 4000 php  total for the whole adventure after all the haggling.  At a little over 500 pesos/pax for the food, boat rides, rentals and entrance fees, it was quite cost effective given the fact that we were there during the peak season.

we saw several pods of dolphins that day
20 minutes from Alona Beach, our boat slowed down and soon enough, we were chasing wild dolphins. The experience NEVER gets old!!

Around 8-ish in the morning, we caught our first glimpse of Balicasag

docking at Balicasag

For those who who don't plan on renting out aqua/swim shoes, think again. The beautiful island is a marine sanctuary, unspoiled with nature allowed to grow wild. The reef will cut you should your flip flops come off. As you can see in the pic above, getting off the boat takes a little more caution as the stones are also slippery. Shoes are a must to those who aren't familiar with the island's terrain.

our big group
If you were like yours truly and are most likely to bring extra clothes and towels, extra food and drinks, not to mention swimming gear (we brought our Easy Breathe masks which aren't as light as snorkels) and toiletries, don't you worry about where to store your stuff. The boatmen are usually related to the islanders, who have, in turn, made make shift "cottages" and restaurants on the island. We ended up leaving our stuff on that wooden table pictured above.

 a shallow reef teeming with marine life, followed by a sudden drop into a watery abyss that has bigger marine life hidden under its depths
 First up after we got ourselves sorted out in Balicasag, was going to the marine sanctuary.

our boatman takes us out to the reef

Walking a short distance down to the beach, our boatmen took us to smaller boats and paddled us off us a short distance away. The corals were indeed teeming with life. Do watch your step as the waves may carry you off to taller corals that could cut you. Yes. I speak from experience.

it's a (coral) jungle out there!
 the shallows have a lot of these fellas and their bigger counterparts swimming around . Buy some bread from the store at the shore and be swarmed as you feed 'em
at the end of the reef, you will see this sudden drop. Even though we were equipped with life vests, my acrophobia kicked in as I looked over the edge. For sure, I've been in deep water before, but stepping over the edge is literally a leap of faith in my book
Luckily, our boatman and Phil didn't have my issues, and dove under to take these spectacular shots:

The water in the area is quite buoyant. Our little swimmer MAX, took off his life vest and insisted on swimming after his dad, who was, at that moment, chasing/swimming towards a 5 feet long sea turtle.

 MAX getting a scolding for his refusal to wear his life jacket

Dad cut him some slack..besides, he does know how to swim. I just worry too much given that it's open water :p

After all the activities at the Marine Sanctuary area, we were starving! Lunch was selected off a menu before we went swimming. We had grilled pork, fresh fish ceviche ( fish so fresh, it was caught in the surrounding waters after we ordered it), pinakbet (veggies), soda, rice and one more viand I can't seem to remember.

MAX asking Papa to save him from the fishies ticking his toes

After lunch, it was time to go see the sea turtles in their watery feeding grounds. Another paddle boat took us to another side of the island. Unfortunately for us, we have nothing to show for that part of the trip as all our batteries were drained at this point. Still, it was always my dream to see sea turtles in their natural habitat. Our 30 minute stay in that side of the island allowed us to see, happily swimming around (one beside and under out boat even), 3 or 4 turtles.

Before we knew it, we were back on our bigger boat and headed back to Alona beach. For the curious, the paid public bathrooms in Balicasag were too rustic for my taste. If you gotta go, you gotta go, but  if you could hold it in, do so. For showers, just do take one when you get back to your hotel.

Soda, water, chips, shampoo and what have you are sold in small stores in the island. They will cost you an arm and a leg, but  you really have no where else to buy. The locals also sell trinkets - souvenir items, coral and pearl jewelry and many more. Haggle away :) I got a good deal on a  set of turquoise blue coral bead jewelry.

luckily, Hennan Resort had a nurse and a clinic in their facilities. Got my cuts treated, but I still have the dark spots on my legs from the cuts :P
We had the time of our lives, and would probably revisit the place if given the chance in the future. Yes, it was lovely! A must see if you're going to Bohol!

From TMW, may all your wanderings be better than ours!!!