BOHOL – believed to be the “friendly heart” of the Visayas, Bohol is one of the most attractive tourist destinations of the country. Integrated with history, culture, and nature, The Department of Tourism considered Bohol as an “Eco-tourism Destination”. The province is filled with so many sites that not only a first-time visitors but also returning guests will surely love it. Bohol has it all!
Here are some of the most visited sites of the province that are all worth the visit!
Blood Compact Site
A magnificent monument in Tagbilaran, the capital of Bohol, wherein it showcases the agreement between the Spaniards and the local tribe of the province. Sandugo (“one blood”) was the Blood Compact between Miguel Lopez Legazpi, a Spanish explorer, and Datu Sikatuna, the chieftain of Bohol.
This great monument in Tagbilaran celebrates the March 1565 blood compact, where Spanish conquistador Miguel López de Legazpi and Boholano chieftain Rajah Sikatuna shared each other’s blood as a peace treaty.
The two sealed their friendship through a blood compact wherein both drew two or three drops of blood from their arms, mixed the blood with wine and equally drank from the cup.
This ritual was done on March 16, 1565, when Legazpi landed on the shores of Bohol. The natives were actually hesitant in befriending and accommodating the Spaniards at first because of the bad treatment they got from the Portuguese. But Legazpi was able to make the Boholanos understand that they have come in peace and to offer friendship with the help of a Malayan sailor.
“Sandugo” is derived from the Filipino phrase ‘isang dugo’ which literally means ‘one blood’. Blood Compact is an ancient ritual in the Philippines to seal a friendship or to corroborate an agreement. Sandugo was considered as the first “Treaty of Friendship” between Europe and Asia. This historical event is celebrated every year on the island of Bohol– Sandugo Festival.
The Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary Parish Church, commonly known as Baclayon Church, is a Roman Catholic Church in Bohol. It was founded by the Jesuit priest Juan de Torres and Gabriel Sanchez in 1596 and the church was proclaimed Parish in 1717. Baclayon Church is the oldest Catholic Stone Church in the Philippines.
Unfortunately, the Church is one of the historical monuments that was badly damaged by the 7.2 magnitude earthquake that struck Bohol and the Central Visayas in 2013. At our last visit, we were not able to enter the church because it was under renovation but we toured the museum and it was marvelous. The whole area consists the Church, a museum which is inside the old convent and the Immaculate Conception Academy.
The museum charges a minimal entrance fee of P50 per person to cover renovation and maintenance costs. Taking pictures is prohibited inside the museum due to previous thefts of many artifacts; however, guests can freely take pictures of the church and the exterior of the museum.
Baclayon Ecclesiastical Museum showcases a lot of religious artifacts and life-sized images of saints and other relics that clearly portray the historic event of the Roman Catholic Church.
There are other items on display which were used during Mass many centuries back such as the hymnals of Baclayon. The hymnals are big and written in Latin on canvases made from animal skin. It is also well-preserved and maintained. Tourists and visitors can also see traditional robes and other period clothing. The museum also has a nice selection of religious artworks, most of which date to the 1500s.
The window panes in the museum are made up of large sea shells proving the creativity of the Boholanos. You can also see a small souvenir shop as you go to the exit of the Ecclesiastical Museum.
When you are in Bohol, try to check out a few Tarsiers at the Philippine Tarsier Sanctuary Corella, Bohol. To protect the Tarsiers, the Philippine Tarsier Foundation was founded in 1996 where tourists can see Tarsiers in its natural habitat.
The Tarsier is an adorable and unique fellow. It has a long tail like a rat, a head that can rotate 180 degrees like an owl, long back legs like a Frog and moveable ears like a bat. Quite peculiar, eh? The Philippine Tarsier, Tarsius syrichta, can be found in the central Philippines. It is known to be one of the smallest primates in the world. Being a primate, tarsiers are part of the group of mammals that includes lemurs, monkeys, and man. An adult Tarsier can easily fit in the palm of a person’s hand while the size of a baby Tarsier is comparable to that of the size of our thumbs.
Tarsiers usually sleep under trees and bushes during daytime; being the nocturnal creatures they are. They only become active at night – with their better sight and ability to maneuver and jump from trees. This little primate’s diet consists mostly of insects such as crickets along with small vertebrates like lizards, frogs, and even small birds! The guide told us that they actually thought that Tarsiers like to eat charcoals when in fact, they lick from charcoals mainly to just eat salts.
Once you paid the entrance fee to the Bohol Tarsier Sanctuary, a tour guide will lead you to an area in the sanctuary where you can spot adorable tarsiers. Visitors are not allowed to make loud noises or poke the Tarsier to get its attention. You can take pictures but flash photography is prohibited because camera flashes scare Tarsiers and can make them feel agitated. As you will be visiting the Tarsiers in their natural habitat, expect uneven surface and muddy trail. It is best to wear closed shoes in order to walk easily.
Tarsiers do not do well when in captivity. If they are kept in cages, they can develop sore eyes that causes permanent damage to their eyes. When you get an irresistible urge to pet or hug this fluffy little primate, please just pinch your own cheek or your friend’s. Tarsiers are very sensitive creatures. They get scared easily and thus leading them to be stressed. When they are stressed, they become depressed and eventually it leads them to commit suicide.
These little animals are very delicate and vulnerable. Tarsiers will hold their breath until they die and sometimes will bang their heads into hard things such as tree branches, rocks, and cages. Because of their vulnerability, the Philippine tarsier is close to being an endangered animal. The gestation period of tarsiers can take up to 6 months and can only give birth to one baby tarsier at a time.
The sanctuary in Corella, Bohol is doing a very good job in taking care and protecting these little creatures. The Corella sanctuary in Bohol protects these creatures with exemplary care. They started with having 10 tarsiers in their sanctuary and are protecting more than 100 tarsiers today.
Alongside the road of Loboc, Bohol is a field of tiny triangles — the home and shelter of little and feathery brawlers. As you walk to their territory, you can hear “cuckoos” and “tok-to-gaoks”, commonly known as cock-a-doodle-doos, as if they’re trying to keep you away from their land. But fret not, these little friends are harmless. Well, except if they’re in the cockfighting arena.
Cockfighting or “sabong” is a blood sport that is widely known in the Philippines. Each fighting rooster is strapped with a “tari”, or knife gaff, in its leg. The battle will be like witnessing furious and strong gladiators from Rome but instead of body armors and swords, the fighters are covered in feather and is equipped with a curved blade.
The history of cockfighting in the Philippines dates back hundreds of years before Magellan’s voyage to the Philippines in 1521. It may have been banned in a lot of countries, but it is actually legal in the Philippines. During fiestas, sabong is always present. Papa, Tiyo, Manong and Kuya will be out of the house, swarming in the cock fighting arena. They will be betting on the cock that they think will win.
Bilar Man-Made Forest
Famous for its picturesque view and astonishing aura, this almost two-kilometer man-made forest will surely make you go “Wow”. This long stretch of mahogany trees serve as a gateway from the municipality of Loboc to Bilar, where some of the famous Chocolate Hills are located. It also contributes to the little chill of the temperature that you can feel in the area.
The forest is a perfect spot for a stop-over. It would be a waste if you don’t take a pause from your transporting vehicle and witness this dazzling sight of trees that gives you the illusion of visiting a different country.
Due to a destructive farming system or “kaingin” of the locals, treating the Loboc watershed and the forested area as a refuge, this project was called to action. The reforestation plan started in 1947 by Governor Conrado Marapao and was continued by the succeeding administrations leading to a perfect fascinating forest.
The Chocolate Hills are probably the most popular tourist destination in Bohol. The mysterious formation of these hills are still not yet proven. The most acceptable theory is that the hills are the weathered karst formations left behind after layers of soluble bedrock were eroded away because of dissolution by rainfall.
Chocolate Hills? What’s so chocolatey about them? Yes, they’re green, but every summer,
once the grass turns brown and the leaves dry, the hills turn to color brown making it look like massive hills of chocolate.
Before you get to see a spectacular view, you need to take almost 214 steps. Pump those feet and hold tight on the railings as you take the stairway to heaven. There are about 1240 to 1750 karst hills, dependent on how you count, that are 30 to 120 meters in height. The grasses on the hills, swaying to and fro, make the hills look alive. The wind is strong, cool and refreshing and it feels like your worries are carried away by it.
One thing interesting about Filipinos is that they love myths. There are actually a lot of stories and legends behind the formation of the Chocolate hills in Bohol. The similarity of the said myths is that they have something to do with giants.
One myth was about a tragic unrequited love of a giant named Arogo to a beautiful villager named Aloya. The villager, sadly, has an incurable disease and died. Aloya’s death caused the giant so much pain and misery; he wept and cried for days. His tears then dried up and was turned into large hills thus, the Chocolate hills.
Another story was about two giants that had a very big fight. The furious giants threw boulders and rocks at each other. Their fight continued for many days until they got exhausted and decided to be friends. They left their battlefield, with their arms over the shoulder of one another, and forgot to clean up the mess they made. The boulders and rocks were left untouched hence the formation of the chocolate hills.
The Chocolate Hills is located in Carmen, the central part of Bohol. The road to the Chocolate Hills is often called by the locals as “tina’e sa manok” which means “the intestine of a chicken” because it is really twisty. The road to Carmen might make you feel dizzy and make your ears clog due to the altitude but it is definitely worth it.
Habitat Bohol (Butterfly Sanctuary)
Habitat Bohol Butterfly and Botanical Garden is a popular tourist attraction in the central part of Bohol. It was established to protect the local butterflies that can be found on the island. The sanctuary showcases more than 300 local butterflies. The Garden also serves as a conservation center for butterflies as it breeds and propagates several species to be released to the wild.
It is a small sanctuary but the guides are very funny and witty, giving guests a unique experience. Most of the reviews about the place is about how fun and informative the guides are.
Torch Ginger Flower (Etlingera elatior) grows throughout the tropical South East Asia. It can be used as an ingredient in cooking food. This spice is usually used in Asian cuisines. The stem of this flower are chopped up and are added to soup and curries. They are perennial herb– they can live for at least two years. It also gives off an amazing smell and can be used in bathtubs or in decorating your home.
Loboc River Cruise
The Loboc river is one of the cleanest rivers in the country and it is one of the tourist spots in Bohol that you don’t want to miss. The river cruise felt magical. You can stand on the bow of the boat and just imagine that you are floating. The cool breeze, the earthy smell of the damp forest, the aquamarine colored water of the river, everything is breathtaking! The cruise gave me a “rainforest vibe” feeling. The trees and the turquoise water are really beautiful.
The Loboc Cruise also offers a night cruise that is absolutely romantic because of the fireflies that circulate around the area. A sprinkle of fireflies, looking like the constellation, would illuminate the boat as you eat your dinner. There are several post lanterns that are placed along the river bank that would definitely look great at night.
After you embark the boat, you will then be welcomed with all the food that is being displayed at the center. The buffet consists of Filipino-cuisines; from appetizers to desserts. They give the foreign guests the chance to taste the exotic taste of the local cuisines of the country.
While cruising, there would be a short stop where the guests would be serenaded by cultural singers and dancers. The guests would witness a musical and dance performance by the Go Tozon Balsa Performer’s Association. The group consists of talented locals, young and old, entertaining visitors with local folk dances namely Kuradang and Tinikling. The entertainers are also encouraging the visitors, especially the foreign ones to try and dance with them so that they can experience how fun the country’s folk dances are.
Loboc Rondalla Ambassadors
The Loboc Ambassador Rondalla is a group of men playing a variety of mostly string instruments to entertain the passengers. The passengers will eventually notice their group playing sweet native and modern music using their local instruments.
The Loboc Ambassador Rondalla has been playing these sweet melodies for years letting everyone, both local and foreign nationals, hear the peaceful tune of original Boholano music. At times, you can also hear the modern music because seldom they also play songs from the 80s or 90s to make the atmosphere of the place more lively. If you are touched by their soulful music, do not hesitate to give them “Love Gifts” or any donations!
SUP Tours Philippines
Are you struggling whether you want to feed your adventurous and dauntless soul or to take a break and relax while being with nature? No worries because you can actually do both at the same time! Stand Up Paddle Boarding, also known as SUP, is an Eco-Adventure Tour that is offered in Bohol and in various places in the Philippines. It is one of the famous activities that can be done in Bohol. The eco tour takes place in the calm cerulean-green colored water of the Loboc River.
Stand up paddling is almost for everyone. This is a perfect activity for a group of friends or a family. It may look dangerous and scary but it’s absolutely easy and relaxing. Kids ages 7+ can paddle on their own board while younger children can sit in front of the paddle boards of their parents. You can paddle through the calm waters under the canopy of trees. The lush greenery will make you feel refreshed and peaceful.
Like Loboc River Cruise, the SUP Tours also offers a night tour. The main attraction of the night tour is the sprinkle of fireflies. They call this tour the ‘Firefly’ or ‘Fullmoon’ Tour. It will give you a unique experience; just laying down on the boat and stare at the night sky and at the constellation-like group of fireflies. Pretty magical, right?
Beaching in Panglao and Anda
It is also known to most tourist that Bohol is also a perfect destination for ocean-activity enthusiasts. Beaching, snorkeling, and diving are some of the best activities that could be done in the province.
Their famous Alona beach in Panglao is one of the most asked destinations by tourists who are new to the province. Alona beach is a small stretch of tropical paradise that is said to be comparable to the famous Boracay. There are many hotel and dive resorts that are located near the beach which makes it more accessible to the guests who want to experience the beach more often.
But there are many other great beaches like the beautiful Dumaluan, Danao and Dojo Beach on Panglao Island. One of our favourites on Bohol is the Anda White Beach, though. We have created many individual tours in the past years that included this gemstone in the east of the island. Find out more about Anda in this article.
How to get to Bohol
With a wide range of sea and air ports, one can get to Bohol with any of their preferred transportation. You can go via Manila or Cebu through airplane or by fast craft ferry from Cebu with an estimated 2-hour travel time.
You can go to Bohol from Manila via several airlines like Cebu Pacific Air, Philippines Airlines and Air Asia. From Cebu, there is Air Juan, or you can contact us for a chartered flight. We can actually recommend this, because the short flight offers a great panoramic view of the Chocolate Hills.
VIA FERRY (Fast Craft)
You can also go to Bohol by fast craft ferries from Cebu with an estimated 2-hour travel time. Or you could travel from Cordova, Mactan Island, in a typical bangka that goes straight to Getafe in the North-West of the province, but then you would need to organize a transfer to Anda, Panglao or any other tourist spot that offers accommodation. Again, we are more than happy to organize this for you as we did for hundreds of happy guests so far:D.