It was eight in the morning and we were a few kilometers away from the shore of Panglao. There were at least 60 motorboats that huddled in the area near Balicasag Island, a marine sanctuary.
The scene was like a naval warfare but these water shuttles were there, including ours, just to race against each other to get a glimpse of the amazing mammals that reside near the islands – the dolphins.
As the boats started to encircle the area where these water creatures normally appear, I asked one of the boatmen, “Don’t you think we’re disturbing them. They seem be swimming away from us?”
Our guide shyly replied in Tagalog, “They would have already left a long time ago if that’s the case. But as you can see, they keep on giving tourists a good show every day at exactly the same time.”
I really do hope that this is really the case because the number of boats might double in the coming months due the influx of local and foreign tourists especially that the Panglao Island International Airport is nearing its completion.
“Tourism business is really booming here in Bohol. In the last five years, we’ve seen a sudden increase of visitors, both foreign and domestic, heading to this province,” said Margie Munsayac, VP for Sales and Marketing of Bluewater Resorts in Panglao.
The resort hotel executive added that every property in Panglao anticipates the opening of the international airport that is why construction of additional rooms and buildings are in full swing, too, to accommodate the influx of tourists that the new airport might bring.
During lean season, their occupancy rate is between 60 and 70 percent and they are fully booked for the rest of the year – a solid indication of a thriving tourism business in the island province.
“We are having expansion plans. From the current number of rooms, we are going to add at least 200 more rooms. We are planning to buy the property next to our resort to finally commence with this project. We are also preparing for the opening of the International Airport, which is just around 15-minute drive from our property,” she said.
The Panglao Island International Airport is scheduled to be operational by August 2018. Once complete, it is expected to accommodate at least 2 million passengers a year accepting direct flights from Japan, South Korea and China.
“We have just finished constructing the runway today. It’s 2.5 kilometers,” Tadashi Aoi of Japan Airport Consultants, Inc. told some members of the press during a site visit in late November.
Aoi is the Executive Engineer that heads the construction of the 7.7-billion-peso complex that features a terminal inspired by the Chocolate Hills.
“This airport is huge. It’s as big as the one in Iloilo. Its passenger terminal is 13,000 square meters and the entire complex sits on 230-hectare property,” the executive engineer told Manila Stndard.
He further said that the airport is an eco-structure. The roof of the passenger terminal building will be fitted with 2000 solar panels that will handle 80 percent of the airport’s energy requirement.
“The building is supposed to be just a one-level building. But last year, we had a change of architectural plan. The terminal was adjusted to two levels. From flat roof it now has varying height from 2 meters to 4.6 meters to resemble the famous hills of this province,” he shared.
The other side of Bohol
Little did many tourists know, beyond the usual tourist itinerary, there’s more in Bohol than visiting roadside destinations like the centuries-old churches and man-made forest, island hopping to its marine sanctuaries, sunbathing on its equally stunning white sand beaches, cruising the Loboc River, sight-seeing in Chocolate Hills, and touring the natural habitat of the iconic tarsiers.
Bluewater Resort and its partner Coordinates Travels and Tour specially curated a tour to give us a taste of Bohol different from the usual tourist destinations the island province is known for.
A day-tour took us to the carve hills and mountains used for rice planting – the Candijay Rice Terraces. It’s not as magnificent as the one in Banaue but this charmer is uniquely beautiful just like the famous natural heritage site.
Trekking downhill from the rice paddies is another jewel waiting to be discovered. The majestic 60-foot drop of the Can Umantad Falls is the tallest in the entire island. It’s clean, clear and the cold is conducive for swimming while the splash of heavy flowing water coming from the falls is a free hard massage you get after a trek. The site, surrounded by a forest, is suitable for picnics and other fun activities, too.
Bohol is also known as a cave country, according to our tour guide, the island hosts thousands of caves with varying sizes. But for more adventurous visitors, there’s the Cabugnaw Cave. It has a pool said to be 25 feet deep. Thus, the cave pool is fast becoming a destination for thrill seekers.
We capped our day with a nice afternoon stroll on Anda White Sand Beach and waited for the sunset. Then we headed back to Bluewater Resort for dinner.
Your home in Bohol
Nestled in an island with white-sand beaches, pristine waters and marine sanctuaries, Bluewater Panglao creates a luxurious escape that honors Bohol’s natural beauty. The entire complex is beautifully manicured with paths covered by bamboos and fruit-bearing trees.
The resort complex’s Filipino architecture and design complement Bohol’s culture, inherent warm hospitality and eco-focused initiatives. The design concept matches well with the environment—organic yet elegant, innovative and functional. Take its sky-lit bathroom fitted with a large, free standing bathtub and separate shower for example.
“We have a wide variety of activities, from aqua sport, to ATV, and duck pin bowling, inside the resort specially designed to keep our guests engaged. We offer mango picking also when it is on season,” Munsayac told Manila Standard.
Approximately one and a half hours from Manila, the resort hotel has something for everyone to enjoy either it’s an adventurous island break or a laid-back, easy-going getaway.